Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slavery in Gloucestershire

Capturing Africans

The ownership of enslaved Africans was widespread in Gloucestershire. Headstones and historical document give us clues about these people's lives both before abolition and later as free men.

The ownership of enslaved Africans was still common in Gloucestershire during latter half of the 18th century. Baptism and burial records from the period using terms such as 'black slave' and 'a black negroe' have been found from Sherborne, Twyning, Stroud, Nympsfield, Tidenham and Littledean.

A gravestone inscription at Newent dated 7 October 1829 remembers Thomas Bloomsbury 'a native of Africa and for...55 years a faithful servant to the late Samuel Richardson Esq'.

And even at the turn of the century, records suggest that new servants – in some cases of a very young age - were still arriving from Africa. In Stroud on 7 May 1801 William Ellis, son of Qualquay Assedew, 'a Negro of Guinea', aged 12 years, was baptised.

However some were also acquiring skills and going into professions. A testimonial from Richard Raikes dated 5 July 1815 is supporting the application of John Hart, Writing Master, to the post of master at Bisley Blue Coat School.
Nevertheless, he still states: 'Unfortunately he is a Mulatto, a native of the West Indies...where so dark a complexion is not objected to, he would make a very valuable Schoolmaster...’
Mixed race relationships were also known. In Tetbury on 10 March 1827 Mary Ann Elding, 'about 40 years old', was buried. Records state that she was 'a travelling woman, the wife of a man of colour'.


Many former slaves experienced hardship, some turning to crime. At Littledean on 24 March 1849 John Collins, a sailor, native of Antigua, aged 19, was sentenced to two months' hard labour for larceny. The goal register states that he 'left his home 10 years ago. Since then has been at sea in a merchant ship'.

Also at Littledean on 6 September 1867 'Henry Dyson, 20, Antigua; David Hunt, 25, W. Indies; Emmanuel Davidson, 22, W. Indies; all Men of Colour together with James Kear, 24, W. Indies, Mulatto; Mariners; jointly charged with stealing a wooden bottle and a quantity of bread & cheese & cider'. They were remanded overnight.

There are well-documented details of the lives, achievements and contributions made to British society by an array of people of African descent born, brought to or living in Britain from the early 19th century. They cover almost every field of endeavour, from politics and medicine to sport and entertainment.

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