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Irby resident, Greg Dawson, tells readers of local links with the Liverpool slave trade

Arrowe House Farm on Bunkers Hill was demolished in 1966 to build the Champion Spark Plug Factory.

By the early 1700s, Bristol and London were the main British slave trading ports and the slave trade was in full swing long before Liverpool became involved. Liverpool’s first slave trading ship was the ‘Liverpool Merchant’, which, in 1700, transported 220 slaves from West Africa to Barbados in the West Indies. Sir Richard Norris of Speke Hall became one of Liverpool’s first slave traders when he sent his ship the ‘Blessing’ to Guinea in West Africa for slaves to sell in the West Indies. In 1730 there were 15 slave ships sailing from Liverpool, which was only about one tenth of the ships in the port. By 1737 the number of Liverpool slave ships had risen to 33 and by 1753, there were 72. Liverpool thrived as its shipyards built more ships and large numbers of tradesmen, including shipwrights, joiners, painters, sailmakers and coopers etc., were employed and vast quantities of provisions were supplied. A number of smaller ports were also involved, Lancaster became fourth in the slave trading league with up to a dozen ships and there were ports like Chester, Preston, Poulton, Ulverston, Whitehaven and Glasgow with two, three or four ships each. The African slave trade was known as ‘The Golden Triangle’ because the slave ships sailed on a three-legged triangular voyage. They were loaded in Liverpool with cargoes of coloured cloth from Manchester, knives and cutlasses from Sheffield, muskets, pistols, beads, trinkets and gunpowder from Birmingham, rum from Jamaica and copper bangles and manillas from Warrington and Holywell in North Wales. The ships sailed to West Africa where these goods were bartered to dominant war-like African chiefs for gold, ivory and slaves captured from weaker tribes. The slaves were then taken aboard ship and transported to the West Indies and America where they were either sold or traded for tobacco, sugar, molasses, indigo, rum, coffee and cotton etc. These goods were then shipped to Liverpool on the third leg of the triangle. Thus, profits were made three times over and turned into more profit as some slave ship owners were also cotton brokers. A small number of slaves were brought to Liverpool and sold to work as novelty servants in big houses and a few were taken across to Wirral. In Liverpool, slaves were auctioned on the Custom House steps, or in warehouses and coffee houses. They were advertised in the Liverpool press; for example in 1758 you could buy “...a healthful Negro boy, about 5 feet high, well proportioned, of a mild, sober and honest disposition. Has been with his present master three years and used to wait on a table and to assist in a stable”. The Liverpool Chronicle advertised a fine 11-year-old Negro boy imported from Bonny (Nigeria), to be sold by auction at the Merchants Coffee House, Old Church Yard. Also, in Williamson’s Liverpool Advertiser in 1765, “To be sold by auction at George’s Coffee-house, betwixt the hours of six and eight o’clock, a very fine Negro girl about eight years of age, very healthy and hath been some time from the coast....”. In the same paper in 1766, “To be sold at the Exchange Coffee House, Water Street, this day 12th Sept. inst., at 1 o’clock precisely, eleven Negroes, imported per the Angola”. Another advertisement in a Liverpool paper offered a reward to be paid at the ‘Talbot Inn’ for the capture of George Germain Foney, a 20-year-old Black man slave who ran away from a house in Prescot. Black people from the West Indies and Africa are


recorded in the Church Records of some Wirral parishes. A baptism at Woodchurch Church, 16th May 1784 is recorded as Robert Cleverland, a black, about 15 years old. Year by year, the slave trade increased. From 1783 to 1793 the number of slaves transported per year by five European countries averaged 74,000: Britain transported 38,000, France 20,000, Portugal 10,000, Holland 4,000 and Denmark 2,000. By 1795 a quarter of the ships of Liverpool were engaged in the slave trade, amounting to well over half total slave trade of Great Britain. In 1802, Liverpool, London and Bristol ships transported a total of 41,086 slaves. More than half the Liverpool slave trade was in the hands of ten rich families including Tarleton, Penny and Shaw and some had roads named after them. The lane named after James Penny was made World famous by the Beatles song. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, a British officer in the American War of Independence had a slave ship named after him (the ‘Banastre’) and he became a Liverpool MP. John Shaw became Lord Mayor of Liverpool and in 1798 he sent three ships to Angola in West Africa with orders to load slaves aboard. They were the ‘Indian’ to load 344 slaves, the ‘Fanny’ to load 380 and the ‘Fly’ to load 615. The following year he sent four ships to West Africa to load slaves, namely the ‘India’ 344 slaves, ‘Enterprize’ 386, ‘Aeasto’ 401 and the ‘Chance’ 414. These four ships were between 210 and 280 tons. Powerful Liverpool families and Liverpool MPs, including Bamber Gascoyne of Childwall Hall, fought hard against the abolition of slavery. Gascoyne had a ship named after him which carried 444 slaves and was owned by slave trader Thomas Parr, after whom Parr Street is named. However, the abolitionists finally won the day and it was declared illegal to transport slaves from any port in the British Empire as from 1st May 1807 or to land slaves in British territory after 1st March 1808. There was a frantic rush to get the last bite of the cherry and from the beginning of 1806 to 1st May 1807, a total of 185 ships, permitted to carry 50,000 slaves, cleared out of Liverpool for Africa. When slave trading was abolished, former Lord Mayor and slave ship owner John Shaw decided to go into semi-retirement and bought land and property in Wirral. In 1807, he bought ‘Arrowe House Farm’ and in 1809 he moved in. A year later he had a new gentleman’s residence built for himself called ‘Cherry Cottage’, (now the site of the ‘Cherry Orchard’ pub). Over the years John Shaw continued to buy land to create the Arrowe Estate, which is now Arrowe Park. Shaw and my great-great-great grandfather, William Dawson, obviously knew each other, as on land tax records of 1820, they are recorded as joint owners of a farm and lands in Upton. John Shaw died in 1829 and was succeeded by his great nephew, John Ralph Nicholson who had to change his name to Shaw as a proviso to inherit his great uncles estate. In 1835, John Ralph ‘Nicholson’ Shaw built the impressive Gothic style mansion ‘Arrowe Hall’. He continued to buy up land and eventually became the owner of the entire 752 acre Township of Arrowe. Shaw gradually had the beautiful 425 acre Arrowe Park built and laid out with flower beds, pleasure gardens and tree plantations. He changed the course of Arrowe Brook slightly and had a straight channel dug from Limbo Lane, directly into the Park. He also had the small dale in the park widened and deepened and dammed Arrowe Brook by constructing a waterfall to create Arrowe Park Lake, or fish pond as he called it. Apart from owning the Township of Arrowe, J.R. Shaw also bought up land in other villages including Greasby 411 acres, Moreton 220, Irby 136, Upton in Overchurch 77, Saughall Massie 45, Thingwall 25 and Tranmere about 5 acres.

If John Shaw had not made a fortune from the slave trade, the people

of Wirral might not have inherited the beautiful Arrowe Park – but at what a cost? When driving down Arrowe Park Road, or walking through Arrowe Park Woods, I sometimes think to myself, each one of these big trees represents an African slave.

Bertie Entwisle, whose family originally came from Wigan, was an extremely rich man who lived on the Carribean island of Antigua. On his West Indian estates he employed a very large number of African slaves supplied to him by Liverpool slave traders, probably in exchange for rum and sugar etc. He owned plantations, houses, lands and estates situated on the islands of Antigua, St.Vincent, Dominica and other

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