Researching Slavery Connections
In 2007 Historic England (under its former name of English Heritage) commissioned research into the slavery linkages of properties in its care to coincide with events to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain. This report produced by Miranda Kaufmann identified 26 properties with some level of connection to slavery or abolition, and threw up many interesting questions for further research. As a result more detailed surveys of four sites (Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall, Marble Hill and Northington Grange) were commissioned in 2008, and the findings presented at the 'Slavery and the British Country House' conference the following year. The four research reports are now available for you to download from the Historic England website.
The slavery connections of Bolsover Castle (1600- c.1830)
This report by Dr Susanne Seymour and Dr Sheryllynne Haggerty of the University of Nottingham explores the slavery connections of Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, focusing particularly on the Dukes of Portland who held the estate from the early 18th century. They find little evidence explicitly linking Bolsover to the slave trade during this period despite the 1st Duke of Portland being a colonial governor of Jamaica and a large investor in the South Sea Company, due partly to financial losses the family incurred in the South Sea Bubble of 1720. Instead they identify important implicit links between the Portlands and the debate about slavery and abolition. As a prominent politician the 3rd Duke, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck was heavily involved in debates over slavery and colonial management in the 1790s.
The slavery connections of Brodsworth Hall (1600- c.1830)
This report, also by Drs Seymour and Haggerty looks at the trading interests of Huguenot merchant and banker Peter Thellusson so as to gauge whether funds generated from slavery were used in his purchase of Brodsworth Hall in 1791. Their research shows that Thellusson's interests were wide-ranging and global in scope. He had considerable investments in Caribbean plantations, mainly through loans and was also heavily implicated in the trade in goods connected with the slave trade such as beads used as currency in West Africa. Through his unusual will, which left the bulk of his wealth to the unborn male heirs of his sons, he also provided the funds for the rebuilding of Brodsworth Hall by his great grandson Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson in the 1860s.
The slavery connections of Marble Hill House
This report by Dr Laurence Brown of the University of Manchester looks at the building and furnishing of Marble Hill House for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk in 1724-9 and the subsequent ownership history of the house. He reveals that Howard's elegant Palladian villa was partially financed by income from South Sea Company stock, and hence by the proceeds of the slave trade. Moreover, later owners and occupiers such as John Hobart (1767-93), Henrietta Pulteney, Countess of Bath (1796-1808) and Katherine Lowther, Duchess of Bolton (1809) had strong links with the slave trade.
The slavery connections of Northington Grange
This report, also by Dr Brown examines the history of Northington Grange and its owners from the late seventeenth century. His research reveals how the 17th century house was twice remodelled by different banking dynasties, each of which were heavily implicated in the slave trade through their commercial networks. Henry Drumond purchased the Grange in 1787 and his grandson encased the brick house in Roman cement and added a large Doric portico between 1804 and 1809. Then the house passed to the Baring family in 1817, who remodelled the living accommodation and built a western extension over the following half century.
Listen to what conference delegates and speakers had to say about Slavery and the British Country House: