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“It wisnae us!” Glasgow’s built heritage, tobacco, the slave trade and abolition

By the mid-18th century, Glasgow dominated Britain's tobacco and sugar imports, and the city was also involved in the slave trade. In 2007 Glasgow Built Preservation Trust (GBPT), in partnership with Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance, developed an exhibition linking Glasgow’s built heritage with the slave trade. In September 2007, Glasgow’s Doors Open Day event marked the bicentenary with walks (both guided and by podcast), a pop-up exhibition, and an evening of drama, talks and music. The event was later transformed into a week long ‘built heritage festival’, from which a travelling exhibition and city trail were created by the historian Stephen Mullen.

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1807 and Tate

The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection, rooted in the art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tate's fortune - much of which was spent on philanthropic initiatives in Britain - was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean. There were a number of initiatives across the Tate galleries to explore these connections. 'Tracks of Slavery' at Tate Britain displayed a selection of images from the Tate's collections which provided a commentary on the relationship of British society with slavery. Displays at Tate Modern included a selection of new acquisitions linked by their treatment of issues arising from slavery and oppression. Tate Liverpool exhibited paintings by Ellen Gallagher. Special events included Freedom Songs at Tate Britain (workshops to create poetry and music by exploring themes of slavery and freedom) and a discussion at Tate St Ives looking at the links between Cornish maritime traditions, the slave trade and the Caribbean.

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A North East Story: Scotland, Africa and Slavery in the Caribbean

This online exhibition and learning resource linking the history of transatlantic slavery to North East Scotland was organised by an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Bicentenary Committee, including representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University and the African and African-Caribbean communities. It followed on from a service of commemoration and a series of public lectures sponsored by the Committee in 2007. The exhibition logo is inspired by the mythical Sankofa bird, a cultural symbol of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana in West Africa. Featured here are a number of resources available to download from the North East Story website.

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Abolished? Lancashire Museums marking 200 years of the abolition of the Slave Trade

Lancaster was the UK's fourth largest slaving port at the height of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. Lancashire Museums worked with a range of partners to raise awareness of this largely hidden history - first from 2002 through STAMP (the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project), and in 2007 through Abolished? This bicentenary project consisted of exhibitions, creative writing, radio broadcasts, and schools projects, one of which produced a Slavery Town Trail that explored some of the buildings made possible by the wealth the slave trade brought to Lancaster. At the heart of the project were commissioned installations and interventions by artists Lubaina Himid ('Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service' at the Judge's Lodgings) and Sue Flowers ('One Tenth' at Lancaster Maritime Museum). Both were accompanied by outreach programmes and workshops with local schools. A touring exhibition was produced in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and Lancashire County Council Youth and Community, which looked at transatlantic slavery and modern day slavery. The exhibition toured throughout Lancashire.

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Bath and the Slave Trade

Bath Preservation Trust curated a series of exhibitions across five of their sites, with a focus on ‘unlocking the legacies of the slave trade'. Beckford’s Tower & Museum hosted Big Spenders: The Beckfords and Slavery; displays here and at the Holburne Museum were designed to explore the Beckford family connections to plantations in Jamaica, through objects, paintings and furniture. The Herschel Museum's Slaves to Fashion exhibition, and Number 1 Royal Crescent's Elegance and Exploitation trail looked at how involvement with the slave trade enhanced the luxury of 18th century life in Bath. At the Building of Bath Museum, Selina’s Web revealed the complex attitudes of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who sought to promote the publications of free slaves whilst also being a slave owner. A lecture series ran alongside these exhibitions.

2007 Bexley Slavery Connection Teachers Notes.pdf

Bexley: The Slavery Connection

The 'Slavery Connection' project researched Bexley’s links with the transatlantic slave trade through the London borough's residents and buildings. The exhibition, which included objects from Bexley Museum, aimed to raise the level of understanding in local communities about the history of the slave trade, by highlighting numerous local connections - such as Danson House, once home to the sugar merchant and slave trader Sir John Boyd, while archives of the East Wickham estate reveal evidence of a West African coachman called Scipio. Over a two year period, the travelling exhibition was displayed at 14 sites, including local African Caribbean groups, youth centres, libraries and churches. The launch event at the Bexley African Caribbean Community Association was accompanied by displays of African dancing, drumming and drama. An educational handling box and teachers’ pack were created for use in local schools.

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Beyond the Bicentennial

In collaboration with the Peterborough branch of the African Caribbean Forum, Peterborough Museum hosted 'Beyond the Bicentennial, 1788-1838: Exploring 50 Years of the Slave Trade'. The exhibition's focus was the fifty years leading up to the end of slavery in the British Empire, 1833. It highlighted museum objects and local connections to the era of abolition, including black communities in Peterborough and links between slave-produced sugar and the rise of tea drinking in Georgian Britain. Two special event days included Georgian period re-enactors, historical talks on slavery, African drumming workshops, African food tasting and community displays.

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Bitter Sweet Project

Campaign! Make an Impact was a British Library developed programme that used history to inspire young people into active citizenship. The Bitter Sweet Project involved students from Easingwold School engaging with collections from the British Library, Hull Museums Service and Harewood House. Year 9 students studied the 1807 campaign to abolish the transatlantic slave trade and then created a graphic novel about Harewood House’s links to the sugar trade.

Bittersweet A story of four Jamaican Plantations.pdf


The Bittersweet exhibition was held during the summer of 2007 at Tissington Hall, Derbyshire, home of the FitzHerbert family since the 17th century. The exhibition and accompanying booklet by Frances Wilkins describe life, work and slavery on four Jamaican sugar plantations inherited by the FitzHerbert family in the 18th century - Blue Mountain, Forrest, Grange Hill and Vere, plus the coffee plantation of Retrieve Mountain - and subsequently managed from Tissington Hall. Research of the FitzHerbert papers held at Derbyshire Record Office revealed evidence about the lives of the enslaved and the overseers, the sugar production process and the connections to plantation owners in England. The exhibition was housed at Tissington during 2007 and then was available on loan to other houses in Derbyshire and to local schools. The exhibition coincided with Tissington’s annual Well Dressing celebrations. The special 2007 design to commemorate the bicentenary was by Wendy Greatorex (photographer Glyn Williams). Tissington Hall was one of several member houses of the Historic Houses Association to mark the bicentenary.

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Bittersweet: Sugar, Spice, Tea and Slavery

The Bittersweet programme by the Gateway Gardens Trust involved 80 free guided garden visits over two years, around more than 30 gardens in Wales with a range of community groups, schoolchildren and lifelong learners. The themes of the visits and a mobile exhibition were the links between the slave trade and historic gardens, their makers, what they planted, Welsh abolitionists and the wider links with local communities in Wales. Historic gardens provided the starting point, looking at how everyday vegetables and fruits - beans, potatoes, tomatoes etc. - first reached the UK from the Americas. The project also looked at the history of afternoon tea, and the links between sugar, cotton and tea and slavery. The groups reflected on how many industries, grand houses and gardens were built from wealth linked to slavery, such as Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Merthyr and the expansion of the slate industry at Penrhyn Quarry. Early 18th century-style newspapers were produced, aimed at schoolchildren and adults.

Gardens involved included Cardiff’s Bute Park, Swansea’s Singleton Park, the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthen, Gwydir Castle in Llanrwst, Dyffryn Gardens, Portmeirion, Penrhyn Castle, Picton Castle, Dinefwr Park and Castle and Aberglasney Gardens.

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Crop Over

2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.

The art installation Crop Over by British Afro-Caribbean artist Sonia Boyce was shown in the public galleries at Harewood House throughout 2007. Crop Over is a Barbadian festival which has evolved from a celebration by plantation slaves of the end of the sugar crop. Sonia Boyce's two-screen film visually depicts the traditions, histories and cultural practices of this festival, which culminates with a carnivalesque parade known as Kadooment. It also responds to the history of Harewood House. The Lascelles family association with Barbados began in the 17th century when Edward Lascelles and his son Daniel were based in Bridgetown, Barbados.

2007 Dumfries and Galloway Exhibition Panels.pdf

Dumfries and Galloway and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.

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Everywhere in Chains: Wales and Slavery

Everywhere in Chains was an umbrella project created for the bicentenary commemorations in 2007, by a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the National Library of Wales, University of Wales, Bangor and CyMAL: Museum Archives and Libraries Wales (part of the Welsh Assembly Government). An exhibition explored Welsh involvement in slavery, especially focusing on the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, the Black presence in Wales, and legacies of slavery. This was shown at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea from May to November 2007 before touring to Wrexham County Borough Museum. The touring version of the exhibition was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. The exhibition in Wrexham included discussion of the painting 'A Negro Coachboy', thought to commemorate a black servant of John Meller, owner of the Erddig estate in the 18th century.

Alongside the exhibition, the Everywhere in Chains programme also included lectures, formal learning activities and performances. An educational pack was produced by CyMAL and distributed to every school in Wales in 2009-2010. A community project created a forum in which participants from many cultural backgrounds could voice their ideas about enslavement. The Everywhere in Chains Community Heritage Toolkit captured the learning from this project. The toolkit, launched in 2009, was produced to help individuals, groups and organisations to work with culture and heritage providers to undertake projects focused on the role of Wales in the transatlantic slave trade and issues of modern slavery.

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For Love of Sugar

Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.

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Gentlemen Slavers

Gentlemen Slavers was a project to explore the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the London Borough of Sutton, particularly through the activities of one family – the Taylors of St Kitts. George Taylor, and later his brother John, lived on the Carshalton Park estate, funded by a family fortune made on slave-worked sugar plantations on the islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The project also looked in detail at the story of Samuel Mudian, a black man who worked at Carshalton Park as a butler for George Taylor, and likely a native of St Kitts. The project consisted of an exhibition, booklet, education pack and activity sheets.

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Harewood 1807

2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.

As part of a newly developed Learning Programme, leaflets were produced setting out the family connections to Barbados. 2007 also marked the bicentenary of the Yorkshire election in 1807 contested by William Wilberforce, Henry Lascelles (later 2nd Earl of Harewood) and Lord Milton. Competition between the candidates was fierce, based on issues such as Catholic Emancipation, poverty, workers' rights and abolition of the slave trade.

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Human Cargo: The Transatlantic Slave Trade, its Abolition and Contemporary Legacies in Plymouth and Devon

Human Cargo was a partnership project between Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The project consisted of two main components. The first was a historical exhibition, which explored the development of the transatlantic slave trade and, in particular, the role of Plymouth as a port, the involvement of the City's dignitaries and the South West's links with the abolition movement. The second part was a contemporary art response to modern forms of slavery and historical legacies, including the flower picking trade, sweatshop labour and the Fair Trade Movement. This work was newly commissioned and included audio visual pieces, installations, hand-printed wallpaper and participatory objects. A variety of events and activities took place alongside the exhibition including education workshops, performances, African music and storytelling activities, and Elizabethan House re-enactment sessions.

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In Search of Henry Tate

A bust of Sir Henry Tate, one of the most prominent philanthropists of the 19th century, is displayed on a plinth in Brixton. A group of young men from the ORIGIN Rites of Passage Programme produced a documentary to investigate Tate's legacy and, in particular, the tensions inherent in his acts of generosity being funded by wealth derived from sugar production. The documentary featured interviews, research, and trips to Tate & Lyle plants and buildings. New Initiatives, a youth and community association, developed ORIGIN as an Africentric rites of passage programme, to support young men of African descent in their transition to adulthood. The project, exhibition and DVD was launched at Brixton Tate Library in October 2010.

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Inhuman Traffic: The Business of the Slave Trade

An exhibition at the British Museum exploring how the transatlantic slave trade functioned. The display examined the commodities involved - tobacco, guns, textiles, sugar, rum - and the ways in which Africa, Europe and the Americas were linked in a global trade network. The exhibition also looked at resistance leaders including Toussaint L'Ouverture, Olaudah Equiano and Nanny of the Maroons, and their struggles to end enslavement. The exhibition was accompanied by a varied public programme at the museum exploring the legacy of the slave trade as part of the Atlantic Trade and Identity season, featuring film screenings, panel discussions, seminars and lectures.

2007 Museum of Edinburgh Slavery exhibition panels.pdf

It Didn't Happen Here! Edinburgh's Links in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

This exhibition at the Museum of Edinburgh explored the city's links to the slave trade and, in particular, trading connections with the Americas. Imports to the Port of Leith from North America and the West Indies included tobacco, rum, sugar, cotton, rice and indigo. The exhibition looked at Scots who sought fortunes in the West Indies, as well as Black residents who made their homes in Edinburgh. It also explored Edinburgh's connections to the abolition movement.