10 Historic Sites Associated with Slavery in the United Kingdom | Travel Guides | History Hit

10 Historic Sites Associated with Slavery in the United Kingdom

Luke Tomes

22 Feb 2021

Between 1500 and 1866, roughly 13 million Africans were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic to the New World where a brutal, profit-driven and systematic plantation system awaited them. At least 1 in 10 of those transported did not even survive the notorious “Middle Passage” across to the Americas.

Britain claimed a significant stake in this traffic, and profited immensely from it. Not only were huge individual fortunes generated by plantation owners, but the commerce generated from the triangular system of trade funded the expansion of the British state and benefitted the every-day consumer of commodities such as sugar and tobacco.

Whilst western port cities such as Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow owed their rapid expansion throughout the 18th century entirely to the profits of slavery and the slave trade, sweet-toothed Britons began consuming over 10 kilograms of sugar per head by 1800 – five times as much as a century before.

Despite its heavy involvement in the slave trade, Britain was one of the first nations with an empire to abolish its slave trade in 1807 and emancipate all slaves in its colonies in 1833. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the Royal Navy was comitted to policing West African waters to prevent the illegal continuation of the slave trade.

Featured below are 10 Historic Sites Associated with Slavery in the United Kingdom.

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1. International Slavery Museum

The International Slavery Museum is a museum located by Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock that is dedicated to showcasing the history and legacy of Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Between 1500 and 1866, roughly 13 million Africans were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic to the New World where a brutal, profit-driven and systematic plantation system awaited them. At least 1 in 10 of those transported did not even survive the notorious “Middle Passage” across to the Americas.

Today, the International Slavery Museum has multiple collections, exhibitions, tours, and displays that cover multiple aspects of slavery – both historical and contemporary.
Exhibitions include a vast array of important documents and artefacts, as well as interactive elements and videos.

 

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2. Museum of London Docklands

Based in West India Quay, next to Canary Wharf, the Museum of London Docklands exhibits the history of the Port of London, the River Thames and the dock’s historical association with the transatlantic slave trade.

Opened in 1802 by the London Society of West India Planters and Merchants, the West India Docks were at the centre of the triangular system of trade that was very much at its zenith in terms of scale and profitability.

English sugar imports (almost solely from the West Indian colonies) had increased sevenfold, from 22,000 tonnes in 1700, to over 150,000 tonnes in 1800. Sweet-toothed Britons were consuming 10 kilograms of sugar per head by 1800 – five times as much as a century before.

The museum features 12 galleries, featuring such exhibits as “Docklands at War”, “Warehouse of the World” and “London Sugar & Slavery”. It also includes a series of life sized, walkthrough replicas of how the docks used to look, feel and smell.

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3. The Georgian House Museum

The Georgian House Museum is an 18th century, 6-storey townhouse in Bristol’s city centre built for John Pinney, a wealthy sugar merchant, who also owned plantations on the island of Nevis in the West Indies.

In the late-18th century, the sugar trade was booming and merchants based in Britain’s major slave trading ports such as London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Bristol were making huge profits as the nation’s appetite for the commodity continued to grow.

It is believed to be the house where the poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge first met, and was also home to Pinney’s slave, Pero.

Pero was personal servant to John Pinney and served for 32 years. Pero’s Bridge, the footbridge across Bristol’s floating harbour was named in commemoration of the slave who lived and died in the city.

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4. Wilberforce House

Located in Kingston upon Hull, Wilberforce House is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, the British politician, social reformer and remarkable abolitionist.

After a two-year redevelopment, Wilberforce House re-opened on 25 March 2007, just in time for the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. As the MP for Kingston upon Hull and subsequently Yorkshire in the late-18th and early-19th century, Wilberforce became hugely influential in the process of ensuring an abolition bill was brought to and passed in parliament.

Today Wilberforce House museum tells the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the crucial role Wilberforce played in its eventual abolition.

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5. Clarkson Memorial

Standing roughly 68 feet high, the Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech is a monument commemorating the notable and influential abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.

Thomas Clarkson was a central figure in the campaign against the slave trade in the British empire and instrumental in forming the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

Aside from this, Clarkson’s biggest contribution to the anti-slavery cause was his accumulation of physical evidence in the form of slave chains, leg-shackles, thumbscrews, branding irons and whips – all items that could be used when lobbying for abolition in Parliament.

All of the evidence he had amassed was used by William Wilberforce in his speech to the House of Commons in 1789 and helped prove beyond any reasonable doubt the immorality of the traffic to those in Parliament.

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6. Buxton Memorial Fountain

The Buxton Memorial Fountain is a memorial and drinking fountain in Westminster commemorating the emancipation of slaves in British Dominions in 1834, and specifically, the role of British members of parliament in the abolition campaign.

The fountain was designed and commissioned by Charles Buxton, the son of Thomas Fowell Buxton, a prominent abolitionist and member of parliament in the early-19th century.

Charles dedicated the memorial fountain not only to his father, but to other notable philanthropists and anti-slavery campaigners such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Henry Brougham. All these men had worked tirelessly to see not only Britain’s slave trade abolished in 1807, but also the termination of the institution of slavery itself in British Dominions in 1833.

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7. Houses of Parliament

Originally part of the great royal palace that had been home to English monarchs for over 500 years, Westminster Palace became the home of parliament in the 16th century after reign of King Henry VIII, when Henry moved the royal family out of the Palace of Westminster following a fire.

The great hall of the Houses of Parliament was used for state trials including those of Sir Thomas More, William Wallace and King Charles I.

The original Westminster Palace burned down in 1834, and the building you see today is the result of the subsequent rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin.

The iconic clock tower, housing Big Ben, is probably the most famous part of this building and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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8. Royal Albert Dock

Royal Albert Dock is the most iconic harbour on Liverpool’s Waterfront, boasting a rich history and multiple attractions for visitors.

Liverpool’s docks dominated global trade by the late 18th and early 19th century. During much of the 18th century Liverpool was Britain’s main slaving port. Between 1700 and 1807, ships from Liverpool carried about 1.5 million Africans across the Atlantic in conditions of great cruelty.

The sugar, rum, tobacco that was produced in the Americas was transported and stored in the large warehouses located on Liverpool’s Waterfront such as those that can be seen all around Albert Dock to this day.

Royal Albert Dock itself, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick, was only oficially opened in 1846, by HRH Prince Albert himself. The Dock was extremely innovative at the time in that it changed the way the docks worked in Liverpool forever.

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9. National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is a maritime museum based in Greenwich, London. It forms part of “Royal Museums Greenwich”, a series of museums all situated within the vicinity of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

Today, the Museum has the most important holdings in the world on the history of Britain at sea.

Its holdings include iconic and priceless paintings relating to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson and the voyages of Captain James Cook.

The Museum also has a renowned exhibition on Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, containing key artifacts relating to the trade and abolition such as first edition portraits of abolitionist such as Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho, or a real York Election ticket of 1807, used to vote for William Wilberforce, inscribed with the words, ‘HUMANITY IS THE CAUSE OF THE PEOPLE’.

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10. Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle near Chesterfield in Derbyshire contains the remains of a 17th century English mansion house, modelled on a medieval castle.

In 1634 Bolsover Castle hosted a visit by Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria and William continued to be a supporter of the King during the English Civil War. However, this support did not bode well for Bolsover Castle, which was captured and partially demolished by the Parliamentarians. William, who fled into exile during the war, returned in around 1660 and undertook repairs to the estate.

Today, visitors to Bolsover Castle can enjoy a number of interesting sites and activities, including the intricate decorations of the Little Castle and the fascinating riding house.

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