Wells Cathedral and Transatlantic Slavery

Professor James Clark
Exeter University
Published on
Prof. James Clark speaking (credit Kate Pearce)
Prof. James Clark speaking (credit Kate Pearce)

Professor James Clark’s talk explores Wells Cathedral’s links to transatlantic slavery. He focuses on the cathedral community’s connections to the trade in enslaved people and the plantation economy, c. 1750-c.1904. The presentation outlines how slavery-derived wealth helped to fund the restoration of Wells Cathedral’s unique mediaeval architecture, and that a number of the cathedral canons were themselves members of slave-owning families.

Two university research internships were funded through the project, held by final-year undergraduate Tommy Maddinson (now doing a Master degree at UCL) and Master’s student Debbie Manners who also spoke at the conference. Together, they scoured local and national archives discovering how slave-owning families – such as the Dickinsons and the Tudways, who owned plantations respectively in Jamaica and Antigua – had been instrumental in the development of Wells in the 18th and early 19th centuries, with their legacies evident in areas such as religion, banking, public education and land-ownership.

James Clark is Professor of History at the University of Exeter, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries. A historian of the Church in England, his research in the archives and libraries of the ancient cathedrals traces the centuries-long impact of these institutions in religious, social, economic and cultural life.


The People

Explore some of the people & families connected to this talk

'John Hothersall Pinder', National Portrait Gallery
The Revd. John H. Pinder was a slave-owner, plantation chaplain and inaugural principal of Wells Theological College.

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