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Britain's Black Past$
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Gretchen H. Gerzina

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621600

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621600.001.0001

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Nathaniel Wells: The Making of a Black Country Gentleman

Nathaniel Wells: The Making of a Black Country Gentleman

(p.253) Chapter Fourteen Nathaniel Wells: The Making of a Black Country Gentleman
Britain's Black Past

Anne Rainsbury

Liverpool University Press

In this chapter, Anne Rainsbury examines the surprising life of Nathaniel Wells whose story defies many of the assumed narratives of black life in 18th century England. Born enslaved in St Kitts, he was freed by his father, Williams Wells, a wealthy merchant who owned three sugar plantations. He was educated in London and inherited the bulk of his father’s estate at the age of twenty-one which included three plantations and the hundreds of slaves who worked them. He married Harriet Este, a white woman (after her death he would marry Esther Owen, also white), and bought a large estate, Piercefield, in Monmouthshire. Rainsbury explains that unlike the limited political rights and social barriers Wells would have faced in St Kitts, he was able to play a prominent role in local public life including becoming a magistrate and deputy lieutenant of the county of Monmouth. His social and political status contradicted the racism blacks faced in Britain, yet the irony that his wealth and standing were built on the profits of slavery and suffering of black people, Rainsbury says, cannot be overlooked.

Keywords:   Nathaniel Wells, William Wells, St. Kitts, Piercefield estate, mixed-race

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