While exploring your family tree it is inevitable you will come across things you are not particularly proud about and my tree was no exception. A few years ago, I discovered I had London connections with the Haworth family which were a total revelation to me and while I was unearthing some really interesting facts about them, I stumbled across something unsavoury. My 6th great aunt, Charlotte Haworth, married a man called John Ede who inherited a plantation on Nevis which came complete with its own slaves. As someone who finds the very notion of slavery abhorrent, I was not happy with the idea I had ancestors who owned slaves. Since the Black Lives Matters movement is so topical just now, I decided to shine a light on this part of my ancestry rather than hiding it.
Charlotte Haworth was born in Westminster on 9 October 1748 to Samuel Haworth, a carpenter, and Susannah Harris. Charlotte was the eldest of ten children born to the couple and she was baptised at St. James, Westminster, which is now St. James’s Piccadilly, on 30 October 1748. Charlotte also had two famous brothers, William and Henry Haworth, both artists, who will be discussed in another post.
Charlotte married John Ede on 7 April 1777 at St. Mary’s Church, Whitechapel, and they would go on to have four children. John Ede was born in Ickenham, an old village in Greater London, in January 1740. I don’t know much about his family other than his father was also called John and his mother’s name was Jane. John Ede had a sister, Eleanor, who was married to an Edward Jessup, the owner of a plantation on Nevis which passed to John after Edward’s death in 1770. Not much is known about John’s ownership but his estate was divided between his four children upon his death in 1811. John’s estate seems to have been a substantial one as he leaves his wife a lot of plate, linen, china, household furniture, horses, carriages and wine. Further on, John bequeaths his estate on Nevis to his four children, including negro slaves, cattle, utensils and other paraphernalia. The proceeds from the sale of the crops were to be divided between his two sons, John and Job.
As well as the two sons, Charlotte gave birth to two daughters, Eleanor Mary, in October 1777, and Charlotte, in August 1784. Neither Eleanor nor Charlotte ever married but the inheritance they received from their father allowed them to live independently and they shared a house until Eleanor’s death in 1863. The eldest son, John, was born in December 1778 and he married Philadelphia Arnold on 13 December 1805 with whom he had six children. John was a partner with Maitland, Bond and Ede, a colonial merchant company, until his retirement in 1833. John died on 31 October 1840, leaving substantial property and money to his wife and children.
Job Ede, the second son, was born in January 1780 and he married Catherine Maria Williams on 25 February 1813 with whom he had eight children. It is Job who is mostly associated with the estate on Nevis as he died there on 1 July 1844. At some point, Job became the sole owner of the Jessup Estate as he was the sole claimant when compensation was paid out in 1836 after slavery was abolished under the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. The records show Job had 133 slaves for which he received compensation of £2,262 (approx £260,000 today), however he also received £30 (approx £3,449 today) for a smaller claim for Parish St Thomas Lowland which had 3 slaves. A third claim for Colhoun’s Estate was unsuccessful and was awarded to another.
St. Kitts and Nevis are two small islands in the Caribbean Sea in the Leeward Islands which form one country. The islands were populated by Amerindian people prior to their discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and they became a stop over place for English and Dutch travellers going on to the Americas. On 30 August 1620, Nevis became a British colony after James I asserted his sovereignty and it eventually became the headquarters for the slave trade with more than 6,000 enslaved West Africans passing through en route to other islands each year. Thanks to the slave trade and the profitable sugar production, Nevis was a source of great wealth for Britain, far outstripping the profits coming in from the thirteen colonies of mainland America put together, and the planters made a considerable profit.
The colonists initially used white indentured servants as labour but they eventually resorted to buying enslaved Africans as they were cheaper and more suited to the harsh climate. Within a few decades, slaves began to outnumber the whites to the extent the plantation owners became increasingly afraid of an uprising and resorted to harsher measures to keep them in line. Life on the plantation was hard since slaves were required to spend long days in the sun planting and harvesting cane while their masters wielded the whip. The death rate amongst the slaves was high as many died from malnutrition, brutality and disease until work conditions were improved with the passing of the Amelioration Act 1798.
The wealth of the colonies led to multiple wars between Britain, France and Spain and Nevis was subject to numerous attacks from the French to the extent the British Crown began to employ private buccaneers to protect their ships and to attack their French counterparts. In 1706, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, the French-Canadian founder of Louisiana, attacked Nevis in a bid to get rid of the British settlers who did indeed flee at the sight of the bloodthirsty French buccaneers. Nevis had to be defended by the African slaves who were eventually captured and resold in Martinique. Some of these slaves would end up in Louisiana and become the first Africans there. The French attack also had a devastating effect on the sugar industry which collapsed so the planters gave small parcels of land over to their slaves so they could feed and support their families as the plantation owners could no longer afford to import food in large quantities.
On 1 August 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire and 8,815 slaves were freed on Nevis. The plantation owners were paid over £150,000 in compensation from the British Government for the loss of property but the enslaved families received nothing. Since most of the plantation owners had already fled back to Britain, the emancipated Africans took over much of the land and turned their hand to farming. Nevis was united with St. Kitts and Anguilla in 1882, and they became an associated state with full internal autonomy in 1967 (Anguilla seceded in 1971). St. Kitts and Nevis became independent on 19 September 1983.
The Jessup Estate, inherited by Job Ede, has been part of an extensive archaeological investigation by the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) and they found evidence of two slave villages on the estate. Jessups I, dating from the mid-1700s to the early 1780s, and Jessups II, dating from the early 1780s through to 1834. The sites were surveyed in collaboration with archaeologists from DePaul University, the University of Southampton, and National Museums, Liverpool, as the areas are under development.
The original owner of the plantation was Thomas Abbot whose family had played an important role in the government of Nevis and the estate was recorded as having 33 slaves in 1708. In 1734, the estate was passed to Phillip De Witt who subsequently sold the bulk of it to Edward Jessup who left detailed inventories of slaves, cattle and other livestock. These papers, now held at the Southampton Archives, show Jessup owned 53 men, 29 women, 18 boys, and 11 girls in 1748 with names like Creole Sammy, Congo Jemmy and Congo Diana which hint at their origins. Detailed maps were also drawn as a way for absent owners to show off their property to their friends back home and these maps show the extent of the property and the location of the original plantation house which no longer exists.
While most plantation owners remained in Britain, leaving their estates to be managed by others, there is evidence Job Ede spent time in Nevis before and after his marriage. Job’s wife, Catherine, gave birth to their fourth son, Alfred, on Nevis in 1829, however they had returned home by the time their twin sons, Edward Lee and George Mathew, were born in 1834. In 1836, Job Ede purchased Clayfield House, a Georgian house in Southampton, which had seven bedrooms, eight servants’ rooms, a double coach house and stables, plus extensive gardens and a meadow. Job probably used the compensation he received from the government to purchase the house for his family, however he did not cut all ties with Nevis as he would die there in 1844. According to the research carried out by Bristol University, the Ede family finally sold the estate in 1881 but I haven’t been able to corroborate this information.
John Ede (1778-1840) married Philadelphia Arnold (1784-1856) on 13 December 1805 at St Bartholomew, Surrey, England. According to his will, John was living on Harley St, in the parish of Marylebone, and he left the bulk of his considerable estate to his wife and children. There is no mention of the estate on Nevis but John appears to have had a good relationship with his brother, Job, and his wife, Catherine, as they are both granted a sum of money, as are their children. In her will, Philadelphia leaves a large amount of silver plate and expensive jewellery to her children.
Job Ede married Catherine Maria Williams in Bathwick St. Mary, Surrey, on 25 February 1813 an they went on to have eight children who would live in luxury from the compensation Job received from the government for the loss of his slaves. Catherine was born on 4 October 1793 in Falmouth, Cornwall, and was the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Williams, however she was raised by an aunt, Catherine Eycott Bulkeley, who lived in Bathwick. The Bulkeley name would feature prominently in the names of Catherine’s children and grandchildren who had mixed fortunes.