Abolitionists

Dr Stephen Lushington, political reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, lived at Ockham Park (SHC ref SHC ref 7854)

Dr Stephen Lushington, political reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, lived at Ockham Park (SHC ref 7854)

Throughout modern history there have been both slave owners and abolitionists in Surrey. Just as slave owners could be wealthy land owners or ordinary townspeople hoping to improve their fortunes, there was no one way to support the abolition of slavery. Some belonged to local non-conformist religious groups, such as Methodist and Quaker communities, who protested in minor ways, such as writing petitions and lobbying their members of parliament. Others were eccentric and outspoken.

The abolition movement gathered pace in the nineteenth century once the slave trade had been officially abolished in 1807 and the emancipation of the enslaved was in sight. From that point on, people from all walks of life could have an opinion about the situation in the West Indies.

The Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833, and enslaved people were freed, or ‘manumitted’, a year later. By this date, the list of slave owners in Surrey alone numbered over one hundred, ranging from landed gentry and nobility, to elderly widows, between then owning many thousands of enslaved Africans and receiving compensation, relative to the number of enslaved they owned, for the loss of what was perceived as their ‘property’. Far from being free, many recognised that most of the enslaved entered a state of ‘apprenticeship’, a scheme which still kept them in unpaid labour, with no real change in their unjust circumstances. This was scrapped in 1838 but in the East Indies slavery was still not abolished until 1843.

Read more about different Surrey perspectives on the topic of the emancipation of slaves here.

The religious anti-slavery movement which swept through Britain on the tide of the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century had its effect on Surrey’s religious community. You can read about the abolition movement in Surrey’s Christian community by clicking here.

Perhaps Surrey’s most notable abolitionist was Thomas Day, who was a remarkable man for a number of reasons.

Read about Dr Stephen Lushington, a judge, political reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, who lived at Ockham Park, and helped escaped slaves William and Ellen Craft. Lushington worked closely with Thomas Fowell Buxton, Wilberforce’s successor as leader of the anti-slavery movement.

Guildford Anti-Slavery Committee was a driving force locally for abolition and organised a lecture in the Town Hall in 1832 by local MP and abolitionist Henry Drummond (SHC ref G21/9).

Read our Marvel of the Month focusing on the Abolition campaign in Surrey https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/culture-and-leisure/history-centre/marvels/abolitionists-in-surrey

Read our article with Surrey Live about four abolitionists in Surrey everyone should know about https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/black-history-month-4-inspirational-19032835

Discover the Weybridge actress and writer Fanny Kemble’s fight for abolition.

For details of historic sites in England connected to abolition and the legacy of the slave trade, and connected stories, see Historic England’s website http://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/the-slave-trade-and-abolition/

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