The Tudway family were ‘Absentee Planters’, who owned the Parham plantations on the Caribbean Island of Antigua from 1679 to 1944. A branch of the family moved to Wells in the late 17th century and became substantial landowners and employers, with holdings both in and outside of the city. They acted locally as mayors, judges, and MPs for nearly a century. With slavery-derived wealth they built grand properties and supported local causes as major benefactors and philanthropists. This webpage covers the lives of nine generations of the Tudway family who had direct involvement with their Antiguan plantations until they were sold in 1944.
The Tudway family rose to financial and political prominence directly because of the British involvement in the transatlantic mercantile activities of the day. The transportation and trafficking of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic was for the purpose of exploiting their labour on Caribbean plantations in order to create wealth. In 1679, a London merchant, Clement Tudway I (1649-1688), bought a sugar plantation known as Parham Hill, in St. Peter’s Parish, Antigua. Successive generations of Tudways, who relocated to Wells in the early eighteenth century, would continue to purchase and exploit the labour of enslaved Africans on their Antiguan plantations to produce sugar, molasses and rum for commercial sale.
This continued after emancipation in 1834 when the Tudways continued to grow sugar cane using low paid agricultural workers until the sale of the estates in 1944. The Tudway family also became involved in the transatlantic trafficking of Africans itself. Several Tudways owned shares in the South Sea Company which trafficked enslaved Africans to South America. Over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the wealth and power the family derived from the trafficking and the enforced labour of enslaved Africans on their plantations would be transformational for the City of Wells in countless ways.