Slavery & Abolition Sites – Bristol England

In the 1730s Moroccan and Algerian pirates were causing problems with raids on shipping – in 1734, 4 ships were taken which seem to have been hostaged by the government, though action against the pirates seems not to have been taken.  The British ships seem to have been small – probably less than 10 crew.
In October 1739 the admiral of Sallee, the envoy for Morocco, was entertained in Bristol, taken to the Hotwells and Sea Mills and given gifts.  Soon after he left for Midford a treaty was made with Morocco to protect British shipping from ‘Sallee Rovers’.   In 1750 a Bristol ship was taken by a corsair with 30 guns.  To  protect against such raids, British slave ships tended to be the largest afloat which allowed them to be heavily armed.

Customs House Queen Square (demolished in 1831 riots, since rebuilt)

The East India Company had a monopoly on trade with the Indian Ocean, but in the early 18th century Bristol ships were going to Madagascar to smuggle slaves which were cheaper there than West Africa and undermined London traders.  In 1721 George Benyon, a land waiter at the Customs House became a whistle-blower for the illegal trade. 

Broadmead Baptist Church

William Knibb, member of the congregation, missionary and campaigner for abolition.
He went to Jamaica in 1824 as a preacher and teacher.  Plantation owners were hostile, so he  avoided involvement in civil or political activities. But a peaceful uprising of slaves in 1831 turned violent, and retaliations included the arrests and destruction of missions, so he returned to England to campaign for abolition.  When the compromise system of apprenticeship was abolished in 1838, his church was draped with a banner saying ‘Freedom.’  As midnight struck, he cried ‘The monster is dead! The negro is free!”

All Saints’ Church, Corn St Monument by Michael Rysbrack
City Centre bronze statue erected by subcription 1895  

Edward Colston (1636-1721) is probably Bristol’s most famous benefactor, but also its most controversial due to his involvement in the slave trade. 

All Saints’ Lane

Anna Maria Falconbridge nee Horwood (1769 – c1802) traveller and writer was born here and in 1788 married  a surgeon of Lodway near Bristol, Alexander Falconbridge  He had worked in the slave trade before changing sides to help Clarkson early in the abolition campaign. 

1 Clare St

Birthplace of TE Bowditch (c1791-1824) writer and traveller in Africa. 

 St Stephen’s Church 

Monument to Martin Pring, (1580-1626) One of the most widely travelled mariners of his day, he explored eastwards as far as the east Indies and Japan, as well as the coast of Africa and North America.

43 (now 60) Park Street

From 1762 on this site was the first purpose built Academy for Young Ladies run byHannah More and her sisters.  Hannah was a famous social reformer, and writer who was in contact with many of the most famous abolitionists and was an important local focus for the movement. 

 47 (now 52) Park St

Home of Dr John Bishop Estlin (1785-1855)and daughter Mary Anne (c1820-1902).
Dr Estlin became a highly respected Opthalmic Surgeon and founded a dispensary for the poor.  In 1832 he went to St Vincent with his daughter to improve his health, and managed to visit many slave plantations and investigate conditions there. 

Bristol Cathedral

Memorial tablets to many of Bristol’s finest such as childrens’ rights campaigner and abolitionist Mary Carpenter are found here, especially in ‘poet’s corner’ on the left crossing.

Nearby is a monument to Captain John Sanderson of the Royal Navy, He died off the coast of West Africa in 1859 on an antislavery patrol.


Many visitors of all shades to The West Indies fell ill there; some came to the Hotwells for a cure.
At the end of the left aisle is a memorial to Richard Haklyut (1586-1614) Queen’s Scholar and Prebend to the Cathedral for 30 years.  Though he never ventured abroad, he publicised accounts of exploration and helped promote colonisation of the New World.  He had a particular interest in the search for the North West Passage.  Accused as being a mere trumpet for explorers, such activity was vital to England and other nations being crippled by inflation from Spain and Portugal’s colonial wealth.  A friend of Raleigh and others, his work is still highly regarded and the Haklyut Society, founded in 1846 continues to  publish high quality accounts of exploration.


Near Haklyut’s memorial is a bust of Robert Southey, local born poet laureate and like his fellow Romantic poets, author of abolition related poems.

The Red Lodge, Park Row

Home to Mary Carpenter’s Female Reformatory. Mary was world famous for her work improving conditions for the  young.

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Unitarian Meeting House, Lewins Mead

The Unitarians were second only to Quakers in their opposition to slavery and passion for improving conditions for the poor and promoting education and health care. Prominent among them was Rev Lant Carpenter and his daughter Mary. They established the first  ‘ragged school’ here for ‘street Arabs’ who slept in barrels by the quays and lived by petty crime. The congregation also included Dr Bishop Estlin, son of minister John Prior Estlin and founder and main funder of the eye hospital.

1 Wilson St, St Paul’s

A blue plaque records this as the family home of Elizabeth Blackwell, daughter of a local sugar refiner. After the riots of 1831, the family moved to the United States where Elizabeth became the world’s first female doctor and campaigner for women’s rights and abolition

 Brunswick Square, St Paul’s

 Harriet Martineau was educated here at her aunt’s school. She was a very successful promotor of economic reform, education for women and abolition. Her deafness at times made her a victim of jests, but her writings were highly respected.

Lower Grove Road, Stapleton, nr Bristol

 Birthplace of Fanny Trollope, mother of the more famous Anthony. She became a writer to support her family in her fifties. Whilst travelling in America she took an interest in the conditions of slaves and campaigned on their behalf, and for the welfare of children in England.

For more information on the above, refer to my book on Kindle:
Bristol’s Slavery & Abolition: Overview, Context & Walking Guide which includes colour pictures and maps.
For information on a more national lavel, see
Britain’s Abolition of the Slave Trade: A Source Book.
This includes an extended timeline, and details of specific abolitionists as well as an overview of the subject.

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