The 'Brookes' slave ship model

Contributed by Wilberforce House

Model of 'Brookes' slave ship  ©Wilberforce House, Hull Museums

William Wilberforce used the model during the Abolition Campaign to demonstrate the horrors of the Middle Passage.The model was based on an actual slave ship built in Liverpool in 1780-81 and co-owned by Joseph Brooks, a Liverpool Merchant. Later mistakenly referred to as the 'Brookes', it was one of nine ships measured for the 1788 Parliamentary enquiry into the British slave trade.

Two models of the ship were commissioned by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson - this is the one he gave to William Wilberforce, MP for Hull. Wilberforce showed the model to Members in the House of Commons during the campaign to aboliish the slave trade, using it as a visual aid to highlight the brutality of the Middle Passage.

The ship was built to carry 451 people and the poster attached to the model shows the amount of space each individual would have. The overcrowding shocked everyone who saw it. Even more shocking is that records show that in 1783 the vessel carried more than 600 enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas.

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