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Slavery’s North Mymms connections

A microcosm of global “conquest, trade, enrichment and exploitation”

Drawing of Brookmans House by Clutterbuck 1840 Image courtesy of Hertfordshire County Records Office (HCRO)
Drawing of Brookmans  by Clutterbuck 1840
Image courtesy of Hertfordshire County Records Office (HCRO)
Much of the wealth that poured into North Mymms between 1700 and 1850 had direct links to slavery. According to the UCL (University College London) Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership, which traces the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain, five Caribbean estates, four in Jamaica and one in Antigua, were at one time in their history, owned by North Mymms residents who, between them, enslaved 690 people.

Gobions from south-west - tinted print by  J.P Neale 1818 Image Courtesy of Peter Miller
Gobions from south-west - tinted print by  J.P Neale 1818
Image Courtesy of Peter Miller

Throughout these decades, wealth from India and the Caribbean was channelled into the purchasing and redevelopment of the area.

These global connections are still visible throughout the parish, providing reminders that the history of North Mymms is intricately tied up with that of Britain’s expanding empire in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In a chapter from his book The East India Company at Home 1757-1857, former North Mymms resident Dr Chris Jeppesen who is a research associate at the University of Cambridge examined where the wealth came from.

Dr Jeppesen says North Mymms illustrates in microcosm how global processes of conquest, trade, enrichment and exploitation that energised Britain’s expanding empire became infused with local significance.

He says the four North Mymms manor houses, Brookmans, Gobions, Potterells, and Moffats, have, in the past, been owned by families with intricate connections to the wider imperial world.

Substantial wealth first arrived in the parish when Jeremy Sambrooke (d.1754) bought Gobions in 1707.

Sambrooke’s father (also a Jeremy) died in 1705 and it is likely that that the son’s inheritance enabled him to purchase Gobions, build the house, and extensively landscape the gardens.

The older Sambrooke was an employee of the East India Company and rose to be Deputy Chairman. He also served on the Court of Committee of the Royal African Company. Investments in these companies seem to be sources of his wealth.

In 1829 Gobions was bought by the West India merchant Thomas Kemble. The UCL’s ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ database shows that Kemble had two estates in Jamaica, the Hall Green Estate in St Andrews, which had 151 slaves, and the Roaring River Estate in St Ann, which had 221 enslaved people.

Roaring River Estate Jamaica Thomas Vivarès, George Robertson 25 March 1778 Image held by the British Library and released via Creative Commons 1.0
Roaring River Estate Jamaica Thomas Vivarès, George Robertson 25 March 1778
Image held by the British Library and released via Creative Commons 1.0
Gobions was later passed to his son, Thomas Nash Kemble, who received more than £10,000 in slavery compensation through the Slave Compensation Act 1837, which paid substantial money to former slave owners, but nothing to the newly liberated.

As well as inheriting the North Mymms manor he also took over his father’s two estates in Jamaica and added two more of his own, the Cold Harbour Estate in Portland which had 123 slaves and the Hope Estate, also in Portland, which had 92 enslaved people.

When he died, Gobions was bought by the owner of Brookmans, Robert William Gaussen, who tore the house down in the early 1840s and merged the grounds with his own.

The Gaussens also had family connections to the Caribbean slave economy and investments in joint stock companies trading in slaves.

The Casamajors, who owned Potterells, had more direct links to the Caribbean.

Justinian Casamajor started out as a West India merchant and then married the daughter of Duncan Grant, a planter, from whom he inherited a property called Elmes in Antigua with 103 slaves.

Sketch view of Potterells entrance in 1840 by J.C. Buckler
Image courtesy of the former NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Wealth from the family’s Caribbean interests supported the renovation of Potterells. Casamajor’s daughter, Caroline, inherited money from her maternal uncles, both Antigua planters. In 1847 she donated £3,000 to fund the foundation of Water End School in the parish, a sum equivalent to £288,300 in 2020.

Moffats House in the 1980s
Image courtesy of the former NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
John Michie, who owned Moffats, had commercial connections to the Caribbean and India, having first made his fortune from distributing the prize money from the capture of Havana in 1762.

There are several reminders of the North Mymms’ ties with Britain’s expanding empire around the parish. The stable block at Brookmans, now the clubhouse at the golf course. The ornamental lake and garden at Gobions. Folly Arch, the estate’s once imposing entrance gate, the gatehouse at Potterells, now a surgery, and Moffats House, which is now divided into two residential homes.

Folly Arch south view 1840 - drawing by Buckler
Image courtesy of the former NMLHS part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Dr Jeppesen has created an interactive map plotting all the Hertfordshire houses/estates with empire connections. It’s a work in progress and he says there will be more to be added.

The Caribbean connections show those who made claims for compensation in the 1830s, but Dr Jeppesen says the Legacies of British Slave-ownership database misses anyone who had an earlier connection.

Red signifies EIC houses, green Caribbean associations, blue crossover, and yellow those with financial interests in imperial trade.

The base layer for the map shows the current county boundary, but Hertfordshire previously stretched further into Greater London and slightly further north, hence a couple of markers that now fall outside the county. 

The late Peter Kingsford, another North Mymms resident, also traced the connections between The East India Company and North Mymms and estates in the parish. 

In his article he concluded that “the wealth, and the poverty, of India had some considerable influence on the parish of North Mymms”.

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