Teston's Reverend Ramsay
Barham Court near Maidstone became a focus for abolitionists fighting against the slave trade when the Reverend James Ramsay became the vicar of Teston.
Reverend Ramsay had served as a doctor in the navy under Sir Charles Middleton. While working together, their ship came alongside a slave ship the Swift. Ramsay was asked to go aboard to attend to the sick on board. This was the first time that he had come into contact with a slave ship and he was appalled by what he saw.
Because of an injury to his leg sustained on board his own ship he had to give up being in the Navy. He returned to England and entered the church.
It was through being in the church that he next came into contact with the slave trade. He took up a position in St Kitts where he was to be a minister and a doctor. While in St Kitts, he opened the doors of his church to the slaves as well as the planters. This was not well received by the planters and they organised boycotts of his church and of his services as a doctor. Ramsay could not make a living in St Kitts and after 19 years he returned to England.
Ramsay met with most of the main abolitionists. He first met William Wilberforce at dinner with the Middletons in 1783. Wilberforce became a visitor to Barham Court and spent a significant amount of time there learning from Ramsay's experiences.
Another visitor was Thomas Clarkson who served as a curate in Nettlestead for a month. Both of these men gained insights into the true nature of slavery from spending time with James Ramsay.
Part of Ramsay's writings
Another person who was greatly influenced by James Ramsay was Beilby Porteous who as Bishop of Chester gave a seminal speech to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts criticising the church for its own part in slavery. In his speech he praised Ramsay's forthcoming book.
Ramsay is largely overlooked because he died so long before abolition was achieved, but even though he did not live to see it, through influencing the major abolitionists of the time, he had had a major impact on the cause.
John Pinfold is the librarian at the Bodleian Library, Rhodes House, Oxford. Rev James Ramsay's original journal and editions of his writings including 'An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies', are kept at the Bodleain. John Pinfold has written the introduction to a new volume of writings, 'The Slave Trade Debate, Contemporary writings for and against'.
Caroline Williams spoke to him:
In his report, Ian Palmer spoke to:
Reconstruction at Barham Court filmed with kind permission of Berkeley Business Centres.
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 13:46