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This booklet is dedicated to the memory of

 Len Garrison 1943 - 2003 1

who worked to promote the recording of black history in Britain


 "It is time we let the world know we are proud of our heritage and we stand as living monuments.  For those who are afraid of who they must be are but slaves in a trance".   2




Basil Davidson, Sylvia Collicott and Marika Sherwood have inspired me by their work.

I would like to thank Zena Burland, John Ellis and 'Jane' for their contributions to the text; Kathy Chater and Mike Sampson for sharing their Devon databases.

For other help I would like to thank: John Allan, Sherry Doyal, Des Gander, Frank Gent, Todd Gray,  Hazel Harvey, Ronald Impey, Vicky Jay, Julia Kumik, David Killingray, Jo Loosemore, John McEwan, Stephen and Jo MacKeith, Sam Magne, Lynn Medlock, Jo and Harold Miller, Chrissie Morris, Louisa Parker, Den Perrin, Maggie Pipe, Len Pole, Liz Prince, Judith Proud, Joan Rendell, Mary-Rose Rogers, Brana Thorn, Alice Tomic, Janette Wallen, Angela Welch and staff at the Devon Record Office, North Devon Record Office, Plymouth and West Devon  Record Office and the West Country Studies Library.

And my fellow communards where I live, who have carried on with the work while I got lost in the past.

The author and publisher thank Devon County Council, the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary and the Devon Council of Churches for their sponsorship.

Every effort has been made to obtain permission for reproduction of pictures. The author and publisher thank those who have given their permission. Designer Eva Searle; editor Bill MacKeith; photographer John Sealey; proof reader Sarah Bunker; researcher Mike Turnbull; word  processing Dawn Barraball.

Lucy MacKeith, 2003; except 'Black soldiers and Devon', John D. Ellis, 2003; 'My father', Zena Burland, 2003.

Published by:-   Archives and Museum of Black Heritage, 378 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF.

Printed by:-   Brightsea Press, Exeter, Devon.

Web Version:-   Mac McCorry.


Front cover: Joe Green, Black Footman for Many Years to Mrs Quicke, late eighteenth century, painting formerly ascribed to Sir Joshua Reynolds.




Foreword by Sam Walker, Director, AMBH

Why black history in Devon?

Black Romans in Devon?

Saint Maurice

Devon's connection with the slave trade and slavery

Gravestones illustrating the links between Devon and black history

Black people and the sea; The London

The Swete Family in Modbury
Joe Green
Devon and the abolition of the slave trade
Compensation for slavery?
How to remember slavery and the slave trade?
Who is this man?
Olaudah Equiano
Black soldiers and Devon
My Father, by Zena Burland
Jane, a black Devonian
How to take the study of black history forward
Conclusion   -  writing black history of the past and today
Resources for learning
Notes for educators in schools, museums and libraries
Notes on the text
Picture sources and acknowledgements
Photo credits
Mapping the black presence in Devon

Note:- From here on the website is still under construction - come back later 



A call for further research
Black Boy  -  Black Dog

Note: An earlier version of the text of this booklet with more extensive notes is at:-

www. blackhistorvindevon. org. uk




Until recently, few institutions have shown interest in the history, culture and heritage of black Britons. Indeed, during the 1980s when black people were campaigning for recognition and awareness of the contribution they have made to the development of Britain, they were vilified, ridiculed and marginalised.

Attempts to introduce multi-cultural education, which would reflect the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature of society, failed through lack of resources, rigorous research and access to information.

In the 1980s, Black Cultural Archives was established and was among the leading organisations to collect, document and disseminate the history and the role black people played in the development of Britain.    The idea of collecting this information emanated from three broad objectives namely:

• to challenge the stereotypical images on which racist notions are based;

• to be a source of pride for the black community whose history and heritage they reflect; and

• to support the idea of a Black British Heritage.

Throughout Britain, the history of the Atlantic slave trade is generally known, but the history of black people before and after slavery is unknown.   In some parts of the country, the idea that slavery was part of the commerce in their region, and that the benefits of that trade are still visible is not acknowledged.

This booklet will, I hope, begin to throw some light on the presence of black people in areas, which at one time were considered to be mono-ethnic.

I hope this booklet will provide useful hints and methodologies for researching the black presence in all areas and thus provide further evidence of the multi-ethnic/multi-cultural nature of our society.

Sam Walker

Project Director

Archives and Museum of Black Heritage (AMBH)


Why black history in Devon?

This booklet about black 3 history in Devonshire is short because the work is only just beginning, not because there is no evidence to uncover.

The study of local history shifts the focus away from the stories of kings, queens and Great People to looking at the lives of ordinary people.  Interest in finding out about the lives of black people in history has grown in recent years and Black History Month is celebrated each October in Britain.

When we hear stories of the past it helps to know who is telling the story.   All stories, including 'history', are told from a particular point of view.   In today's climate of equal opportunities some people say that race 'makes no difference'.  People can feel uncomfortable when the issue of race is raised.

But the 'colour-blind' approach hides the assumption that white is the norm, black the exception.   To move towards a more accurate, inclusive view of history, we need to separate out the different elements, which have been ignored previously.   The evidence is available.   The history waits to be written.  Black history is not only for black people.   It is not only to be found in the history of big cities and ports.   Looking at black history in Devon, and similar parts of Britain, helps us to understand the links between local, national and world history. 4  The study of a few exceptional individuals is not the beginning and end of black history.   There are stories about black people to be discovered in all walks of life and in all areas.  5  I hope to show that there is more to discover and that we need this information to get a balanced view of our country, and our country's past.   The uncovering of facts can alter our view of history.   This is the 'missing part of our history'. 6

Black Romans in Devon?

One local historian 7 says that there is no evidence to show whether Africans were among the Romans who came to Devon.   A Libya-born emperor and other Africans were among the Roman soldiers, slaves and civilians in Britain.  Some may have been in Devon. 8

Saint Maurice

There is a carving of a black saint in the parish church in Uffculme in mid Devon.   The carving is one of a number of old panels, which have been described as medieval or sixteenth-century bench ends or domestic paneling, which have been mounted in a modern side altar.

Who is this saint? Why is his image here? What was his part in our history?

The sixth Christian Crusade in the early thirteenth century, led by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, had as its sole allies North Africans who were part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.   Does this statue celebrate these African Christian allies in the same way that, Basil Davidson believes, the statue of St Maurice in the thirteenth-century cathedral in Magdeburg does? 9

Whoever he is, the statue is of a black saint who was worth making a carving of.  There is a church of St Maurice at Plympton St Maurice just outside Plymouth, which is also known as St Thomas of Canterbury, it has no image of St Maurice.

Web Editors note:- See also

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Devon's connection with the slave trade and slavery

Devon is a county with coastlines to the north and south. In the past the ports on  Devon's coastline played a more important part in travel locally and beyond.   Their role today as holiday resorts hides their past importance as centres of trade.

We can find evidence which shows Devon's worldwide influence and particularly rich connections with people of African origins.  Devonians took their familiar names with them as they explored and settled the world. There are at least forty Plymouths in the world today.  Sometimes black people were given the names of places. 10

The slave trade and slavery are not the only parts of Devon's history where we can find black people.    But the contribution from black people in slavery, especially to the wealth of some people in Devon, is significant.   The Atlantic slave system had many results.   One is that people of African descent live all over the world today.    History needs to include slavery as a part of Devon history itself, not something quite separate.


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Sir John Hawkins coat of arms.BMP (1634250 bytes)

The coat of arms of Sir John Hawkins, born in Plymouth, Sir Walter

Raleigh, born near Sidmouth, and Sir Francis Drake, born near Tavistock.



 Well-known heroes in Devon history include sea captains such as Sir John Hawkins, born in Plymouth, Sir Walter Raleigh, born near Sidmouth, and Sir Francis Drake, born near Tavistock.  William Hawkins, John Hawkins's father, organised expeditions to West Africa in the 1530s.   He traded with Africans there in gold and ivory.   English traders brought Africans to England, sometimes by kidnapping them. 11

 But there was the possibility of making even more money.   Many Europeans made the choice to capture, later to buy, African people in West Africa.   European ships took the captured Africans to the Americas on a journey often described as the 'Middle Passage'. In the Americas, Africans were forced to work as slaves on plantations.    The Europeans then sold products like sugar, tobacco and rum, in Europe.    There were enormous trade opportunities for Devonians, and others, to supply the basic needs of people living in the plantations.

 For about three hundred years people in Britain were directly involved in the slave trade and the plantation economies 12  in the Americas.

 John Hawkins is recognised as the first English slave trader, in 1562.   He had learnt the skills of sailing ships and trading from his father William.  On his second slave-trading journey in 1564 he made a profit of 60% on the outlay.


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People at all levels of society were involved: sheep farmers, spinners and weavers who created cloth which was exported to Africa and the Americas, wool traders in Exeter, bootmakers, food producers, metal workers who produced the slave chains, ship builders,13 and bronze founders who made the manillas (a kind of bracelet) which were used as money in the slave trade.   The list goes on.   Probably most families in Devon benefited from what became known as 'The Trade'.

 In The Forgotten Trade Nigel Tattersfield examines the involvement of minor ports in the slave trade, including Devonian ports. 14 His book is based on the logbook of a ship called Daniel and Henry.   The crewmembers came from coastal and inland towns and villages. He mentions 'George Yorke ... the sole black crewmember', who left the ship in Jamaica but was later press-ganged into the Navy.   The crews of British ships were multi-racial and multi-cultural in the past, as they are today.   Black sailors were very common in the Navy.

In Devon there is a long-distance footpath, the Mariners Way, which crosses both Dartmoor and Exmoor (the present Two Moors Way follows roughly the same route).   Sailors walked this path, between the north and south coasts of Devon, in search of work.   This means that black sailors, too, would have been seen far inland in Devon as well as on the coast.  Some Devonians became very rich through the slave trade, sometimes by direct involvement, more often by investing money and getting enormous returns from their investments.   Other Devonians owned plantations in the Americas.  Elias Ball of Stoke-in-Teignhead went to claim his inheritance of one-half of a 740-acre farm in South Carolina in 1698 at the age of twenty-two.

 A descendant, Edward Ball, in his book Slaves in the Family, traces his ancestors in America, both white and black.  15  This book is a fine example of detailed historical research and is rich in Devon connections.   A slave is named 'Plymouth' in 1721. A plantation is named 'Halidon Hill' in the mid nineteenth century, perhaps a different form of 'Haldon Hill' outside Exeter?

 Newspapers reported the ships which brought the products of the plantations back to Europe:

1670 ... Barnstaple Jan 24.  Yesterday arrived here the EXCHANGE belonging to this port... laden with sugar.16


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There were sugar-processing factories in Devon - at the Bishop's Palace in Exeter, 17 the Retreat  18 in Topsham, and in Goldsmith Street, Exeter.  Sugar was refined and made into sugar cones in clay pots.   The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter has modern reconstructions of these clay pots.   They are on display in the local history gallery, alongside fragments of the original clay pots.


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There were also black people who lived in Devon who were slaves or servants.   Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Lady Raleigh, wife of Sir Walter Raleigh of Devon, was one of the first people in England to have a young African attendant.   We can look at parish and other records to find evidence.   Some examples of this are shown in the list in the centre pages of this booklet; the map there shows their wide distribution in the county.   Also, we can find paintings of rich people with their black slaves, statues in gardens, and archaeological remains which show Devon's involvement.


200 Africans stay in Exeter in November 1688

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In 1688 William of Orange, from the Netherlands, landed in Brixham in south Devon.  He marched all the way to London to claim the
English throne. An account was written at the time about his passage through Exeter.    We can imagine the procession crossing the River Exe, where thirteen arches of the old bridge remain, next to the modern roadways which cross the river today.    Then he went up Stepcote Hill and into the city:

 "200 Blacks brought from the plantations of the Netherlands in America, Imbroyder'd Caps lin'd with white Fur, and Plumes of white Feathers, to attend the Horfe.19"


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There were other African visitors to Devon who were not slaves.   John Naimbanna, the son of a ruler in Sierra Leone, was sent to England in the 1790s for his education and sailed for home from Plymouth.    He was not the only one.20

Vivian's Visitations 21 records details of English families who were entitled to have a coat of arms.   It includes family trees showing where individuals lived.   Thus we can read that James Colleton, of Barbados, married Anne, daughter of James Kendall, the governor of Barbados.    Their son, John, married Elizabeth, the widow of Thomas Drax of Dorset and Drax Hall in Barbados.   The centre pages of this booklet include records of the burial and baptism of black servants of the Colletons.

Family histories will reveal similar stories.    One example is a study of the Prideaux family, one branch of which lived in Barbados.  22  Look at local street names.   These are often named after families who became wealthy from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries from the slave trade and black slave labour in plantations.   Names such as Colleton, Codrington, Grenville, Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh in Devon.   Other place names echo the past, such as Guinea 23 or Blackboy Road.


Gravestones illustrating the links between Devon and black history

Evidence of the link between Devon and the plantation slave economy of the West Indies is provided by the gravestones of Devonians who lived there.

To the memory of
Mary Ann widow of
Hugh Barnett Esquire
Formerly of the Island of Jamaica
Who closed a life of
Exemplary piety
And died at Newport, on the 7th
Day of October 1846 in the 78th
Year of her age

Beloved and respected by all who knew her
Let me die the death of the righteous

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 Bishop's Taunton north Devon


These Devonian children drowned off Salcolmbe in 1757:

Here lye the Bodies
Of Rhodes-Daniel
May and Joseph
Chambers. Sons and
Daughters of Edward
Chambers of Jamaica
Who were shipwrecked
At Cathole within this
- Parish August 23rd 1757



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Maryborough Church South Devon


In Exeter Cathedral :-

south choir isle





Here lies
William Kellitt Hewitt
of Cashoo in the parish of St Elizabeth
In the island of Jamaica

and also Keeper of the King's Peace
at Druryard adjacent to this city
He died mourned by

His wife, children, friends, servants, relatives.
llth June 1812 AD Aged 55

south wall

Mrs Ann Griffith

Of St Elizabeth's in the island of Jamaica
d. 27.1.1824
aged 78

south-eat corner, blackstone

Robert Harvey
Late of the island of Grenada
D 10 July 1791 Aged 59


Another connection between Devon and the plantation economy in Barbados, north aisle:-

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Philip Scipio's grave

There is a gravestone of an eighteenth-century black person in Devon.   It is the only one I know of.    It is now fixed to the north exterior wall of Werrington Church:

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



Philip Scipio was brought to England from St Helena by the Duke of Wharton.   He was a personal servant to Lady Lucy Morice, who caused the memorial stone to be erected.   He was buried on 10th September 1784 and was described in the church register as 'A black servant to Lady Lucy Morice'.   He is believed to have been eighteen years old when he died.



Black people and the sea


There was more smuggling in Devon and Cornwall than anywhere else in England and black people were involved.    In a booklet about smuggling there are three illustrations which include black smugglers.  26  A black man is recorded as living with two smugglers on Looe Island just across the county border in Cornwall.  27

In a book about women in the Navy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, three out of eleven illustrations show black figures.28


The London


On 9 October 1796 a ship, The London, on it's way from St Lucia in the West Indies, was wrecked off Ilfracombe in North Devon.

There is a contemporary account of the captain of the ship, named Robertson refusing to bring it into the safety of the harbour to avoid the storm.  There are reports of the bodies of Africans being washed ashore the following day, along with the shackles which had imprisoned them in the hold of the ship, and valuable coins.  Were they slaves?   Or were they French prisoners of war?  If they were Africans they were only in the Americas because of the slave trade.

There has been considerable controversy about the finds on the beech of Rapparee Cove at Ilfracombe.  29  The local archaeologist, Pat Barrow, has given his own account of events following his excavations up to 1998   30

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The London just outside Rapparee Cove (right in the painting), Ilfracombe

on 9 October 1796, by John Walters, a painting in Ilfracombe Museum


An interim report on fragments of the bones found in the cove states that it is unlikely that the bones were of black people from St Lucia.

Whatever the outcome of future findings, the story of the wreck of The London is an example of the complicated nature of history, with local/national/world links.

There are arguments about whether the bones should be given a dignified burial in north Devon, St Lucia or Africa, or retained in a university research department or in Ilfracombe Museum or by the local district council.

A local group, the Friends of Rapparee, want to bury the bones locally on the grounds that 'those who died are part of our history too.'

When such a claim is based on studying Devon's involvement in slavery and the slave trade, this will help Devonians understand their place in the history of black people.


The Swete family in Modbury

In 1699 the Swete family of Modbury, in south Devon, took over the lease of a property on the island of Antigua in the West Indies.   Letters and accounts from the family's agent, Roland Oliver, show that people living in the West Indies had to import food, clothing, tools and equipment.    Payments are made for doctors' bills 31 , loading sugar on to ships, herring, cod fish, cloth, hoes 32, boots, candles, beans, oatmeal, 'for beef at christmas', for nails, repairs to property and for a grindstone. 33

One year's accounts includes payment to people for catching runaway slaves 34  and for buying padlocks, chains and collars to restrain Colla, 'a notorious runaway'. 35  People were paid to punish Africans who resisted being slaves. 36  In the 1740s the agent wrote:

".....if you were to order six young negroes to be purchased every year it would be of great service to the estate.   At present we can scarcely make 40 able negroes, the rest are either children or so old they are incapable of working.   Old George died a few days ago, he is no loss to the estate." 37

Meanwhile, in London, Adrian Swete wrote to his aunt on October 15 1744:


Mrs Phil Swete at Train by way of Ivybridge, Devonshire.

Dearest Aunt

... My mama took this opportunity of sending you a pound of green tea and two pounds of chocolates which she hopes you'll accept of and likewise the enclosed [papers] which she thought proper to send you to keep with the rest of the Antigua accounts, and therefore, as I generally do, I supply the place of secretary to her.  I am Dear Aunt, Your most dutiful nephew Adrian John Swete Aged 13.  38

Like many other absentee Devonshire landowners, the Swetes grew rich from the black labour in Antigua.   They used some of the profits they made to pay for a water supply to be brought into Modbury.


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Old Traine, the house owned by the Swete family in Modbury, south Devon, photographed in the 1990s.


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A memorial stone commemorating Adrian Swete paying for the supply of water into Modbury, south Devon.    A translation of the Latin is: 'Given as a gift by Adrian Swete, knight (esquire) of Train in the year of our Lord 1708.   Transferred to this site from the middle of the road 1874.'


Joe Green

Thomas Coster was a merchant in Bristol who had interests in the slave trade.   He was a member of parliament (1734-9) and mayor of the city.   When he died in 1739 he left 40,000 to his daughter Jane.39

In 1759 Jane married her second husband.    Sir John Quicke of Newton St Cyres in Devon.   She brought her inherited wealth when she married into the Devon landed gentry.   This wealth is reflected in the rich art works from that period in the family.  40

There is a portrait (see front cover) in the family of a black man which is labelled Joe Green, Black Footman for many years to Mrs Quicke.   The family think it likely that Joe Green was footman to Mrs Quicke after she was widowed.   Jane Quicke lived in fashionable Bath as an old lady and there is a portrait of her at that time with two friends

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Mrs Quicke and two friends in Bath, by Sir Thomas Laurence.  Just as Jane brought her slave-funded wealth with her when she married into the Devon landed gentry, so she took it on to her fashionable retirement in Bath.


Devon and the abolition of the slave trade

Devonians also played their part in the abolition of the slave trade and slavery.   William Davy, from Exeter, was the one of the two counsels for James Somerset, the recaptured slave who fought to be free in the famous Somerset case of 1772.  41    It was an Exeter painter, Benjamin Robert Haydon, who did a painting of the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 12 June 1840. 42

There were sermons in churches and numerous meetings were held in cities, towns and villages throughout Devon to call for the abolition of the slave trade and to collect signatures for petitions to Parliament.

The Exeter paper The Flying Post, reported a sermon in Ashburton on Sunday 5 February 1792, when the Rev. Trefuis Love preached 'against irreligious, inhuman and inpolitic slavery.'  43

There were reports of meetings to petition Parliament for the abolition of the slave trade, in Crediton, 44  Exeter, 45 Moretonhampstead, 46 Plymouth, 47 and Topsham. 48   On 8 September 1830 there was a meeting in Ilfracombe calling for the abolition of slavery in all British colonies, and a Devon and Exeter Society for the Abolition of Slavery was reported on 10 May 1832.

On 10 August 1837 there were reports of meetings in Crediton, Ashburton, Plymouth, Tavistock, Tiverton and Topsham to celebrate the anniversary of the abolition of slavery.

People had different opinions then, as they do now.   Devonians are to be found on all sides of any debate, as they were in the argument about abolishing slavery and the slave trade.


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 A report in the Exeter Flying Post of a meeting calling for the abolition of the slave trade on 18 March 1792, in the White Hart at Moreton- hampstead.  The item below gives details of a ship preparing to leave Plymouth for the West Indies.


Compensation for slavery?

The Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833 provided for 20 million to be paid to West Indian plantation slave owners in compensation for the loss of their 'property'.  One beneficiary was the Bishop of Exeter:

The Bishop, the Right Rev Henry Philpotts, together with three partners received:

4,836 4sh 7d for 236 slaves in the parish of Vere, Middlesex County, Jamaica.

5,480 13sh lid for 304 slaves in the parish of Clarendon, Mdx, Jamaica.

2, 412 6sh 8d for slaves also in the parish of Clarendon.

Total of 12,729 4sh 4d for 665 slaves. 49

It was worth waiting for the money.    As throughout British territories, it was the 'owners' of slaves who were compensated.   No money was paid to black people for the years they had been slaves or for the work they had done to contribute to the wealth of far-away places like Devon.


How to remember slavery and the slave trade?

Death is sad for us humans.    Even if we are not personally involved, most of us can share the sad feelings of bereavement.   Britain commemorates the Nazi Holocaust with a Holocaust Memorial Day each January.   Should we mark the deaths which occurred because of slavery and the slave trade in the same way?

In 2001 the Dagara Peace Commission, from present-day Ghana, visited ports in Britain to commemorate Britain's connection with the Transatlantic slave trade.   On 26 April Exeter's mayor,  Councillor Mary Evans, welcomed them to the city at a reception in the Guildhall.   People gathered to add images of their hands and feet to a commemorative cloth which acknowledged the connection between Devon and the Transatlantic slave trade and there was a ceremony down on Exeter Quay.


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Who is this man?  50

This oil painting is in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.   51   Many books say that it is of Olaudah Equiano - but see if you think it is the same person as the picture below (see:- Olaudah Equiano below).

If it is not Equiano - then who is it?  52  Maybe we have the story of another African in Devon to uncover ...

 equiano2.JPG (189850 bytes)

 Unknown African, portrait in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (see Notes and the next section for discussion about his identity)


Olaudah Equiano

For many people, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745-97) is the only significant black person they know about in British history.    For others he is an inspirational first contact53   He acts as an icon for historical black figures.

Equiano, a former slave born in what is now Nigeria, published his autobiography  54 in 1789.  There were nine editions in his lifetime, including translations into Dutch, German and Russian.    In this powerful story of his life Equiano speaks for the many Africans whose voices we cannot hear.   It is well worth reading.

He first landed in England at Falmouth as a slave.   When he returned more than twenty years later, as a freeman, on 7 January 1777, he landed at Plymouth.   He writes about friends in Plymouth and Exeter, 'pious friends, whom I was happy to see'.55

The black population in Britain, including Devon, had been increased by blacks who had fought on the British side in the American War of Independence (1775-83) and in the Anglo-French wars in the West Indies.


equiano1.jpg (30907 bytes)

Olaudah Equiano: the frontispiece from his Narrative, first published in 1789.


In 1786 and 1787 the London Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor planned a settlement for freed slaves in Sierra Leone.  The story of the settlement is too long to detail here. 56   The Navy employed Equiano as Commissary for Stores for the expedition to Sierra Leone.   He exposed the corruption and inefficiency at Plymouth and was sacked from his job. The Navy Board later paid him 50 'in full expenses and wages' for the work he had done.   They wrote that Equiano had 'acted with great propriety in all his transactions.'

It is likely that this experience in Plymouth encouraged Equiano to write his personal story - the experiences of a black man in Devon and throughout the world. 57


emancipadoes_plymouth.JPG (303010 bytes)




One result of the eighteenth-century Anglo-French wars in the West Indies and the American War of Independence was the arrival of black prisoners in Devon.   Prisoners were first kept in large ships off Plymouth.   Later, Dartmoor Prison was established.   Officers were often 'paroled'.   This meant that they were allowed to live in English towns, with restrictions on their movements and activities.

From a Moretonhampstead diarys 58 we learn that on July 1807:

General Rochambeau, a French Officer with a black servant, came here on parole from Wincanton, Somerset.

Then on 17 October 1808:

Married with licence Peter the Black, servant to General Rochambeau, to Susanna Parker.  The bells rang merrily all day.   From the novelty of this wedding being the first negro ever married in  Moreton, a great number assembled in the churchyard, and paraded down the street with them.

The parish register records Peter's surname as Courpon.   Interestingly, it does not record the fact that he was black.    The number of black people in Devon, or anywhere in Britain, is not limited to those who were recorded in parish registers. 59

That same year, the disaster of fire hit Moretonhampstead.

4th February 1808

"About noon a fire broke out at the Dolphin public house, kept by Mr Wm. Tozer, which raged with alarming violence over several houses, threatening the destruction of a great part of the town... its progress was happily stopped, by the energetic exertions of the inhabitants, the Moreton volunteers..."

"It was pleasing to see about 1,500 people of different languages and colours uniting with great cheerfulness in making breaches to stop the progress of the flames, in removing furniture and goods to places of security, and in carrying water to supply a powerful engine, which was kept constantly at work at different points for several hours. "

"And in the evening, the thanks of a meeting of gentlemen at the White Hart was ordered to be communicated through Captn Ponsford to the volunteers and the foreigners who assisted."

Danish, Dutch and French prisoners were among the officers on parole.   It would be good to know more about the 'people of different languages and colours' in a Dartmoor town nearly two hundred years ago.

There is a possibility that Peter Courpon stayed at Ockery Cottage in Princetown with General Rochambeau and General Boyer on the night of 2nd May 1811, as they made their way to Plymouth to return to France.  60

ockery.JPG (182875 bytes)

Peter Courpon probably returned to Moretonhampstead, since a third child was baptised in 1815   inscription on her gravestone reads:

In loving memory of Susannah Courpon

who died Deer. 29th 1852 aged 70 years

The eldest son, John Peter, bought a house in Moretonhampstead in 1870.    61  A Moretonhampstead man fought the famous black boxer, Tom Molineaux, in Exeter towards the end of his life.

"Molineaux is also a good wrestler and displayed great activities and powers in the last Exeter meeting July 27th 1812, where he entered himself for the public prize of ten guineas, but received a dreadful fall from John Snow of Moreton".  62

molineaux_v_crib.JPG (220722 bytes)

We have a picture of Tom Molineaux and his black trainer, Bill Richmond, in a famous fight against Tom Crib,
but not of when he fought John Snow of Moretonhampstead.

A century and a half later, in 1942 during the Second World War, black American servicemen camped on
Mardon Down outside Moretonhampstead, where they had to survive the cold winter nights in tents.   The American troops were segregated when they visited pubs in the town.    There are no newspaper accounts of the people who entertained the troops, because of the tight security of war time, but black musicians and the
Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Louis, came to Dartmoor.  


The next section (Black soldiers and Devon) is an example of detailed research on a particular topic which builds up our picture of the past in Devon.   It has been specially written up for this project.


Black soldiers and Devon

by John D. Ellis

On a bitterly cold January morning in Plymouth in 1816, John Freeman, a former Royal Marine of fifteen years' service, took the 'king's shilling' with his friend William Davis.   William was a private of the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Foot and a veteran of the Duke of Wellington's legendary Peninsula campaign.

In Devon, a county with a long tradition of military service, such incidents have always been commonplace.   However, in this case John Freeman was Afro-Caribbean (a labourer from Barbados), and William Davis Afro-American (a labourer from Boston).   They were but two of many black soldiers whose service and historical presence in Devon has passed unnoticed until now.  64

Devon has acted, and indeed still acts, as home to many serving and former servicemen and women.   From the earliest times of the British army's recorded history many of these people have been black.

During the early nineteenth century Devon's black community was the focus of attention for army recruiters.   Joseph Degenne  65 (a twenty-seven-year-old labourer born in Guadeloupe) and Francis Augustine  66 (a twenty-four-year-old cook born in St. Domingo) were two of Plymouth's black community to meet Britain's call.   Degenne enlisted in the 81st (North Lancashire) Foot in 1804, and Augustine enlisted in the 32nd (Duke of Cornwall's) Foot in 1806.

Many Black soldiers found that their military work brought them to Devon to protect her shores against invasion.   The black drummers of the 29th (Worcestershire) Foot, high-profile and respected enlisted soldiers, accompanied their regiment to Devon on many occasions during their long service from 1759 to 1843. Between 1797 and 1798 they were

black_drummer.JPG (83558 bytes)

stationed in Plymouth, Barnstaple and Bideford.   They were popular figures wherever they served.   By 1815, when the 29th was next in the county, many of the men who had strolled the streets and lanes of Devon in the 1790s had died for Britain in the Peninsula and North American campaigns.   Their surviving comrades received the same recognition and medals as their white peers, and several were highly decorated.

Black soldiers also served in Devonshire-raised army units; A Jamaican named George Devon 67 served with the South Devon Militia in the early 1790s before transferring to the 3rd Buffs and serving with distinction, being wounded in the assault on Granada in 1796.   Black soldiers served in the llth Devonshire, and at least one was killed in action at Salamanca in 1811; another, Joseph Hill  68 of Martinique, was discharged in 1812 after serving in the same campaign.   At the same time, in the 39th (Dorsetshire) Foot, the regiment that would later amalgamate with the Devonshire Regiment, one Estiphania Pappin    69  ('a man of colour' and a labourer from St. Domingo) was also serving in the Peninsula.   He later became one of a very select number of black British army non-commissioned officers, and was discharged from his regiment in 1832.

Other black soldiers came to Devon not as guardians of her shores, but as inmates of her military prisons.   The French, like the British, employed black servicemen and many spent time in Devon after being captured [like Peter Courpon in Moretonhampstead - see above].   Black veterans of campaigns in the West Indies and Peninsula were held in prison ships in Plymouth before being sent to prisons throughout the South West.   A number of these men, including one Pascal Le Mole, 70 a soldier and 'a Black' captured at St. Domingo, who was held at Plymouth between 1805 and 1806, later transferred to HM service.

The historical black presence in the British army is only now starting to be fully understood and recognised.   The presence of black soldiers in Devon, and Devonshire regiments, is an important part of the history of not just the black people in the county, but of all the people who live in the county.   Perhaps now Devon can acknowledge the historical debt it owes to its own black soldiers.



The following two sections provide stories from two of today's black Devonians.

My Father

by Zena Burland

In 1948 my father was one of the many young Black West Indians who arrived on the Empire Windrush that docked at Tilbury Docks.   

He, with many others, came over to England to help with rebuilding Britain after the war.   Many women and children came as well.   My father had joined the RAF in Jamaica, so he already had a role to play.

It was very difficult for my father, as White British people did not really understand and due to ignorance treated my father and others like him shamefully - name calling, slamming doors in his face, not allowing him in bars - even though he was wearing the Queen's uniform.

Many West Indians found comfort in living near each other and relying on each other for security.

My father met and married my white English mother.   He loved the sport of boxing and boxed whilst in the RAF.   His other love was cricket and he later played for the RAF and for a team in Barnstaple.

Mr_Burland.JPG (114657 bytes)

My father loved to listen to the radio especially to Round the Horn and The Navy Lark.   He loved the Daily Mirror for the cartoon Andy Capp, which always made him laugh.

I was born 1950 and due to my father being in the RAF we were posted to Egypt.   I was christened with the water from the River Nile.

Not long after that my sisters were born and then two brothers.   There were difficulties as I grew up in a world where I constantly heard  'What is that woman doing with that nigger?'   'Who the Hell does he think he is marrying a white woman?'

Then it was my turn: 'What a pretty little thing.   Pity she's a half caste.'   'You can't play with me.    My mum says you're dirty.'   'How do you comb her hair?'    And the horrid insults went on and on.

Later Dad was posted to north Devon to the RAF base at Chivenor.   It was here that things started to change and life seemed to be a lot easier, from my point anyway.   The kids at school were nicer and we had some super teachers:  Miss Chappie, Miss Rundle and Miss Clapton.    We lived off camp in rented accommodation.   First in Braunton and then in Bear Street, Barnstaple.   It was here that church played a very big part in our lives.

We lived right opposite the Thorne Memorial Church and it was easier on mum if we were sent to church so she could have a few hours peace and quiet.

The people in the church were nice and Sunday school was OK, excepting for the fact that we were always asked to read, perhaps because mother would dress us so pretty that they wanted their church to look good.

Dad was a stickler for making sure we were kept busy.   He would give us essays to write or sums to do - and this was in our summer breaks!   It felt like this was cruel and unnecessary but now I realise it was his way of keeping us safe, away from those who would accuse us of doing something just because they would remember
the black face in a crowd.   That was easy in Devon.

Christmas was a great time.   He would always make a punch and invite all the neighbours in.  The music of Harry Belafonte and Cy Grant would be on the record player and many West Indian calypsos, with dad singing all morning.

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Mind you, this would happen some Sundays as well; not the punch but the singing.   My grandmother in Jamaica would send a cake that was soaked in rum and by the time the postman brought it to the door the brown paper was soaked in rum too.   The postman's mouth was drooling over the parcel   -  we had to wrench it out of his hand!

Dad continued to serve in the RAF and after twenty-two years he came out.   He was awarded the BEM [British Empire Medal] for his services to the RAF.

His main aim then was to get his family back to Jamaica.   So we all went back to Jamaica on a banana boat.    Dad was happy he was going home but this did not last very long and, after nine months in the sun, we were back in Devon.   Mum had promised him that if we went back then it would be to Devon.

Dad then got a job with the Ministry of Overseas Aid and Development in London and commuted back and forward each week.    Later he found civilian work back at Chivenor with the RAF.   Later still he worked with the housing department of the North Devon District Council and helped with the administration of the Barnstaple Sea Cadets.

It was well known that Mr Davis could be seen crossing Barnstaple Bridge tipping his hat to the ladies.   He could be relied on to give the exact time of day by his movements. He was always smart and he told us that 'Clothes maketh man.'   Like so many who arrived on the Windrush, he was smart from the very day he arrived in Britain.   He died at the early age of forty-five.   Only one week later his appointment as a magistrate came through the post; this would have made him the first Black magistrate in Devon.


Jane, a black Devonian

(Jane is a pseudonym).

I was born in Devon, went to school in Devon, was brought up in Devon and have lived for the better part of my life in Devon.

When people ask me, 'Where do you come from?' I always reply, 'I come from Devon.'

'Yes, but where do you really come from?'  

I was born in a small village about eight miles from Exeter.    My parents met in 1945.   My Mother had lived all of her life in the village.   From what I have been told, my father was a Black American who had been serving in Britain with the American Navy, to fight against fascism with the allies in the Second World War.   As I understand, he was a military policeman during the night and worked in a naval supply store during the day.

When my Grandmother found out that my mother was pregnant, she went to the naval base intent on informing my father.    The naval authority told her that he had gone home to America - and that she should go away.    My Father never saw me, his daughter; perhaps he never even knew my mother was pregnant.

My two young parents, just like other young couples of the time, didn't have the opportunity to make an informed choice about their child conceived outside marriage.   Racism against Afro-Americans was added to the prejudices of the time.

There was an uncle (my mother's brother) who left the family once I was born.   That split in the family has lasted to this day.   I was raised as my grandmother's 'daughter', my mother was my 'sister'.   No one ever talked about my father.   They denied knowing him.   There was one photograph of him but my aunt destroyed it.   She 'felt it was best.'   She was doing her best to hide the image of my father because he was black.

So I never even had a photograph of my father.

I met my husband when I was still at school, we married when I was twenty-one and have lived happily together ever since.    We have two grown up children and grandchildren.

As a parent myself, I know that my children have experienced racism, both at school and later when refused a college place, even though their qualifications were as good as other applicants who got places.    No reasonable explanation was given at the time for the refusal.    It later became apparent that racism was indeed an issue but no action was taken.   That was part of us not acknowledging our black history in the family.   It feels to me like there was a 'death' before my birth.   It was a death of the knowledge of my parentage.    It was a contrived and purposeful death, a denial of love and of the memory of an intimacy which should have been cherished.   It has made it difficult for me to acknowledge that I am a Black Devonian.

What I know about my father:-



How to take the study of black history forward ...

People miss their history.   Black history is fractured worldwide, in different ways for different people.    We need to rebuild that fractured history.

Most information about black people in history comes in small snippets such as these:











However, there is much work to be done before full biographies of black people in Devon can be written.

The writing up of black history can be done through family histories.  81   There is plenty of information on how to trace family histories and there are some specific articles on tracing black ancestors.  82

There are sources in Devon which have not been used for this booklet.   The Cathedral Library and the Devon and Exeter Institution may well provide examples of black history.    Towns in this county - as in other similar areas in Britain - will have similar institutions with rich records which have not yet been explored.


Conclusion - writing black history of the past and today

This project has provided some evidence for creating a local black history in Devon.   The same work can be done in all areas of Britain.

It is difficult to make an estimate of the number of black people in Britain at different times in the past.   In 1764 the Gentleman's Magazine said there were 20,000 in London alone.    In 1772 Lord Mansfield accepted estimates of 14,000 to 15,000 black people in England.  83  In 1977 Folarin Shyllon estimated that 'At the end of the eighteenth century there were still about 10,000 black people in Britain.'  84

How many black people were in Devon at the end of the eighteenth century?   How many remained in the county after that time?   How many of their descendants are here today?    Research methods, including the use of DNA, may reveal black ancestors we do not know about.    Shyllon's 10,000 is probably an underestimate: he wrote before much work had been done on local records.   As research progresses, our picture of the past can change.

Today in Devon, black people contribute in every walk of life.   They are caterers, academic researchers, financial administrators, students, newscasters, performing artists and holiday-makers, shop assistants, lawyers, health workers, musicians, care workers, hoteliers, members of the fire, police and ambulance services, educators, youth leaders, social workers, comedians, publicans, photographers and film makers, fashion designers, cleaners, carpenters, lorry drivers, trainers, refugees - the list goes on.

The lives of black people today are the histories of tomorrow.   We need to be recording memories today to leave a legacy of history for the next generations.   How can we do this?

Arts projects today reflect people's lives.    The Visibly Proud photography project in Plymouth celebrated the lives of different women in the city.   Their work was put on display at Plymouth Museum and a book provides a record of their lives for the future.  85

Oral history is a powerful way of learning about the (recent) past.   The time span covered can be lengthened by recording people's memories of the stories they were told of times before they were born.

Local archives are the places we use to collect information about the past.   If we give our papers, of family, business and other activities, to the local archives, those materials will be ready for the historians of the future to use.

All history is stories.

'It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are.  They do their work in silence, invisibly.   They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self.  They become part of you while changing you.   Beware of the stories you read or tell: subtly at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world'. 86


Resources for learning

The more we learn about the past, the more we see how it marks our landscape.   In tracing black history, we can learn to see our county differently.

When we know about the history of Dartmoor, we no longer see a 'natural' landscape, we see the prehistoric reeves (ancient boundaries) across the land, the traces of tin mining, and old field boundaries where more people once lived and worked on the land than today.   When we look at our houses and street names, statues, paintings and written records, they can tell us about the past.

The notes in this document will show you places where we can find information.

Here are a few other suggestions to learn about black history in Britain:


Video: Out of the Shadows, a video of the black presence in Britain 1500-1950.   Produced by the Catholic Association for Racial Justice in 1988.   This covers the history of Asians as well as Africans in Britain.   It is dated but remains an excellent general starting point for black history in Britain.   15 plus 1.50 p&p from

Websites: These are more useful for researchers and teachers than for school students' use. This is a general site - the only entries for the South West are in Bristol. is being developed. Pictures of black soldiers in the British forces.   Emphasis on slavery.

The Archives and Museum of Black Heritage

378 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF.    Telephone: 0207 326 4154 Email;

Covers the history and culture of the African diaspora in Britain.

The Black and Asian Studies Association exists to foster research into black and Asian history in Britain.    Annual membership (includes subscription to the newsletter, issued three times a year) is 5 for the retired, low-waged, students and unemployed, 8 for other individuals, schools, community groups; 10 for other institutions.     Cheques payable to 'BASA' to Black and Asian Studies Association c/o Institute of
Commonwealth Studies, 28 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DS Membership email:

The Black Environmental Network exists to put ethnic community environmental participation on the agenda of the environmental movement.   It offers training and consultancy.   The UK office is at 9 Llainwen Uchaf, Llanberis, Wales LL55 4LL.   Tel/fax: 01286 870715. Email:

Roots is a partnership between BBC regional radio and Arts Councils.   It aims to raise the profile of African, Asian, Chinese and Caribbean art and culture.   It makes programmes for radio, TV and online, organises cultural events and supports artists and arts venues.    There are Roots co-ordinators in eleven centres in the English regions. Contact Nicky Allison on 0207 9736497.   Email:
For Devon contact Fiona Evans on 01752 260323 or




Notes for educators in schools, museums and libraries

Ultimately the history of black people in Britain should be integrated into the school curriculum rather than being an 'add-on'.    More work needs to be done to provide adequate evidence to achieve this.

In the meantime, I hope that this document will provide examples to be included in the subjects you already cover.   This can be for particular periods, such as the Victorians or Tudors, and for local history topics.

Museums, libraries and record offices have a role to play in raising awareness of local black history with their collections.    Black History Month (in October in Britain) can be a starting point - but it is not the finishing line!

It is good to consider HOW information is presented and museums have been addressing these issues. 87

Finally, the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 (RRAA) places a specific duty on every public institution to:

• prevent discrimination

• encourage good race relations

• consider race in all its functions

Including the history and arts of black people in your work will help you to fulfil your duties under the RRAA.

Applying for funding available for arts projects under a 'Diversity' heading may be useful.

For further primary school teaching ideas from Sylvia Collicott see:

'Pulling Strings: History with Pegs and a Washing Line'.   Times Educational Supplement, 14 December 1990, p. 30.   

'A Way of Looking at History: Local-National-World Links', Teaching History, July 1993, pp. 18-23.

'Changing Lives', Junior Focus, Victorian Inventions, November 1994.

For a critique of the British education system for delivering an ethnocentric history curriculum see:

Marika Sherwood: 'Sins of Omission and Commission: History in English Schools and
Struggles for Change', in Multicultural Teaching, Trentham Books, 1998




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Notes on the text


An earlier version of the text of this booklet with more extensive notes is at:-


1 Len Garrison: 'The Black Historical Past in British Education', in The Excluded Past, edited by P. Stone and R. Mackenzie, Unwin Hyman, 1990, pp. 231-44.


2. From Len Garrison's poem 'Where Are Our Monuments?', in The Black Presence in Nottingham: A Catalogue Exploring the Contribution of African-Caribbean People to Nottingham from the 17th Century to the Present Day, Castle Museum and Afro Caribbean Families and Friends Nottingham, 1993.

3 This booklet focuses on the history of Africans and their descendants in Devon.


4 Sylvia Collicott: Connections: Haringey. Local-National-World Links, Haringey Community Information Service in Association with the Multi-Cultural Support Group, 1986. Copies 7 from


5 'I've noticed ... that practically all the parishes in the South coast from Kent to Cornwall, seem to have had at least one black inhabitant in the eighteenth century.' - Kathy Chafer, letter to author, April 2003.


6 Peter Fryer: Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, Pluto Press, 1984. This excellent book is the standard introduction to the subject.


7 John Allan, Curator of Antiquities at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, personal communication.


8 Peter Fryer has a different opinion in Staying Power, Pluto Press, 1984, p. 2.


9 Basil Davidson: In Search of Africa, Times Books/Random House, 1994, pp. 329-33 (Basil Davidson has also found a thirteenth-century stained glass window in Herefordshire which he believes is of S Maurice.)


10 There is a field hand named 'Devonshire' in Edward Ball: Slaves in the Family, Viking, 1998, p. 138.


11 Peter Fryer: Staying Power, Pluto Press, 1984, p. 12.


12 I use this term in the sense of economies which are based on large-scale production of staple crops or commodities for an external market.


13 See the memorial stones to ship builders in Topsham parish church.


14 Nigel Tattersfield: The Forgotten Trade, Pimlico, 1998.


15 Edward Ball: Slaves in the Family, Viking, 1998.


16 Devon Extracts 1665-1850 (from the London Gazette), vol. 1, pt 1, A-K, Devon Family History Society, 1987, p. 5. I am grateful to the late Len Garrison for drawing my attention to this publication.


17 Hele School, Exeter, Historical Society, Exeter -Then and Now, A. Wheaton and Co, 1947 (2nd impression).


18 Aileen Fox: 'The Retreat, Topsham', Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings, no. 49, 1991, pp.131-41. This article gives details of trade contacts with sugar plantations in Grenada.


19 Document held by the West Country Studies Library in Exeter.


20 Folarin Shyllon: Black People in Britain 1555-1833, Oxford University Press, 1977, pp. 47-8.


21 Lt-Col. J.L. Vivian: The Visitations of the County of Devon Comprising the Herald's Visitations of 1531, 1564 and 1620. With Additions, Exeter: Henry F. Eland (preface dated 1895). A copy is in the West Country Studies Library in Exeter.


22 P.M. Prideaux: Prideaux: A West Country Clan, Phillimore, 1989.


23 From the new measure of wealth introduced in 1663, named after a gold-rich part of West Africa; Peter Fryer: Staying Power, Pluto Press, 1984, p. 21.


24 Translation kindly provided by Ronald Impey.


25 I am grateful to Joan Rendell for drawing my attention to this gravestone in 1990. She explained that the church was demolished to create a bowling green and the stone was found at Ham Mill Farm in the nineteenth century. The final lines of the epitaph are missing, perhaps because it had been cut to fit the space as a paving stone. See also R.M. Prideaux: A West Country Clan, Phillimore, 1989, p. 217. Werrington was in Devon until 1964, when boundary changes meant it was transferred to Cornwall.


26 J.A. Atkinson: Smuggling in Cornwall, Jarrold Colour Publication, 1989.


27 Ibid. No reference is given for the source of this story.


28 Susanne J. Stark: Female Tars, Constable, 1996.


29 'Undignified bickering over bones of slaves'. Western Morning News, Tuesday 30 January 2001.


30 Pat Barrow: Slaves of Rapparee, Edward Gaskill, 1998.


31 DRO (Devon Records Office) 388 M/E 1.


32 DRO 388 M/E 5.


33 DRO 388 M/E 1-1.15.


34 DRO 388 M/E 1.


35 DRO 388 M/E 4.


36 DRO 388 M/E 4.


37 DRO 388 M/E 11.


38 Copies of documents kindly supplied by Mary-Rose Rogers from the Modbury Local History Society.


39 Madge Dresser: Slavery Obscured, The Social History of the Slave Trade in an English Provincial Port, Continuum, 2001, pp. 29, 30.


40 I am grateful to the present Sir John QuickC for allowing me to visit his home and to photograph two of the portraits for this booklet.


41 For a detailed account of the trial see Folarin Shyllon: Black Slaves in Britain, Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 82-124.


42 In the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.


43 Flying Post (FP) 16 February 1792.


44 FP 1 March 1792.


45 5FP 15 March 1792.


46 FP 22 March 1792.


47 FP 9 February 1792.


48 FP 8 March 1792.


49 British Parliamentary Papers 1836 (597) vol. 49. The total actually comes to 12,729 5sh 2d!


50 Christopher Fyfe raised the question of whether the oil painting in Exeter is of Equiano at the conference in celebration of the life of Paul Edwards, editor of the 1967 Heinemann edition of Equiano's Narrative, in Edinburgh on 21-23 March 1994.


51 Catalogue of Oil Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter:  '14/1943 Eng. Sch. (18thc) (previously attributed to Reynolds).  Portrait of a Negro Man - Olaudah Equiano (costume d from c. 1780s).  Oil on canvas.  618 x 515. 735 x 636.  Presented by Percy Moore Turner, Esq.  Compare this portrait with the engraved portrait of Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa), which forms the frontispiece of his autobiography published 1792 [sic - in fact 1st edition 1789].  This frontispiece portrait inscribed as engraved by D. Orme and painted by W. Denton.'


52 More notes on this portrait in the BASA [Black and Asian Studies Association] Newsletter 25, p. 20; 'the sitter's dress indicates that the portrait was probably painted before 1765, a period when Equiano was  usually outside England' (Vincent Caretta). Sometimes
dress in the provinces was some years behind the latest fashions in London. 'The man in [the portrait] and in my [family?] picture are wearing almost identical jackets and shirts ( - Mrs Jasmine Masson of Barnet), p. 14.

53 Olu Taiwo, survivor of the Deptford Fire in east London in January 1981, and an actor and musician who later lived in Exeter, explained his delight in reading Equiano's Narrative and realising that he had grown up in an area Equiano knew.  Personal communication to the author.

54 Olaudah Equiano: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, edited by Vincent Carretta, Penguin, 1995. See also: James Walvin: An African's Life, The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano 1745-1797, London, Cassell, 1998, which sets Equiano's life in the context of the times; A South African cartoon version of Equiano's life: Joyce Ozynski and Harriet Perlman: Equiano: The Slave Who Fought to Be Free, Raven Press, 1988; Lucy MacKeith: Equiano: A Rough Road to Freedom, from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, 2.50 plus p&p 75p; card payment over the telephone or cheques to Exeter City Council.

55 Quoted in James Walvin (as above), p. 120.

56 See Folarin Shyllon's book Black Slaves in Britain, and Our Children Free and Happy, Letters from Black Settlers in Africa in the 1790's, edited by Christopher Fyfe, Edinburgh University Press, 1991.

57 Folarin Shyllon, p. 234.

58 Treleaven, S.: A Moretonhampstead Diary. The text of this can be seen on the website of Moretonhampstead Local History Society,

59 For an explanation see Kathy Chater: 'Hidden from History: Black People in Parish Records', Genealogists' Magazine, June 2000, vol. 26, no. 10.

60 Elisabeth Stanbrook: 'A Dartmoor Legend: Two French Generals at the Ockery, Princetown', in Devon Historian 42, 1991, pp. 3-8.

61 Go to for further information.

62 Egan, Box/ana, pp. 369-71. quoted in Paul Edwards and James Walvin: Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade, 1983.

63 Information from Gary Cox in the feature film Drumming up a Storm, made by Propertelly. Email them at The film tells the story of the contribution of the Ebony Steel Band from Notting Hill, West London, to Moretonhampstead Carnival, which takes placeon the last Thursday of each August. I am grateful to Maggie Pipe for giving me
details of this film.

64 For William Davis and John Freeman see PRO (Public Records Office) WO 25/386.

65 PRO WO 25/481.

66 PRO WO 25/366.

67 PRO WO 25/322.

68 PRO WO 121/122.

69 PRO WO 97/557.

70 PRO ADM 104/416.

71 PRO. ASSI 23/7. I am grateful to David Killingray for this reference.

72 Peter Fryer: Staying Power, p. 88.

73 Thanks to Den Perrin of Heavitree Local History Society for this information.

74 For further details see: The Victorian Underclass of Exeter, edited by Todd Gray, Mint Press, 2001, a reprint of a series of reports to the local newspaper in 1854.

75 I am grateful to Mike Sampson for this information.

76 Carol Christian and Gladys Plummer: God and One Redhead: Mary Slessor of Calabar, Hodder and Stoughton, 1970.

77 Jonathan Wood: 'The Labour Party and the Reconstruction of Plymouth', Labour Heritage Bulletin Autumn 2002.

78 Author's personal observation.

79 Amos A. Ford: Telling the Truth: The Life and Times of the British Honduran Forestry Unit in Scotland (1941-44), Karia,1985.

80 Todd Gray: Exeter Unveiled: 270 Unknown Images of the City's Past, Mint Press, 2003.

81 Susan Pearl: 'Britain's Black African Ancestors', in Family Tree Magazine, October 1995, pp. 11-12; Chris Birch: 'Slave Owners in My Family', in Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 26, no 8, December 1999.

82 Guy Grannum: 'Tracing Your West Indian Ancestors', PRO; Guy Grannum: 'Tracing Slave and Slave Owning Ancestors in British Caribbean Counties', in Journal for One-Name Studies, April-June 2003  - I  am grateful to Des Gander for this reference; Kathy Chater: 'Where There's a Will: Genealogy and Black Britons in the 18th Century', from History Today, 12 November 2000; Jeffrey Green: 'Before the Windrush', History Today, 12 NoVember 2000.

83 Quoted in Peter Fryer: Staying Power, p. 68.

84 Folarin Shyllon: Black People in Britain 1555-1833, 1977.

85 Visibly Proud - Celebrating the Diversity of Women's Lives Today, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.

86 Ben Okri: A Way of Being Free, Phoenix House, 1997, p. 120.

87 See: Developing Museum Exhibitions for Lifelong Learning, edited by Gail Durbin, Stationary Office, 1996, especially Helen Coxall: 'Writing for Different Audiences', pp. 196-9, and 'Issues of Museum Text', pp. 204-12; also Sam Walker: 'Black Cultural Museums in Britain', in Cultural Diversity, Developing Museum Audiences in Britain, edited by Eileen Hooper-Greenhill, Leicester University Press, 1997.


Picture sources & acknowledgements

Front cover and 'Mrs Quicke and two friends' reproduced by kind permission of Sir John Quicke.   Carving of black saint reproduced by kind permission of the Reverend Alan Dodds.    Slave chains, bronze manilla, sugar cones, unknown African; Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.     Coats of Arms; North Devon Record Office.   Admiral Paul Ourry & servant; National Trust, Saltram House, south Devon.    Prince of Orange article; West Country Studies Library.    Frontis Piece of Narrative from Paul Edwards and James Walvin: Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade, Macmillan, 1983.     Headstone of Margaret Moe; by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral.   Rapparee Cove; Ilfracombe Museum.   The Emancipadoes; Plymouth Record Office.   Commanders House reproduced by kind permission of Elizabeth Stanbrook.   Tom Molineaux; Famous Sporting Prints VI: Boxing, London, The Studio Limited, 1930.   Black Muscian; reproduced by kind permission of the Duke of Cornwall's Military Museum.   Laurieston Davis and The Davis girls; reproduced by kind permission of Zena Burland.   Final Image; Ordinance Survey reprints of 1890 edition, sheet 83: Tiverton, David and Charles, 1980.


Photo credits

Cover, Saint Maurice, Headstone Margaret Moe, Mrs Quicke and friends by John Sealey.   First two headstones, Old Traine; by the author.   Dagara Peace Commission; middle left and right by Pat Barker, all others by Frances Fraser.



Records presented geographically

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Black Boy  -  Black Dog

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