By the 18th and 19th centuries, Tiverton’s diversity manifested in more ways, including the presence of Black men in the town – potentially enslaved, or ex-enslaved persons.

Image courtesy of the Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon Life

Image courtesy of the Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon Life

Although Tiverton was not a port town, there are records of Black men living, being baptised or being buried in the town. Church records reference the following:

“Tiverton (St Peter), burial of John, a Negro, 17 4 1743”

“Tiverton (St Peter), baptism of ‘Thomas Gallen, aged 18 years, a black boy living with Mrs Hamilton of Bristol, 4 5 1780’”

“Bretton, a native of Africa now resident in the town of Tiverton, servant, 21 7 1813”

The story of Thomas Gullen (spelt Gallen above) unfolded as a story of a young man who had most likely been enslaved (from birth) in North America, and who was brought back to England by a Dr Millegen, and then on to Tiverton with the Hamilton family. 

Thomas’s story is particularly interesting as he’s mentioned in Mrs Hamilton’s will. The full story can be found here.