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

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Map of Holborn, London

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

Map of Holborn


1. Dr Johnson's House Dr Johnson's House


Dr Johnson's HouseDr Johnson’s House

Number 17, Gough Square, off Fleet Street.

Portrait of Francis BarberThis building, which has stood since 1700, was the home of Dr Samuel Johnson, the 18th century writer and lexicographer. Dr Johnson lived in Gough Square from 1748 to 1759 and it was here that he compiled the first comprehensive English dictionary. He also employed a Black servant, Francis Barber, as his valet. Barber remained in Dr Johnson’s service from 1754 until Johnson died in 1784.

Dr Johnson's will - opens new window
document | transcript

Here is an extract from Dr Johnson’s will. In it, he leaves Francis Barber an annuity of £70 a year, a lot of money in those days, and makes him a residuary legatee. Barber also received a gold watch from Dr Johnson before he died. This inheritance allowed Francis Barber and his family to settle in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where he died in 1801.

The National Archives holds many original and registered copy wills dating from the mid 14th to the mid 19th centuries. Check the online catalogue, use Documents Online or visit The National Archives in person to search for a will.


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