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Map of Westminster, London
Click on a red cross to explore
the Black and Asian presence in Westminster.
1. Nelson's Column
2. St Martins-in-the-Fields
3. The burial place of Ignatius
4. Westminster Abbey
5. The Houses of Parliament
This is a unique place to find evidence of the Black and Asian
presence in British history. African, Caribbean and Asian sailors
have made an important contribution to Britain’s rich maritime
history. Many Black and Asian men have served in the armed forces,
fighting and dying in many of Britain’s most celebrated
The Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 was Britain’s most
famous naval victory but it resulted in the death of many including
Vice Admiral Nelson. The Nelson monument was erected to commemorate
this event but did you know that the crew of Nelson’s ship,
Victory, at the battle was multinational, with crew members
from Britain, India, America, the West Indies, Malta, Italy and
On the left of the sculpture at the foot of the column, you can
see a sailor of African appearance and holding a rifle next to
the dying Nelson. Who is the sailor? What can we learn about the
history of Britain’s Black and Asian presence by looking
at this monument?
It is possible to trace the names of men who
served in the Royal Navy. Records held at The National Archives
cover a wide range of maritime activity, from service and
operation records to plans to appoint an Admiral’s housekeeper.
Here is an extract from the muster roll (essentially a crew
list) for HMS Victory for the period including the
Battle of Trafalgar. It shows a sailor who was born in Africa
called George Ryan and proves that Africans fought for Britain
at the Battle of Trafalgar. Is this the sailor we see on Nelson’s
Column or in the paintings of the battle in the Walker Art
Gallery (see Liverpool) and the Houses of Parliament?
It is hard to imagine now but before Trafalgar Square was built,
fields, mews and stables covered the area. Later, coffee shops existed
here, where Asians and Africans were bought and sold.
Parish records give details of births, deaths and marriages in
a certain parish over hundreds of years. They are a good way of
proving that there was a significant Black and Asian presence in
London stretching back some 500 years.
Have a look at this document: it is a burial
record for 1571 from the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields
in the heart of London recording the interment of a woman
called Margaret, a Moor. This is one of the earliest known
references to a Black woman who lived in Britain.
The burial place of Ignatius Sancho
Sancho was one of London’s most celebrated African residents.
He wrote plays, poetry, music and a book. His Letters of the
late Ignatius Sancho was published in 1782, two years after
the author’s death. It became an immediate best seller and
was reprinted five times to deal with the demand.
was born on a slave ship and came to England as a servant, where
he lived for 49 years. The Duke of Montagu spotted him, helping
Sancho in his efforts to educate himself. After the duke died, Sancho
became a butler to the Duchess of Montagu. On her death he was left
an annuity of £30.
He married a West Indian woman and together they ran a grocer’s
shop at number 19, Charles Street, Westminster. Sancho mixed with
some of the most famous people of the time and his writing was used
in the campaign against the slave trade. He was buried at St Margaret’s
church in Broadway, Westminster. There is a small green there today,
with some information about Sancho on a board.
the Abbey lie some of Britain’s most famous and celebrated
figures. There are memorials here to Thomas Clarkson, who founded
the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787;
Granville Sharp, who defended Black slaves and servants in court
and helped define Britain’s position on slavery in the famous
‘Somerset’ case of 1772; and William Wilberforce MP,
who argued in Parliament from 1791 to 1807 for the abolition of
Britain’s slave trade and from 1807 to 1833 for the abolition
of slavery itself.
The memorials to William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson can be
found in the nave of Westminster Abbey, whilst Granville Sharp’s
memorial can be found in Poets' Corner.
Map of Westminster Abbey
Click on a red cross to see each memorial.
1. Granville Sharp
2. Thomas Clarkson
3. William Wilberforce
The memorial to Granville Sharp, the abolitionist
campaigner against the slave trade who took up the cases of
many Black servants and slaves in British courts.
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The memorial to Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery
campaigner and founder of the Society for Effecting the Abolition
of the Slave Trade.
It says "A friend to slaves Thomas Clarkson b. Wisbech
1760 ● 1846 d. Playford"
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The memorial to William Wilberforce, the
MP who campaigned tirelessly in Parliament for the abolition
of the slave trade and slavery.
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Houses of Parliament
Inside the Royal Gallery of the Houses of Parliament, there are
two large frescoes painted by Daniel Maclise between 1859 and 1864.
One of the frescoes is of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. On the
other wall of the gallery is a fresco of the Battle of Trafalgar
In the Trafalgar fresco, there are two Black figures. On the left
is a Black man who is tending to the wounded on HMS Victory
while close to Nelson is another pointing out a target to a
sharpshooter, possibly the same sniper who had just shot Vice Admiral
Nelson. Is this the same Black man who appears on Nelson's Column
in Trafalgar Square? (see Nelson’s Column)
There is a replica of this painting on display at the Walker Art
Gallery in Liverpool (see Liverpool).
details of the Black sailors in the painting
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