From the late 17th century Lyme Regis merchants were involved in the slave trade, taking people they had bought in Africa to the West Indies as labour for the expanding sugar plantations there. These slave-trading families often brought enslaved black people to England to be their servants. The Halletts of Lyme were profited from enslaving black people, and did bring back enslaved black people as servants. Richard Hallett returned from Barbados to live in Lyme in 1699, and is said to have brought a retinue of enslaved black servants with him. In 1702 the Lyme Regis Town Court recorded that ‘a Black Negro servant of Mr. Richard Hallett called Ando’ was accused with other inhabitants of rioting in Broad Street. Although Ando is described as a ‘servant’ we have no evidence that he was paid for his labours.
That on the seventh day of December above menconed Isaac Sofer of Beere in the / County of Devon, Mary Stokes of Lyme Regis afores d widow John Stokes her son / Elizabeth Swain of Lyme Regis afores d Spinster W m Westover of Lyme Regis afores d / Mariner and a Black Negro Serv t . of Mr Rich d Hallett called Ando / with several other psons to the said Jurors unknown Were Riotously assembled / in the street above menconed called Broad Street in Lyme Regis afores d
The strange words are contractions – afores d is aforesaid; serv t is servant; psons is persons and menconed is mentioned.
Stedcombe House, Axmouth with Richard Hallett and his black servant Ando, from a painting of 1992 by Julie Hine, The painting was inspired by the publication of The Forgotten Trade by Nigel Tattersfield in 1991, which included the Halletts. Stedcombe House, Axmouth was built by Richard Hallett about 1697, at least in part from the profits of enslaving people. With thanks to the artist.
The Hallett monument in Axmouth church, with Richard Hallett commemorated first. One of his sons, John Hallett, is described as ‘of Bridge Town in the island of Barbados’. It was erected in 1749 by Richard’s grandsons.
The Lyme Borough records have an account for August 1662, which includes ‘Paid the barbadoes boy towards whippinge A strange women 6d’. Presumably the boy from Barbados was of African descent.