Warwick Castle’s Colonial Links: Part Two

Payments from the Royal African Company.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/TN116

In part one, I looked at the castle’s owners’ involvement in colonialism up to the point of Robert Greville, 2nd Lord Brooke. Further involvement was to follow, as I examine here.

Fulke Greville, 5th Lord Brooke

Later in the 17th century, as civil war passed and the family settled into life in Restoration England, the family’s personal wealth dramatically increased, mainly under the entrepreneurial hands of Fulke Greville. Having served for 14 years as an MP in parliament and well-connected to London’s aldermen (he married the daughter of Alderman Francis Dashwood), he was well-informed of the growing riches to be earned in foreign exploration and trade. It was in part due to large investments made from 1695 in the East India Company and Royal African Company. The latter, in particular, was responsible for the mass deportation of African slaves to the Americas.

Between 1695 and 1707, the family scored thousands of pounds in profits from dividends and interest earned from the two companies. The funds not only bulked up the family’s personal spending power but was also reinvested in the rebuilding of Warwick town after the fire in 1695.1

Involvement in these companies also brought material gains: In 1705 lord Brooke acquired a series of ‘Indian pictures’ from Edward Harrison of the East India Company. Indian artwork once hung alongside Old Masters at Warwick Castle.

William Greville, 7th Lord Brooke

Then, at the beginning of the 18th Century, the ‘young, debauched, and rakish’ William lord Brooke employed two individuals in his household known as ‘Cesar the black’ and ‘Pompey the black’. The two individuals appear in the accounts from 1716-17, at the same time the family was undergoing financial difficulties and dismissed almost half their household servants.2

The two individuals were certainly Africans slaves. They were probably purchased from slave ships docking in London or more likely Bristol, which was not far from William’s countryside retreat Barton Farm in the Cotswolds. Their names follow the fashion of the period, where aristocrats named African slaves after classical figures: Cesar and Pompey were famous Roman generals. Were the two men purchased to replace paid staff, and do their names suggest manual labour was high on their list of duties?

A sad story

Their story, though, is a sad one. The accounts reveal that Cesar died of smallpox within six months. He was buried by a Mr Malding at an unknown location. Pompey disappears from the accounts two years later, either through sale or death.

What these findings in the household accounts reveal is that:

  • Even small, aristocratic families like the owners of Warwick Castle could procure enormous benefits from the slave trade, and provides clues to the level of their involvement in profiteering from and acquiring slaves and servants during the accelerated growth of English/British colonialism.
  • Between 1640 and 1740, Warwick castle’s household was far from a Downton-Abbey-esqe make-up of white English men and women. It was a cosmopolitan blend of French, Dutch, English, Scottish, African and indigenous American servants and slaves working side-by-side.

For William’s son Francis, 1st Earl of Warwick’s colonial involvement, readers might be interested in this article I wrote with Adam Busiakiewicz on slavery documents in the Warwick Castle archive.


1 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/TN116-TN119
2 Warwickshire County Record Office referenceCR1886/TN205

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