The Dark History of Cedars House

Originally built as a private residence in the 18th century, the house was later sold to prominent slave trader Joseph Harbinson and became a hub for the slave trade in the area.
Written on

Cedars House, located in Wells, has a complex history intertwined with the transatlantic slave trade. The building itself has undergone many transformations throughout the years, from a private residence to a hotel, but its past remains a haunting reminder of the atrocities of slavery.

Origins of Cedars House

The earliest records of Cedars House date back to the 18th century when it was built as a private residence. The house is named after the cedar trees that once grew in the gardens. However, by the 19th century, Cedars House had been sold to a prominent slave trader, Joseph Harbinson, and became a center for the slave trade in the area.

Slave Trading Hub

During this time, Cedars House was used as a hub for the slave trade. Slaves were brought from Africa to Bristol, where they were sold and transported to the colonies in the Caribbean and North America. Cedars House was a place where the slave traders would gather, and where the slaves would be kept before they were transported to their final destination.

Joseph Harbinson

Joseph Harbinson was a significant figure in the slave trade. He was a wealthy man who owned several slave trading ships, and Cedars House was where he conducted much of his business. Harbinson was a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers, a group that was heavily involved in the slave trade, and his wealth and status in the community were built on the backs of enslaved people.

Impact on Wells

The impact of the slave trade on Wells was significant, and Cedars House played a central role in this history. The wealth that was generated from the slave trade helped to build many of the grand buildings in Wells, including the Bishops Palace, the Cathedral, and the Town Hall. However, the profits of the slave trade were built on the exploitation and suffering of millions of enslaved Africans, and the legacy of this history still resonates today.

Acknowledging the Past

It is important to acknowledge the dark history of places like Cedars House, and to recognize the role that they played in the slave trade. By acknowledging this history, we can begin to understand the ongoing impact of the transatlantic slave trade and work towards a more just and equitable society.


Cedars House is just one example of the many buildings and places that are connected to the transatlantic slave trade. By exploring the history of these places, we can gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the slave trade on individual lives and communities. Cedars House is a reminder of the atrocities of the past, but also a call to action to work towards a more just and equitable future.


Related Articles

Further reading on transatlantic slavery in Wells and beyond...