UNESCO Slavery Remembrance - Hull Unveils Wilberforce Silverware

By Graham Spicer | 20 August 2007
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photo of a man and woman looking at a piece of silverware on a table surrounded by several people clapping

The silverware being presented at The Guildhall by Dr The Honourable Navinchandra Ramgoolam to the Lord Mayor of Hull, Cllr Brenda Petch. Photo Hull City Council

A silver centrepiece inspired by William Wilberforce and commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade is now on display to the public in Hull.

The design was created by award-winning silversmith Jocelyn Burton who was selected by a panel of experts in silver, slavery, art and community affairs and is now on permanent display at The Guildhall in time for UNESCO Slavery Remembrance Day on August 23.

It was presented to the city of Hull by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr The Honourable Navinchandra Ramgoolam during his visit to the city in June 2007.

“We are delighted to add this significant piece to our collection, it serves as a reminder of the important struggle for freedom that continues around the world today,” said Robin Diaper, Curator of the Guildhall collections.

“I hope that the public take the opportunity to view the piece as a lasting reminder of this bicentennial year for the whole city and our visitors to enjoy and as an important addition to the Guildhall’s extensive collection.”

Jocelyn’s design is based upon the shape of the cowry shell, which was used extensively in West Africa as currency and played a major part in the slave trade.

screenshot of the Wilberforce 2007 website with an image of an oil painting of William Wilberforce and the words 'slavery - unfinished business' below it

Hull was the birthplace of William Wilberforce, who was MP of the city from 1780-84

She was inspired by a quote from William Wilberforce he made on May 12 1789, when he declared to the House of Commons as part of his speech for the Total Abolition of Slavery, “I would never rest. I found myself impelled to go boldly forward.”

Wilberforce was born in Hull in 1759 and was MP for the city from 1780 to 1784, later becoming MP for Yorkshire. He was one of the leading figures in the parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade upon British ships

His birthplace now houses the Wilberforce House Museum, which was reopened in March 2007 after a major redevelopment.

A series of commemorative events are happening across the country to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, with many taking place in Hull.

Full details of Hull’s Wilberforce connections and events can be found on the Wilberforce 2007 website and the City Council has also produced a Wilberforce Trail.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: