Leeds-born businessman Richard Oastler was a leading figure in the 19th century campaign to end child slavery in the factories and mills of Yorkshire. The University of Huddersfield Archives, West Yorkshire Archives, Huddersfield Local History Library and Kirklees Museums and Galleries hold significant sources relating to the Huddersfield centred campaign against 'Yorkshire Slavery'. This project devised an exhibition ('The Past and Present of the Slave Trade') and heritage trail, and ran workshops for school children, local societies and youth theatres. A conference was held, and the University of Huddersfield Press later published John A. Hargreaves and E. A. Hilary Haigh, 'Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution' (2012).
The Wisbech and Fenland Museum is one of the oldest, purpose-built museums in Britain. With its origins dating back to 1835, visitors are welcomed into a real ‘treasure house,' with collections housed in original nineteenth century cases. The museum is free to enter and focusses on local history, housing the vast and varied collection of the town’s literary and museum societies. Using these, the museum presents displays on a range of themes relating to key local industries, wildlife, archaeological finds and important people from the area.
One of these important people is Wisbech-born Thomas Clarkson, and it is through him that the theme of antislavery fills several of the largest cases in the main gallery. Using a combination of personal collections, archive material and objects linked to the wider slave trade (notably whips and a manacle), the museum follows Thomas Clarkson’s contribution to the abolition campaign, both in Britain and abroad. The museum also exhibits the narrative of Thomas’ brother John Clarkson who was instrumental in facilitating the movement of freed-slaves from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Sierra Leone.
This display was developed as a larger, standalone exhibition for the 2007 bicentenary entitled ‘A Giant with One Idea,’ but this was reduced following the end of the commemorations as funding was withdrawn.
Alongside commemorating the passing of the 1807 Abolition Act, the ‘William Wilberforce, Slavery and the East Riding’ exhibition at the Treasure House in Beverley also highlighted Wilberforce’s connections with the East Riding of Yorkshire. The exhibition traced the roots of the Wilberforce family back to the early 13th century, and narrated the story of William Wilberforce’s early life in a family of merchants, and later, his significant contributions to the abolition campaign. It also looked at the other links between the East Riding and slavery, in the family fortunes of the Beverley family and Watt family, founded on ownership of slave plantations, but also the anti-slavery societies established in the region. The exhibition ended by highlighting the plight of the millions of people still enslaved across the world today, and discussed some of the contemporary antislavery efforts.
Wilberforce House Museum re-opened in 2007 after a significant redevelopment. In 1907 the 17th century building, and William Wilberforce’s birthplace and home in Hull’s Old Town, became Britain's first museum of the history of slavery. In 2007, the museum was fully refurbished with new displays. Some of these showcased existing collections, including those relating to the life of their famous patron, the slave trade and plantation life. Other displays engaged with themes considered absent from former interpretations, including the wider abolition movement. Another significant new feature was the inclusion of two galleries relating to modern slavery and human rights. These exhibits drew attention to local and global issues, with objects donated by members of the local community and contemporary antislavery campaign groups.
Wilberforce House Museum is one of the world's oldest slavery museums. It opened in 1906 after the building, the house where leading abolitionist William Wilberforce was born, was bought by the Hull Corporation to preserve it for reasons of learning and of civic pride. Initially a local history museum, at the centre of Hull's historic High Street, the collections soon expanded through public donations and, unsurprisingly, these donations focussed heavily on items relating to Wilberforce. Today the museum and its collections are owned by Hull City Council and managed by Hull Culture and Leisure Limited. It forms part of Hull's 'Museums Quarter' alongside museums on transport, local social history and archaeology. In addition to the Wilberforce displays, the museum also features period room settings, silver, furniture and clocks, as well as a gallery exploring the history of the East Yorkshire Regiment.
The galleries at Wilberforce House Museum tell many different stories. An exploration of the history of the house welcomes visitors into the museum, followed by displays about William Wilberforce from his childhood, to his work and his family life. These galleries have examples of costume, books, domestic items and even the 1933 Madame Tussauds wax model of Wilberforce himself. Up the grand cantilever staircase, installed by the Wilberforce family in the 1760s, the displays continue. Here they look at the history of slavery and the origins of the British transatlantic slave trade. One gallery contains items that illustrate the richness of African culture prior to European involvement, dispelling the traditional myth that Africa was empty and uncivilised before the intervention of the Western world. Following that, the exhibition narrative goes on to look at the process of enslavement, the logistics of the trading system, the Middle Passage and slave auctions. Again, a wide range of collections are used to illustrate the informative panels. This is repeated in the displays about plantation life and resistance.
Of course no museum about William Wilberforce would be complete without an exhibition on antislavery and the abolition movement. This is extended with two galleries which look at the legacies of such a campaign in terms of modern slavery and human rights today. There are opportunities in these galleries for visitors to provide their comments and opinions, through several interactives, as well as engage with ideas as to how they can actively participate in today's campaign to end modern slavery.
An exhibition by the City of Westminster Archives Centre focused on the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition in Westminster, which drew on the Centre's archives and local studies collections. Links explored included the parish of St Anne's Westminster with St John's Antigua, and the large circle of planters living in Marylebone in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition also documented the lives of the African residents of Westminster during the age of the slave trade. Some of the individuals looked at in the exhibition included James Somerset, Granville Sharp, Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, and the African activists who styled themselves 'Sons of Africa'.
Well Dressing is an ancient custom unique to Derbyshire. Each year, between May and September, hundreds of well dressings are created by volunteers in Derbyshire villages. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan tradition of making sacrifice to the Gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. In the Derbyshire tradition, pictures are made for the most part of individual flower petals pressed onto clay covered boards. In 2007, many wells were dressed to mark the bicentenary. Pictured are wells in Ashford-in-the-Water, Belper, Tissington and Wirksworth, photographed by Glyn Williams.
The Wedgwood company's founder, Josiah Wedgwood I, had the initial idea for preserving and curating a historical collection in 1774. A public museum dedicated to this purpose first opened in 1906, and moved to its present site in 2008. In 2009 the museum won the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries. It underwent further redevelopment in 2015/16. The museum's rich collection of ceramics and archive material tell the story of Josiah Wedgwood, his family, and the business he founded over two centuries ago.
The collections at the museum make up one of the most significant single factory accumulations in the world. They contain a range of things from ceramics, archive material and factory equipment, to social history items that help interpret life in Georgian Britain. Key themes explored throughout the galleries include Wedgwood's links to royalty, the influence of nature on his work and his position as a successful entrepreneur.
On display in the museum also are a small collection of objects which relate to Wedgwood's prominent role in the campaign to abolish the British Slave Trade. Here, the display focusses on the production of the well-known antislavery medallion, which bears the 'Am I Not a Man and a Brother?' image. It also highlights Wedgwood's connection to Olaudah Equiano and the influence of proslavery factions in British society during the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Part of Wilberforce 2007, the Walking with Wilberforce Heritage Trail is a journey through Hull's Old Town, via twelve important landmarks related to William Wilberforce and the theme of freedom. Along the trail is the Humanitarian Wall, at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, constructed in 2006 to commemorate worldwide actions for human rights and justice. The ceramic markers, inspired by the Sankofa bird, were designed especially for the trail by three community and art groups from Hull's Africa Forum, from Hull College ceramic students and from local schools working in collaboration with two local ceramic artists. The trail was launched with a celebration of African culture led by students from Hull schools and the local Congolese community.
York Castle Museum's Unfair Trade exhibition used the museum's collections to explore slavery from the viewpoint of ordinary people, and how consumption of slave-produced everyday commodities - sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa - contributed to the slave trade. It also looked at the part played by York in the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, with the many Quakers of the city supporting William Wilberforce and helping to finance his election campaign. The exhibition continued the focus on consumption into modern life by asking visitors to consider where the products they buy come from. York Castle Museum features a recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, with its own newspaper, 'The Kirkgate Examiner'. A special edition was distributed to coincide with the exhibition.
A touring exhibition from Herefordshire Museums, which explored Herefordshire's hidden history of slavery. Local connections include Moccas Court near Hereford, the country house once home to the Cornewall family, owners of a sugar plantation on Grenada at the time of the Grenadian uprising of 1795. Another county connection to the history of slavery is Lady Hawkins' School in Kington, the construction of which was bequeathed in 1632 by the widow of Sir John Hawkins, England's first slave trader. The nineteenth-century poet and abolitionist Elizabeth Barrett Browning also had family connections in Herefordshire. The exhibition was taken on tour around Herefordshire and Warwickshire on a specially commissioned Abolition Bus.
This exhibition and education programme explored connections between transatlantic slavery and the London Borough of Richmond. This included a study of the West Indies connections in Richmond, local residents involved in abolition, and the historical presence of black people in the area. It also examined the slave forts on the coast of Ghana. 'Richmond Voices' introduced local residents who were of African or African-Caribbean descent. The accompanying booklet was written by Valerie Boyes, and produced in collaboration with the Richmond Local History Society.
An exhibition at Walsall Museum looked at Walsall's links with the slave trade, the background to the Abolition Act of 1807, and the legacies of slavery. Walsall's metal industry included chain making by local women of Cradley Heath, and the manufacture of guns used to trade for captive Africans. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of presentations, lectures and workshops, including art sessions with local residents and the artist Pauline Bailey. Part of the wider project featured an online resource 'Abolition WYA' by Walsall Youth Arts, which encouraged young people to explore the topic of slavery and contribute poems, visual arts and music to express their views. Some of the images featured on the site are pictured here.
Ties and Lives: Kent and the Slave Trade was a project run by Kent Archives in collaboration with Creative Partnerships Kent and the educational charity Music for Change. It aimed to show how the county’s historic collections could be used by young people to support their education, particularly on contemporary issues. An education pack provided a range of sources, research and information for secondary schools about the abolition of slavery. Music for Change artists visited schools in the county and through performance workshops encouraged students to interpret stories found in the archive and local history collections and explore the impact of the transatlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement on the past lives of Kentish people. There was a particular focus on music and dance originating from the traditions of enslaved peoples.
'Three Continents, One History' was a community project led by the African-Caribbean Millennium Centre (ACMC) to explore the historical links between Birmingham, the transatlantic slave trade and the Caribbean. Research focused on themes such as the region's manufacturing history and its links to slavery, the role of local regiments in keeping order on Caribbean plantations, the African presence in the West Midlands, and the region’s role in the abolitionist movement. The project aimed to examine the contemporary relevance of 1807 and the slave trade to Birmingham’s diverse communities, to contribute to a reshaping of the National Curriculum, to establish a physical archive and an interactive website. The research was shared with the public via weekly broadcasts on New Style Radio (a community radio station housed in ACMC) and simulcasts with Caribbean and African radio stations. Other events included conferences, dramatisations and discussion workshops.
The county of Suffolk has many connections with the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. He married in Bury St Edmunds and lived the later years of his life at Playford Hall near Ipswich. Suffolk Record Office commemorated the bicentenary with an exhibition of original documents and exhibition panels about Thomas Clarkson and his links with Suffolk at Ipswich Record Office. The exhibition later toured other venues around the county. A source list was produced to highlight sources for Black and Asian studies in the Record Office.
London Borough of Newham Council led “The Wickedest of Cargoes…”, an exhibition at Stratford Town Hall, which used local museum and archive collections to explore the history of the slave trade and abolition. It looked at the history of slavery through different societies and cultures, and especially the Barbary pirates who enslaved seamen and passengers from ships on the west coast of North Africa. The exhibition explored the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition from a local perspective, focusing on the large Quaker community in West Ham and, in particular, John Fothergill and Samuel Gurney. Newham has many residents from an African Caribbean background, who were consulted in the development of the exhibition. Addressing the legacies of slavery, the exhibition looked at the rising Black population of the borough through history and the importance of the Coloured Men’s Institute in Canning Town, set up as a place where Black families could meet.
An exhibition at Hampstead Museum (based in Burgh House) which examined the connections between Hampstead and slavery. It looked at how fortunes made in the West Indies funded the purchase of properties in this prosperous area, through men like William Beckford and Robert Milligan. Hampstead was also home to men and women tied to the abolitionist movement, such as Samuel Hoare. William Davy, living in Burgh House, was one of the barristers who acted for runaway slave James Somerset in the case of 1772, presided over by Lord Mansfield.
‘Rum Story: The Dark Spirit of Whitehaven’ is a museum housed inside the former warehouse, office and shop of the Jefferson’s Rum Company in Cumbria. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Jefferson's would have been in receipt of slave-grown produce from the Caribbean, which would have been stored and processed in the museum's building.The museum opened in 2000 as part of the town’s regeneration project and aims ‘to bring history to life.’
On entering the museum, visitors walk through a series of room settings, from the African jungle at the beginning of enslavement, to a reconstruction of a slave ship hold complete with mannequins, and finally plantation offices . These room settings offer a very immersive experience, complete with opportunities for total sensory engagement; scent boxes, samples for tasting on exit and soundtracks all the way through.
The collections consist mainly of archival material which illustrates the company's connection to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and how that made Whitehaven a prosperous port town. Interpretive panels explain the room settings, and diorama scenes with mannequins illustrate to visitors the way things were during the period, for both the enslaved and the workers in Jefferson's factory. The greatest asset that the museum has is the building itself, which provides a true, tangible link to the trade and its legacy on the local community.
The Longest Journey: From Slavery to Abolition was held at Epping Forest District Museum in October 2007. The exhibition also toured venues in the region, including the Cambridge and County Folk Museum. The exhibition examined clues in the collections of Essex museums and the Essex Record Office exploring the history of the slave trade and the abolition movement in Essex. A set of ‘Essex Links' panels revealed the Essex people and places involved, including the story of Anne Knight, Chelmsford resident and abolitionist. As part of the project, a film was commissioned for Black History Month 2007: ‘The Story of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince' is based on the autobiography published in 1774 by James Albert, a freed slave. Captured into slavery as a child in present-day Nigeria, once freed he travelled to England where he lived and worked in Colchester. The film features actor Shango Baku and was produced by Harvest Films and commissioned by Epping Forest District Museum, Museums in Essex Committee and Renaissance in the Regions.