Tracing people of African descent in the area in the 19th century is more difficult than the 17th and 18th centuries. Occasional references to christenings or burials are all we have.
The slave trade was abolished in 1807, but slavery itself was still legal, and it was not until 1834 that it was abolished. Many places petitioned Parliament to support the campaign against slavery, and the local newspaper, The Sherborne Mercury , reported in April 1833 ‘Lyme Regis. Petitions to both Houses of Parliament for the abolition of Negro Slavery are lying in the town for signature’. In fact two petitions were sent – one from Lyme generally, and another from ‘the ladies of Lyme Regis’. ‘The female inhabitants of Charmouth’ also sent one.
William Pinney, MP for Lyme from 1832, came from the Pinney family of West Dorset who had been involved with the West Indies, sugar production and slavery from the 17th century. The family received more than thirty thousand pounds in compensation when slavery was abolished in 1834. The freed slaves did not receive any compensation at all.
Wedgwood cameo produced from 1787, with the emblem of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, a slave in manacles with ‘AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER’ around. Thousands of these were made and purchased by supporters of the Abolitionist movement. They were worn made into brooches or hat-pins; were set into snuff boxes; or just displayed.
By courtesy of the Wedgwood Museum Trust, Staffordshire
Page from the Charmouth Parish Register, showing that ‘Romeo Hamilton an African’ was baptised there on 28th September 1800. He may have been an adult as no parents are mentioned. We cannot trace him in local records, suggesting that he was either a visitor or the servant of a visitor.