Zacharias Zebbes (~1644-1679)
- Bryan Mawer


Born about 1644 (1), Zacharias Zebbes was a native of Rostock, Germany (nowadays the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), and learnt the sugarbaking trade in Amsterdam (2).

Deerr (3) wrote : "Before 1667 Peter Gemmil, Frederick Hamilton, John Caldwell and Robert Cummins, 'having got a little apartment for boiling sugar and a Dutchman (He may have been Zechariah Zebs, "sugar boiler of the sugarie", who dying in 1679 ...) as sugar boiler, the undertaking proved very effectual and their endeavours were wonderful successful. In 1667 after being joined by John Graham of Dougalston, Richard Graham, William Anderson, John Stak (formerly Provost), William Craig (Baillie) and James Craig, was built the Western Sugar House at the south corner of Bell's Wynd and Candlerigg St, a great stone tenement with convenient office houses for their work, within a great court with a pleasant garden belonging thereto.' This refinery continued to work till 1787. The Western Sugar House was followed in 1669 by the Eastern Sugar House, built on the south end of Gallowgate, opposite to the Spoutmouth. The owners were John Cross, James Peddie, John Luke, George Boyle and Robert Cross : 'They employed a German to be master boiler, and the project likewise proved effectual, so that their stock wonderfully increased.' This refinery worked till 1787."
We know from his will that Zebbes was sugar boiler at the "Eister Sugarie" at the time of his death, and given his age I think it unlikely that he was the "Dutchman" before 1667. He was probably recruited at the opening of the Eastern Sugar House, and even then would only have been 25.

In 1846, William "Crimean" Simpson, 1823-1899, painted a watercolour of the building that used to be the Eastern Sugar House, situated between the Gallowgate and London Street, in the "Sugar House Close", No. 138 Gallowgate. The painting is now held by Glasgow Museums at Provand's Lordship, and can be seen online.

Zacharias Zebbes died in December 1679. His will (4) was written only a day or two before his death ...
The testament testamentar & inventory of the goods due debts and sums of money pertaining and now owed to Zacharias Zebbes sugar baker in Glasgow within the parochin thereof at the time of his death in the month of December 1679 ...
Inventory ...
* Personal items including his watches, six silver buttons, a silver goblet, a silver salt cellar and other silver items all valued at 60 Scots.
* Money in hand 34 - 13s Scots.
* His horse saddle, bridle & bit valued at 75 Scots.
* His guns, pistols, fowling piece, and swords valued at 100 Scots.
... Total ... 269 - 13s Scots.
* Debts owed to him by James Padie merchant of Glasgow 2000 Scots.
* A debt owed to him of 120 Scots.
* Debts owed to him by John Luke merchant 800 Scots.
* A debt owed to him of 845 Scots.
* Debts owed to him by John Cross merchant of Glasgow 660 Scots ... being 8 months salary for his service.
... Total ... 4425 Scots.
* Zebbes himself owed 24 -13s Scots.
... Total value of his estate ... 4670 Scots. [ twelve pounds Scots = one pound Sterling ]
Will ...
At Glasgow the 27 day of December 1679, I Zacharias Zebbes sugar boiler of the Eister Sugarie in Glasgow being sick in body and knowing death to be certain ...
* Nominates Robert Cross merchant of Glasgow as his executor.
* Declares that he received only part payment, 300 Scots, of his salary for year Jan 1678 - Jan 1679 from the partners of the sugar house.
* To Robert Cross, his executor, 1050 Dutch gilders, being one year's salary from the partners of the sugar house, to see him honestly buried. And to him also his watches, pistols, fouling piece, and swords.
* To Ludovich Lindsay barber in Glasgow and William Wagh servant at the sugar house 60 Scots for attending and washing him during his sickness.
* To James Thompson servant at the sugar house 29 Scots.
* To James Cristo(?) painter(?) with Robert Gandoe 40 Scots.
* To Robert Cross all his wearing apparel.
* To William Cross, son of John Cross merchant in Glasgow, his horse saddle, bridle & bits.
* To the woman or women that shall attend him in his sickness and after his death 10 (?).
* Instructs that John Luke, George Boyle, James Padie, John & Robert Cross [these are the partners in the sugar house] should distribute 500 merks of the money they owe him amongst the poor of the church.
* Leaves the rest of the money owed to him by the partners of the sugar house to the hospital belonging to the merchants of Glasgow for the use of the poor.
Witnessed by James Bryce, William Bryce, John Luke, Robert **(?).
Proved at Glasgow 13 March 1680.

About half of his estate went to the poor of the Merchants Hospital in Glasgow. Deerr (3) states that the sum was "2799 - 9s - 8d Scots money" though doesn't give a source for this figure. Tucked away in the stores of Glasgow Museums is a board commemorating this act of generosity (1). This is probably a museum copy of the original board, possibly at or previously at the Merchants House, but shows the sum to be 2277 - 9s - 6d Scots money. The board reads ... "Zacharias Zebbes. Shugar boyller in the Eister Shugarie of Gllasgow was born in the town of Rwstike in Germanie, departid this Lyf in Glasgow December 1679, abowt the 36 yeir of his age and left of Legasie to the Poor of this Howse, 2277 lib, 09 sh, 06 d, Scots." This is confirmed in the records of The Merchant House, Glasgow.


1 - Board in the stores of Glasgow Museums, and the records of The Merchant House, Glasgow
2 - T C Smout.
3 - History of Sugar (2vols) by Noel Deerr, London: Chapman & Hall. 1949-50.
4 - Glasgow Commisary Court Wills.
I would like to thank Robert James of Glasgow for his valuable contributions to this page.