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Cockermouth Post Article September 2010

“At Cockermouth a blackamoor named Robinson Crusoe was baptised on 22 January 1773 …”

This intriguing entry can be found in Church records and is set against the backdrop of an era when the slave trade was very much part of British life. Some of our ports owe their wealth and development to this particular period, and Whitehaven was one such port that played a role in the slave trade. It is reported that sixty-five voyages to Africa for slaves were fitted out by Whitehaven merchants, the first in 1710 and the last in 1769. The tobacco trade dominated trade at this time but from the 1770s this involvement began to decline. Key players in Whitehaven were Thomas Lutwidge senior and Thomas Rumball. There is evidence that Whitehaven ships delivered slaves to at least eight markets in Africa between 1750 and 1769, with such activities concentrated on Barbados and Jamaica. These journeys involved ships such as the ‘Hope’, the ‘King George’ and the ‘Montgomery’. I am indebted for this information to a paper, appearing in the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, Vol. XCII (1992), written by David Richardson and M M Schofield. Their article makes fascinating reading. The Rum Story in Whitehaven does, of course, give a very full and interesting account of the slave trade and conditions in which slaves were held.

POSTSCRIPT to this article:

Susan Dench (former senior Archivist at the Carlisle Record Office) delivered this year’s Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture on ‘Black History’, tracking Cumberland’s links with the slave trade. The lecture (which was a joint venture with the Civic Trust and the Lorton & Derwent Fells Local History Society) was held at the Kirkgate Centre on Friday 1st October, 2010.

Gloria Edwards

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