Hidden Stories, Slavery and Barnsley

Triangular Trade - Part 1

The documents you can see here are from a collection that show the links between the slave trade and a member of a family associated with Cannon Hall.


Cannon Hall, now a museum run by Barnsley MBC, was for over 200 years the home of the Spencer and then Spencer-Stanhope family. This family had two very different links with the slave trade, one the story of slave ship ownership, the other of a fight to end the trade.


John Spencer, whose family made their wealth from the iron industry, inherited Cannon Hall in 1756. His younger brother, Benjamin, would never inherit the Hall or its wealth and so took part in various business ventures. In 1755 Benjamin invested money in buying a ship which was used in 1755-56 to take part in the triangular trade.


The slave trade is sometimes referred to as the triangular trade because the routes that were taken by ships involved in the slave trade can form an imaginary triangle between the three legs of the journey: Britain (or other European countries), Africa and the Americas. It may not have been the same ship on all three legs each time but the direction and nature of the trade was the same. The first part usually involved taking goods to Africa to be exchanged for slaves.


Benjamin Spencer called his ship the ĎCannon Hallí. He would keep any of the profit he expected to make but would not take part in the journey which began in May 1755. He paid for a crew of six sailors (who would typically have been paid little and suffered harsh conditions on the journey), their food for the journey and the goods they would take to Africa. Their food included cheese, beef, fruit, salt, three barrels of strong beer and other provisions such as candles. The cargo taken to Africa included textiles, guns and various manufactured goods. It is likely that the guns were manufactured in Birmingham, the cloth in the West Riding and the knives and steel in Sheffield, showing the local involvement in the trade.


What do you think were Benjamin Spencerís reasons for taking part in the slave trade?

Why do you think the sailors took part?

What would you say to the different people involved and what would they reply?


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