WOOD, James Athol (1756-1829), of Albany, Piccadilly, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1806 - 1807

Family and Education

b. 1756, 3rd s. of Alexander Wood of Burncroft, Perth by Jean, da. of Robert Ramsay of Banff; bro. of Mark Wood I*. unm. Kntd. 1 Nov. 1809, CB 4 June 1815.

Offices Held

Able seaman RN 1774, master’s mate 1776, acting lt. 1778, lt. 1778, cdr. 1795, capt. 1797, r.-dm. 1821.

Vendue master, Curaçao 1812-15.


Wood’s elder brothers Mark and George having entered the East India Company’s service, he began his career at sea in the East India merchant service (1772), but subsequently entered the navy and saw action in the American war, in which he was severely wounded. After the peace he was two years in France; then in the merchant navy, in the East Indian (1788-9) and West Indian spheres. He was at Barbados in 1794 when Adm. Jervis appointed him to the Boyne, to convey French prisoners from Martinique. On putting in at St. Malo he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris by order of the committee of public safety, 1 June 1794, remaining there until April 1795, when he was released and exerted himself on behalf of other English prisoners. He next saw active service in the West Indies and after his part in the capture of Trinidad was posted captain (1797). He survived shipwreck off Madagascar (1798) and after returning to England was appointed to escort a convoy to the West Indies in the Acasta, November 1804. On arrival at Port Royal, February 1805, Sir John Thomas Duckworth*, the recalled commander-in-chief of the Jamaica station, commandeered his vessel, appointing his own captain, and, according to Wood, who was obliged to return as a passenger, loaded a cargo of merchandise, contrary to the 18th article of war, 22 Geo. II c. 33. Wood applied for a court martial against Duckworth, but it decided in the latter’s favour and his brother Mark’s attempt to have the minutes of the court martial laid before Parliament was ‘loudly negatived’, 7 June 1805. Wood’s memorial to the Admiralty board at least inspired a regulation aimed to prevent any repetition of Duckworth’s behaviour and he was found another ship.1

He was returned by his brother Mark for his borough of Gatton in 1806 ‘at the express desire of Lord Melville’.2 But he cannot have played any part in Parliament, for he was on active service, second in command to Sir Charles Brisbane at the taking of Curaçao (January 1807), for which he received a gold medal, and afterwards involved in the blockade of the Danish islands. Nor did he subsequently return to Parliament. His brother tried in vain to obtain office for him from Perceval.3 He continued his naval career honourably, despite another incident in 1812 when he was admonished by a court martial for being ‘too hasty in tacking from the enemy’ off Ushant. Until the peace he obtained a small sinecure at Curaçao, which was among several criticized in the House of Commons by the opposition, 29 Mar. 1814.

Wood died at Hampstead in his 74th year in July 1829. His niece, who visited him at the Albany, remembered him as a lame old man, living with ‘a faithful and attached old servant’ once his steward on the Altona. ‘His bed closet ... he had arranged to look like a ship’s cabin, with his bed as a berth in the side’.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Ralfe, Naval Biog. iv. 173; PRO 30/8/191, f. 50; Parl. Deb. v. 193.
  • 2. Add. 38368, f. 206.
  • 3. Add. 38261, f. 41.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1829), ii. 177; The Times, 25 July 1829; F. M. Montagu, Mems. of the Woods of Largo, 42.