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24 September 2014

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White slavery in Herefordshire

New evidence shows Herefordshire children were sent to the West Indies to work as slaves.

Herefordshire records office have unearthed evidence that county children were being sold as slaves to work on plantations in Barbados.

Records from 1670 show that Thomas Wythe from Weobley took John Seaborne of Canon Pyon to the Quarter Sessions for deceiving him.

Original court document from 1670

Original court document from 1670

Mr Wythe thought his child was being taken to the island to farm land which would become his own in the future but instead the children were being used as slaves.

Senior Archivist Rhys Griffith believes Mr Wythe thought his child was heading for a decent future.

"You can imagine the circumstances that drove Thomas Wythe to these lengths, the poverty at the time must have been extreme, and possibly he had a large family to support, and a very small income. 

"He was probably acting in the best interests of the child and unfortunately put his trust in someone who wasn't a reputable as he might have been."

Translation of original court document from 1670

Translation

Rhys Griffith believes they have uncovered a really important historical document.

"It's the very first reference to slavery that we have in the records here. 

"It talks about white slavery, which probably has its roots in a system called indentured servitude, which was quite a respectable practice where individuals would sell their service to plantation owners in the Caribbean. 

"I suspect what happened here was that a chap called Edward Seabourne effectively took on children and sold them to slavery in the Caribbean. 

"As it says in the inscription he probably inveigled the parents – that is convinced them that they were going to be offered new opportunities overseas. 

"But the reality of it was that they were being sold into slavery and this was one of the very first examples of this noxious practice happening." 

last updated: 06/02/2008 at 10:44
created: 28/03/2007

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