If you have visited Harewood recently, you will hopefully have enjoyed this beautiful house and its fascinating and elaborate decoration and collections.
But you should also have learnt that the ground that Harewood House was built on, was bought by Henry Lascelles in 1738, using money from the West Indian sugar trade. This is where his family had accrued a considerable sum of money from all different parts of the trade, from owning plantations to shipping and storage too.
Most of our knowledge about Henry Lascelles’ story is based on research undertaken by the University of York during 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and a year when Harewood House Trust aimed to raise awareness of Harewood’s past, particularly with the presentation of the grand scale production of Carnival Messiah. The Borthwick Institute for Archives is the specialist archive service of the University of York and is one of the biggest archive repositories outside London. It is here where the Lascelles Slavery Archive is held.
It is thanks to the Borthwick that Harewood House Trust and indeed the Lascelles family, have a better understanding of its history. A vast process of conserving and digitising many of the papers dealing with the business affairs of Henry and his partners has been undertaken, so that these can be accessible by the public online and available for research.
Most of the documents in the archive relate to business transactions linked to the slave trade, such as foreclosures on mortgages, acquisitions of property, wills, bonds and expenditures such as shipping of sugar and other cargoes.
The Lascelles Slavery Archive documents part of the history of slavery in the Caribbean throughout the 18th century. Black History Month is a poignant moment to look again at Harewood’s history and to continue to talk openly about this moment in time.
Harewood House Trust has an ongoing relationship with the Borthwick Institute and its students and is continues to look at the ways in which the charity tells visitors about the origins of its own story.
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