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

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Map of Marylebone, London

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

Map of Marylebone


1. The Yorkshire Stingo public house
2. The Hindoostanee Coffee House
3. Olaudah Equiano's plaque Olaudah Equiano's plaque The Hindoostanee Coffee House The Yorkshire Stingo public house


The 'Yorkshire Stingo' public houseThe Yorkshire Stingo public house

In the 1780s, Asian seamen (Lascars), who had been employed by the East India Company to serve on ships bringing goods from India, were often left stranded in London and other ports without any means of support. By 1785, there were so many left destitute, begging and dying on the streets of London, that some philanthropists organised ‘Subscribers for the relief of the distressed Blacks’ to help them. The scope of the subscription was widened to include Black people from Africa and the Caribbean and became known as the ‘Committee for the Relief of the Black poor’. It was this body that launched a scheme to relocate as many of the capital’s Black and Asian poor to a settlement in Sierra Leone.

Whilst awaiting resettlement, Black and Asian people assembled every Saturday at two locations to receive their six pennies a day subscription. One place was the White Raven public house in Mile End, the other being the Yorkshire Stingo public house in Lisson Green, Paddington. It is possible that hundreds of the Black poor visited these premises every Saturday.

It is possible to find the minutes of the meetings of the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor in the Treasury records, which are held at The National Archives. These records also include details of the Black, Asian and White people who were on the lists of those to be resettled.

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.

Minutes confirming appointment of corporals - opens new window
document | transcript

This extract from its minutes shows that one of the eight headmen or ‘corporals’ appointed by the Committee for the Relief of the Black poor was an Asian man called John Lemon, aged 29 years, who had been born in Bengal. Each corporal was responsible for the good behaviour of a group or ‘company’ of the Black poor and for payment of their daily allowance. It is likely John Lemon was in charge of the Lascars.

It also provides an example of how Asian people are often described as ‘black’ in the documents and demonstrates why the historical researcher must be careful when interpreting evidence of the Black and Asian presence.


The Hindoostanee Coffee HouseLondon's first Asian restaurant

The Coffee House at number 34, George Street near the fashionable Portman Square, was London’s first Indian restaurant opened in 1810, by Sake Dean Mahomed. The restaurant was aimed at London’s many Anglo-Indians and offered authentic Asian dishes in an oriental setting.

Mahomed came from a wealthy family in Bihar, India but embarked upon a military career with the East India Company. After a long career in the army, he moved to Ireland where he lived for many years. Mahomed later moved to England, working in a vapour bath where he introduced the Indian treatment ‘champi’ or ‘shampooing’.

In 1794, he wrote a book entitled The Travels of Dean Mahomet. He later moved to Brighton to set up his own vapour bath establishment and wrote a book on the art of shampooing in 1822. He died in 1851 and was buried in St Nicholas' churchyard in Brighton.


Olaudah Equiano's plaqueOlaudah Equiano's plaque

Olaudah EquianoOlaudah Equiano led a remarkable life. At the age of 11 years, he was kidnapped in what is now Nigeria and taken as a slave to Barbados. Between 1757 to 1763 he went with his master on naval service to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and North America before arriving in England where he was taught to read and write. His master, fearing that Equiano would assert his freedom, re-sold him in the Americas. This did not deter Equiano, who finally purchased his own freedom in 1766. He returned to Britain and spent his next 11 years as a merchant seaman, travelling to Greenland and other places. Equiano travelled up and down the country campaigning against slavery and in 1789 wrote his life story, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African. This book was used in the campaign against the slave trade. Equiano was also appointed as commissary of stores in the plan to resettle the Black poor in Sierra Leone but he was dismissed for exposing corruption.

In 2000, Westminster Council unveiled a plaque commemorating the fact that Equiano had lived at number 73, Riding House Street, Westminster.

The plaque reads "Olaudah Equiano (1745 - 1797) "The African" lived and published here in 1789 his autobiography on suffering the barbarity of slavery, which paved the way for its abolition".

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