The profits of slavery: James Wilson - Whitby and Sneaton Castle

Updated Tuesday 17th October 2006

James Wilson, made a fortune as a plantation owner. After abolition he started a new life as a pillar of Yorkshire society. One of his slaves, Ashton Warner, is the source for the information.

Seaton castle Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

James Wilson owned a sugar plantation on St Vincents. Over time he regularly employed between 200 and 300 slaves. After legislation against trading was passed, no new "stock" was arriving on the island. This motivated Wilson to open a small hospital to treat his existing sick slaves. Shortly before abolition Wilson sold his plantation and moved to Whitby where he set out to become a pillar of respectable society. He castellated his new home, had a coat of arms designed, built a school and rebuilt the local church. He soon became the MP for York.

St Hilda's Priory and Sneaton Castle Creative commons image Icon Stephen Craven under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license
St Hilda's and Sneaton Castle

Map of Northern England Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Hands on History - Primary sources

Important accounts from history can often be lost over time but some do survive and give us unprecedented access to what life was like in the past. James Wilson owned many slaves and one of his slaves, Ashton Warner gave an account which was recorded by the Anti-slavery society. This gives us real insight into what it was like for the slaves forced to work on the plantations.

Philippa also showed in the programme that not all historical information can be correct. In the local church is an epitaph of James Wilson but it was probably written by himself as it makes no reference to his ownership of slaves.

 

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