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Section 3 - Plantations

Sources for the study of the Slave Trade in Archives and Heritage

Section 3 - Plantations

There are very few records in Birmingham City Archives describing life on the plantations. It is rare to find personal information on the slaves lives, because the records were written as administrative aids to the plantation owners. Occasionally, however, it is possible to get a glimpse of slave life, or details of individual slaves. Most of the documents in this section relate to plantations owned by the Hotchkin family in Jamaica from at least the early eighteenth century. By 1780 Robert Hotchkin had been declared insane and the estates handed to Charles Bowyer Adderley to administer. By this means the records were added to the family and estate papers of Lord Norton and came into the care of the City Archives as part of the Norton collection, despite the fact that the Hotchkin family had no direct connection with Birmingham.

Document 3/2 is a map showing the estate owned by the family in Jamaica. It describes land use, and, most unusually, contains a small illustration of the house at the centre of the plantation. Documents 3/3, 4 and 5 are all part of an estate letter book containing copies of correspondence and other family papers. The inventory (document 3/3) compiled after the death of an earlier Robert Hotchkin in 1709/10, lists the contents of the house and includes after his wearing apparel [clothes] a description of the slaves he had owned. The letter book also includes a letter with instruction to sell slaves, which lists them by name, and another letter describing the problems caused by the doctor who was supposed to be attending to the slaves.

List of documents in section 3


Part of an account roll belonging to Sir Charles Littleton when he was Deputy Governor of Jamaica in the 1660s. This short extract is the earliest known reference to slaves in the archives, recording money spent on the building of the fort by the slaves:

"to ccccii [402] Negroes that wrought at the ffort severall dayes xlvL viiis
[45 pounds and 8 shillings] & for Potatoes for them xxd [twenty pence]"

This is the only relevant entry and it is marked on the copy of document 3/1


Map showing the Hotchkin family estate in Jamaica made for the owner by Alexander Skene, surveyor in 1737


Inventory of the goods of Robert Hotchkin, deceased, 1709/10.

See document 3.3 page 1

See document 3.3 page 2

See document 3.3 page 3

See document 3.3 page 4

See a transcription of document 3.3 pages 1 - 4


Letter written in about December 1709, throwing some light on the medical treatment of the slaves in the plantation. The owner is keen to recruit a new surgeon due to a catalogue of errors by the previous surgeon.

See document 3.4

See a transcription of document 3.4


Letter including list of names of slaves to be sold, 1711/12.
It also shows the punishments meted out to slaves for "misdemeanours".

See document 3.5

See a transcription of document 3.5


Copy of the will of William Voce of the parish of Saint Ann, Land Surveyor, 10 June 1808. This copy accompanied document 2/3, the letter from John Woodward, who was his nephew and inherited most of his estate. He left "to my son William a brown man late a Seaman in one of His Majesty's Ships Thirty Pounds per Annum during his life to be paid him Yearly".He also willed "that my Negro Slave named Caesar be manumitted and set free immediately after my decease And I do hereby Manumite and Make him free Accordingly. Items I give to my said slave named Caesar Ten Pounds current Money per Annum for the term of his life, the first Payment to be made at my Death".

See document 3.6

See a transcription of document 3.6