Every Lancashire slave owner and how much compensation they received from the abolition
There have been calls across the country for the statues of slave traders, and owners, to be removed and for streets to be renamed so as not to celebrate the families who benefited from the trade.
In 1833 the British government abolished slavery across the Empire, bar the territories owned by The East India Company. But setting thousands of slaves free brought up another issue. Compensation.
The British government was forced to pay plantation owners compensation as they had just taken away their free labour force.
There are many families and estates that benefited from this pay-out, including dozens in Lancashire. There are halls, houses and manors that still stand today and would have been renovated and run on money paid to the families as compensation for their slaves.
In total, and based on fragmented records, Lancastrians owned around 5,000 slaves.
The compensation the slave owners received across the county, based on records gleamed by the University of Central London (UCL), amounted to £115,472, 11 shillings and 10 pence.
That is £13.2m in today’s money.
The story of British abolition
The abolition of slavery in Britain in 1807 was just the beginning of a long, hard road to freedom.
In 1808 the British Royal Navy established its own special squadron to patrol the Atlantic and suppress the Transatlantic trade, in 52 years they captured 1,600 ships and freed 50,000 enslaved Africans.
But emancipation of the slaves living throughout Britain’s vast imperial landholdings was not to come until 1833 after several prominent abolitionists continually lobbied the British government.
Prominent leaders of the abolitionist cause included William Wilberforce, Joseph Sturge, Elizabeth Nichol and Louis Celeste Lecesne who were all able to pressure the government into acting towards a full abolition of slavery across the British colonies.
Eventually several factors led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. Firstly, the slave trade itself, once lucrative, had now been proven to produce only meagre profits. Secondly, the only place where slave owning plantations were making any money was in the Caribbean where European-owned sugar plantations were in abundance. But from 1823 these plantations saw a downturn in profits and the government felt they no longer needed to protect slave owning industries there.
However, the most important change was the 1832 Reform Act which got rid of rotten boroughs in Britain.
A rotten borough was a small or disparate parliamentary constituency which became a hotbed for corruption. This was before serious boundary reforms were introduced in Britain and it meant that an entire constituency, and the way they voted, could be controlled by corrupt landowners.
For example, the borough of Old Sarum had just seven voters during the 19th century. A rich landowner could pay the voters to elect one of their friends as MP and often this was how plantation-owning elites were able to keep anti-abolitionist MPs in parliament, meaning abolition acts couldn’t get past The Commons.
Of the 406 elected members of parliament in the 1831 election, 152 were chosen by fewer than 100 voters each, and 88 by fewer than 50 voters.
The 1832 Reform Act swept away these rotten boroughs allowing The Commons to be flooded with liberal MPs who would vote in favour of the 1833 act.
The Slave Compensation Act 1837: £20m to slave owners
The 1833 act received royal assent on August 28 and came into force in August, 1834.
But it took longer for slaves working across the Empire to actually see themselves without shackles. All slaves under the age of six were free as of August 1, 1834, the rest became ‘apprentices’ who were freed from servitude in August 1838 and then in August 1840. all remaining apprenticeships were abolished.
Slavery in the territories owned by the East India Trading Company was abolished in 1843 but not before slave owners across Britain pressured the government into introducing another act: The Slave Compensation Act of 1837, entitling slave owners to compensation for the loss of their workforce.
This could come in cash or annuitants, like a government pension that would pay out a steady stream of cash to the claimant each year.
The British government paid out £20m (more than £1b in today’s money) to 40,000 slave owners across the country. University College London compiled a list of all the beneficiaries of this compensation.
The Lancashire slave owners
These are the Lancashire names that appear on the UCL list. Please note that slave traders, those who actually bought and sold slaves, who would have long been unable to partake in their practise at the time of the compensation act, weren’t given any money by the British government. Compensation was offered to slave owners only.
As we can see from the records, these slave owners were already applying for compensation before the act passed, the earliest being 1835.
The names below also include people who owned plantations and estates with slaves but sold them before the abolition, people who made unsuccessful claims and, even, money-grabbing relations who tried to claim for the estates owned by their in-laws or relatives.
James Greaves Blackhurst, Haslingden
James unsuccessfully applied for compensation because his father, of the same name, had owned 20 slaves in Barbados.
James was actually a solicitor living in Haslingden and, by the looks of his claim, was trying to make a quick buck by using his father’s business ventures in the West Indies to make money.
His claim, made on November 7, 1836, was for £398 and two shillings, around £45,000 in today’s money. James had recently married his sweetheart Ellen Jane Barlow.
He died in 1846.
Reverend William Vernon, Grindleton, Clitheroe
William Vernon was the village perpetual curate (village priest) at Grindleton and lived at the vicarage on Sawley Road which still stands to this day.
He was a highly educated man who had attended the University of Cambridge, graduating in 1816 and then taking up his position in the church in 1822.
It so happened that his brother John Vernon owned a large plantation in Antigua which had 329 slaves.
John, along with reverend John Kirby, William Augustus Johnson, reverend Henry Kirby and Charles Henry Strode, applied for a massive compensation payment in November 1837 amounting to £4,906, five shillings and five pence, the equivalent of almost half a million pounds in 2020.
It seems that relatives tried to tag along when it came to the claim with William, William’s half brother Joseph and even his sister Sarah, trying to lobby for their own share of the compensation money.
William was given an annuity of £11, two shillings and six pence a year to initially be given 10 years in arrears, meaning he received £112 and five shillings (£12,500 in 2020) in a lump sum before his annual pay.
Mary Littledale, Bolton Hall, Bolton by Bowland
Mary Littledale bought Bolton Hall in 1832 and remained there until her death in 1855 at the age of 75.
She was involved in another complicated claim amounting to 172 slaves kept in British Guiana but she had a problem. It seems that Mary had taken out a mortgage in 1830 which she had not yet paid back.
Bankers and mortgage lenders claimed against the slaves because Mary still owed them outstanding debts on her mortgage and she was awarded none of the £9,235 she claimed for.
John Hornby, Blackburn
John was a key figure in Blackburn (although he was not the same John Hornby who served as Blackburn MP between 1841 and 1852).
Head of Hornby and Birley, John was part of the company that founded the Brookhouse cotton mills dotted about the East Lancashire town.
He was made the auditor for John Tarleton after his slave trading company in Liverpool went bankrupt. This meant he was able to claim for 46 slaves owned by Tarleton in St Lucia and was awarded £1,299 four shillings and five pence in January 1838.
John also owned Raikes Hall in Blackpool, which later served as convent, a football ground for Blackpool FC and is now an active pub.
Joseph Feilden, Witton, Blackburn
The owner of Witton House in the 19th Century; Joseph received two massive chunks of compensation money for slave owning estates in Jamaica.
He was the trustee of the young Richard Willis (his first cousin) who had put in a claim on the Green Park and Spring Vale Pen estates owned by his sister-in-law Eleanora Atherton of which Joseph got half. Joseph was awarded a total of £13,639, six shillings and five pence for the 726 slaves working across both estates.
Feilden was a politician who served in many roles across the county including as MP for Blackburn between 1861 and 1869. He died in 1870 with an estimated wealth of £100,000, near to £12m in today’s money. Witton House still stands on the edge of Witton Country Park.
William Fielden, Fenniscowles, Blackburn
Son of Joseph, and also a former Blackburn MP, William was a key figure in establishing the Blackburn cotton industry.
He became a merchant, cotton spinner and manufacturer as well as a pioneer of the factory system. In 1848, two years before he died, his firm employed 1,400 workers.
He made a claim on March 13, 1837, for 187 slaves on the Burnt Ground estate in Jamaica to the amount of £3,401, ten shillings and eight pence.
William had counter claimed for compensation against his in-laws, the Haughtons, who actually owned the estate. His claim was unsuccessful.
The ruins of Joseph’s former home, Fenniscowles Hall, still stands today.
The Athertons, Preston and Kirkham
The Athertons were also part of the claim for the Green Park and Spring Vale Pen estates in Jamaica, of which Joseph Fielden (see above) also benefitted.
Edward Atherton, along with his sisters Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth were the offspring of Richard Atherton, a Preston woollen draper and one of the founders of the Preston Old Bank.
Richard lived and owned Green Bank Farm in Kirkham which still stands today.
Edward’s uncle William owned Green Park and Spring Vale Pen in Jamaica which he bequeathed to his brother John who then gave half the estates to Edward.
The amount the Atherton’s received can not be found amongst the sources although it is recorded that a slave woman called Mary Southworth was granted a weekly annuity of £20 per year after William Atherton died in 1803.
Christopher Burrow, Buxton House, Hutton
Just outside Preston, Buxton House once stood. It must have been a fine house, judging by the riches of its owner, Christopher Burrow.
Christopher died in 1826, leaving £10,000 each to his son and daughter. He was the owner of two vast estates in Jamaica, Galloway House and Stafford Hall (part of the same estate in Port Royal), as well as Mount Prospect.
Although he died before he could make any claims on both estates, with full ownership passing onto others, we know that Christopher’s Caribbean properties had a total of 203 slaves between them. Both estates would have had claims made on them under the 1837 act by their new owners.
John Alleyne Beckles, Kirkham
John was one in a long line of successful lawmen.
He was first called to the Bar in England before he took over from his father (also John) by becoming Judge of the Court of Vice Admiralty in Barbados in 1840.
He died the following year, six days after returning to England. He passed away in Preston.
In March 1836, John claimed compensation for five slaves in Barbados, there are no details of him owning an estate or plantation, suggesting that he merely owned the slaves for his own personal use. The gentry were known to use slaves as maids or manservants while living abroad.
He claimed for, and was awarded, £69, 18 shillings and two pence, about £8,000 today.
Ralph Peters, Southport
Ralph appears to have done extremely well out of the compensation act, with four claims to his name.
Ralph’s uncle Bertie Entwistle died in 1803, leaving his three estates in Antigua to Ralph who also owned his own estate in St Vincent.
The Southport man, who was a clerk for Liverpool city by trade, was able to make four separate claims in November 1835. One for the Clifton Hill estate in St Vincent, which had 64 slaves, leaving him with £1,457 five shillings and eight pence, and an additional three for his uncle’s estates.
The Antigua estates had a combined total of 454 slaves working on them, amounting to a massive £7,076, 14 shillings and five pence in compensation for Ralph. In modern terms, he was awarded just over a million pounds by the UK government.
William Charles, Ormskirk
William was the son of a coppersmith who lived in Kingston and, upon his mother’s death in 1817, she left him her properties in Harbour Street and Water Lane, Kingston, Jamaica as well as her Upton estate.
While the estate was under Charles’ ownership it had 18 slaves. He sold the property to Thomas Maclagan soon after inheriting it.
George Westby, Garstang
George lived at White Hall in Upper Rawcliffe with his wife Mary Tate.
He was a big player in the British Empire and served as a high ranking civil servant in the British colonial offices in Honduras.
George claimed £36 in compensation in 1836 for two slaves, one called Integrity which had been bought by his wife in Honduras for £320.
White Hall still exists as a farm house standing over the Wyre.
Lucy Rattray, Sion Hill, Garstang
Lucy was born out in Kingston, Jamaica and likely inherited slaves from her father.
Her and her husband Alexander, claimed for nine slaves back in Port Royal, on March 14, 1836. They were awarded a total of £143, three shillings and four pence.
William Brade, Forton Lodge, Garstang
William is well known as an active Liverpudlian slave trader who had estates and properties in Dominica and Montserrat.
The records show he had four properties across both islands, with a total of 373 slaves working across the estates. They were all sold upon his death in 1820.
Forton Lodge, a magnificent Georgian manor, still stands to this day.
Abraham and Henry Rawlinson, Lancaster and Galgate
Abraham Rawlinson is part of the infamous Rawlinson family, the most prominent and well known slave owners, and incidentally slave traders, in Lancashire. He owned Ellel Hall near Galgate which is still serves as a country house today.
The family grew unimaginably wealthy off the transatlantic slave trade and would come to dominate the city of Lancaster in the 18th Century.
Turns out the trader was also a slave owner, with a share of the Gouyave and Maran estates in Grenada in his ownership. In 1803 he died, leaving the shares to be sold for the benefits of his relatives.
The estate held more than 250 enslaved peoples as of 1835.
Abraham’s son Henry, worked as a West India merchant and a partner in Rawlinsons & Chorley with John Chorley (who was MP for Liverpool between 1780 and 1784).
The younger Rawlinson owned Grassyard Hall in Caton but predeceased his father by 17 years and so never inherited the slave owning estates.
Grassyard Hall is now the Gresgarth Gardens.
George Burrow and James Barton Nottage, Lancaster
A resident of St Leonard’s Gate, George served as the city’s mayor on three separate occasions, 1828, 1833 and 1835/6
He was a foremost figure in the city’s industrial sector as well, having inherited the White Cross cotton mill in 1827. He owned the mill with his business partner, Thomas Housman Higgin. He also had an office in Market Street for his merchant business, Burrow and Nottage, which he operated with James Barton Nottage.
James was a typical Quaker merchant in the city who is believed to have lived in Caton, according to the 1841 census.
George and James did extremely well out of government compensation, making five claims for estates they owned in the Virgin Islands.
All the claims were made in October or November 1836, asking for a total of £5,936, 16 shillings and one pence for 378 slaves the pair owned across five estates. Today the money would amount to more than £680,00.
But the windfall did little to help George later on. He had to give up all his estates to creditors in 1849 after James had died and his other partner had gone bankrupt.
His property dissolved, George was even called to an insolvency court and named in the national papers.
He presumably had to give up his fine premise at St Leonard’s Gate because he was living in Fenton Street when he died aged 70 in 1861. Today St Leonard’s Gate houses many students at the university.
John Bond, Lancaster
If you want to talk about men who benefited from the 1837 act, then John Bond is a prime example. The merchant, and twice city mayor, was awarded more than £20,000 for the slaves he owned in various Caribbean colonies.
John lived in Dalton Square during the early half of the 19th century. He never left England, yet he had a stake in many colonial estates and his daughter described his wealth as deriving from the slave trade.
He has various connections to Gillows of Lancaster who were prominent cabinet makers. Though their work appeared innocent; in reality their fine wood came from slave trading ventures.
John owned the Bellvue Estate, Industry Estate and Morne Jaloux Estate in Grenada as well as the Broom Hall and Albion estates in British Guiana.
Some of his estates were inherited from his uncle John Bond who worked with the Rawlinson slave traders.
Across his estates, John owned 702 slaves. He made claims for his five estates and was awarded a total of £27,968, three shilling, 11 pence.
Today, that number would exceed £3m. John died in October 1856.
Henry and James Hargreaves with Richard Godson, Lancaster
James Hargreaves was a banker who lived at Springfield Hall in Lancaster, which was, according to records, also where his son Henry Hargreaves and his son-in-law Richard Godson resided.
Springfield Hall was built in 1792 with Henry’s recently made riches making him out as a new money figure in Lancaster. He was the mortgage holder for the Pusey Hall estate in Jamaica which was owned by his son and son-in-law.
For Richard (who married James’ daughter Mary 1825) Pusey Hall was a sore subject, he claims he was ‘forced’ to take on the estate with its £50,000 mortgage, something amounting to around £5m today. Richard, unlike his banking in-laws, was a barrister and later an MP who was able to have some influence on the abolition, in fact, despite holding Pusey Hall, he was all for abolition.
“I scorn the idea of having property in my fellow subjects.,” Godson once said.
“The government may declare the black population free upon any conditions that may be thought reasonable; I only ask that the lives of the white people, resident on the islands, may be protected.
“I shall therefore vote for an emancipation which will protect our colonial possessions, and the best emancipator is the man who is willing to sacrifice his own interests.”
Still, him and Henry Hargreaves, who also owned Pusey Hall, made a substantial claim in October 1835 for the 236 slaves on their Jamaica estate. They were awarded £5,018 seven shillings and 11 pence, more than half-a-million pounds today.
John Taylor Wilson , Lancaster
Serving as city mayor on three occasions (1807, 1816 and 1826), John was part of a group of solicitors and attorneys in Lancaster.
He owned part of the Broom Hall estate in British Guiana which John Bond (see above) also put in a claim for.
In 1835, him and Bond put in a claim for £9,875 five shillings and eight pence for the 198 enslaved at Broom Hall, their claim was accepted.
John and Robert Dodson, Lancaster
The Dodsons were a rich and powerful family in Lancaster who had a long relationship with slavery.
John inherited Spark Bridge Ironworks in Cumbria from his late father and was a merchant in the city. Robert, his brother, was one half of a merchant company (Robert Dodson and Jacob Ridley) that went bankrupt in 1811.
The men had an uncle, another Robert Dodson, who was a major slave captain and trader out of the city, remaining active between 1757 and 1771.
John owned the estate of Tongue Moor in the township of Littledale and remained a wealthy man for his entire life, leaving vast sums of money in his will.
Robert was much less successful, following his 1811 bankruptcy he seems to have had little monetary luck and died in 1831.
Ownership of his share in Phoenix and Lichfield plantation in British Guiana, which had 157 enslaved peoples working there, passed to John.
John already had ownership over Plantation Goedland and Hampshire in British Guiana and so made a three claims for each property in 1836.
There were 482 slaves across the three estates and John received £23,593 and 18 shillings in compensation for them, today that would amount to more than £2.6m.
Eliza Robertson, Lancaster
Compared to the other names on this list, Eliza was a nobody. Records show that she stayed in several Liverpool boarding houses, suggesting that she was both poor and of a lower class although she did have some relation to the colonies being born in the West Indies.
She spent time at a lodging house on Gill Street, Liverpool, in 1851 as a 52-year-old widow.
In 1836 she counterclaimed for an estate in the Virgin Islands which had 126 slaves. The estate was owned by one Daniel Donovan but Eliza claimed that estate had been left to her in his will.
She must have had some relation to the Donovans because the 1851 census shows that she was in the Gill Street lodgings with one Johanna Donovan.
Eliza’s claim for £1,907 and eleven pence was unsuccessful and was instead awarded to a merchants in London.
Thomas Giles, Samuel Gregson and Thomas Walling Salisbury Lancaster
These three Lancaster merchants were part of a group who counter claimed for the 106 slaves on the Tortola estate in the Virgin Islands.
They were denied and the claim for £1,532 two shillings and six pence was awarded to another merchant group.
William Mason, Lancaster
William was part of a rather rich and affluent family that had roots across the country.
His father, Jackson Mason, was an attorney and alderman in Lancaster but William was born in London before being educated at Giggleswick School in Settle, still one of the UK’s most prominent private schools. From there he went to Cambridge University.
He was ordained as a priest in the Cockermouth parish in 1828 and moved to Yorkshire in 1833.
William was the executor of his uncle John’s will. John owned three estates in Jamaica, including Eden Estate, an unnamed site in Port Royal and another in St George. As executor of his will, William was able to make a claim on all three estates.
For the 231 slaves across his uncles estates, William received £4,148 and ten shillings.
Charles Inman, Lancaster
Charles never made a claim, in fact he died in 1767 while the slave trade was still in full swing.
The Lancastrian was a prominent slave trader in the city and worked in partnership with Thomas Satterthwaite, another well known slave trader.
Charles later became a merchant in Kingston, Jamaica.
It is not clear whether he owned estates and enslaved people in Jamaica but he certainly traded slaves. He died in Jamaica. A plaque to him and his partner Robert Preston is said to stand in Kingston, it describes both men as Lancastrians.
Charles’ children include a son of the same name who owned Spital Hall, now Poulton Hall, in the Wirral. There are no records of the Inman’s making claims for slaves in the colonies.
Richard Worswick, Lancaster
Records for Richard are scant as best but he is identified as a Lancaster banker in the 1818 will of George Cruden of Surinam. Richard was the mortgagee for £15,000 on Cruden’s one-third interest in two estates in Surinam.
Thomas died in 1819 and the banking firm of Thomas Worswick Sons & Company of Lancaster collapsed in 1822. His estates were passed onto his son Alexander in London.
No claims were made on his estates.
Lawrence Lawrence, Nether Kellet
We know little about Lawrence only that he inherited the Marquis estate on St Lucia from his father William Lawrence of Liverpool.
Lawrence sold the estate within three years of coming into possession of it (1822) and never made any claims for the 330 slaves that lived there.
Agnes and David Murray, Hornby Hall
David was a slave owner who returned to Britain to live at Hornby House, near Lancaster.
His Bath estate, in Westmoreland Jamaica, turned out to be a very lucrative asset for his wife Agnes Murray when he passed away in 1822.
Not only did Agnes secure a £1,000 annuity from her husband’s will (with the money almost certainly coming from the profitable estate) she was also able to claim for £3,648, four shillings and one pence from the 214 slaves working on Bath.
She still lived at Hornby Hall in 1837 when she died. The hall itself burnt down in 1946.
Jane Thornton and Edmund Thornton Junior, Whittington
Edmund Thornton Junior was the son of Jane and Edmund Thornton who presided at the famous Whittington Hall.
He was another Lancashire aristocrat who was given an advantageous start in life. He attended Rugby school in Northamptonshire (so posh it invented the sport) and then went to Oxford University.
His father owned the Good Hope estate in British Guiana, with a man called Simon Fraser, which was passed to Edmund when his father died.
Edmund Junior was also part of Bruce, Thornton & Co. in London and Lewis Hamilton & Co. in Liverpool.
Him, and his mother Jane, were awarded vast sums for two estates in British Guiana, Good Hope and another unnamed site. Between them the estates had 840 slaves.
Even though the compensation was split with other co-owners, the Thorntons received £14,574, three shillings and nine pence.
Whittington Hall still stands today.