Investigating the historic links between Devon and transatlantic slavery.

The Group

We are a small informal group of researchers operating under the umbrella of Devon Development Education at Exeter Community Centre. We are interested in investigating the historic links between Devon and transatlantic slavery. The mission statement for our group is shown here.

Introductory papers

For a general introduction to the topic of Devon’s link with slavery, see three papers produced by Lucy MacKeith:

Her 2003 booklet ‘Local Black History: A Beginning in Devon

Her paper 'Unravelling Devon Involvement in Slave-ownership', presented at the 2015 UCL workshop

Her PowerPoint paper From the Margins to the Middle that she presented at the Hidden Histories Seminar, held in Plymouth in 2016 and the recording of her talk

See also the new edition (2020) of Todd Gray’s Devon and the Slave Trade.

2015 UCL workshop:
In November 2015 the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project at University College, London (UCL LBS) held one of their full-day outreach workshops in Exeter, and we collaborated with them. About 70 people attended. Both UCL and LDSG presented papers.

Exhibition posters:
In conjunction with that workshop, UCL produced a very informative exhibition of five posters about the history of slave-ownership. Three posters outline the overall British story and the other two, for which the LDSG contributed material from their research, focus on Devon:

These posters can be printed in A4 format, for use in the classroom.

Laminated copies of these posters (each measuring 33 inches high by 70 inches wide) are freely available for display in schools, libraries and museums around Devon. So far they have been displayed at the Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter Community Centre, the Devon and Exeter Institution, Tiverton Museum, and at a few schools. If you would like to borrow them, please contact DDE at

Here are some of the Devon slave-owning families that we have been researching:

Davy and Glanville - The Davy and Glanville slave-owning families from Devon were closely connected in the early nineteenth century. These three papers by Gillian Allen on the LBS website use the links between the families to explain different aspects of the Jamaican slave plantation system.

Three enslaved girls: Joan, Jane and Caroline tells the story of three enslaved girls who were living on a Jamaican cattle farm in the early nineteenth century.

Two Devon families in Jamaica: a local association with slaverytells the stories of the two families' involvement in Jamaica through aspects of Gillian's visit to Jamaica in 2007.

Slavery and two Ottery St Mary families looks at different attitudes to slavery held within families as evidenced by the signing of the 1814 Ottery Petition.

Lousada – see the draft of the article ‘The Lousadas of Sidmouth’ in The Devon Historian, Vol. 90, 2020, pp. 27-36 

Modyford  - ‘Barbados/Devon connections  More information on Modyford can be found in Joanna Traynor’s paper from the 2015 workshop.

Vassall  - ‘Vassall Devon/Jamaica connections’ 

Walrond – ‘Walronds in Barbados

Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)

We have been supporting RAMM in the preparation of material for their planned exhibition on slavery, In Plain Sight: Transatlantic Slavery and Devon, now due to be held in 2022. We have researched several individuals who are linked to items in the RAMM collection.

Exeter Cathedral

We have researched some of the monuments in the Cathedral that have direct links to slavery

We have also clarified the role of Bishop Henry Phillpotts in relation to slavery. An article entitled ‘Bishop Phillpotts and Slavery’ was published in the 2020 Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, Vol. 152, pp. 193-206. It makes clear that Bishop Phillpotts was not a slave-owner, but he had a brother Thomas who was.

People of African descent are not immediately visible in the history of Devon. These two ‘trails’ offer a starting point for uncovering the evidence to help us build up a picture
of members of this group and their contributions to the county'’s history.

Starting to trace Black History in Devon

Starting to trace Black History in Exeter

A ceremony to mark the Bicentenary of the British Act of Parliament to end slave trading on British ships was held on Sunday 25th March 2007 at midday on Cathedral Green. Here is the transcript.

Contacts and resources:

Are you interested in working with us? If so, please contact us at DDE:   We meet regularly to discuss issues, and are open to suggestions.

If you want to do your own independent research, here are some useful links.

We would welcome your sharing with us any interesting information on Devon’s link to slavery that you collect, as it will help us to build a fuller picture of this history.