What is there in the collection relating to Black History?
This is an area of ongoing research for us. Here are some objects we can share with you at the moment:
A portrait of Ann De Lisle De Beauvoir (born 1631/2). Looking at this portrait (on the left), it would be easy to miss the young slave placed in the background of this painting. The rich sumptuous fabrics and the paleness of Ann's skin dominate the composition. The child obediently stands by Ann's side and offers her flowers. Artists in the 17th century used black servants and slaves to illustrate the wealth of the sitter, or to add an exotic element to the artwork. There was no condemnation of slavery in such portraits and the slave trade was not being questioned. Read more about Guernsey & The Slave Trade in the document below (under 'document downloads').
A Portrait of A Sudanese Fighter by Arthur von Ferraris (1856-1936). Until recent research, little information was known about this striking portrait. The inscription reads, 'A Monsieur Carrey, Le Caire, 1886, A. Ferrari'. It was left to the States of Guernsey by William Wilfred Carey of St Peter Port's Castle Carey in 1929. By commissioning the painting, it suggests that William Wilfred Carey held the Bisharin fighters in high regard and wanted to immortalise them in portrait form. Read more about this portrait in the document below (under 'document downloads').
A male figure statue. The sculpture [image below] is believed to have been carved in West Africa sometime from sometime between 1800-1899. An old museum record describes 'a collection of West and East African weapons and idols brought from West and East Africa by Captain Lionel de Sausmarez, Royal Navy, 1878'. Perhaps this sculpture was brought back from West Africa by Captain de Saumarez, although we currently have no evidence to prove this link. There is a huge range of styles and traditions across this region and we hope to uncover further information, perhaps through information submitted through the Art UK website here. (If you are interested in sculpture in general, other items of sculpture from the Guernsey Museum collections can be viewed on the Art UK website). You can read more about Lionel de Sausmarez below.
This is not an object but in recent years we have become aware of the story of a black servant called James Chappell who once worked in Castle Cornet. The following information was sourced from the English Heritage website (https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/.../james-chappell/).
Chappell worked for the household of Lord Christopher Hatton, the Governor of Guernsey who lived in the Castle. In late December 1672, the Castle's gunpowder store was stuck by lightening and there was an enormous explosion. On this fateful night, Chappell heard his master calling for help and went to his aid. Chappell 'crep't on his hands and knees' through the wreckage onto the castle wall where he discovered Lord Hatton, wearing only his nightshirt, still on his 'mattress and feather-bed' and with his 'bed-clothes over him'. Chappell carried Hatton on his back down from the wall and to the safety of the guardroom. He then led the search to find Hatton's wife, Cicely, and their children. Lord Hatton survived but his wife, mother and five other people were killed. After this accident no Governors ever lived in the Castle again.
In Christopher Hatton's will, written in 1695, it states, 'and to my servant James Chapell I give one annuity of twenty pounds a year during the term of his life.' This was a significant sum which amounted to around 222 days' wages for a skilled tradesman at the time and which was significantly more than the sums given to other servants. Perhaps this was an act of gratitude for Chappell's service on that night.
There are no known surviving images of James Chappell. This portrait of him [below] was painted by Glory Samjolly as part of English Heritage's 2021 'Painting our Past' project, which invited contemporary artists to portray historical figures from the African diaspora.
What is there in the collection relating to slavery?
We are continuously researching the black history in our collection.
Chains taken from slave-gang on West African coast by Capt. Lionel De Sausmarez, RN, 1878 [in store, see image below]
Slave ankle fetter, "cut from a stolen female slave by Commander Lionel de Sausmarez who restored her at her own request to her original owner"; collected in Africa; iron, in 2 pieces [in store, see image below]
Here is a bit of information about the man who collected these objects above: Lionel Andros de Sausmarez. (b. 2.4.1847 in Guernsey, d. 20.7.1929) Son of Captain Philip de Sausmarez. He entered the Royal Navy 1860, Sub-Lieutenant 1866, Lieutenant 1869, and was for some time engaged in the suppression of the slave trade in South East Africa. He served as a Sub-Lieutenant on the Sloop HMS Myrmidon doing anti-slavery patrols. As Senior Lt of HMS London he was for three years actively engaged against the Slave Trade, for which he was mentioned in despatches. He retired with the rank of Commander in 1883. Click here and here for more information about him. The details here seem to suggest that he was searched aboard HMS London in 1878 when the chains were taken.
What about Black History elsewhere in Guernsey?
Charles Duncombe was the only black man in the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry during World War One. You can read about his interesting life on the Channel Islands & The Great War website here.
Please find attached a few documents below:
Guernsey & the Slave Trade (text from a previous exhibition in 2007)
Olaudah Equiano: An African Slave in Guernsey by Brycchan Carey. Also see Brycchan Carey's website for more articles here (including one of John Wesley's 'Thoughts Upon Slavery').