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A Virtual Tour of the Black and Asian Presence, 1500 - 1850

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Map of the City, London

Click on a red cross to explore the Black and Asian presence in the City.

Map of the City


1. South Sea House
2. The memorial to John Newton
3. The Jamaica Coffee House
4. East India House Africa House East India House The Jamaica Coffee House The memorial to John Newton South Sea House
5. Africa House


South Sea HouseSouth Sea House

Number 38, Threadneedle Street.

The South Sea Company launched in 1710 had its headquarters on the corner of Threadneedle Street and Bishopsgate. In 1713, under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, Britain gained from France the right, known as the Asiento, to supply slaves to the Spanish colonies. The South Sea Company was chosen to carry out the terms of the Asiento regarding the transportation of slaves and had the backing of the Royal family who were the official contractors. The company is most famous for causing the economic crisis known as the ‘South Sea Bubble’ which caused Britain to rethink its economic policy at the time.

Assignment of the Asiento to the South Sea Company - opens new window
document | transcript

This document from the Treasury records at The National Archives is part of a Royal warrant dated 2 September 1714 confirming that Spain granted Britain the Asiento for a period of 30 years and giving the responsibility for supplying slaves to the Spanish colonies to the South Sea Company.

You can view the Asiento and articles relating to the Treaty of Utrecht at The National Archives. To look at these documents, check the catalogue online or visit The National Archives in person. A member of staff will help you find what you are looking for.


The memorial to John Newton

The memorial to John Newton

St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street.

John NewtonOn the wall of this church is a monument to John Newton, who was the rector here from 1779 onwards. He was a fervent campaigner against the slave trade.

In his early years, he made several slave trading voyages to Africa and the West Indies, later recording his experiences as a slave trader in a book, The Journal of a Slave Trader (John Newton) 1750-1754. His writings were later used in the campaign against the slave trade.

John Newton is known today as the composer of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ with its opening lines of

“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

Transcript of the memorial


The Jamaica Coffee HouseThe Jamaica Coffee House

Number 12, St Michael’s Alley.

This building, now a wine bar, is the site of London’s first coffee house. Built in 1652 it was called the Pasqua Rosee. The whole alley was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 but a new coffee house was built in 1668. The name Jamaica most likely referred to Britain’s recent acquisition of the island of Jamaica with its sugar plantations.

London had over 2,000 coffee houses. They were places where traders met to discuss business and arrange loans, advertise the sale of slaves or put up notices for the capture of runaway slaves. A notice for 8 August 1728 shows a two guinea reward offered at the Jamaica Coffee House for a runaway Black female slave called Caelia Edlyne.


Site of East India HouseEast India House

Leadenhall Street.

On this site stood the headquarters of the East India Company. The company was set up in 1600, in the reign of Elizabeth I to expand Britain’s trade in spices and other goods with the Indian subcontinent.

The company’s influence in India grew spectacularly and even the British government found it difficult to control its activities.

Investors and employees of the company could become wealthy very quickly and lived luxurious lifestyles.

Many brought Asian servants back to Britain with them after working in India with the company and ships from India worked by Lascar seamen brought Asians to live in London and other places.

This area of the City now occupied by Lloyds Insurance company, which also has its’ origins in the voyages to India and Africa, was dominated by the activities of the East India Company, which had warehouses and drilling grounds for company soldiers nearby.


Africa House

Leadenhall Street.

Site of Africa HouseA few doors down from the headquarters of the East India Company stood the headquarters of the Royal African Company. This company started off as The Company of Royal Adventurers, which received a royal charter from King Charles II in 1660. It became the Royal African Company in 1672, once again by Royal charter. Its principal aim was to develop the African slave trade and ensure that Britain received its share of the profits from the transatlantic slave trade and other goods from Africa.

Royal African Company accounts - opens new window
document | transcript

This document forms part of an account book showing slaves obtained in Africa by the Royal African Company and the islands they were delivered to in the Caribbean. It lists how many 'Negroes' were transported and sold.

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