Claude Scott Food importer and trader
Claude Scott made a fortune out of the food shortages through clever, opportunistic dealing. As a boy in Whitechapel he came to know the London traders and became a corn factor in Southwark. By 1790, he was a wealthy merchant-importer, controlling about a quarter of the trade in the London wheat market of Mark Lane.
In December 1794, Scott wrote to the Treasury noting that while corn was ‘scarce and dear’ at home, he thought he could get large supplies abroad. They asked him to import as much as possible, in secret from Canada, the Baltic and Poland. Progress was slow but when the cargoes arrived he released the wheat carefully and slowly in London and the provinces, to keep the price steady. In these two years alone, he was paid an extraordinary £1,250,000 as advances, which he invested in East India stock, and made more from fees as a government agent, disposing of goods seized on neutral ships. Soon Scott bought an estate near Bromley and in 1802 both he and his son Samuel (who married an heiress) became MPs in safe seats, as firm supporters of Pitt. In 1824, now a Dorset squire, he was made a baronet.