Fulham & The Slave Trade - Faces Of Freedom At Fulham Palace

By Richard Moss | 22 August 2007
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a text panel with illustrations of a bound and hanging african slave, a man in a tricorn hat and the words let my people go

Faces of Freedom – Hammersmith and Fulham and the Slave Trade runs at the Museum of Fulham Palace until September 16 2007. © Museum of Fulham Palace

The Museum of Fulham Palace is currently hosting an exhibition that explores the area’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade and its eventual abolition in British ships in 1807.

Faces of Freedom – Hammersmith and Fulham and the Slave Trade runs at the museum, which is housed in the former palace of the Bishops of London, until September 16 2007.

It features the stories of well-known names such as the abolitionist Granville Sharp, and others such as Ellen and William Craft, runaway slaves from Georgia USA whose stories are almost forgotten.

an oil portrait of man with a white wig, tricorn hat and velvet waistcoat

Bishop Porteus, Bishop of London and fervent abolitionist in the late 1700s and early 1800s. © Museum of Fulham Palace

The Palace is well suited to house the exhibition, as it was the home of Bishop Porteus, Bishop of London and fervent abolitionist in the late 1700s and early 1800s and the leading advocate within the Church of England for abolition.

Bishop Porteus first came to prominence as an abolitionist when he began preaching against the slave trade whilst serving as the Bishop of Chester. After several years of campaigning he became the Bishop of London in 1787 and quickly threw his weight behind the first Slave Trade Bill of 1788 from the benches of the House of Lords.

Years of preaching from the pulpit and debating in the House of Lords made Porteus a prominent supporter of men like William Wilberforce and Granville Sharpe when the Slave Trade Bill secured its eventual passage through Parliament in 1807.

a text panel with the words rich pickings at the top and a portrait of a bearded man in seventeenth century dress

The exhibition also explores the story of local slave trader Sir Nicholas Crisp. © Museum of Fulham Palace

Leading abolitionist, author and lifelong campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade, Granville Sharpe, lived minutes away from the Palace and is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Fulham, which is 10 minutes away, close to Putney Bridge.

It was Sharpe who in 1787, together with his friend Thomas Clarkson, formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which eventually secured the support of William Wilberforce MP, as their spokesman in the House of Commons. He also famously and successfully defended the cause of Africans in England, such as the abandoned slave Jonathan Strong.

There is a memorial to Sharpe in the churchyard at All Saints as well as another in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.

a photograph of a group of coloured glass beads

Glass beads found at the former home of local slave trader Sir Nicholas Crisp. © Museum of Fulham Palace

As well as exploring the local people behind the campaign, which eventually led to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the exhibition also explores the area’s malignant connections to the trade.

Hammersmith and Fulham played an active part in the trading of slaves – especially the provision of goods used in the buying of Africans.

Nearby Crisp Road was named after Sir Nicholas Crisp, slave trader and contributor to the building of the original St Paul’s church, Hammersmith. Crisp’s home and bead manufacturing factory stood less than a mile down river from Fulham Palace and the exhibition includes glass beads - almost certainly used for barter in Africa - excavated by the Museum of London on the site of Crisp's Hammersmith house. They also found the glass kiln on site.

a photograph of a text panel with a central portrait of a man wearing a beret

Marcus Garvey lived and ran a business in Hammersmith, whilst Mary Seacole, Crimean nurse, is buried in the northern part of the borough. © Museum of Fulham Palace

Also featured in the exhibition is video footage and posters relating to slavery and freedom, created by pupils from the nearby Phoenix High School.

Marcus Garvey, national hero of Jamaica and Pan-Africanist, lived and ran a business in Hammersmith, whilst Mary Seacole, Crimean nurse, is buried in the northern part of the borough. Both are also featured for the contribution that they made and as people whose lives continue to inspire us.

Slavery Remembrance Day - August 23 2007

On August 23 1791 there was an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Santa Domingo (modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic) – it proved to be a pivotal revolt in the fight against slavery. Designated by UNESCO, the date Thursday August 23 2007 has been chosen as a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: