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British Industrial History

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Alexander Lindsay

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Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres and de jure 23rd Earl of Crawford (18 January 1752 – 27 March 1825) was the son of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres. He was a general in the British Army. See Haigh Iron Works

He entered the army at the age of fifteen as an ensign, in the 53rd Regiment of Foot. After attending Eton College, he studied at the University of Göttingen for two years, and subsequently purchased a captaincy in the 42nd Highland Regiment in 1771.

In 1777, he was appointed a major of the 53rd, and he commanded the light infantry companies at the Battle of Saratoga (1777), and surrendered there with Burgoyne. Promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 42nd during his imprisonment. He was released from captivity in 1779.

On 1 June 1780, he married his first cousin, Elizabeth Bradshaigh Dalrymple, who had inherited Haigh Hall, in Haigh near Wigan, Lancashire which yielded virtually no annual income but held potentially lucrative deposits of top grade cannel and coal. They had five children.

Subsequently promoted to the rank of colonel and made lieutenant-colonel commandant of the second 71st Regiment of Foot, a battalion of the 71st uninvolved in the surrender at Yorktown (as was the rest of the regiment).

He was chosen to be a representative peer for Scotland in 1784, and was re-elected again until 1807.

On 27 August 1789 he was appointed colonel of the 63rd Regiment of Foot, and was promoted major-general in 1793.

Around this time he founded the famous Haigh Iron Works with his partners, his brother Robert Lindsay and James Corbett.

He sold the Balcarres estate to his younger brother Robert, who had prospered in the Bengal civil service, in order to pay debts; with the modest surplus from this, he financed his operations at Haigh.

Commander of the forces in Jersey from 1793 to 1794, he was then appointed Governor of Jamaica. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1798, and resigned the governorship in 1801. On 25 September 1803 he was promoted to general.

After his return from the American Revolution, he was introduced to Benedict Arnold (who had led several gallant attacks on his position at Saratoga). Balcarres snubbed Arnold as a traitor, and a duel ensued, neither party being injured. After being maimed in an accident he retired to the family's second home at Haigh Hall, near Wigan.

Around 1802 he settled at Haigh and applied himself to the exploitation of its coal, buying hundreds of small plots of land to monopolise mining in the vicinity.

By 1820s he was making £5,000 a year from the mines and their associated ironworks, which manufactured pit and cotton factory machinery, steam pumps and, later, locomotives; he was paying £20,000 in wages; he boasted in 1822 of having restored his family to "a handsome competence".

On his death he was succeeded by his eldest son James, the 7th Earl of Balcarres. After James had successfully pressed his claim to the title of Earl of Crawford in 1848, the title was conferred posthumously on Alexander, even though he had not claimed it himself.

Other holders of the title

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