Learning Journeys

John Pinney

There were many people in Bristol who benefitted from the ‘Africa Trade’. A sea captain filling his ship with slaves to transport across the Atlantic Ocean was paid for his work. The businessmen responsible for funding a slave ship voyage took the profits. Small businesses and craftsmen were paid for supplying the trade goods exchanged for enslaved Africans. The dockworkers who unloaded the cargoes of sugar, rum and cotton from the plantations in the Americas were paid for their day’s work. Many people throughout Britain, not only in the ports, benefitted directly from this trade in human ‘cargo’. It could be argued that, indirectly, so did everyone else in the country. The wealth gained through this trade was used to fund new ships, buildings, charitable works and industrial projects in Britain. It may have helped to fuel the industrial revolution.

Of the many Bristol families involved in this trade, John Pinney left us the most detailed description of his business dealings over a period of about fifty years in the late 18th century. Our interest in the family dates from 1649 when the Reverend John Pinney was vicar of Broadwindsor in Dorset, a county in the west of England. He owned property and was involved in lace making. Lace was an expensive fashion item for collars and cuffs. Previously, lace had been imported from Italy and Flanders (now in Belgium).

One of John’s sons, Azariah, became involved in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and illegitimate son of Charles II, gathered a Protestant army to overthrow the Catholic King James II. Monmouth was defeated by the King’s army and beheaded. Azariah ended up in a West Country prison charged with treason. Luckily for him his sister Hester paid the ‘ransom’ of £65 to free him. Azariah avoided the death penalty. His punishment was to be shipped off (transported) to the island of Nevis in the Caribbean and banned from returning to England for 15 years.
It is said that Azariah left Bristol with a Bible, 6 gallons of wine, 4 gallons of brandy two cheeses, three pairs of hose (stockings), four pairs of woollen breeches (trousers), two pairs of shoes, a hat, shirts, handkerchiefs, tobacco and pipes, a bed, bolster and rug, trunks, books, sugar, spice and £15 in his pocket. Quite a lot for a ‘criminal’ deported as punishment for treason.

‘With acknowledgements to Richard Pares, David Small and Christine Eickelmann for their work on the Pinney family and their slaves’.

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