Sunday, 12 June 2022

Croydon Politics Under An Elected Mayor


This posting is based on my talk to the Croydon Unite Retired Members Branch on Friday 10 June.Members are active in the Croydon TUC, National Pensioners Convention and two were active in the work of the Croydon Climate Change Commission. 

The election of an Executive Mayor changes completely  changes the way Croydon Council is run.

All decision making is down to the Mayor. If the Councillors disagree with the Mayor’s proposals there has to be a two-thirds majority to require a re-think. But the Mayor can decide not to make changes the proposals will be acted upon. In other words all the Councillors can do is to delay implementation. This situation under the Tory Jason Perry would have been the same if Val Shawcross had been elected.

The likelihood of a two-thirds majority is impossible. Labour has 34 seats, the Tories will have 33 after the by-election to replace Jason Perry as Councillor being held at the end of the month, and two Greens and 1 Liberal Democrat.

Perry has announced his Cabinet but has decided that they are to be purely advisory. He is reserving all decision making to himself, other than those the Council constitution delegates to officers and those made by the semi-judicial committees like Planning and Licensing.  When I had a discussion with him Thursday last week at  a Jubilee event in Norbury he explained he was doing this in order to drill deep down into the various issues and problems he was having to consider. He is particularly concerned about the rot in the Housing Department. New problems that have been hidden from view are emerging. I did suggest to him that he would not be able to keep up that level of involvement and would have to think about when to delegate to his Cabinet members.

The context in which he is operating is the same as if Val had been elected.

(1)               He has inherited the cuts budget set by the outgoing Labour administration which was approved by the Government’s Improvement Panel enabling the Government to agree the capitalisation loan approval to bridge the gap between income and expenditure.

(2)               Any changes within the budget may have to have the approval of the Panel.

(3)               Any increase in expenditure will have to be met by an increase in income. Some extra income may result from on-going negotiations with the Government over such things as the costs of looking after unaccompanied refugee and asylum children.

(4)               Increasing costs and inflation due to the current economic crisis will require changes within the budget and are uncertain.

(5)               If he fails to deliver or messes up the Government still holds over the Council the threat of appointing commissioners to take over the Council.

(6)               The increasing deprivation of a growing number of residents because of the cost of living crisis, requiring more support from the Council and the voluntary and community sector.

There are more locally based challenges which would also have posed problems for Val.

(1)               The proposed Unite strike of its Veolia  refuse collectors and street cleaners could seriously damage confidence in him by those who voted for him. While he can pressure Veolia he is only one voice in the five Council South West London Waste Partnership which controls the contract.

(2)               The Brick by Brick scandal has not been resolved and has been highlighted in the news about the empty flats across the road in Heathfield Gardens.

(3)               The growing discontent with the management by BHL of Fairfield Halls and what to do about it.

(4)               The announcement by Westfield that it is going back to the drawing board on the future of the Whitgift Centre, which means the likelihood of any substantial improvement will not be complete for at least 5 years, leaving the Town Centre as a continuing dead zone.

(5)               The problems of trying to deliver an effective Borough of Culture programme from April next year given the top—down control approach the outgoing Labour Cabinet approved.

Perry has taken two very important decisions.

(1)               He is reviewing the draft Local Plan 2018 Review to ensure there are substantial changes before it is approved and submitted to the Government for pubic inquiry. He wants to reduce the intensification approach Labour adopted, try and stop developers only building blocks of up to 9 flats to avoid the requirement to include so called affordable housing, and drastically change the detailed design document. He is only able to do this because Val persuaded the Chief Executive to stop work on finalising the Review to enable whoever was elected Mayor to have the final word. I have asked him to ensure that the Branch’s views on the housing needs of older people are adequately reflected in the Plan.

(2)               The commitment to re-opening  Purley Pool.

Perry is handicapped by the loss of several experienced Tories who did not restand as Councillors and a lot of new inexperienced Councillors. The same is true of the Labour Group.

The failure of Labour to win the Mayor election by just under 600 votes was due to a disastrously bad campaign by the Party. The Party’s National Executive Committee has instructed the London Regional Office to supervise the Group so the elected Councillors are hampered in their ability to democratically run themselves, and be accountable to the branches in the wards they have been elected.

The new Labour Leader is Stuart King, one of the architects of the cuts budget, who works for the property developer lobby company run by Peter Bingle, the former Thatcherite Tory Councillor in Wandsworth. One of the two Deputies is Callton Young, the other architect of the budget cuts. The Chief Whip works for Steve Reed, who now effectively controls Croydon North Labour Party, to which he is meant to be accountable. King has appointed Rowena Davis as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee.. The Chair should have been Leila Ben-Hassel, who had proved herself to be a probing Vice-Chair of Scrutiny under Labour. The Vice-Chair of the Audit & Governance Committee is the new Norbury Councillor Matt Griffiths. I have advised him to seek a briefing from Andrew Pelling, who the Labour Group and Party treated badly and who was not re-elected as an independent. He is standing in the by-election, but is unlikely to be elected as he does not have the campaign machine needed.

With Councillors having no real power there is speculation that the next four years will see several bye-elections as individuals on both sides resign.

Those of us who were largely unable  to influence the Labour Council across a wide range of policies and implementation have got to think of a new strategic and tactical approach in the new situation. We cannot ignore the existence of  the Executive Mayor, even though he is a Tory. We have to try and influence him.

Priorities For Croydon's Trade Union Movement

The priorities of the Croydon trade union movement should continue to be focussed on:

·         The local economy

·         Wages and conditions

·         Really affordable housing

·         Anti-poverty and deprivation

I suggest that it:

·         raise these issues at the public enquiry on the Local Plan Review

·         set up a working party of trade unionists from the affiliated branches on the Croydon TUC with statistical skills to analyse the Census

·         use the Borough of Culture to promote trade unionism with a focus on the creative arts, poetry, films, and music, including a May Day weekend long Festival of events at Ruskin House and venues in other parts of the Borough, particularly North Croydon and New Addington.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Libraries nurture the mind of man – let’s protect our heritage - Stanley Jast at Norbury Library opening 1931


Norbury Library was due to re-open to the public after major repairs, modernisation and re-modelling on 5 January 2021 with the Mayor doing the official opening on 9 January. It was therefore a great disappointment that the new lockdown rules to combat COVID prevented this from happening.

In addition the closed hall on the first floor has been modernised and named Maggie Mansell Community Hall after the former Councillor.

The History of Norbury Library

The Library was set-up after campaigning by local residents. It was Croydon’s fifth library building in what was then the much smaller Borough area before the merger with the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District in 1965.

The residents campaign across the Borough against the early 2010s closure of libraries proposed by then the Conservative administration was defeated, and Norbury Library saved.

The management of the Library service was tendered out by the Conservatives and the management contract awarded to J Laing, which had a joint development operation with the Council which included the building of Bernard Weatherill House. Laing sold then sold the contract to Carillion, which then ran down Norbury with decreasing book stock.

When Carillion collapsed the Council took the management of the service back in house and the then Leader gave a promise that not only would Norbury not be closed but it would also be modernised.

Opening Anniversary

The 90th Anniversary of the Library’s official opening in 1931 is 30 May, at which the Anglo-Pole Sidney Jast, Croydon’s former Chief Librarian, and at the time  President of the Library Association, spoke outlining his pioneering views about the importance of libraries.

“The library was in some ways superior to life itself. We are limited by our three score years and ten, but books extend our horizon to the furthest boundaries of history, nay, and far beyond, for has not the speculative mind of man marched with the stars and written of the growth and decay of universes?”

The Campaign For a Library

The Library’s opening was the culmination of years of campaigning by local residents, especially the local London County Council Tenants Association. The Croydon Advertiser’s editorial of 6 June 1931 commented: “it required a battle to bring in the public library but nowadays there is no institution, probably, of those which are charged on the public funds more generally accepted as a boon and a blessing to men. As with other instruments of good, much depends on its administration. In this particular Croydon shines and has shone for a good while, so that we have ever with us an agency designed for enlightenment being itself enlightened because informed by the enlightenment of its administrators”.

As with all capital projects it took time from the decision to build a new branch library at Norbury taken by the Council on 14 January 1927, which included Government permission to borrow the money to buy the land and build the library. The following February it opened library facilities for all Norbury children at Norbury Manor School. The number of books issued during the first month was 2,829.

A lot of thought went into the design of the new library. The shelves were designed to ensure that no one had to stretch up to the top or stoop to the bottom. ‘The newsroom is unique in being the first to be opened with newspaper stands at which readers may sit, the slope of which the newspaper rests being adjustable to the sight and convenience of the reader’, said an observer of the time. As well as the junior library area, there was also a story hour room which children could use to do their homework.

Jast praised the progressive nature in his time of the Libraries Committee, and the ‘remarkable staff’ he had had working for him.

Jast proclaimed the importance of providing both first class and ‘rubbish’ literature, stating that: “the librarian who filled his library with only the best in literature and declined the second and third rate would speedily find […] his circulation going down by leaps and bounds, and it would be remarkable if his committee and himself were not smothered under by complaints as to the shocking supply of books. Most of us are second and third-rate people. We have second and third-rate minds and even the few who flatter themselves that they have first-rate minds have their second and third-rate moods. Our libraries must function; the public must be reasonably catered for and the basic proposition that it is better to read than not to read is a sound enough generalisation even if one only reads rubbish”.

In terms of the wider information role of libraries, Norbury had three shelves in the reference section of holiday literature, including guides and maps.

Hundreds of local people turned out for the opening despite the rain. On the first Monday, 1,200 books were issuedWithin less than three weeks 7,985 books had been issued and 3,000 tickets applied for. The junior branch had 319 ticket applications and 3,549 borrowings.

The first floor has a lecture hall capable of holding 130 people. At the opening Alderman Peter said that this was “something which had been badly needed in their part of the borough and already there had been several bookings”. The re-opening of the hall returns us to that vision.

The Edwardian Library Legacy Of An Anglo-Pole

Jast “saw libraries as a nerve centre for the development of communities. His ideas may be a century old, but some things remain the same, even as we move ahead.”

Unrecognised here in Croydon, this is the assessment of its energetic innovator Chief Librarian Stanley Jast (1898-1915), by Dan Cherubin, the Chief Librarian of Hunter College in the United States (2014).

Born in Halifax in 1868, Stanley was the son of the exiled Polish army officer Stefan Louis de Jastrzebski. Stefan had joined the Polish Democratic Society in exile and travelled on its behalf in England and France. He joined the Polish Legion supporting the attempt led by Louis Kossuth to free Hungary from the Austrian empire in 1848-9. After their defeat, many Legion members escaped to Turkey.

Kossuth toured Britain in 1850 and 1851, and visited again later in the late 1850s including addressing a public meeting in Croydon.

Stefan and his English wife had two sons as well as Stanley: Bodgan, who became a doctor, and Thaddeus, a civil servant and chairman of the Croydon Liberal Association.

Stanley simplified his name to Jast in 1895. He started as a librarian in Halifax and then moved to Peterborough. He became an advocate of the Dewey system of classification – still used today to display books – and the open access system.

He became Croydon’s Chief Librarian in July 1898 and created a dynamic service with the libraries becoming workshops for new ideas: the card catalogue, the reference Library (in Braithwaite Hall) and information service, publishing The Reader’s Index: The Bi-monthly Magazine of the Croydon Public Libraries, lectures, reading circles, exhibitions of books and pictures, and liaison with local schools. “While the revolution was in progress, an orgy of experimentation raged”, recalled a former member of his staff.

After attending the American Library Association Annual Conference in 1904, he travelled around US libraries. Inspired back in Croydon he implemented more changes: recruiting a lady typist, holding weekly meetings of senior staff, and setting up a staff guild.

He became permanent Hon. Secretary of the British Library Association in 1905, and helped to innovate national changes.

Jast provided support and a base for the ‘Survey of Surrey’ photographic project. He co-authored The Camera as Historian (1916) based on the survey’s work.

He moved to Manchester in 1915 and became Chief Librarian there in 1920. In 1931 he introduced the first mobile library in the country. His new central library project opened in 1934.

Jast As Writer And Community Activist

He was a prolific writer, his pamphlets and books covering such subjects as: children as readers, books for children in elementary schools, libraries and the community (1939).

He was also what we would now describe as a community activist, as a member of the Croydon Lodge of the Theosophical Society from October 1898 and was vice-president from February 1900. He gave many talks to it and other lodges over the years, some of which were published in 1941 (‘What it all Means’).

In 1910 he met Ethel Winifred Austin, the Librarian and Secretary of the National Library for the Blind, whom he married. She died in 1918, and he married again in 1925.

He was a founder in 1916 of the Manchester experimental amateur dramatic society, the Unnamed Society. He wrote many plays which it performed, such as The Lover and the Dead Woman, and Shah Jahan (the builder of the Taj Mahal).

“The perfect librarian does not exist

He retired in 1932. He and Millicent settled in Twickenham in 1940 where he died on 25 December 1944. Poems and Epigrams was privately published after his death. Five days before his death he sent a subscription to C. C. Fagg, the Croydon-based organiser of the newly forming Council for the Promotion of Field Studies.

His Speech At The Opening Of Norbury Library

As can be seen from his speech at the opening of the Norbury branch Library in 1931, his views were forthright.

“The perfect librarian does not exist, never has existed and assuredly never will exist. But good librarians do, and better librarians may.” (1915)

“Whence my belief that a fairly normal boy or girl can read anything that is literature without ill effects; at all events that to forbid books is likely to have effects that are worse. There is a natural disinfecting quality in the unspoilt imagination of youth.”(1928)

His droll sense of humour is best shown by what he said at the 1904 American meeting:

“The best inventions of America are librarians on the one hand and a martini on the other hand.”

As a result of Jast’s work, Croydon libraries were the model to be followed across Britain

He was an advocate of libraries, not only collecting photographs but also films about their area, which should be shown to the public. Early acquisitions in Croydon included Upper Norwood Academy of Music, the funeral of the late town clerk, and the Croydon Horse Show.

As a result of his work, Croydon libraries were the model to be followed across Britain. His innovative, forward thinking approach was made possible because of a supportive Libraries Committee, even though it had budget restraints. There is lesson here for today’s Croydon Councillors.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Taras Shevchenko: The Poet of Ukrainian Freedom


Clarence A . Manning  (Translator). Independent. 2020

In 2014 Croydon Citizen published an article by me on the Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko, who Ukrainians see as a national hero, as it was the year of his birth anniversary. The text is as follows, the only editing has been to delete  website links that no longer exist and to add sub-headings. After the text there is a list of postings on the Internet since 2014. In the article I outlined some ideas for a cultural programme based around Shevchenko and other Ukrainians to be part of that Cultural Festival that was  being planned. These ideas could be considered in the planning of Borough of Culture 2023/4.

The Article

A few years before he set up home in Upper Norwood, the American Negro actor Ira Aldridge toured Russia in 1858 and 1859. Among those who reacted to his acting with rapture was the Ukrainian Robert Burns, the poet and artist Taras Shevchenko.

On December 6, 1858, Shevchenko wrote, “The African actor is here now; he does wonders on the stage.  He shows us the living Shakespeare.”  They became good friends spending much time together over two months, with the daughters of a mutual friend acing as translators. They sang traditional Ukrainian folk melodies and Negro spirituals together. Shevchenko also drew and painted him.

One of the daughters wrote: ‘These two individuals had more in common than just similar traits of character; in his youth one had been a serf, while the other was a member of a despised race; both experienced much bitterness in life, and both passionately loved their unfortunate peoples.’

Demonstration At Statue 2014

Back in December one of the pro-Europe demonstrations in Ukraine was at the Shevchenko statue in Lugansk. As the economic and political situation in the Ukraine becomes more complex and the clashes between the Government and the protest movement become more fraught, as a result of Russia’s pressure using the threat of higher gas prices, Ukrainians will be using this year’s 200th Anniversary of his  birth to re-affirm their independent nationalism.

Universal Humanist

Although Shevchenko was a nationalist  he also believed that a free republican Ukraine should be friends with Russia, Poland and other Slavic peoples. As Dr Rory Finnin of Cambridge  University will be arguing at the British Library on 17 March the poet ‘should be understood not as Ukraine's national bard but as a universal humanist whose verse irrevocably changed the political landscape of modern Europe.’ Through a close reading of selected poems, Finnin will  explain ‘how Shevchenko is best studied as a Modernist who was generations ahead of his time’.

Shevchemcko Jubilee

I was reminded about Shevchenko in conversation with a Ukrainian resident in London who attended my Vauxhall/Nine Elms walk on 13 January. It was back in the 1960s that I became aware of the poet. The Soviet Progress Publishers volume of his selective works published by the Ukrainian Shevchenko Jubilee Committee has sat on my bookcase since.


Born into a serf family Taras experienced forced labour from childhood. His mother died when he was 8 and his father when he was 10. He managed to get elementary education from a sexton in return for heavy labour. He began to become interested in drawing. When he was 17 his master Baron Engelhardt apprenticed him in Petersburg to the painter Shirayev. His friends purchased his freedom in April 1838, the same year as the British former slave apprentices in the West Indies were finally freed. 

Poetry & Politics

Alongside his artistic studies he began to write poetry. The struggle of the Ukrainians against their enemies became a major theme of his poems. He wrote in the language ordinary Ukrainians spoke.  From 1844 he joined the secret political Brotherhood Society of Cyril and Methodius. It wanted the abolition of serfdom, public education, a federation of Slavic peoples with Russia being one of equals, and freedom of speech, thought and religion.

Its members were arrested in 1847. He was exiled and forced into the army. He was forbidden to write and paint, which he ignored. Arrested again in 1850 he was exiled further east to the Caspian Sea area. He was finally released from exile as a result of lobbying by his friends, and returned to Petersburg.  In 1859 he was arrested on charges of blasphemy. He died  aged 47 in 1861, his body buried in Ukraine.

European Interest

Translations of his work  and articles about spread across Europe. An English advocate was William Richard Morfill (1834 - 1909), who became the first  Professor of Russian and the other Slavonic languages in 1900 at Oxford University.

Ethel Lillian Voynich & Croydon

In 1911 the Irish author Ethel Lillian Voynich (1864-1960)  published Six Lyrics From the Ruthenian of Taras Shevchenko. Her novel The Gadfly about revolutionary activities in Italy was made into a Soviet film released in 1956 with a score by Dmitri Shostakovich. Born Boole relatives lived in Croydon at 8 Friends Rd and then 47 Birdhurst Rise in the 1890s and 1900s, one of whom Rosemary became a nun and was involved in running the Old Palace School.

Growth Of Global Interest

Later translations into English of Shevchecko’s poetry were undertaken by the British based Australian Jack Lindsay, a prolific author and Communist. Another was Aldridge’s biographer the writer and film director Herbert Marshall (1906-1991), some of whose translations appeared in the Soviet volume.

Interest in him spread eastwards to India, China, Vietnam and Japan, and westwards to Canada and the United States. The Canadian John Weir edited the Soviet volume. Despite the Cold War the Soviet film Taras Shevchenko (1951) was shown in New York in 1952. (

Speaking about him in 1961 the American artist Rockwell Kent said: ”Why is it that sometimes a poet of one language becomes a poet of all languages, although it is very difficult to translate poetry from one language to another, and the native language is one-half of the poetry?”

200th Anniversary

The 200th Anniversary has the backing of UNESCO: Cambridge University is re-naming the central avenue on the Sidgwick site ‘Taras Shevchenko Way’   for the duration of the bicentennial. See more at:

We can expect activities in Britain organised by Ukrainians living and working here, especially the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain which calls its Library and Archive after the poet.

Shevchecko And British Authors

Although developing his own individual style he was widely read and knew works by Byron, Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Defoe, Richardson, Oliver Goldsmith, Edward Gibbon and Charles Dickens. He held Robert Burns in high esteem.

Ideas For Croydon Festival

Croydon Festival organisers might want to consider including activities about Shevchenko in their programmes perhaps on the theme of the cultural contributions of Ukrainians, like Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Gilels, Horowitz, Moiseiwitsch (who settled in Britain), Richter, The Oistrachs,  Babel, Bulgakov, Ehrenburg, and Gogol, and of those of Ukrainian heritage like Herb’ Alpert and Andy Warhol.  Add into the mix Joseph Conrad, the Pole who settled in Britain and who was born in Ukraine. Just before he died David Lean was preparing to shoot an adaptation of Conrad’s  adventure novel Nostromo. We could have the makings of interesting events of mixed music and readings. 

Further reading etc:

Images of Shevchenko’s art can be seen at the Toronto Museum that bears his name.

Demetrius M Corbett, “Taras Shevchenko and Ira Aldridge: (The Story of Friendship between the Great Ukrainian Poet and the Great Negro Tragedian),” The Journal of Negro Education 33:2 (Spring 1964) pp. 143-150.

The Booles:


March 2015: Ukrainian Museum Talk

March 2015: Shevchenko: a voice for unsung heroines

March 2019: British Ambassador Reads Shevchencko

February 2022: Americans Honour Ukrainian Poet

March 2022: Poem In Financial Times

March 2022: Kobzar Book Of The Week In The Idler

March 2022: The Creators of ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ Will Bring an Experience Dedicated to Shevchenko to Six North American Cities

March 2022: 208th Anniversary of Birth

See also:

US National Parks Memorial1964

Rory Finnin.  Nationalism and the Lyric, Or How Taras Shevchenko Speaks to Compatriots Dead, Living, and Unborn. The Slavonic and East European Review. Vol. 89. No. 1 (January 2011). pp. 29-55

Peter Fedynsky (ed.) The Complete Kobzar. The Poetry of Taras Shevchenko. Glagoslav Publications B.V. 2013

Zinaida Tulub. The Exile. A Novel about Taras Shevchenko. Glagoslav Publications B.V. 2015







Friday, 25 February 2022

The British Floridas. 1763-1784. Part 4

Initial Suggestions On Some Landowners

My research shows the problem of identifying particular individuals, but indicates possible starting off information on which further research is needed.

Dudley Ackland. Was he the soldier in the West Indies in 1769 and Colonel of the Shropshire Volunteers in the West Indies from 1779 to 1784?

Christopher Baldwin. Was he the plantation owner on Antigua and Dominica who settled on Clapham Common West Side where he built the Grange in 1762?

Robert Bremner. Was he the Scottish music publisher?

Thomas Bridges. Was he the English writer of parodies, drama and one novel born in Hull?

John Callander. Could he be the  Scottish antiquarian  whose book Terra Australis Cognita, or Voyages to the Southern Hemisphere during the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries published between 1776 and 1778 promoted colonisation?

Walter Thomas Chittick. Was he the doctor who lived in London, who subscribed to John O’Rouke’s A Treatise on the Art of WarOr, Rules for Conducting an Army in All the Various Operations of Regular Campaigns(1778), and George William Lemon’s English EtymologyOr, a Derivative Dictionary of the English Language (1783)?

Francis Rush Clerk. Was he the Inspector and  Supplier of the provision of wagons and horses during the American Rebellion, commenting in detail in 1776 and 1777 on the inadequacies of what had been supplied?

John Dunning. Was he the lawyer who was MP for Calne between 1768 and 1782 who died as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancashire?

William Faden. Was he the London based publisher of The Public Ledger and The North American Atlas in 1777 chronicling the American Rebellion’s  battles?

Neighbour Frith. Was he the London silk merchant who built Woolet Hall (now Loring Hall) in Bexley?

Pierce Galliard. Was he the barrister at law who lived in Bury Hall in Edmonton and Bradshaw Hall in Eyam in Derbyshire, who had extensive land interests in Derbyshire, Middlesex, Essex, and Burford  including mining interests in Edmonton and  Eyam, and was involved in a complex marriage settlement indenture involving a number of Earls?

Caleb John Garbrand and Nathaniel Hone. Could they be the painters? 

John Hincks. Could he be the Chester merchant and sugar maker, who in the late 1750s was a partner with Joseph Manesty, the Liverpool slave trader, and purchased coal from the Neston Collieries for his refinery?

Captain John Jervis. Could he be the Royal Navy officer who later became Viscount St. Vincent and whose sister married William Henry Ricketts (see above)?  

Baker John Littlehales. Could be the man who lived in Moulsey in Surrey?

William Mcbean. Could he be the man who left an estate in Jamaica when he died in 1780?

George Moore. Could he be the London merchant who shipped out convicts to Maryland in 1783 at the request of the Government?

Walter Radcliffe. Could he be the man painted by SirJohsua Reynolds, who  owned Warleigh House in Devon now owned by the National Trust?

John Gilpin Sawrey. Could he be the owner of Broughton Tower in Lancashire who died in 1773 living in Middlesex?

John Sinclair. Could he be Sir John Sinclair of the Board of Agriculture, who recorded in his memoirs that William Dunn of East Florida had written to request a ‘style of culture most adapted to a sandy soil’and who believed that James Macpherson took his Gaelic Poems of Oassian writings with him to West Florida to be Governor Johnson’s  surveyor-general?

Benjamin Stichall. Could he be the London based bookbinder, who was joint publisher of Mark Catesby’s 1754 The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands?

Florida Landowners And Emancipation Compensation

A few of the 24 people recorded on the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database with Florida connections were involved there at the time of British rule:  Dr James Dallas, Thomas Dunnage , Sir Archibald Grant, the 3rd Bart. of Monymusk, and Harry and Thomas Hackshaw.

Sir Archibald Grant may be either the Scottish father or son. The father was expelled as an MP for fraud in 1732. He involved in mines in Derbyshire and Scotland. Either one or both of them  became involved in owning a plantation on Jamaica.

Thomas Dunnage was a London merchant, who invested with Francis Phillipe Fatio and John Francis Rivas in the New Castle plantation in 1770. It was renamed New Switzerland. Dunnage also purchased annuities from the owners of plantations on Nevis and Antigua. Fatio was a Swiss merchant who had settled in London about 1757. They spent £2,430 to buy 18 enslaved Africans to develop the estate and then a further £2,570 up to 1776. Rice and orange trees were grown. Pine was felled for naval and timber supplies. Fatio and his family moved to St. Augustine to manage the plantation. In 1774 he moved with his family to  New Switzerland River. It grew sweet and sour oranges, citrons and lemons. In 1778 partner Rivas purchased 5,000 acres next to New Switzerland.

Landowners And  The Enslaved After The Floridas Were Returned To Spain

Presumably written before the hand back to Spain 1784 saw the publication of Thomas Hutchins’s An historical narrative and topographical description of Louisiana, and West-Florida.

After the return of the Floridas to Spain the British and the loyalists were mainly relocated to other parts of the British Americas particularly the Bahamas. A few stayed under Spanish rule like Jesse  Fish.


It took sometime for the British evacuation to be completed. Prior to the transfer of the  slaves on the Ceciliton Plantation to Dominica in early 1785 a survey listed 78 belonging to the heirs of Lord Egmont, and 22 owned by  Stephen Egan. In the first few weeks of the year Egan sold lumber and naval stores for £708. 

The Egmont and Egan enslaved labourers arrived ill at Dominica .They were rented to other planters, primarily clearing land and planting coffee trees, and the Egmont enslaved were sold in September 1786 netting £3,648.

The transfer back to Spain of the Floridas took from 1783 to 1785 created severe problems. Tonyn had to deal with a mutiny of the local troops, who agreed to go to Nova Scotia, and combat the pillaging of plantations. He also had to negotiate with the now independent South of Carolina government over the return of property, mostly slaves, taken  to East Florida by the loyalists. One group owned by Colonel James Cassells went back to South Carolina by choice not wanting to go to  the Bahamas as he planned.

Although  Fort St. Augustine was handed over in July 1784, Governor Tonyn remained until November 1785.

In the end nearly 10,000 people left East Florida. departed. 3,247 including 2,200 slaves went to the Bahamas; over 3,000 including nearly 2,600 slaves to the United States, about 900 to Nova Scotia, and about 900 (mostly slaves) to Jamaica. Some went to England like Captain John Gaillard, Colonel Elias Ball, and the former customs officer John Morgridge. William Moss, resettled his enslaved labourers in the Bahamas. His correspondence was published in 1854.

Many of the original settlers from England also set off for the Bahamas like Francis Levitt, junior with his goods, 100 slaves, house frames and household silver. He had to leave a lot behind because the ship was too small. Unsuccessful in the  Bahamas he returned to London. Later he went to Georgia. Henry Laurens helped him set up set Sea Island cotton plantation.

For Jesse Fish because a large number of the estates reverted to the Spanish Crown. He lost most of his land holdings. He had accumulated large debts in St. Augustine and Cuba. He moved back to Britain in 1784 and lived at Aston Hall in Shropshire. This was the home of his wife Eleanor’s father George Austin. Austin had been to Carolina developing tobacco plantations and slave trading. He was partner with Henry Laurens, returning to England in 1762 after a disagreement. Fish continued to hold Santa Anastasia Island, forty houses and lots, and six other tracts of uncultivated land near St. Augustine. His buildings were described by observers as being in advanced stages of decay. In 1786-7 is known to have had 17 slaves working his plantation.

Fatio decided to become a Spanish citizen and  renamed New Switzerland as Nueve Suiza. He was appointed with John Leslie of Panton, Leslie & Co to judge disputes between the British who were leaving, including over taking their slaves with them. He bought their estates cheaply. He bought out his partners to become sole owner of the plantation, and auctioned off remaining common property including 50 slaves including sawyers, squarers, field labourers and a cooper, a cook, a house servant.

Moultrie  returned to Britain in 1784. Three of his brothers fought with the Americans in the Rebellion. He lived at Aston Hall in Shropshire which had been the home of his father-in-law George Austin who had developed tobacco plantations in Carolina and been involved in slave trading along with Henry Laurens. Moultrie is buried in Shifnal Church.

In 1790 an author named Zetes published An address to the Parliament and people of Great Britain, on the past and present state of affairs between Spain and Great Britain, respecting their American possessions published in 1790. He reviewed the history of treaties between the two countries, including the period of British control of the Floridas. He regarded the Spaniards as untrustworthy anticipating war’

Economic Effects On British Economy


We do not know how much British capital was invested bythose granted  land  in the Floridas, the scale of the imports and exports, the level of profits and losses, nor  what any profits were spent on back in Britain or in other Caribbean colonies.  It also seems likely that more was spent in East Florida by the Government than was covered by the taxes raised in the colony. This is probably partly due to the cost of defending the colony from the American rebels , including the stationing of troops.

Further Research


Further work on the British planters would make  for an interesting PhD thesis. As well as the British Privy Council (Colonial), the Houses of Commons Lords Papers and other documents providing information about the land grants and the administration of the Floridas, and the East Florida Claims Commission papers at The National Archives (T77) and related papers listed on the Commission page. There is a detailed listing of the TNA East Florida Colonial Office papers by David Swain (2014).There is  a wealth of information in US Congress papers. There are articles in journals such as the Florida State Historical Quarterly, Louisiana Historian, and Legal History. There are  contemporary books by authors like James Grant Forbes and later authors such as Walter Henry Sickert, S. Max Edelson, Robert R. Ree, and Charles Loch Mowat. There are also Florida History Online, Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, British History Online, The History of Parliament, the Hallowes Genealogy website and last year William Bruce Antliff’s  American Loyalists claims up on Global Heritage Press’s website. A few surviving wills like that of James Fortrey  of Ely at The National Archives may tell us something.

Select Bibliography

Kenneth H. Beeson. Fromajadas and IndigoThe Minorcan Colony in Florida. Arcadia Publishing. 2006

Christopher C. Booth. Robert Willan and His Kinsmen. Medical History. Vol. 25(2) April 1981. pp. 181–196

Pete Wilson Coldham. American Migrations, 1765-1799. Genealogical Publishing Company. 2011

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

David Dobson. Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1607-1785. University of Georgia Press. 2004  

Carrita Doggett. Dr. Andrew Turnbull and The New Smyrna Colony of Florida. The Drew Press.1919 & Founders Publishing Co.1994  

S. Max  Edelson. The New Map of EmpireHow Britain Imagined America before Independence. Harvard University Press. 2017

S.Max Edelson. Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina.  Harvard University Press. 2011

The Elkton Hastings Historic Farmstead Survey, St. Johns County, Florida

Robin F. A. F tel. The Economy of  British West Florida 1763-1763. University of Alabama Press. 2002

James Grant Forbes. Sketches, Historical and Topographical, of the Floridas: More Particularly of East Florida. C.S. Van Winkle. 1821

Douglas Hamilton.  Scotland, The Caribbean and the Atlantic World, 1750-1820. Manchester University Press. 2010

David Hancock. Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735-1785. Cambridge University Press. 1997

Paul E. Hiffman. Florida’s Frontiers. Blackwell. 2001

Cecil Johnson. British West Florida 1763-1783. Yale University Press.1943 & Archan Books. 1971

Katharine A. Kellock. Stephen Collins, Philadelphia Merchant. Business Archives. No.  36. June 1972

Robert Stansbury Lambert. South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution. Journal of American History. Vol. 75(3). December 1988. p. 919–920

Bruce Lenman. Britain’s Colonial Wars 1688-1783. Routledge. 2001

Arlin C. Migliazzo. To Make this Land Our OwnCommunity, Identity, and Cultural Adaptation in Purrysburg Township, South Carolina, 1732-1865. University of South Carolina Press. 2007.

Charles Mowat. East Florida a a British Province 1763-1784. University of California Press. 1943

James W. Rabb. Spain, Britain and the American Revolution in Florida, 1763-1783. McFarland. 2008

Robert R. Rea. Military Deserters from British West Florida. Louisiana History. Vol. 9(2). Spring 1968

Marjorie Marjorie Rear. William Barker Member of The Right Worshipful Levant Company 1731-1825. A Life In Smyrna.

Patrick Riorden. Finding Freedom in Florida: Native Peoples, African Americans and Colonists, 1670-1816. The Florida Historical Quarterley. Vol. 75(1). Summer 1996

George C. Rogers. The East Florida Society  of London 1766-1767. The Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol 54(4). April 1976

Daniel L. Schafer. Plantation Development in British East Florida: A Case Study of the Earl of Egmont. Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 63(2). 1984

John C. Shields & Eric D. Lamore. New Essays on Phillis Wheatley. University of Tennessee Press. 2011

Walter Henry Sickert..Loyalists in East Floria 1774-1785. Florida State Historical Society. 1929

Wilbur H. Siebert. The Port of St. Augustine During the British Regime. Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 24. 1945

Wilbur H. Siebert. Slavery in East Florida. Florida Historical Quarterly. Vol. 10(3).1931

Erin Thursby. Florida Oranges.  A Colorful History. Arcadia Publications. 2019.

Spencer C Tucker. (ed.) American Revolution: The Definitive Encyclopaedia and Document Collection. ABC Clio. 2019