Transatlantic Slave Trade Connections to Peel

Despite its small size the Isle of Man played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade. Learn how with audio and visual tours of Peel

Afrikaanse familie wordt gescheiden door Europese slavenhandelaren (1791-02) by Smith, John RaphaelRijksmuseum

The 'Guinea' Trade

With over 11 million Africans shipped to the Americas the transatlantic slave trade remains the largest forced migration in human history. Known as the 'Guinea' trade, through the lens of Manx traders in Peel we reveal the Island's slaving ties. 

From Douglas Head (19th century) by Lucy Emma LynamManx National Heritage

Isle of Man's strategic advantage

From the first importation of 'Guinea goods' into the island in 1718 through to the Revestment Act in 1765, the Isle of Man, with its duty-free ports, was fundamental to the slave trade during the 18th century.

1777 edition of Isle of Man map publication 1695Manx National Heritage

'Three legs' of the slave trade

Between 1742-53, half the ships leaving Liverpool called in at Manx ports to collect goods.  The final leg of the transatlantic slave trade also profited the island.  Ships returned with rum, sugar and coffee from the West Indies or Virginia bought from the selling of slaves. 

Old Bonded Warehouse cellar, Peel by Stephen MooreManx National Heritage

Goods from the New World

These were stored in cellars like this with rum decanted into small casks to await the Manx or Irish boats. Scottish merchants warehoused rum in Peel as well as Douglas, the former being more convenient for smuggling to southern and western Scotland.

Sir George Moore by W.H. WarburtonManx National Heritage

George Moore (1709-87), Manx slave trader

Much of what we know about the island's role in the slave trade comes from the archive of George Moore, merchant and Manx politician. He smuggled goods into the island with his brother Philip. As a prolific letter writer, it is clear he had 'Guinea' contacts in Liverpool.

Crown Street

George Moore's town house was located in Crown Street, Peel. He lived with his wife Catherine and 6 children.  The house was reputed to be the finest in Peel. The Moores were just one of a closely-knit network of powerful families who dominated island business and politics.

Petition to enlarge Peel HarbourManx National Heritage

Political Influence

George attempted to politically influence the slave trade. He campaigned (in vain) for the enlargement of Peel harbour to allow more room for the 'commodious' Guinea vessels.

Letter from George Moore, 1759

Peel 'extremely convenient'

George’s letter to the Duke of Atholl in 1759 describes Peel as 'extremely convenient to the North Channel through which is found a convenient passage in time of war to America and Africa for the Liverpool, Lancaster and Whitehaven ships.'

Peel Mathematical School by Matthew, HannahManx National Heritage

Mathematical School, Market Street

The Mathematical School in Market Street was founded in 1763 by Rev James Moore, brother of George. The school was erected to teach navigation  for 'bringing forward a young man intended for the sea.'

Mathematical School Pupil RegisterManx National Heritage

George Cannon (1766-1811) slave captain

12-year-old George Cannon served on the Rawlinson, sailing from Liverpool to Jamaica.  He returned to the island in 1781 as a scholar of the Peel Mathematical School for two years. He left as a ship's carpenter, but returned a 'Guinea Captain'.

Proclamation of the terms of the Act of Revestment (18th century) by unknownManx National Heritage

Letter from Hugh Cosnahan, 2 May 1789

Impact of Revestment

Following Revestment in 1765 the Island was no longer a free port for trade and many merchants left the island. Over 60 Manx captains commanded vessels throughout the slave trade. After 1765 many Manx mariners went to work on English slave ships.

LIFE Photo Collection

Cannon’s voyage, 1798

Cannon left Liverpool on 8 June 1798. 452 slaves were bought in the Bight of Biafra (Nigeria) and in the Gulf of Guinea islands. The Iris arrived in Jamaica with 414 slaves on 4 November 1798 and returned to Liverpool on 12 April 1799.

James Brown, reformer, journalist and founder of the Isle of Man Times (1815-1881) (19th century) by Joseph William SwynnertonManx National Heritage

James Brown (1815-1881)

The later 18th century witnessed a growing belief in the liberty of the individual. A few decades later, James Brown, grandson of a freed American slave, came to the island and became editor of the Isle of Man Times and campaigned for the popular vote. 

Am I Not a Man and a Brother? (c. 1837) by AmericanThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

Modern slavery is defined (by the charity Anti-Slavery) as 'the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain'. Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. Find out more about modern slavery by going to One World Centre Isle of Man

One World Centre Logo by One World CentreManx National Heritage


Our thanks to the One World Centre Isle of Man; C.W. Gawne; Stephen Moore; Frances Wilkins. You can find out more about the Isle of Man's links to the Transatlantic slave trade by reading the Manx National Heritage Library Info Sheet

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Black History and Culture UK
Celebrate Black history with a selection of art and culture in the UK
View theme
Google apps