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24 September 2014
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William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce

New Wilberforce house discovered

By Ayshea Buksh
A house believed to have been the home of anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce has been discovered in south-east London.

Local historians in Blackheath claim Wilberforce stayed at the house on the heath while campaigning for the abolition of slavery in Parliament. And they want it officially recognised.

BBC London decided to investigate.

Local historian Neil Rhind and other researchers in the area claim Wilberforce lived at a semi-detached house in Blackheath between 1785 and 1788.

It was an  intense period in his political career and also in his personal life. His aunt Hannah lived in Shooters Hill. They were very close.

As a young man he lived with her briefly in London and she exerted a spiritual and religious influence over him. Wilberforce visited her at her south-east London home till the day she died while travelling to Parliament to argue his revolutionary case for reform.

William Wilberforce is currently the subject of a Hollywood movie “Amazing Grace”. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd plays the humanitarian politician.

The lead historical consultant for the film wass Kevin Belmonte from Gordon College in Massachusetts.  He said it was exciting new links to Wilberforce are still being discovered.

A new address for William Wilberforce
A new address for William Wilberforce


“We know Wilberforce was a frequent visitor to Blackheath and so he could well have stayed at the house, “ he said speaking from his home in New England, USA.

“This year is a great time to celebrate Wilberforce and I think its wonderful local historians are finding out new things about him."

From the outside the history of the property on Dartford Grove on the Eastern side of the heath is unclear. The house is currently privately owned but Neil Rhind thinks the house is worthy of a Blue plaque.

“People should be made more aware of their local history,” he said. “A plaque would give a lasting legacy for such a great man and benefit local people.”

When BBC contacted English Heritage whose remit it is to award Blue Plaques, they were told William Wilberforce already had two plaques for different properties in London.

“It’s a great idea for local people to get behind, “said a spokeswoman. “But we cannot consider William Wilberforce again I’m afraid. “

A new address for William Wilberforce
A new address for William Wilberforce

Blackheath is split between Greenwich and Lewisham Boroughs. But the house comes under the authority of Lewisham. 

BBC London crossed the border and asked the Mayor of Lewisham whether he would consider giving  the ‘new’ Wilberforce house  official recognition.

Mayor Steve Bullock declared with the bicentenary celebrations this year, this would be a good time to hand out some new municipal plaques and inspire some civic pride in Lewisham’s history.

“We are looking at where we should put our plaques so possibly the Wilberforce house would be a good place,” he revealed to  BBC London. 

So maybe we have a local campaign on our hands? What do you think...

Would you like to see the Wilberforce House in Blackheath get official recognition?Do you know of local links to the slave trade and the abolition of slavery you would like BBC London to report on?

Email me    ayshea.buksh@bbc.co.uk

last updated: 20/03/07
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