Investigating the historic links between Devon and transatlantic slavery.

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.  Here is the mission statement for our group.

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 - An article ‘The Lousadas of Sidmouth’ appeared in The Devon Historian, Vol. 90, 2020, pp. 27-36. Family members were active in Jamaica and as West India merchants in London. Emanuel Baruh Lousada moved to Devon and led the way in establishing Sidmouth as a resort town.

Modyford, Walrond and Colleton - Three Devon men and their role in the early development of the slave plantation system in the Americas –

(1) Modyford
          More information on Modyford can be found in Joanna Traynor’s paper from the 2015 workshop.

(2) Humphrey Walrond and the 1661 Barbados Slave Code 

(3) The Colleton family and slavery

Vassall  - Vassall Devon/Jamaica connections

Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)

Our group was contracted by RAMM to prepare material for their exhibition In Plain Sight: Transatlantic Slavery and Devon, which was held from 29 January to 5 June 2022. We researched several individuals with links to items in the RAMM collection.

The following material from the exhibition can be found online including:

  • Exhibition text
  • Films in the Exhibition
  • University of Exeter Showcase Project
  • Articles by the Legacies of Devon Slave-ownership Group relating to RAMM’s collections
  • Resources, books and research articles used in the exhibition
  • Additional material connected to the transatlantic slave trade.

Exeter Cathedral

We initially researched monuments in the Cathedral that had direct links to slavery. We have now extended this research to cover all memorials in the Cathedral with links to Empire. See:
Peter Wingfield-Digby, Exeter Cathedral Memorials with links to Empire, 2022.

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 the bishop was not a slave-owner, but that he had a brother Thomas who was. 

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 national story, while 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 dde@globalcentredevon.org.uk

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 Exeter Cathedral Green on Sunday 25 March 2007. Here is the transcript.

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 presentation From the Margins to the Middle and the recording of her talk, given at the Hidden Histories Seminar, held in Plymouth in 2016.

We are not the only people researching Devon’s connection with transatlantic slavery. Local historian Todd Gray gives talks and has published works on this theme. His work may also be found online.

Contacts and resources:

Are you interested in working with us? If so, please contact us at DDE: dde@globalcentredevon.org.uk 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.