From the Thorley Archives

Slavery at Thorley

During the course of his meticulous transcription of our parish registers at Hertford Record Office this month, Nigel Rixson came across an entry of a slave being baptised at St. James the Great, Thorley. The entry reads :-

1773 - Apr. 9th - Thomas - A Black aged about 19 or 20 belonging to Mr George Horsley, named at the font, Thomas

The only other record that we have of Mr George Horsley is that of an inscription on a gravestone in the churchyard stating that he died in 1792, aged 47. That means that he was aged 28 when he 'owned' his slave Thomas. Further research may reveal what business led George Horsley to own a slave at a time when slavery was outlawed in England.

His father was Rev. John Horsley, Rector of Thorley, 1745 - 1777. Although the records do not confirm it, the father presumably baptised his son's slave. George was the second youngest of Rev. John Horsley's sons. The oldest son, Samuel Horsley, also became a clergyman and having served briefly as Rector of Thorley, 1779 - 1782, went on to be Bishop of St Davids, then Rochester and finally St. Asaph.

Nigel's reference has been added to a 2007 Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies research project called 'Hidden Histories'. This project is collating historical references regarding the slave trade in Hertfordshire and is being coordinated by Dr Jill Barber, Heritage Services Manager.

Bill Hardy
June 2007

From the Archives