National Trust reveals links its Midlands properties have to slavery

The National Trust has revealed how its properties have links to historic slavery and colonialism.

A family playing in the gardens of the Dudmaston Estate, near Bridgnorth
A family playing in the gardens of the Dudmaston Estate, near Bridgnorth

It says it wants to tell the history of colonialism and slavery at its historic places. It details links to plantation owners and those who were paid compensation for enslaved people freed through abolition, as well as those who gained their wealth through the slave trade.

More than 90 properties are highlighted in the report. Many involve leading figures in the East India Company, or senior figures in administering colonies, including Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell.

The report names many properties in our region, including:

  • Dudmaston, near Bridgnorth: Linked to William Wolryche-Whitmore who served as a Whig MP for Bridgnorth and, later, Wolverhampton. He served on the East India Committee, where he warned of the impact of British colonialism. He presented and supported anti-slavery petitions during the 1830s.

  • Powis Castle, Powys: Powis Castle became associated with the Clive family following the marriage of Edward Clive, 2nd Baron Clive of Plassey, later 1st Earl of Powis, to Lady Henrietta Herbert. Edward Clive became Governor of Madras in 1798. He was the son of Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725–74), the first British Governor of Bengal and a major figure in the East India Company. Robert amassed vast fortunes derived from his activities in India, both in cash and in fine and decorative arts.

  • Chirk Castle, near Oswestry: Chirk Castle was bought by Sir Thomas Myddelton I (c.1556–1631), a prominent figure in late-16th-century sugar trading, in investment in privateering activities, and in the East India Company. Myddelton was a member of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company by 1585. He was one of the first investors in the East India Company in 1599 and a member of the Virginia Company in 1609..

  • Shugborough, Staffordshire: Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield (1795–1854), married Louisa Catherine Phillips in 1819. Her father, Nathaniel Phillips, a member of The London Society of West India Planters and Merchants, owned plantations in Kingston, Jamaica, each of which held more than 100 enslaved people. Major George Anson, the younger brother of the 1st Earl (1797– 1857) served in Madras and became Commander-in-Chief in India in 1857, at the time of the Great Rebellion.

Properties with important cultural links to Britain’s colonial history, such as writer Rudyard Kipling’s home in Sussex, Bateman’s, or the home of historian Thomas Carlyle in London are also highlighted in the national report.

Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor has been linked to slave reparations (PA)

It shows how estates and stately homes such as Clandon Park, Surrey, and Hare Hall in Cheshire, were linked to wealth from plantations or the slave trade.

Some 29 properties cared for by the National Trust have links to successful compensation claims as a result of the abolition of slavery, such as Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, and Blickling Hall, Norfolk, the report shows.

Quarry Bank Mill, in Cheshire, was built using family wealth related to slavery, while Bath Assembly Rooms was connected to the wider colonial and slavery economies of the 18th century, it highlights.

The survey also documents those National Trust properties belonging to people who were involved in the abolition movement or the fight against colonial oppression.

And it highlights the presence of African, Asian and Chinese people working on English and Welsh estates.

The report draws on the Trust’s own archives and external evidence such as the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project run by University College London.

Dr Tarnya Cooper, the National Trust’s curatorial and collections director said: “The buildings in the care of the National Trust reflect many different periods and a range of British and global histories – social, industrial, political and cultural.

“A significant number of those in our care have links to the colonisation of different parts of the world, and some to historic slavery.

“Colonialism and slavery were central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries.”

And she said it was the National Trust’s job, as a heritage charity, to research, interpret and openly share full and up-to-date information about its properties.

“This report is the fullest account to date of the links between places now in the care of the National Trust and colonialism and historic slavery,” she said, though she added it was not exhaustive and would be added to as more research was done.

The research has been used to update online information and will be used to help the Trust review visitor information and displays at properties.

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