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Robert Blachford and the Slave Trade

Robert Blachford was born in 1699 and died in 1729, a year after facing legal action for alleged smuggling. He was a slave trader and controlled a shipping company which traded with Europe, America, the West Indies and America.

His grandmother Elizabeth was the sole heir to the Osborne Estate. The manor house was rebuilt in the late 18th Century with money partly raised through the slave trade. In 1845 the estate was bought from Lady Isabella Blachford by Queen Victoria. The house was demolished and rebuilt as Osborne House.

These letters are written to Robert Blachford from his Agent ‘T.Griffin’ between October 1725 and August 1727. The letters mention three of the company’s ships – the Berwick, the Port Mahoon and the Diamond. The correspondence tells of the treacherous triangular trade trip between England, West Africa, the West Indies and then back to England. They give a fantastic insight into 18th Century trading.

During the 1720’s around 200 000 African slaves were transported across the Atlantic in British ships. On average 10% of slaves died during the voyage. The main driving force behind triangular trading were the profits from the global trading of coffee, sugar and tea.

Blachford Letters 5 and 6

Transcript letters 5 and 6  
Scan of letter 5 front
Scan of letter 5 back
Scan of envelope letter 5
Scan of letter 6 front
Scan of envelope letter 6

Blachford Letters 7 and 9

Scan of letter 7 front
Scan of letter 8 front
Scan of letter 8 back
Scan of letter 9 front

Blachford Letters 10 - 13
Scan of letter 10 front
Scan of letter 11 front
Scan of letter 12 front
Scan of letter 13 front


Things to do:

1. Ask pupils to map the triangular trade route that Blachford’s ships took.
- Ships took manufactured goods on the outward passage from Europe to Africa to trade for slaves and other goods.
- The African slaves were then transported on the ‘middle passage’ to the Americas or the West Indies to be sold.
- On the homeward passage the ship returned with tobacco, rum, cotton, mahogany and other goods

2. Borrow the sugar nippers from loan 8-127a. As pupils if they can guess what they are and how they were implicated in the slave trade.
- Sugar was bought in cones or 'sugar loaves' nearly a metre long and weighing about 6kg. A big household might buy a whole cone, which would be wrapped in blue paper and hung from the ceiling in a cradle of string. A pair of sugar-nippers was used to cut pieces off, as required. These pieces were then ground to powder using a pestle and mortar.

3. Ask pupils to research the conditions on slave ships. Map out an area of the classroom that represents the area allocated for 30 slaves. Try and fit everyone in the space lying down.

4. Ask pupils to imagine they are a slave or a crew member of one of the ships. Ask them to represent their journey through a media of their choice.


To see more archives, visit the record office website


These images have been produced by the Record Office in partnership with the Heritage Education Service as a resource for teachers.

Copies of these images may be printed by schools for their own educational use.


They may not be published or reproduced for any other purpose without prior written permission from the Heritage Education Service, Carisbrooke Castle Museum, Newport, Isle of Wight,

PO30 1XY  Tel: 01983 523112. E-mail: