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Somerset Rebels Sold into Slavery

Around the county, there are many fine houses to be found which were the spoils of those families who benefited from the slave trade.  Elsewhere in the county, there was strong support for the abolition of the slave trade.  Slavery by the British began in the mid-17th century.  By 1685, at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion, it was in full swing.  After the Battle of Sedgemoor and the ensuing Bloody Assizes, when hundreds were hung, drawn and quartered, the King granted permission for convicted rebels to be taken into slavery.  With hundreds of Somerset men being transported, local feeling against slavery ran high.  These were not the wealthy landowners, but yeoman of strong religious convictions, condemned into slavery.

In total, 612 Somerset men were transported into slavery and sailed in eight ships to the West Indies. Many died during the voyage, some died on the quayside awaiting their auction.  Within four years, the survivors were granted free pardons but most lacked the fare home.  Those who returned, told their families and communities of life as a slave.  No wonder then that it was Bridgwater which was the first town, in 1785, to petition parliament for the abolition of slavery.

From the Bridgwater area alone, the following were just a few of those taken in October 1685 and transported on board the John destined for the plantations in Barbados:

HomeRebel’s nameSold to
BridgwaterGeorge CarrowCaptain W. Scott
BridgwaterThomas DennisCaptain W. Scott
BridgwaterWilliam DrewJohn Burston
BridgwaterHenry Meyer (Mico)Dr. Battyn
BridgwaterGeorge Mihill or Mitchell, died at sea
BridgwaterRobert TeapeHugh Williams
BridgwaterWilliam TivertonJohn and William Holder
BridgwaterJoseph VinicotJohn Summers
BridgwaterJohn WallJohn and William Holder
WestonzoylandThomas Galhampton, died at seaSir William Booth
Chilton PoldenGeorge Keel, land forfeited, died at seaSir William Booth
Chilton PoldenJohn Keel, died on shore before auctionSir William Booth


Text Copyright © 2008 Roger Evans

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