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The Graves of Slaves

& Other Black People in 18th Century Britain

Slave Graves can still be found in Britain.  It is now widely acknowledged that there were thousands of black people living in the British isles before the 20th century. Yet very little is known about the day to day lives of those people.

Even less is known about their deaths. Most black people who lived in Britain in the 18th Century were poor. Poor people tended not to leave memoirs and were even less likely to have their exploits recorded.

Historians looking for traces of  Britains black past tend to discover records when looking through official documents, such as Church records. Gravestones and burial records provide some interesting evidence to the distribution of  black people and their status within 18th Century Society.

Slave Graves Hidden in Plain Sight

A great place to find evidence of long lost Black Britons, are burial grounds. Some gravestones describe the ethnicity of the deceased, but there are many hundreds more that make no mention of the skin colour of those who lie beneath them.

Sadly, across Britain’s Churchyards and cemeteries 18th and 19th-century headstones are falling into disrepair, eventually being laid flat or removed completely. So the window for discovering the burial place of Black Britons from the past, is closing at an alarming rate.

After listening to Professor Gretchen Gerzina‘s show  Britains Black Past on BBC Radi0 4 during the 2016 Black History Month, I heard mention of slave graves. I thought I’d better investigate and report back.

Grave of Samboo

Grave of Samboo / Sambo
By R wendland (Own work) GFDL  or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I’d completely forgotten about this grave of a young black servant who died upon his arrival in Britain.  The plaque was added 6o years after Samboo’s burial. The Inscription on the plaque reads as follows:

HERE LIES
POOR SAMBOO
A FAITHFULL NEGRO
WHO
(ATTENDING HIS MASTER FROM THE WEST INDIES)
DIED ON HIS ARRIVAL AT SUNDERLAND
FULL SIXTY YEARS THE ANGRY WINTER’S WAVE
HAS THUNDERING DASHD THIS BLEAK & BARREN SHORE
SINCE SAMBO’S HEAD LAID IN THIS LONELY GRAVE
LIES STILL & NE’ER WILL HEAR THEIR TURMOIL MORE.
FULL MANY A SANDBIRD CHIRPS UPON THE SOD
AND MANY A MOONLIGHT ELFIN ROUND HIM TRIPS
FULL MANY A SUMMER’S SUNBEAM WARMS THE CLOD
AND MANY A TEEMING CLOUD UPON HIM DRIPS.
BUT STILL HE SLEEPS _ TILL THE AWAKENING SOUNDS
OF THE ARCHANGEL’S TRUMP NEW LIFE IMPART
THEN THE GREAT JUDGE HIS APPROBATION FOUNDS
NOT ON MAN’S COLOR BUT HIS_WORTH OF HEART

JAMES WATSON SCR. H.BELL DEL. 1796

 

This slave grave sits in unconsecrated ground in a field near the small village of Sunderland Point, near Heysham and Overton, Lancashire, England.  In the 18th Century, Sunderland Point was a port, serving slave, cotton and Sugar Ships from the West Indies and North America.

The program reminded me of another grave that I know of:

Grave of Scipio Africanus (Bristol)

Grave of Scipio Africanus
Photo By William Avery (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.
The slave grave of Scipio Africanus can be found at Henbury churchyard, just outside Bristol.

The slave named Scipio Africanus, whose real name is unknown, was a servant to Charles William, Earl of Suffolk and Bindon.

The black servant was named after an ancient Roman general of African origin, Scipio Africanus.

Scipio Africanus died in December 1720 at the age of 18. Little more is known about him. The church registers make no mention of his burial, although he has one of the most elaborate graves in the churchyard.

The grave has an ornate headstone and The footstone reads:

I WHO WAS BORN A PAGAN AND A SLAVE
NOW SWEETLY SLEEP A CHRISTIAN IN MY GRAVE
WHAT THO MY HUE WAS DARK MY SAVIORS SIGHT
SHALL CHANGE THIS DARKNESS INTO RADIANT LIGHT
SUCH GRACE TO ME MY LORD ON EARTH HAS GIVEN
TO RECOMMEND ME TO MY LORD IN HEAVEN
WHOSE GLORIOUS SECOND COMING HERE I WAIT
WITH SAINTS AND ANGELS HIM TO CELEBRATE

 

It occurred to me that, despite running this website since 1998, I wasn’t aware of any articles specifically related to the graves of slaves in Britain.  With my appetite whetted, I have managed to find quite a bit more info, to which I will continue to add.

 Grave of George John Scipio Africanus (Nottingham)

A slave born around 1763 was captured from Sierra Leone. He was baptised, George John Scipio Africanus.

He was brought to Wolverhampton, England as a child. Later After the death of his master, he moved to Nottingham where he married and started an Employment Agency business, which thrived.

He died in 1834 and was buried in St Mary’s church.

In 2003 a green memorial plaque in memory of Africanus, “Nottingham’s first black entrepreneur”, was unveiled on St Mary’s churchyard railings.

Then in 2007, as part of the events to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Abolition of Slave Trade Act, a new memorial stone replacing the badly weathered original, was dedicated by religious leaders.

George John Africanus - Grave in Nottingham
By Andrew Rabbott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The memorial stone mentions George and his wife. Their children are also buried close by.  As part of the events to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Abolition of Slave Trade Act, a new memorial stone replacing the original, which was badly weathered, was dedicated by religious leaders. The memorial stone mentions George and his wife, their children are also buried close by.

Slave Grave of Chloe Gambia

Chloe ‘Gambia” was born around 1760 and sold into Slavery. The Aston family, who she worked for were not involved in the Slave Trade. It is likely that Chloe was bought at a Slave Auction held at Liverpool in the late 1760’s.

She was baptised in St Peter’s Church, Aston-by-Sutton in 1767 when she was aged 7 years or thereabouts.

Chloe Gambia must have been trusted and respected by the Aston Family. She worked her way up the Domestic Service ladder. She eventually became the Housekeeper at Aston Hall. A Housekeeper was the highest ranking female servant in a household. She died of Breast Cancer.

Grave of Chloe Gambia
© Civic Trust, photo by Patricia McInally

She is buried in the same grave as three other servants. Her part of the Inscription reads:

ALSO CHLOE GAMBIA A NEGRESS WHO
DIED AT ASTON HALL ON 12TH OF SEPT
1838 AGED 77 YEARS OR THEREABOUTS.
SHE HAD LIVED IN THE ASTON
FAMILY 70 YEARS

A more detailed leaflet about Chloe Gambia can be obtained from St Peter’s Church.

Grave of Rasselas Morjan

Grave of Rasselas Morjan

Photo: Ned Trifle Flickr Used under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License
 
Rasselas Morjan, one of the first slaves to be freed in Britain. He was Abyssinian (Ethiopian) and died in 1839 at the age of nineteen. He had been rescued by the Plamer family, owners of Wanlip Hall.

 

It may be that the Palmers friends, the Babingtons were instrumental in Rasselas’s fate. The Babingtons were passionate supporters and friends of the Abolitionist, Wilberforce.

It could be that the Babingtons asked the Palmer’s to employ Rasselas.

The inscription is carved rather fine and has weathered.

SACRED

TO THE MEMORY OF

RASSELAS MORJAN

WHO WAS BORN AT MACADI

ON THE CONTINENT OF ABYSSINIA

AND WHO DIED AT WANLIP HALL

AUGUST 25TH 1839

IN THE 19TH YEAR

OF HIS AGE.

RESCUED FROM A STATE OF SLAVERY 

IN THIS LIFE AND ENABLED BY GODS GRACE

TO BECOME A MEMBER OF HIS CHURCH HE RESTS HERE

IN THE HOPE OF A GREATER DELIVERANCE HERE AFTER

THIS STONE IS RAISED IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIS BLAMELESS LIFE

BY ONE WHOM HE LOVED.

The records reveal another Rasellas in England, Rasellas Bellfield.

Grave of Rasellas Bellfield

Rasselas Bellfield was brought to England by a Major Taylor. Taylor bought him as a child from his mother.

“…it may be that Taylor traveled back to England by way of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), and acquired Rasselas then. On the other hand, Abyssinian slaves and soldiers – ‘Habshis’ – had been brought to India from the C15 onwards, and consequently, a large number of people in that country had Abyssinian roots.”

When Taylor returned from the East with the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) boy, he joined his mother and his unmarried sister, Isabella Agnes, at Belfield.  All the evidence indicates that Rasselas was loved within the Taylor family and within the community of Windermere.

IN MEMORY
OF
RASSELAS BELFIELD
A NATIVE OF
ABYSSINIA.
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE ON THE
16. DAY OF JANUARY 1822,
AGED 32 YEARS.

A SLAVE BY BIRTH I LEFT MY NATIVE LAND
AND FOUND MY FREEDOM ON BRITANNIA’S STRAND:

BLEST ISLE! THOU GLORY OF THE WISE AND FREE,
THY TOUCH ALONE UNBINDS THE CHAINS OF SLAVERY

 

Rasellas Bellfield Grave
Rasellas Bellfield Grave – Windermere.

Whilst we can never truly know the motivation of why an Abyssinian slave was brought to Northern England, the inscription suggests that he was cared for and well thought of.

 Grave of Myrtilla -Oxhill, Warwickshire

Grave of Myrtilla - A slave
Photo: Colin Park

HERE LYETH THE BODY OF MYRTILLA, NEGRO SLAVE TO MR THOS. BEAUCHAMP OF NEVIS. BAPT OCT YE 20TH. BURIED JAN YE 6TH 1705.

A very old and Interesting grave of a female slave. Myrtilla came from the Caribbean island of Nevis. She was brought to Warwickshire by her master to serve his wife.

Grave of Jacob Walker & Harriet Long

Jacob Walker was a slave in the Long Household, Virginia, USA.

In 1828 the Longs returned home to England, They brought Jacob with them to help look after their growing family. He became a servant, earning a wage.

The Longs lived in Highgate, London. Jacob died here in 1841 aged 40. A month before his death Harriet Long passed away.

Jacob was apparently so upset by her death that he repeatedly visited Harriet’s grave. They are buried together with their names recorded on the same tombstone.
The inscription reads:

JACOB WALKER; A NATIVE OF VIRGINIA. IN AMERICA THE FAITHFUL SLAVE, IN ENGLAND THE FAITHFUL SERVANT OF HARRIET AND GEORGE LONG AND AN HONEST MAN. DIED AT HIGHGATE ON THE 12TH AUGUST 1841 IN THE 40TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

Grave of I.D

I.D - Perhaps john Davies
Photo Credit: Spen Valley Wanderer.

Here lies the body of I.D. a native of Africa who died in this Town April 19th, 1801.

The churchyard of the Church of St John the Baptist, Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire. Holds an unusual grave. The Grave of I.D, an unknown African. The Historic England site states:

“HISTORY: We have no absolutely certain information about the person commemorated by this headstone. However, the burial register records the internment of John Davies on 12 September 1801, and contains an historic annotation linking Davies with the I.D. tombstone.

Shropshire is not notable for its links with the West Indies and the slave trade, but it seems likely that ‘I. D.’ came to Bishop’s Castle or to one of the country houses hereabouts, at least initially, as a servant. The quality of the headstone, with its elegant inscription and decoration, suggests that the person commemorated held a certain status, whether as a servant or not.

The positioning of the tomb is very curious, it being turned away from the other graves in the area. This headstone faces west, towards an ancient yew tree; the inscription is therefore hidden from general view.

Also carved on the headstone is:
He hath made of one blood all nations of men

Opponents of slavery sometimes quoted these words and so it is possible that abolitionists erected the headstone.

 

Grave of Philip Scipio

Philip Scipio was a servant to the Duke of Wharton. Later he was the personal servant to Lady Lucy Morice.

Headstone of Philip Scipio
Photo Credit: Stiffleaf: http://www.ipernity.com/doc/stiffleaf/18335961/in/keyword/1964447/self

He died in 1784, aged about 18. Philip Scipio’s gravestone is on the northwest exterior wall of St Martin’s Church, Werrington, Cornwall. It was moved there after it was discovered being used as a paving stone. Lady Morice had this memorial stone erected.

DEPOSITED HERE
ARE THE REMAINS OF PHILIP SCIPIO
SERVANT TO THE DUKE OF WHARTON
AFTERWARDS TO SIR WILLIAM MORICE
AN AFRICAN
WHOSE QUALITY MIGHT HAVE DONE HONOUR
TO ANY NATION OR CLIMATE
AND GIVE US TO SEE
THAT VIRTUE IS CONFINED
TO NO COUNTRY OR COMPLEXION
HERE WEEP
UNCORRUPTED FIDELITY
AND PLAIN HONESTY
IN PIOUS REGARD TO WHICH VIRTUE’S APPROV’D
BY A BROTHER AND HUSBAND…25

Grave of George Edward Doney

George Edward Doney worked for 44 years, for the 5th Earl of Essex at Cassiobury in Hertfordshire.

His gravestone reveals that he was stolen from Gambia as a boy and sold into slavery in America, before being brought to England.

The Earl and Countess of Essex, who were subscribers to the first edition of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, thought enough of him to provide him with a headstone and an obituary.

Doney’s obituary appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Church Street, Watford, Hertfordshire.

 

Grave of George Doney
Photo Credit: Daryl Morrissey

The inscription on his gravestone reads:

POOR EDWARD BLEST THE IRATE BARK WHICH BORE
HIS CAPTIVE INFANCY FROM GAMBIA’S SHORE
TO WHERE IN WILLING SERVITUDE HE WON
THOSE BLEST REWARDS FOR EVERY DUTY DONE –

KINDNESS AND PRAISE, THE WAGES OF THE HEART;
NONE ELSE TO HIM COULD JOY AND PRIDE IMPART,
AND GAVE HIM, BORN A PAGAN AND A SLAVE,
A FREEMAN’S CHARTER AND A CHRISTIAN GRAVE.

Grave of Charles Bacchus

In the village of Culworth, a gravestone in St Mary’s Church, Culworth, marks the burial of Charles Bacchus in 1762, servant and slave to Richard Bond.
Locals had the grave re-tooled, as it was badly weathered.

Grave of charles Bacchus - slave graves
Image credit: Motacilla

The inscription on the gravestone reads:

IN MEMORY OF CHARLES BACCHUS (AN AFRICAN) WHO DIED MARCH 31,1762. HE WAS BELOVED AND LAMENTED BY THE FAMILY HE SERVED WAS GRATEFUL, AND HUMANE AND GAVE HOPES OF PROVING A FAITHFUL SERVANT AND A GOOD MAN. AGED 16

 

In Conclusion

Though this article is long, it is simply an amalgamation of information that can be found scattered in several articles throughout the web.

I wanted to try to bring the information together into one place and provide you with the images where possible. There are other graves and burial records that I know of, but sadly they don’t always have headstones or inscriptions. For example: The Discovering Bristol website mentions:

“The burial register of St Augustine’s Church records two burials, of Captain Caster’s ‘black man’ in 1766 and Captain Harwood’s ‘black boy’ in 1770

Captains of slave ships often had a black slave as a personal servant. They would have ended their days in Bristol, having been bought by the ship’s captain in Africa or the Caribbean and brought back as a personal servant.

In 1778, a 12-year-old black boy known as Ned was buried in the graveyard of the old church of Quakers Friars in Bristol.

He was a servant to a friend of the local Champion family. The Champions were Quakers and were involved in the trade with the Caribbean and the local pottery industry”.

Edward Juba of Leicester, is one such slave, like many of the people listed in this article, he rose to a position of relative respect within his community, he became free, and was baptised.

I certainly feel this article is unfinished and can certainly be expanded and improved to as more information surfaces.  I am in the process of contacting all the Dioceses in England and wales to ask if they have any known slave graves in the churchyards they administer.

As I was finishing this article, I discovered, quite by accident, one more slave grave, this one in Scotland.  Scotland also had Slavery connections and there are likely to be plenty of slave graves, just waiting to be rediscovered.

Robert Story – A Slave’s Grave in Scotland

Robert Story was an African who was sold into Slavery as a child and transported to Brazil. He later ended up in Trinidad, where he was bought out of Slavery by a Mr Kerr from Kelso. Kerr Brought the slave to Scotland where he went to work for the Reverend Robert Storey in Rosneath.

slave grave - in Scotland -
Photo: Plot 17 – https://www.blipfoto.com/entry/1096452

Only the top half of the Inscription is still legible.

ROBERT STORY A NATIVE OF WESTERN AFRICA IN EARLY LIFE TORN FROM HOME & SOLD IN RIO DE JANEIRO AS A SLAVE; THERE FOR HIS GOOD FIDELITY HE WAS SET FREE BY HIS MASTER. WHOM LOVING, HE FOLLOWED TO THIS COUNTRY AND WHO RETAINS THE MOST GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HIS FAITHFUL SERVICES.

The Helensburg Website, also states that there is the grave of a negro nanny, from the days of slavery at Cardross too. I am awaiting confirm

All the sources used in this article are listed below. I have tried to Cite as many photographers as possible.

Slave Graves: Related Links

Port Cities Website – Slavery
BBC News – Recognition for George Africanus

Real Histories – Slavery Sites

Historic England – Slave Graves

Flickering Lamps  An Unusual Grave In The Lake District

Ned Trifle Flickr – Grave of Slave Morgan

BBC – Rasselas Morjan

Myrtllas Grave

Culworth – Charles Bacchus

Helensburg – A Scottish Slave Grave

 

Do you know of any other Slaves Gaves in the UK?  If so please let me know.

Did you enjoy this article? If so please Like and Share in Social Media.

3 thoughts on “The Graves of Slaves

  • 22nd October 2016 at 3:56 am
    Permalink

    Weren’t there Black (African and/or descent people) in Britain in Medieval Times who weren’t slaves and also were proud and influential persons that affected positive change? I dunno know, I just thought Black history, which is intentionally shrouded in obscurity, as having no value or no contributions to Western History was to supposed fill the gaps of lacking representation and instill a sense of pride. I’m trying to see the fulfillment of value or pride in these Slave Graves. I just thought Black History in Britian…Europe didn’t begin with ‘slavery’, indeed, it appears that Africans knew about and traveled to Europe before Europeans knew and traveled to Africa.

    Reply
  • 5th November 2016 at 8:04 am
    Permalink

    I understand your point. However this website is called Black presence. It goes to evidence that there was a blavk presence in Britain before 1948. Further Black history in all its forms should educate about the good the bad and the ugly so as to provide information to the reader thereby instilling a sense of worth, and an instilling curiosity to find out more. We should use articles like this to start our own journey to enlightenment.
    For me I agree with you that these individuals were recorded as person who were enslaved but there are many more as the article suggests that were buried but no mention of their hue or place of origin recorded. Its recorded that queen Elizabeth 1 wrote about her wish for the expulsion of the blackamores as she thought there were too many here!
    This and other articles should serve to make the reader ask questions rather than remove any sense of pride. Yes our history is far longer and greater than the 400 years of the enslavement period and this is period still has many glorious examples of African Black achievements that instill pride.

    Reply
  • 28th January 2017 at 6:24 pm
    Permalink

    There’s a Welsh African buried near Criccieth in North Wales. His name is John Ystymllyn and he died in the 1770s roughly. He has a grave stone that has been lovingly preserved. His descendants lived nearby and also in Liverpool.

    Reply

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