Southwark’s links to slavery

Many famous locations in Southwark are linked to the transatlantic slave trade. Between 1532 and 1832, at least 12 million African people were enslaved and taken to the Americas, and at least a third of them were taken in British ships.

For the British enslavers it was a three-legged journey called the ‘triangular trade’:

British enslavers sailed from ports including Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol to West Africa. It was there that West Africans were exchanged for trade goods such as brandy and guns.

Those enslaved people were then taken via the ‘Middle Passage’ across the Atlantic for sale in the West Indies and North America. As many as 2 million enslaved people died during the journey via the Middle Passage due to the terrible conditions on board the ships.

British enslavers sold the enslaved people in the West Indies and North America. They brought a cargo of rum, sugar, and other raw or goods back to England to sell. [BBC]

A map created by the Museum of London Docklands, alongside Southwark Council, revealed areas with slavery links to commemorate the bicentenary of abolition in 1807.

Locations listed included Hay’s Galleria, a former wharf, for the quantities of coffee and tea imported there, often produced by slaves. Nearby Tooley Street once was the site of many sugarhouses, to refine the sugar grown on plantations, although none exist today. Historic street names which showed this link have already disappeared, such as a “Sugar Loaf Alley” in the parish of St Olave’s, and multiple pubs in Southwark called the Sugar Loaf. Guy’s Hospital and Guy Street are both named after Thomas Guy, a shareowner in the slave-trading South Sea Company, which also features on the map. [Southwark News]

The Museum of London has a permanent exhibition on London, Sugar and Slavery.

PLA Photographs

​In 1937 the Port of London Authority recorded in photographic form the banks of the River Thames from London Bridge to Greenwich​. In 1988 selected photographs were published in ‘London’s Lost Riverscapes’ by Chris Ellmers and Alex Werner. The photographs are published on this community website with kind permission of the PLA and The Museum of London.

© PLA / Museum of London