Ipswich Streets Commemorate Anti-Slavery Campaigners
UK Abolition of Slavery Act
The UK Abolition of Slavery Act became law on 25th March, 1807, but did you know that a number of streets in Ipswich were named in recognition of the most prominent campaigners?
Several of the most well-known anti-slavery campaigners were from or had links to Ipswich and Suffolk and their names live on in several street names in the area between Norwich Road and Bramford Road.
In the 1850s, when terraced housing was being built in this area, streets were named after Clarkson, Wilberforce and the American Quaker Anthony Benezet and they were not the only ones.
So who were they?
Thomas Clarkson is perhaps the best-known of the campaigners. He was one of the prime movers in the campaign and the man who inspired William Wilberforce, the campaign’s leader and MP for Yorkshire. From 1789, Wilberforce regularly introduced bills in Parliament to ban the Slave Trade. He was fiercely opposed by those making fortunes from the trade, who used all kinds of delaying tactics.
Clarkson was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and he was very friendly with an Ipswich Quaker, Richard Dykes Alexander, a banker who owned the land where the commemorative streets now stand. He also had strong Suffolk links through his wife Catherine Black, whose father was co-owner of the Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds.
Clarkson took a leading part in the affairs of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and was given the responsibility for collecting information to support the abolition of the slave trade. After many years of travelling on behalf of the campaign, he spend the last 30 years of his life living in Playford Hall and his body is buried in the churchyard at Playford.
Anthony Benezet was a Quaker teacher, writer and abolitionist. He had a big influence on Thomas Clarkson. He was born to a Huguenot (Protestant) family in France. When he was two years old they moved to London to avoid persecution and then to America when he was around seventeen.
He joined the Religious Society of Friends in Philadelphia and worked to convince other Quakers that slave-owning was against Christian teaching.
In the same neighbourhood is Dillwyn Street, named after William Dillwyn, a Quaker merchant born in Philadelphia, who campaigned against slavery in England from 1774.
Closer to Ipswich town centre is Granville Street and it is possible that it is named after Granville Sharp. He, too, was committed to the campaign and was a civil servant and political reformer. He was one of the 12 founder members of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade and was its first chairman.
October 18th is Anti-Slavery day. Anti–Slavery International is the world’s oldest human rights organisation working to free people from all forms of slavery across the world.