The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the inequalities of modern society and how Britain’s colonial past has impacted this in everyday life. The research completed by University College London has estimated that 10-20% of the wealth of the UK during the mid-1870s emanated from Britain’s significant participation in the slave trade. Based on this information, it’s time to ask the question “has there been any link to slavery to Shibden Hall?”
University College London’s project The Legacies of British Slave-ownership online database is an excellent place to start researching this impact. Additionally, there is a list of other resources used at the end of the article.
The slave trade was abolished by law in Britain in 1807. Yet it was not until 1833 that it was banned in the rest of the British Empire. At this time, the slave owners robustly defended their upcoming loss of “property”. This led Parliament to agree to a compensation scheme which resulted in some £20 million paid to the owners of slaves. Interestingly, no reparations have ever been paid to the enslaved persons themselves or their descendants. It is also worth considering that Britain raised this money through stocks and a syndicate of lending institutions. The resulting debt from this borrowing was not paid off until 2015. During this period of claims, detailed records were kept by the committee responsible for allocating this compensation. The records let us see the plantation and slave owners of 1834 and the details of what, or if, they claimed.
Shibden Hall in Halifax dates back to the early 15th Century. There is no evidence that Shibden Hall was built with funds from slavery or profits from the labour of enslaved persons. There are, however, records that link two residents of Shibden Hall in the 19th century with slavery on the UCL database. One of these residents is connected to the Walker family and the other to the Lister family.
Links to Walker Family
Captain George Mackay Sutherland lived at Shibden Hall from 1845 until his death in 1847. He was living with Ann Walker (his sister in law) who had been left a life interest in the Shibden estate after the death of her wife, Anne Lister, in 1840. Sutherland was responsible for the estate of Ann Walker after she was declared to be of unsound mind in 1843. His wife, Elizabeth Walker, was Ann’s sister.
His uncle, Robert Sutherland, died in 1828 and left his sugar cane plantation, Waterloo, on the island of St Vincent in the Caribbean to his eldest three nephews. They were James Sutherland 1794-1841, George Mackay Sutherland 1798-1847 and Ewen Baillie Sutherland 1800-1830. In addition, Robert also left his nephews his moiety (half share) in the Orange Hill estate. From correspondence in the West Yorkshire Archives, James ran these estates on behalf of his brothers. The other nephew, Ewen, was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and died when he was 30. Research shows that Waterloo was still in the hands of the Sutherlands when Roberta died there in 1857. The handbill for the sale of the two estates in 1867 can be found here.
The Waterloo estate held 366 enslaved persons in 1822 and 291 enslaved persons on 1st August 1834 when a claim was made for £7856.11.7. Today that would be worth over a million pounds. James, the oldest Sutherland nephew, received compensation of £283.19.6 for 9 enslaved persons on the Waterloo estate. George Mackay Sutherland and Evina Baillie Sutherland (heir of Ewen) did not apply for compensation for the ownership of enslaved persons. The rest of the claimed money went to creditors and lawyers. Whilst only one nephew (or heir) recieved financial benefit from the abolition of slavery in the colonies, all three profited from the labour of over 600 enslaved persons in the time before it. George Mackay Sutherland became an executor of his brother James’s estate after his death in 1841.
None of the nephews claimed or received compensation for the Orange Hill estate. The creditors and lawyers of the estate received £3363.5.10 for 241 enslaved persons for Orange Hill. These are the same people who benefitted from the claim for Waterloo.
Duncan Forbes Sutherland, who was the younger brother of the named nephews, received compensation for owning enslaved persons over 5 sugar cane plantations in St Vincent. He received just under £5,300.
Links to Lister Family
John Lister (1802-1867) was the heir to the Shibden estate and inherited it in 1854 after Ann Walker died. In 1844, John, who was a medical doctor, married Louisa Ann Grant (1815-1892) in London. Louisa was the daughter of Major Charles Grant. He inherited the sugar cane plantation, Adelphi, on St Vincent from his father. Louisa was born in Dominica (or possibly St Vincent) as her father was in the West Indian Regiment of Foot.
After Louisa’s father died in 1828 she became the sole heir to her father’s half share of the estate. In her parents’ contested divorce in 1828, it was reported that the Adelphi estate was riddled with debts of up to £100,000. Yet it was noted that it produced £3500 per year in profits off the labour of enslaved persons (The Times, 21/2/1828). The creditors of the company that held the mortgages on the estate were granted £12765.13.8 for 485 enslaved persons in 1836. Louisa received £336.10.0 for 13 enslaved persons as a share of this.
In conclusion, it is important that we celebrate the rich history of Britain, and especially such icons as Anne Lister and Ann Walker. Equally important is to acknowledge that many families of wealth from Georgian or Victorian times benefitted from the slave trade. This may not have been as open as involvement in the transportation of slaves, owning slaves or plantations that used slaves. It could have been from the use of goods produced by slave labour in manufacturing, such as cotton or sugar. Even the transportation or the selling of such goods.
It is hoped this brief summary of the impact of the slave trade in relation to Shibden Hall will remind people that the legacy of slavery is still relevant and prevalent today. We still have time to address the global inequalities caused by such an immoral trade.
Written with Alexander, Chance, Duncan, Jim, Tom, Betty, Jeany, Quashiba, Williamina, Ben, Dicky, Jack, Levin, John, Sam, William, Clarinda, Fanny, Jane Rose, Munich, Mary, Lorresa, Cathrine, Hannah, Helia, Louis, Honore, Jean Baptist, William, Joe Joe, Daniel, Moses, Harry, Jack, Mary Ann, Fanny, Celista, and Leonora in mind. We hope you found some freedom.
Resources and references:
The Times Archive (Paywall)
Ancestry® | Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records (Subscription service)
How to cite this article:
Diane Halford (2020) “Slavery and Shibden Hall”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]