How Plymouth turned its back on slavery in 1833
WEALTHY Plymothians turned their backs on slavery in the 19th century, a new database has revealed.
While the "Legacies of British Slave-ownership" database at University College London records 88 Bristol slave owners in 1833, and 689 in London, there were just four in Plymouth.
The whole of Devon had just 63 slave investors when the Government finally outlawed slave ownership in 1833.
Among them was the Bishop of Exeter, whose diocese included Plymouth.
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The Rt Hon Rev Henry Phillpotts and three business associates invested in slave plantations in Jamaica.
When slavery was abolished they were paid compensation for the loss of 665 slaves.
Dr Todd Gray, a county historian, said: "The good news is that Devon people were not slavers. The bad news is that they were thieves."
Dr Gray, whose book "Devon and the Slave Trade" chronicles the history of slavery, said that after the early ventures of people like Sir John Hawkins, Plymouth ships' captains were more interested in being privateers – licensed pirates – than in slavery.
Although the slave trade was abolished in 1807, it took another 26 years for Parliament to abolish slave ownership in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape.
The Government granted £20million in compensation, to be paid by British taxpayers to former slave-owners.
The UCL database records all the claims made against that £20million fund.
Dr Gray said: "The work I've done showed that we weren't a slaving county, much against what people believe and want to believe.
"But the big question that remained was how many people in Devon were living off the proceeds of slavery."
He said that the new database had now shown that Devon's involvement was limited.
Among the 63 names in the county, many were people who had retired to the coastal resorts from big cities elsewhere.
"For the size of Plymouth I am surprised that there were not more individuals," Dr Gray said.
One reason might have been the influence of the anti-slavery Quakers and Unitarians in the city.
"We weren't interested in slave trading in Devon – and I think the answer might have been that we were more interested in privateering."
Privateers were pirates licensed by the Crown to harass the shipping of Britain's enemies in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Gordon Deakin, an Elder in the city Quakers, said: "Plymouth Quakers were leading national campaigners in the movement.
"Plymouth has an uncomfortable relationship with slavery as the transatlantic slave trade was started by local hero Sir Francis Drake with his cousin Sir John Hawkins."
Local people listed on the UCL database as making claims for compensation:
Frances Dent, of 17 James Terrace, Stoke Damerel, was awarded £2,606 8s 4d for 147 slaves on Nevis. The death of a Frances Dent was registered at Plymouth in 1856.
Francis Glanville, of Eggbuckland, was awarded £5,842 13s 2d for 334 slaves on Jamaica.
Joseph Graham, of Stonehouse was awarded compensation of £54 3s 10d for a single enslaved person in Trinidad.
Edward Rodon Huggins, of Laira Green and Lipson, a purser in the Royal Navy, was awarded compensation for 19 enslaved people in St Catherine, Jamaica.
George Cotsford Call, of Landulph, near Saltash in Cornwall, received £3,942 2s 1d for an estate of 276 slaves in Antigua. Cotsford Call was the brother of Sir William Pratt Call, the High Sheriff of Cornwall, 1807-1808.