Slavery and the Holburne Museum

Given the ferocity of the debate round how far the role of slavery should be shown in National Trust houses, it’s a pleasure to find a very informative display at the Holburne Museum about the ways in which Sir William Holburne’s wealth came from sugar grown on plantations in the West Indies. His grandmother was born in Barbados and her first husband was a plantation owner. His grandfather was a Rear Admiral. Much of his income came from an aunt who owned plantations in Jamaica. Upstairs, the great Gainsborough portrait of George Byam and his family makes clear that his wealth came from plantations in Antigua. This was true of many of the great West Country families. I think it’s vastly much better that it is now made explicit, not brushed under the carpet as it used to be.


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