Timeline

This simple timeline focuses on events linked to Bristol and the slave trade. A more comprehensive historical timeline can be found at: www.discoveringbristol.org.uk/timeline.php

17th Century
Judge Jeffreys 1685 Judge Jefferies accuses Bristol aldermen and justices of kidnapping English people to serve on their plantations in the Caribbean and Virginia
Merchant Venturers Almshouse 1696 Bristol Society of Merchant Venturers builds the Merchant Venturer’s almshouse for sick and old sailors at the end of King Street
1698 First legal slaving venture out of Bristol: the Beginning carried enslaved Africans from Africa to Jamaica
1699 80% of Caribbean residents are African slaves
18th Century
1708 Colston’s School for boys was started by Edward Colston
1711-13 Bristol Corporation and Society of Merchant Venturers campaign to stop the Royal African Company regaining monopoly status, arguing the importance of the slave trade to Bristol’s economy
Scipio Africanus 1720 Slave Scipio Africanus dies at Henbury Court, Bristol (Memorials: Tomb of Scipio Africanus)
Queen Square 1727 Construction of Queen Square was completed
1730 Britain becomes the biggest slave trading country
1737 Bristol overtakes London as England’s number one slaving port, with 37 voyages this year
1747 Liverpool overtakes Bristol as Britain’s premier slaving port, with about 49 voyages a year against Bristol’s average of 20
1750 The Company of Merchants Trading to Africa takes over the Royal African Company’s role in slave trading, with membership of 237 Bristol merchants, 157 London merchants and 89 Liverpool merchants
Corn Exchange 1753 Bristol Corn Exchange is completed
Three Sugar Loaves Pub 1760 20 sugar refineries are operating in Bristol processing over 378,000 kg of sugar cane to supply the local demand
1762 Thomas Farr builds Blaise Castle Folly to view his ships coming up the River Avon
Theatre Royal 1766 Theatre Royal (Bristol Old Vic) is established on King Street
1772 Lord Mansfield’s Judgement in the case of James Somerset declares that masters cannot force slaves resident in England to return to the plantations. Wrongly thought to be a judgement which freed slaves in England, the Mansfield Judgement did signal the beginning of the end of slavery in Great Britain itself but a slave’s legal status in Britain was still unclear and even after 1772 there are cases of slaves being forcibly deported by their owners
1774 John Wesley, Methodist preacher, denounces slavery in the book ‘Thoughts Upon Slavery
1776 American War of Independence seriously disrupts all transatlantic trade in Bristol
1778 House of Commons appoints a Committee to investigate the British slave trade
1778 Slavery is declared illegal on Scottish soil
1783 Public outrage in England when the case of the Zong becomes known: the captain threw sick Africans overboard because of a claimed shortage of water - the owners could claim insurance if the deaths were necessary to save the ship, but not if they died of ‘natural causes’
1786 Thomas Clarkson’s Essay on Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species is published
Seven Stars Pub 1787 Quaker anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson visits Bristol and the Seven Stars pub to try and find out more about Bristol and its involvement in the slave trade
The Georgian House 1790 The Georgian House was built for John Pinney
1791 William Wilberforce’s bill to end the slave trade is defeated in Parliament and the bells of St Mary Redcliffe church rang out across the city and there was much celebration.
1796-98 Blaise Castle House is built for Merchant John Harford (Blaise Castle House)
19th Century
1803 Last slave ship voyage out of Bristol
1807 British slave trade is abolished by Act of Parliament
1830 The Bristol Riots
1833 Emancipation Act passed, becoming law in 1834, saying that slaves in the British Empire would become formally free only after a four year period of ‘apprenticeship’. British Government gave over £20 million (equivalent to approx £1.5 billion nowadays) in compensation to slave owners
1861-65 American Civil War is fought largely over whether individual states have the right to determine whether or not they allowed slavery. Slavery is abolished in the USA in 1865 (trading in slaves was abolished in 1808, this law meant freedom for existing slaves)
Edward Colston statue 1895 Statue of Sir Edward Colston is unveiled in Bristol
20th Century
1999 Pero’s Bridge unveiled (named after John Pinney’s slave Pero who lived in the Georgian House)
21st Century
2007 Abolition 200 year Bicentenary anniversary of the British Abolition of the Slave Trade Act

Back to top