The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 5

This post is best read in conjunction of part 2 of this series. While part 1 provides further context, it is part 2 that introduces and explains the current series of sketches of City of London aldermen (senior councillors) who were directors of the slave trading Royal Africa Company and investors in it. Here, as was also the case in part 3 and part 4, we continue running chronologically through them by their date of election or appointment and drawing on the sources indicated at the start of part 2. In some instances we are also directing attention to contemporary organisations responsible for memorials and other references to these slave traders that require actions such as removal of object, renaming or a more rigorous historical framing.

Sir William Withers (c. 1654–1721). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1698, he had previously been a common councillor for Cheap. He was alderman for Farringdon Within. Withers belonged to the Fishmongers’ Company and acted as prime warden there in 1700-2. He was sheriff in 1701 and lord mayor in 1707. His father also called William Withers had likewise been a common councillor for Cheap (see Woodhead). Withers junior was an MP and his History of Parliament online entry outlines the sectarian Anglican and royalist positions he and his father held. The same source also notes Withers’ use of his role as an MP to promote his own interests, with a bill ‘to establish a regulated African company… Vested interest prompted him to intervene when the House discussed African commerce, he acting as a teller on 3 June 1712 to block the passage of a bill to establish a new company to regulate that trade.. Withers actively promoted commercial legislation during the ensuing Parliament, particularly for the regulation of broadcloths. His linen business evidently rendered him an expert in such matters, for he reported on 12 Apr. 1714 from the committee on a merchant petition concerning abuses in that trade, and subsequently managed a bill to amend a recent Act to encourage woollen manufacture. In his capacity as its principal sponsor, he acted as a teller on 21 June to block a motion to postpone debate on the report. The next day, in another act of commercial self-interest, he told against a proposed increase in the duty on linens…’ The History of Parliament also states: ‘…he was ready to challenge City electoral practice to ensure that fellow Tory (and slave trader) John Cass became an alderman.’ We covered Withers’ involvement in both the Africa Company and the colonial Irish Society in part 1 of this series. Even Beaven, who doesn’t seem much interested in listing Africa Company directorships notes Withers was a sub-governor there (as does Davies). Both Beaven and Davies (footnote page 160) also record that Withers was a director of the New and United East India Company. Pettigrew mentions Withers a couple of times in his text and there is an error about his mayoralty in Freedom’s Debt (page 46): ‘Directors like Sir John Fleet and Sir William Withers brought civic rank to the company’s lobby as each served as lord mayor of London in the 1690s.’ While Fleet was a lord mayor in the 1690s, Withers didn’t ascend to the top job at the City of London council until 1707. At the time of writing Withers’ Wikipedia entry mentions his involvements with the Royal Africa Company, New East India Company, United East India Company and Irish Society, but fails to indicate their roles in the slave trade and colonial exploitation.

Above, etching and engraving of Sir William Withers with coat of arms and facsimile signature published by Robert Wilkinson in 1809. This is one of a number of drawings and prints related to William Withers that at the time of writing are hosted on the British Museum website without any indication that he was a slave trader and colonial exploiter. Several of these items show Withers in the company of other slave traders including Sir John Cass.

Jeffrey Jeffreys (c.1652-1709). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1701. He was alderman for Portsoken, having previously been a common councillor for Aldgate. Jeffreys was a member of the Grocers’ Company and its master in 1699. He was also knighted in 1699 and the following year he was Sheriff of London; many assume he would have been lord mayor had he lived longer. According to Beaven ‘Son of John Jefferies (or Jeffreys), Alderman 1661’; but Woodhead states of Alderman John Jeffreys (covered in part 2 of this series), ‘Neph and heir Jeffrey, Jeffreys, Kt, Ald, 1701, MP Brecon Boroughs, 1690-98, 1701-09, “worth £300,000” ‘. The History of Parliament online entry for this Jeffreys – who was an MP – uses both Beaven and Woodhead as sources but seemingly takes the latter’s side (unless the word ‘adoption’ in what follows is literal and legal in which case both sources are correct): “bro. of John Jeffreys….  suc. uncle John Jeffreys, Grocer and alderman of London, of St. Mary Axe and St. Andrew Undershaft, London, as coh. 1688… Jeffreys and his younger brother John were ‘adopted and educated’ by their uncle John Jeffreys, a tobacco merchant and a Tory alderman of London, whose estate, reputedly worth some £300,000, was divided between them. Jeffreys’ share enabled him to purchase Brecon Priory, which conveyed a dominant interest in the parliamentary borough, as well as Roehampton House in Putney, a former mansion of the Devonshires. A partner in his uncle’s business, and particularly successful in the West Indian slave trade, he was already ‘a merchant of great . . . rank and quality’. In Brecon he stood out as ‘abounding in wealth . . . above all the gentlemen in the place’. The bulk of his business continued to centre on the Atlantic ‘triangle’, and in the early 1690s he acted as an English agent both for the Leeward Islands, as a formal appointee, and, less formally, for Virginia. He diversified, trading in Spain and North Africa as well as on the coast of Guinea, and importing wine as well as slaves into the American colonies. Later he dabbled in Baltic commerce. The £1,500 worth of stock he held in the East India Company in 1689 represented the limit of his interest in that branch of trade, and aside from advancing £500 on the 2s. aid in 1690 he seems to have taken no other part in government finance.” As well as recording Jeffrey Jeffreys as both an RAC director and an independent slave trader, Davies notes (page 295) that the Virginia slave trade was chiefly in the hands of this Jeffreys and Micajah Perry. Pettigrew includes this Jeffreys and what appear to be several of his family members in his RAC director list: we discussed some of the ambiguities of parts of this Jeffreys family listing in part 2 in the entry on alderman-for-a-day John Jeffreys (Jeffrey Jeffreys uncle). Jeffrey Jeffreys is mentioned by Pettigrew as an MP on page 46 (footnote), as an independent slave trader as well as RAC director on page 75, and as an RAC director on page 130 (footnote). We wonder if the Walter Jeffreys in Pettigrew’s list (but not in Davies) is Jeffrey Jeffreys father, according to the son’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he: “was the third son of Walter (or Watkin) Jeffreys of Llywel, Brecknockshire. He is reported to have been ‘educated and adopted’ by his rich bachelor uncle, Alderman John Jeffreys of London.” In our last Jeffreys family entry we also omitted to mention another John Jeffreys (1706-66), son of John Jeffreys (c.1659-1715) or Jeffrey Jeffreys’ nephew, who was an MP and has both a History of Parliament and Wikipedia entry. We haven’t mentioned him until now because while it is possible he is one of the John Jeffreys who were RAC directors (see our discussion of this in the John Jeffreys entry in part 2), we don’t think it particularly probable and we have seen no secondary sources indicating this to be the case – as we have done with John Jeffreys (c1614-1688) and John Jeffreys (c.1659-1715).  At the time of writing Jeffrey Jeffreys doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.

Sir Joseph Woolfe (1650-1711). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1704. Brother of Sir John Woolfe (Sheriff 1696-7). He was alderman for Broad Street and had previously been a common councillor for Bishopsgate. Joseph became Sheriff of London in 1703 or 1704 (depending on which source is used, Wikipedia’s List of sheriffs of London currently gives the earlier date) and was knighted in 1704. Beaven in his addenda states: “Sir Joseph Woolfe, elected in 1704; served the office of sheriff the same year.” Here Beaven is correcting the date of election from 1705 elsewhere in his text, and the line above from us about his brother being sheriff is lifted directly from Beaven’s Notes, although it can be found in other secondary sources (including the Wikipedia List of sheriffs of London). Sir Joseph Woolfe was a member of the Mercers’ Company and acted as its master in 1703. He was a director of the Levant Company (Beaven) as well as the Royal Africa Company. A genealogical site entry for him currently includes the following (we haven’t yet checked all of it against other sources – the date given here for Woolfe’s election as alderman is the one that would be used by anyone who consulted Beaven but failed to check his addenda where it is corrected): “Sir Joseph Woolfe was the son-in-law of Sir Gabriel Roberts, married to his daughter Anne (died 1695). Sir Joseph was a Sheriff of the City of London in 1703 and an Alderman of the City of London elected March 6th 1705, Broad Street Ward. He was a man of considerable wealth and influence, in 1686 he received a gift of a silver-gilt cup and cover from the Tsar of Russia, later Peter the Great, for facilitating the purchase of potash for a great revenue.” The same source suggests Sir Joseph Woolfe’s daughter Mary married into the slave trading and Africa Company directing Lethuillier family (see the entry on Sir John Lethuillier in part 3), and Mary’s mother (her father’s wife) belonged to the slave trading and Africa Company directing Roberts family (see our entry on Sir Gabriel Roberts in part 4). Davies in his list of RAC directors includes the honorific Sir in his index entry for Sir Joseph Woolfe, Pettigrew in his RAC director list drops the honorific and with it the ability of those who use him as their sole source to discount the possibility that he could be referring to Sir Joseph Woolfe’s unknighted son Joseph Woolfe (died 1714) or someone else of that name. It would require revisiting the archival sources to fully verify that this alderman is the Sir Joseph Woolfe in the Davies list, but the evidence from secondary sources suggest this is the correct identification. From online searches we have come across no other Sir Joseph Woolfes who make credible candidates to be the man in the Davies index of this name (or criteria including but not being limited to being alive at the times Davies lists Sir Joseph Woolfe as an RAC director). At the time of writing alderman Sir Joseph Woolfe doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, although as we’ve pointed out he is included on that site’s List of sheriffs of London.

Sir Samuel Stanier (1649-1724). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1705. Stanier was alderman for Aldgate. He belonged to the Drapers’ Company and was its master in 1705. Stanier was also sheriff in 1705 and knighted that year. He was lord mayor in 1713. Pettigrew lists him but has nothing to say about Stanier in Freedom’s Debt. Davies includes Stanier in a footnote about prominent City men on page 160 of his 1957 book, stating that he was lord mayor and making it clear both on that page and in his index that this man was not only a director of the Royal Africa Company but also held the elevated position of deputy-governor there. Stanier’s father James Stanier (c.1606-1663) has a long entry at Marine Lives online, showing that this lord mayor came from a wealthy family of merchants – on this Marine Lives page James Stanier’s name is mentioned as appearing in the minutes of the East India Company Committee. At the time of writing Samuel Stanier’s Wikipedia entry doesn’t mention his involvement in the slave trade via his positions at the RAC.

Books Sir Samuel Stanier inherited from his uncle Robert Stanier. He also inherited a great deal of property from his family.

Sir James Bateman (c1660-1718). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1708. Son of Joas Bateman (Alderman 1687) father of the 1st Viscount Bateman and ancestor of the Barons Bateman. He was alderman for Coleman Street and knighted in 1698. Originally a Loriner, he joined the Fishmongers’ Company and acted as its prime warden. He was sheriff in 1701 and lord mayor in 1716. Aside from seemingly being on the board of the Royal Africa Company, he was a director of the Bank of England, the New East India Company and the United East India Company. He was also a sub-governor of the South Sea Company. Bateman was an MP but his History of Parliament entry does not list him as being a director of the RAC, however his support for the Africa Company is noted there: “on 2 June, he had acted as a teller in favour of preserving the Royal African Company’s monopoly.”Bateman is not found in the Davies index nor in Pettigrew’s RAC director list, however there is an entry on page 76 of Freedom’s Debt suggesting he was an RAC director: “At the height of the parliamentary dispute between the African Company and the separate traders, Peter Paggen served as a director of the East India Company and the Royal African Company, as did Urban Hall, Sir William Withers, Samuel Shepheard, Sir John Fleet, Sir James Bateman, and Sir John Andrews. Clearly, lobbyists on both sides pursued other interests when it suited them.” Given alderman Bateman’s EIC directorships, we assume this is the Bateman that Pettigrew is invoking. Whether Pettigrew has made an error in the main body of his text or in his RAC director list requires further research. Regardless of whether or not Bateman was an RAC director, he was involved in the slave trade through his other directorships and also a Parliamentary supporter of the Africa Company. At the time of writing Wikipedia notes Bateman’s involvements with the New and United East India Company and South Sea Company but not his Parliamentary support for the Africa Company; it says nothing about the RAC at all.

Portrait of Sir James Bateman by René Auguste Constantyn (c.1680–after 1730). This is featured on the Art UK website where there is currently no labelling or tagging to inform visitors that it depicts a supporter of the slave trading Royal Africa Company or of his involvement with other companies that engaged in slave trading. The work is currently housed in the Bank of England Museum, although in our view it would be better to display it in a museum dedicated to slavery or colonial barbarism. The Art UK website highlights works held in public collections. See our entry on Robert Bristow (above in part 4) for another example of a slaver portrait in the BoE Museum and a more detailed discussion of the BoE’s position (and specifically that of current governor Andrew Bailey) on this.

Sir John Cass (1661-1718). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1711.”Founder of the Schools bearing his name at Hackney. One of the chiefs of the High Church Party in the City.” It is possible the borough boundaries changed after Beaven wrote what we quote at the top of this entry since the schools that right up to this year bore the Cass name were in the City of London and Tower Hamlets (home also to the art school named after the slave trader), with the Cass Business School being located in the London Borough of Islington. Cass’s plans for a school in Hackney were never realised. Cass was an alderman for Portsoken. He belonged to the Carpenters’ Company and was its master in 1711; he transferred to the Skinners’ Company and was its master in 1714. He was sheriff in 1711 and knighted while serving in that capacity in 1712. The Sir John Cass’s Foundation notes this slave trader’s links to the Skinners’ and Carpenters’ on its associates page and states it is ‘proud’ to work with them. That foundation notoriously held annual celebrations for its slave trading founder right up to and including 2020 – and as we’ve reported, right up to this year these were attended by top members of the City of London civic apparatus such as the lord mayor and sheriffs (who all belong to livery companies since these – including the Skinners’ and Carpenters’ – form a part of local government in the City). Davies includes this slave trader in his index as Colonel John Cass (a reference to his elected role at the head of the Orange Regiment 1713-14) but has nothing more to say about him beyond listing his dates of directorship at the Royal Africa Company as 1705-8. Pettigrew includes him in his list of RAC directors as Sir John Cass but does not mention him in the main body of his text. Cass was an MP and his History of Parliament entry suggests he used his RAC directorship in part to realise political ambitions: “He subsequently achieved greater prominence in City circles by becoming in 1705 an assistant in the Royal African Company, and his Tory outlook was confirmed by his votes in the Middlesex election of that year.” The same source quotes a contemporary describing him as: “a haughty, reserved man, neither loving nor beloved.” The History of Parliament entry further implies this slave trader’s ‘philanthropy’ was at least in part a means to the end of realising his political ambitions: “After an unsuccessful candidacy at an aldermanic contest for Tower ward in December 1707, he concentrated his efforts on his native Portsoken, establishing his reputation there as one of the City’s leading philanthropists.” That said, we shouldn’t forget that Cass intended his schools to deliver an ideological and sectarian education grounded in the doctrines of the Anglican and Tory High Church. At the time of writing Wikipedia notes that a number of memorials to Cass have been removed or renamed and that: “Cass was ‘a major figure in the early development of the slave trade and the Atlantic slave economy, directly dealing with slave agents in the African forts and in the Caribbean’ according to a BBC report following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.” We have written about John Cass and the ongoing removal of memorials to him in several previous posts, including the first in this current series.

An armorial stained glass window commemorating Sir John Cass at the Carpenters’ Hall, 3 London Wall, London EC2M 5SY. It seems likely there are other memorials to the slave trader John Cass that require removal in this and other livery halls. While many Cass memorials are in the process of being removed or have been removed from educational and other establishments, at the time of writing a statue of Cass was still in place in the City of London council HQ the Guildhall, and it seems that the livery companies who form part of the antiquated civic apparatus within this local authority – one in urgent need of democratic reform – are as slow and reluctant as other parts of this still semi-feudal local government, to remove their many offensive commemorations to slave traders and colonial exploiters. The image above comes from a 2014 Sir John Cass’s Foundation blog documenting a visit by that organisation to the Carpenters’ Hall, which can be found here.

Sir Peter Delmé (c1665-1728). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1712. He was an alderman for Langbourn. Delmé was a member of the Fishmongers’ Company and its prime warden in 1714, he was also knighted that year. He was sheriff in 1717 and lord mayor in 1723. Both Davies and Pettigrew list him as a director of the Royal Africa Company but have nothing more to say about him. He was also a director of the East India Company. As well as being a director of the Bank of England he was also its governor. He had a son and grandson each also called Peter Delmé who were MPs. At the time of writing Wikipedia doesn’t mention his involvement in the slave trade through his directorships at the Royal Africa Company and the East India Company. An ornate memorial to Sir Peter Delmé is to be found in the Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens (described here). Elsewhere on this church’s website, there is A Lecture delivered to St. Margaret’s Historical Society on January 6th, 1967 by Dr. Gordon Huelin which includes the following: “A distinguished parishioner and worshipper during the early eighteenth century was Sir Peter Delmé, governor of the Bank of England, and Lord Mayor in 1723. He had a pew in the church, and the sword-rest set up in the year of his mayoral office can still be seen, as also the fine monument to him by Michael Rysbrack. In his will, Sir Peter left directions that he should be buried here “without pomp, which often occasions tumultuous riots”, the pulpit and desk only to be “hung with mourning and scutcheons”. On its connection to the livery companies this church states (see here): “As St Margaret Pattens is not a parish church, it relies for funds on the generosity of the congregation, local business people, the supporting livery companies and visitors.” The website contains images of stained glass widows dedicated to the Worshipful Company of Basket Makers and the Worshipful Company of Patten Makers. The church also contains a memorial to King Charles I which should be removed due to his involvement in the slave trade – in 1632 he granted a licence to a syndicate of traders that gave them royal approval to transport enslaved Africans from Guinea.

Sir John Thompson (died 1750). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1726. Father-in-law of Sir William St. Quintin, 4th Baronet Mansion. Thompson was an alderman for Candlewick and Bridge Without and before than a common councillor for Candlewick and Aldgate. He was a member of the Vintners’ Company and was its master in 1726. Thompson became sheriff in 1726 and was knighted in 1727. He became lord mayor in 1736. Thompson stood as an MP for the City in 1727 but wasn’t elected. He was a governor of the Muscovy Company and a director of the South Sea Company and the Bank of England. Thompson is not listed as an RAC director in the Davies index but a Sir John Thompson is to be found in Pettigrew’s RAC directors list; the lord mayor listed here is the best fit we’ve found for the name although further archival research is required to determine if this is indeed the man invoked as a slave trader in Freedom’s Debt. Pettigrew includes a John Thompson without the Sir in his list of independent slave traders. Given Pettigrew’s inconsistent use of honourifics it is impossible to know whether the same person is being invoked in both the independent slave trader list and the list of Royal Africa Company directors. There are no mentions of John Thompson or Sir John Thompson in the main body of his text. While further research among the primary sources appears to be required to fully determine if alderman Sir John Thompson was a director of the RAC, his directorship of the South Sea Company means that his involvement in the slave trade is not in doubt.

Moving on there were alderman who invested in the Royal Africa Company without acting as its directors, although at least one was a director of its precursor, the slave trading Royal Adventurers into Africa. Woodhead’s Rulers of London 1660-1689 readily enables us to identify some of the RAC investors from its earlier period, so we know that they include the following:

Edward Backwell (c1618-1683). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1660. Alderman for Bishopsgate, previously common councillor for Langbourn. He belonged to the Goldsmiths’ Company and was its prime warden in 1660. The eminent goldsmith of the time of the Commonwealth and Charles II. When the King closed the Exchequer, Backwell was his creditor for nearly £300,000. See Hilton Price’s London Banks. Pepys’ Diary contains frequent references to him. Blackwell was an MP and his History of Parliament entry lists him as a director of the precursor to the Royal Africa Company, the Royal Adventurers into Africa. Assuming this is correct, Blackwell didn’t just invest in slave trading, he was directly involved in organising it. The same source lists him as a freeman of the East India Company. Woodhead records Blackwell as having investments in the East India Company and the Royal Africa Company; he also notes he was apprenticed to Thomas Vyner and this was presumably in part what led him to his leading role in the development of modern banking. Neither Davies nor Pettigrew mention Blackwell, which is unsurprising given that their focus is the RAC and that while he appears to have been a director of the Royal Adventurers into Africa, he was simply an investor in the RAC. At the time of writing, Wikipedia’s entry on Blackwell might be viewed as confused about his involvement in the slave trade: “Edward was a signatory to ‘The Several Declarations of The Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa’. This document was published in 1667 by the Royal Africa Company, which attempted to form a monopoly on the transatlantic slave trade in the late 1660s. Due to the fact that Edward was such a prominent London banker, he probably viewed his funding of the transatlantic slave trade as a typical investment, but his involvement in the institution should not be ignored.” Blackwell’s History of Parliament entry clearly states he was a director and not just an investor in the Royal Adventurers into Africa, although it looks like he was only an investor in the later Royal Africa Company; while further research is needed here, the History of Parliament is a more authoritative source than Wikipedia and more likely to be correct – and even Wikipedia states Blackwell signed a company document which might be taken as indicative of his role as a director. The section on slavery in Blackwell’s Wikipedia entry currently references Davies and Pettigrew who have nothing to say about him but doesn’t invoke his more pertinent History of Parliament biography with regard to this matter, although the latter is used by Wikipedia for Blackwell’s election as an MP. Across a number of entries, Wikipedia treats the Royal Adventurers and the Royal Africa Company as a single entity, in a footnote to part 4 of this series we explained why we treat them as distinct – since the Royal Africa Company took its first subscriptions in 1772, we view Wikipedia’s claim that the RAC published the document Blackwell signed in 1667 (that is 5 years before the RAC came into existence) as problematic.

Engraving of Edward Backwell taken from A Biographical History of England: from Egbert the Great to the Revolution by James Granger (1824 edition, image sourced from Wikipedia). It should be noted that the National Portrait Gallery has two similar engravings on its website that it has dated 1797 and 1802. Despite offering these two images for sale as prints, the NPG doesn’t indicate that Blackwell appears to have been actively involved in organising the slave trade in the North Atlantic and elsewhere (via involvements with the Royal Adventurers into Africa and the East India Company) and is known to have invested in the slave trade. James Granger (1723-1776), the author of the book from which the image is taken, was a clergyman and biographer and notably an early advocate of animal rights. The first edition of his Biographical History was published in 1769. We are not aware of any editions of the Biographical History published on the dates given by the NPG for the two Blackwell engravings it holds, so their portraits may well come from elsewhere. The engravings used in the Biographical History were assembled from diverse sources and hands, and the identities of many of the artists/illustrators who created them are unknown.

Thomas Lewis AKA Lewes (died c.1680). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1661, Alderman for Broad Street but only for 10 days as he paid a fine of £620 to be discharged. He belonged to the Vintners’ Company. The History of Parliament entry for his son also called Thomas Lewis AKA Lewes states: “Lewes’s father was reckoned one of the wealthiest merchants trading to Aleppo after the Restoration.” This son Thomas was by second wife Elizabeth Dashwood, daughter of Alderman Francis Dashwood (an RAC director covered in part 2 of this series) and sister of Samuel Dashwood (entries on lord mayor and slave trader Samuel Dashwood in parts 1 and part 4 of this series). Woodhead in Rulers of London records this Thomas Lewis as having £1,000 of original RAC stock.

Sir George Waterman (1682). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1664. Alderman for Bridge Within, he’d previously been a common councillor for Dowgate. Waterman was sheriff in 1664-5 and lord mayor in 1671-2. He was a member of the Skinner’s Company. He is described in the MS. account of the Aldermen of 1672 (at which time he was Lord Mayor), as ‘a person almost voide of understanding, but not of will. He is very weake in the one, but most perverse in the other. He employes abundance of tyme, but does no businesse. He for a while was guided by Sir John Lawrence who ledd him astray.’ Woodhead records him as owning both £500 of original RAC stock and land in Bermuda (among other places). On page 69 of his book, Davies invokes Waterman as a significant and high profile investor in the slave trade.

Slave trade investor and lord mayor Sir George Waterman’s coat of arms: a paly of six argent and gules, three cresents countercharged. According to the London Remembers website Waterman’s coat of arms is to be found on The Monument in the City, which commemorates the Great Fire of London. Assuming this to be correct then this slave trade connected symbol requires removal from The Monument. Waterman’s name, alongside those of the slave trading lord mayors Richard Ford and Robert Vyner AKA Viner (both covered in part 2 of this series) can be found on the eastern panel inscription above the door, this should be removed just as the words falsely blaming the fire on a Catholic conspiracy were removed from The Monument in 1830. For information on this see here – note also that at the time of writing the website promoting The Monument boosts the profile of its architect Sir Christopher Wren (see our entry on him here) but makes no mention of his personal and institutional investments in the slave trade. While we’re on the subject of The Monument, the latin inscription emblazoned on a south panel at the base to Charles II also requires removal since it was this monarch who first provided royal and official approval for the transatlantic slave trade within the English (later British) empire via the charters he granted to the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa. Charles II, like many other English monarchs, also profited personally from the slave trade.

Robert Aske (c1617-c1689). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1666. He was Alderman for Bread Street and discharged for a fine of £720. He married the widow of Nicholas Bonfoy (Alderman 1664), and was the founder of a school at Hatcham. He belonged to the Haberdashers’ Company and was its master in 1685. Woodhead lists him as owning £500 of original Royal Africa Company stock and describes him as a Tory and High Anglican. At the time of writing Wikipedia doesn’t mention that Aske invested in the slave trading Africa Company but does delineate his role in founding a ‘family’ of schools named after him and his livery company – Haberdashers’ Aske – that require a change of name. Aside from charity washing their dubious business activities, the educational endowments of Tory merchants also appear to have been motivated by ideological and sectarian beliefs – see our entry on John Cass (above). Aske’s livery company the Haberdashers’ administer his charitable bequest and promote him as a ‘philanthropist’ rather than providing a more honest assessment of Aske as someone who invested in and profited from the slave trade. At the time of writing Wikipedia stated about this livery company: “In keeping with its Christian tradition (viz Tory High Anglicanism), the Haberdashers’ Company continues to present copies of the King James Bible to pupils at all its schools. The company owns and takes an interest in the patronage of its eight parish church advowsons. The company is sole trustee of two major educational charities: Haberdashers’ Aske’s Charity and the William Jones’s Schools Foundation.” We have spoken to ex-pupils of Haberdashers’ Aske schools and they confirmed that while attending these institutions they were given a Bible and a hymn book, although the younger among them say their Bibles came from the Gideons’ rather than the Haberdashers’ Company.

Portrait of Robert Aske in the public domain taken from Wikipedia and sourced by that project from the Haberdashers’ Company website. We suspect that this portrait may currently hang in the Haberdashers’ Hall at 18 West Smithfield, London EC1A 9HQ. Online searches suggest there may be multiple memorials to Aske and others connected to the slave trade at the Haberdashers’ Hall. For example, this is from Geoff’s Genealogy on a visit to the current Haberdashers Hall (see here): “We entered the Orangery and were greatly impressed by a painting of a Panorama of the Modern City of London by Jeffrey Morgan. This was a very attractive work, but what struck us most were the figures painted into the foreground of the picture. These were four eminent members… Princess Margaret, Sir Robin Brook, Robert Aske and “our” John Bankes (c1652-1719)… We went up the stairs, to visit the suite of rooms on the first floor. These are very fine indeed, and they contain many treasures. We saw many fine paintings (including works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Kneller and Romney)…” Since the Haberdashers’ are now registered as a charity and its members have a hand in local government in the City of London via Common Hall, all memorials to those connected to the slave trade should be removed from their premises, while their various Aske educational trusts and schools urgently require renaming and rebranding.

Statue of slave trade investor Robert Aske in the forecourt of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College, Pepys Road Site, 35 Pepys Road, New Cross, London SE14 5SF. The various memorials to Aske require not just physical removal from the premises of the schools currently associated with this slave trade investor but also from their names. There are a good number of school’s bearing the Aske name and a full inventory of the various ways he is memorialised through them needs drawing up. Most online sources suggest Pepys Road in which the Hatcham school partially stands takes its name from Thomas Pepys (who in 1660 appears to have leased Hatcham Manor – which included the land that became Pepys Road – from the Haberdashers’), rather than Thomas’ much better known brother Samuel Pepys; we have yet to investigate whether Thomas had connections to the slave trade, we do know his brother did and would like to see Samuel Pepys’ many memorials removed from the City of London (see our entry on him here). We know a number of people who attended the Haberdashers’ Aske schools in south-east London and they tell us that while what was the boys’ school had the sculpture of the slave trade investor outside, the girls’ school had a larger than life full-length portrait of Robert Aske inside. We have been told that in the mid-1980s this massive picture of Aske had to be sent away for specialist restoration after pupils from class 3T squirted tomato ketchup over it. Regardless of whether or not the red condiment was intended to represent the blood Aske had on his hands from his slave trade investments, it was a perfect symbolisation of it and it’s a great shame the portrait wasn’t permanently removed from the school hall. The same sources say that the Haberdashers’ Aske founder’s day celebrations had strong similarities to those for the slave trader John Cass involving pupils from the City and east London schools that until this year were named after Cass. In the case of Haberdashers’ Aske, City grandees from the Haberdashers’ Company – rather than the lord mayor and sheriffs (other than in years in which Haberdashers’ held these offices) – would descend on the school to gaslight children with tall tales about Robert Aske as a wonderful man and role model.

The Haberdashers’ Company have spread the ugly cult of slave trade investor Robert Aske across the various schools named after him and them. The seemingly endless and ongoing celebration of Aske as their ‘founder’ is deeply disturbing. Immediately above and below pictures of leaving events at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Butterfly Lane, Elstree, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 3AF.

There have also been tweets right up to this year (2020) to celebrate the birthday of the slave trade investing founder of the Haberdashers’ Aske schools. See below.


The first Haberdashers’ Aske school – now in Elstree – was originally located in Hoxton, where there are still various memorialisations to Aske that Hackney council should remove. The London Gardens Trust on its web page about Aske Gardens in Hackney states that this open space is named after Robert Aske ‘who bequeathed money to the Haberdashers’ Company in 1689′. Obviously the name of Aske Gardens requires change. It seems likely that nearby Aske Street (N1 6LE postcode) is also named for the merchant Robert Aske and if this is the case it should be changed too. Likewise, given Aske’s strong association with the Haberdashers’ Company we’d like to see the names of the nearby Haberdasher Estate and Haberdasher Street changed – it should also be noted that the Haberdashers’ Company is closely associated with slave trade figures such as the lord mayor Sir Richard Levett, who will be addressed in part 8 of this series. A Zen internet page dedicated to Aske’s Hospital and Almshouses is among the places that note this listed building has been converted into flats and is now called Hoffman Square, but there are stone panels at the front entrance detailing its history (relevant webpage here) that should be removed or at the very least amended to record Aske’s investment in the slave trade. Another problematic plaque is flagged up on the same Zen webpage, this commemorates a move by the school from Hoxton to West Hampstead, before it relocated again to Elstree. That plaque which simultaneously memorialises slave trade investor Robert Aske on (what is now) Hampstead School, Westbere Road, London, NW2 3RT, is something Camden council should address.

From ‘serve and obey’ (a motto shared with the Haberdashers’ Company) to ‘nurturing excellence’, the cynicism and elitism of the slogans deployed by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School reflect the eye-watering fees it charges for its ‘independent’ education: currently £21,159.00 a year for pupils aged 12 to 18 (‘all fees billed must be paid in full by the first day of term’). There is a distinct hierarchy among the Haberdashers’ Aske schools, with the Elstree establishment at the top and the academies – such as that in New Cross – much lower in the pecking order. Former pupils of the fee-paying boys’ school include recent Tory MPs David Lidington and Leon Brittan, as well as Lord Mayor of London and unsuccessful UKIP candidate Ian Luder. Of course, the Elstree site of the current fee paying schools was opened by the then Lord Mayor of London. The school website includes the following guff: “Our founder, Robert Aske, established the principles that guide us to this day.” By investing in the slave trade, Aske treated other people with utter inhumanity, so he shouldn’t have been allowed to provide guiding principles in education 350 years ago – let alone today. Nonetheless the Elstree school’s obsession with Aske is unending, even its newsletter is entitled The Aske Report.

William Dashwood (born c1615). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1667. He was an alderman for Vintry and discharged on payment of a fine of ‘£300 and 20 marks’ (Woodhead). He was a member of the Fletchers’ Company but later moved to the Brewers’ Company and was the master of the latter livery in 1667. Nephew of Francis Dashwood (Alderman 1658 – see part 2 for our entry on him), cousin of Samuel Dashwood (see part 4 for our entry on him). Woodhead records him as owning £800 of original RAC stock. Woodhead and Beaven (in a footnote) both record this William Dashwood’s role in colonial exploitation as a ‘Farmer of Irish Customs, 1669-75’. Birth date taken from genealogy sites that provide the same parental and marriage details as Woodhead, however if this is alderman Dashwood – rather than someone else whose parents and wife have identical names and whose family lived in the same place as his did (assuming the details Woodhead gives are correct) – then these genealogical sites provide an incorrect death date prior to William Dashwood being elected an alderman. There is a seventeenth-century City of London Wiliam Dashwood listed on Marine Lives but we have no overlapping information from the secondary sources we’ve consulted to indicate this is the alderman being addressed here. At the time of writing William Dashwood did not have a Wikipedia entry.

Continued in part 6

Back to part 4, part 3, part 2, part 1.

8 thoughts on “The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 5

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