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Bristol and the South West

Here we look at Bristol and the South West's part in the British slave trade and the legacy remaining in our historic environment.

Georgian House Museum, Great George Street

The Georgian House Museum, 7 Great George Street, Bristol BS1 5RR was built for John Pinney (from 1740 to 1818).

He earned his fortune from sugar plantations in Nevis. Pinney became richer still through the company he set up with the pro-slavery pamphleteer, James Tobin. They owned ships and loaned money to plantation owners. They also took over both the plantations and the slaves of those who could not pay their debts. 

Pero was their slave.

Edward Colston (from 1636 to 1721) was born in Bristol. He made his fortune as a sugar merchant and member of the Royal African Company. He had interests in St Kitts and in London. He also became a partner in a Bristol sugar refinery, where sugar produced by slaves in the West Indies was processed.

Colston was also famous for his charity and philanthropy in Bristol. He founded almshouses at St.Michael's Hill, and supported local schools. This statue of him was erected in Colston Avenue, Bristol in 1895.

Statue of Edward Colston.
Statue of Edward Colston, Bristol city centre © Historic England

Queen Square

Queen Square, Bristol  BS1 4QS, built between 1619 and 1727 was home to wealthy merchants with interests in the West Indies.

Queen's Square, Bristol
Queen's Square, Bristol © Historic England

Henry Bright (from 1715 to 1777) was Mayor of Bristol in 1771 and a prominent Bristol merchant and slave trader. He lived with his black servant called Bristol at number 29. The building is currently the office of the South West regional office of English Heritage.

Captain Woodes Rogers (from 1679 to 1732) lived at 33 to 35 Queen Square. He was a privateer who voyaged around the world from 1708 to 1711, trading in slaves. Woodes Rogers also invested in a ship carrying slaves from Africa to Jamaica.

Blaise Castle, Henbury Road

Blaise Castle, Henbury Road, Bristol BS10 7QS built by Thomas Farr in 1766 is a quirky gothic folly built on the top of Blaise Hill.

Farr invested heavily in the slave trade. He is reputed to have spent £150,000 in today's money to build Blaise Castle so that he could climb to the top to watch his ships returning along the River Avon to Bristol.

Blaise Castle
Blaise Castle, Henbury Road, Bristol © Historic England

Fonthill Abbey

William Beckford (from 1760 to 1844) built the gothic Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire in 1796 and Beckford's Tower, Lansdown Rd, Bath, BA1 9BH in 1827. He was able to use his substantial inheritance to build these grand buildings. It also meant he could enjoy an extravagant lifestyle and be a patron to the arts.

William was the son of William Beckford, Senior (from 1709 to 1770) who was a plantation owner and twice Lord Mayor of London. His grandfather Peter Beckford (from 1643 to 1710) founded the greatest sugar fortune in the West Indies.

Beckford Tower with graveyard in foreground.
Beckford’s Tower, Lansdown Rd, Bath © Historic England

Dyrham Park

William Blathwayt (from 1649 to 1717) acquired Dyrham Park, near Bath, Gloucestershire SN14 8ER on his marriage to Mary Wynter (from 1650 to 1691) in 1686. Blathwayt was MP for Bath from 1693 until 1710.

Mary Blathwayt's family had connections to the Caribbean. Blathwayt held a number of government offices dealing with trade and the colonies. In these roles he actively promoted the slave trade.

Dyrham Park is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.

Clevedon Court

In 1709 Abraham Elton I (from 1654 to 1728) bought the medieval manor of Clevedon Court, Twickenham Road, Clevedon, North Somerset, BS21 6QU.

He was Mayor of Bristol from 1710 to 1711 and its MP from 1722 to 1727. His son Abraham Elton II was involved in the brass, pottery and glass industries.

Brass pots and pans were amongst the cargo taken aboard slave ships' to trade in Africa. Elton's brothers, Isaac and Jacob invested directly in slave ships.

Now owned by the National Trust, Clevedon Court is open to the public.

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