THE COLOUR OF MONEY – SLAVE TRADE LEGACIES
Information sheet, Newstead Abbey visit, 11th Sept 2014
Introduction to Newstead
Newstead Abbey and estate have a number of connections with slavery and the slave trade. The house was substantially rebuilt and the estate ‘improved’ in the early 19th century using the fortune of the Wildman family based on plantation slavery in Jamaica.
Under new owners in the later 19th century Newstead had connections with African colonial exploration, missionary activity and anti-slavery movements.
[Newstead Abbey c. 1779 engraving from drawing by Paul Sandby]
The Wildman family and fortune
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Wildman (1787-1859) bought Newstead Abbey from the poet Lord Byron in 1817, paying £97,972 for the 3,226 acre estate. Bryon was seriously in debt and the property run down. Wildman drew on a fortune built up by his father based on plantation slavery in Jamaica to finance the purchase and the subsequent investment of around £100,000 in house and estate improvements. Thomas Wildman senior (1740-95) left Lancashire to make his fortune in London where he became a lawyer, agent and advisor, in 1770, to the immensely wealthy William Beckford, whose money came mainly from Jamaican plantations worked by enslaved Africans. While Wildman senior was based in London, his brother James became an overseer on one of the many Beckford plantations. Both became plantation owners in their own right, under controversial circumstances.
The Quebec estate, Jamaica
In 1790, Thomas Wildman senior acquired from William Beckford a property in St Marys, Jamaica which became Quebec sugar plantation. Wildman junior inherited this following his father’s death in 1795. By 1810 Quebec had an enslaved workforce of 886, which had reduced to 366 in 1818. When slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean colonies under the 1833 Act, there were 241 enslaved people on the Quebec estate and Wildman received £4,588 15s 11d payment in ‘compensation’ for them. Without the produce and money generated by the enslaved African people of Quebec plantation, Col Wildman would not have been able to buy and restore Newstead. The property was sold after Col Wildman died in 1859 and the house is now in private hands.
The visit of Chuma and Susi
After Col Wildman’s death Newstead was purchased in 1861 by Wm Frederick Webb, friend and supporter of the missionary, explorer and anti-slavery campaigner, David Livingstone. When Livingstone died in Africa, James Chuma (c.1850-82) and Abdullah Susi (c.1856-91), African members of several British East African expeditions, accompanied his body back to Britain. They visited Newstead in 1874 with another missionary abolitionist, Rev Horace Waller, to assist in the preparation of Livingstone’s journals for publication.[Prepared by Dr Susanne Seymour, University of Nottingham]
Beckett, J with Aley, S (2001) Byron and Newstead (University of Delaware Press: Newark, USA).
Boddy, K (2008) Boxing: a cultural history (Reaktion Books: London).
Coope, R (1991) ‘The Wildman family and Colonel Thomas Wildman of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire’, Trans Thoroton Society of Notts, 95, 50-66.
Legacies of British Slave-ownership: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/18594.
Pereira, C and Patel (2008) Bombay Africans 1850-1910 (RGS with IBG: London).