Stephen Lushington and fugitive slaves in Ockham
The Lushington family archive includes letters and papers of three generations of the Lushington family who were connected with Surrey. Dr Stephen Lushington, judge, Privy Councillor, political reformer and anti-slavery campaigner lived at Ockham Park between 1845 and his death in 1873. The catalogue is now available to browse on this website.
Stephen Lushington spoke and voted for the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. He was chiefly responsible for an act of 1824 to abolish the transfer of slaves between British colonies and, in 1833, he was very active in securing the emancipation act, working very closely with T.F. Buxton, Wilberforce’s successor as leader of the anti-slavery movement. Buxton later lived at Foxwarren, Wisley. A monument to emancipation, erected close to the Palace of Westminster in 1866, carries Lushington’s name together with those of Buxton, Wilberforce, Macaulay and Brougham.
In 1825 Lushington acted for the free-born Jamaican Louis Celeste Lecesne in a celebrated libel case, speaking on his behalf in the House of Commons. Lecesne subsqently named one of his children Stephen Lushington Macaulay Lecesne. After 1833 Lushington played an important role in the campaign to suppress the slave trade carried out by other countries. He supported Parliamentary reform together with Catholic emancipation, full civil rights for Jews and dissenters, and reform of the criminal law.
Fugitive slaves in Ockham
Ockham Park was owned by Lord Lovelace who had married Ada Byron. In 1836 they established the Ockham Schools on similar lines to a school that Lady Byron had established in Ealing in accordance with the doctrines of practice of the Swiss reformer Emanuel Fellenberg. The school aimed to give youth from rural areas a basic education which would in turn improve their husbandry skills and social stability. Lushington was one of the school’s first educators.
Stephen Lushington later joined the movement to bring about abolition of slavery in the United States. In 1838 he met the lawyer Charles Sumner – a leading figure in the abolitionist movement in America. Sumner visited Lushington at Ockham in 1857 and the two became close friends. Lushington’s support for the anti-slavery movement in American led to the Ockham Schools becoming a refuge for William and Ellen Craft, two celebrated escaped slaves from Georgia. The story of their remarkable escape was later published as Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. The Crafts were supported in the United Kingdom by a number of well-known figures including Harriett Martineau and Lady Byron.
Although the Crafts started at Ockham as pupils, they later took up some teaching duties. They spent nearly two years at Ockham before leaving to travel the country speaking from public platforms to denounce slavery and promote a boycott of slave-grown produce. Three of their five children were baptised at Ockham parish church between 1853 and 1863. In 1868 William and Ellen Craft returned to the newly-emancipated America with three of their children.
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Click on the images below to see larger versions.
Harriet Martineau and The Crafts
Harriet Martineau was a British economist, historian, journalist, moralist, novelist and travel writer. She journeyed to America and became a passionate abolitionist. Through these travels and American connections she was introduced to the plight of William and Ellen Craft.
Early in 1851, the Crafts arrived in Bristol, staying with John Estlin, a Unitarian social reformer and abolitionist. They set about a lecture tour to raise funds for the Abolition Movement and travelled north to Liverpool, where Rev Francis Bishop sheltered them on their arrival.
The Crafts were accompanied by William Wells Brown. Like the Crafts, Brown was an escaped slave, and he visited Harriet Martineau at Ambleside whilst on the tour. The following letter from Harriet Martineau to Brown records the moment the Crafts wish for education was secured at Ockham:
Transcript of letter from Harriet Martineau, Ambleside, Cumbria, to William Wells Brown, 14 March 1851
“Dear Mr Brown
I have the pleasure to tell you that our friends the Crafts, are to be gratified, & in the best possible way, in their wish for Education.
I told you I w[oul]d apply to Lady Byron, to learn whether they c[oul]d be received into one of her Industrial Schools;- they teaching Cabinet-making & sewing in return for Education and maintenance. I heard yesterday from Lady Byron; & the thing can be done.
Her only child is the wife of Lord Lovelace. Their estate is at Ockham,- which is, I think is Hampshire, -or Surrey, I am not sure which. The Ockham School is the one which William & Ellen can be received, on payment of a small sum, which can, no doubt, be raised. Lady Byron will herself contribute. One very great advantage will be that they will be under the eye, & immediate care, of the Lushington family, & of the excellent Dr Lushington himself. He is an illustrious man in various ways; & among others, as the friend of the slave: & his & lady Byron’s names are so honoured in America that it will be a gain to the good cause that W[illia]m & Ellen sh[oul]d be known to be under their immediate protection. – I hope this news will appear as good to you & to them as it does to your friends in this valley. – I have written to tell Mr Estlin, & Mr Bishop of Liverpool.
Now, you must please just let me know whether the Crafts accept this offer: & how soon they wish to settle in Ockham; & whether they are themselves able to pay any part of the small sum required. I write today to Lady Byron, to inquire how much it is, & more particulars about their settlement. – So I must now wish you good bye. – Your friends here are well; & we look back with much pleasure on your visit. – Pray give my kind regards to W[illia]m & Ellen, & believe me, dear Mr Brown, very truly yours,
(Published letter from Deborah Logan (ed), The Collected Letters of Harriet Martineau (Pickering and Chatto, 2007). The original letter is held in the collection at Huntington Library, California, USA. Other Harriet Marineau papers are held at University of Birmingham, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb150-hm.
Published works and sources:
Ockham All Saints parish baptism registers (SHC ref OCK/1/1/6-7)
Engraving of Ockham School by A Campbell, nd [1830s] (SHC ref PX/112/22)
Watercolour of ‘Ockham House [Park], the seat of Lord King’ by, J Hassell, 1823 (SHC ref 4348/3/83/2)
Brown, Sheila, ‘Ockham School’, Send & Ripley History Society, Jnl vol.7, no.220, Sep 2011
Brown, Sheila, ‘Ockham School’, in Root & Branch, West Surrey Family History Society, Jnl vol. 37, no.2, Sept 2010 (pages 72 -76 )
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (London, 1860). Held at The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina UNC University Libraries website
A short film based on the Craft’s escape from Georgia produced by the American Library Association can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWbNzVftRpM
The Crafts story is featured on the website Documenting the American South http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/craft/summary.html and BlackPast.org http://www.blackpast.org/aah/craft-william-and-ellen-1824-1900-1826-1891