The arrival of slave trading ships at Bristol’s port helped make the city rich in the 18th century. But there are few memorials to the thousands of Africans put to work around Britain in that century.
It was, therefore, interesting to learn that the modern Pero’s Bridge at Bristol Harbour is named after the slave of John Pinney, a successful sugar merchant whose Georgian town house is now preserved as a museum exemplifying the domestic interiors of the age.
When the bridge was opened, a Liberal Democrat councillor, Stephen Williams, condemned it as ‘gesture politics’.
A more historic, and therefore more remarkable memorial can be found in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in the Henbury area of north Bristol. There’s an unusual, painted headstone and footstone, featuring black cherubs. The grave belongs to Scipio Africanus, who died, aged 18, in 1720 while in the service of a Charles William Howard.
The epitaph on the footstone reads:
I who was Born a PAGAN and a SLAVE
Now sweetly sleep a CHRISTIAN in my Grave
What tho’ my hue was dark my SAVIOR’S sight
Shall Change this darkness into radiant Light
Such grace to me my Lord on earth has given
To recommend me to my Lord in heaven
Whose glorious second coming here I wait
With saints and Angels him to celebrate