The 17th of last month saw Kings Weston house host a talk, and discussion, on the slavery connections of the estate. Dr Madge Dresser, of the University of the West of England and KWAG’s chairman David Martyn tried to put the complex relationships between the Southwell family of Kings Weston and their associations with the Atlantic Trade and slavery into context. Dr Dresser began the evening by explaining the many ways in which historic estates such as Kings Weston could be said to have slavery connections. She outlined the Atlantic trade of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries and how almost every aspect of it had some relationship with slavery and the direct “triangular trade” connecting Europe, Africa, and the colonies of east-coast America.
Mr Martyn sought to tease out the members of the Southwell family and their relationships with the Atlantic Trade. Whether family members were administering government departments, promoting political causes, or involved in plantations it became clear that there were many blurred edges in how their actions could be interpreted. The most direct unequivocal involvement was Edward Southwell III’s grant from the Crown of 20,000 acres of land in East Florida to settle, and the development of that land with plantations worked by black slaves.
The debate following the two presentations mainly revolved around the extent to which Kings Weston could be considered an estate that had benefited from money derived from slavery or the Atlantic Trade. Although the East Florida plantations had collapsed in massive debt, there were members of the Southwell Family who were complicit in enabling the trade to continue. It was difficult to identify any direct financial benefit from the trade that could be linked to the house and estate, but it was largely unanimous that the connections needed to be acknowledged and accepted. The evening was rounded off with continued discussions over drinks at the bar.