Thursday, 26 February 2015

Samantha Cameron and the Leek Connection

I read towards the end of last year a newspaper article that appeared in the Daily Mail claiming that Samantha Cameron the Prime Minister’s wife had ancestors who were slave owners and  did very well out of compensation when the Slave Trade was abolished in the early 19th century. Mrs Cameron was related to Rev William Jolliffe’s an industrialist whose company had been responsible for the building of a number of notable buildings such as Dartmoor Prison and London Bridge. Jolliffe was related to a family that had interests alongside the Sussex and Hampshire border  and controlled politically the town of Peters field a constituency the family represented for much of the 18th century. The Jolliffe family had interests in slavery that went back to the end of the 17th century in the Caribbean

The name “Jolliffe “intrigued me. Could she be related to the Jolliffe family that originated out of Leek in the 17th century?  It seems that the answer is yes. Sleigh’s history of Leek has a family table of the Jolliffe family. In terms of their Leek connection the family had a property in the market square which was incorporated into the “Red Lion”. Remains from Jolliffe Hall were discovered in March 1991. Their Hall long thought to be demolished many years before was rediscovered in the structure of the Red Lion Inn in Market Square. Workmen carrying out repairs found the remnants. The Red Lion was established as a coaching Inn in 1767 when the incorporation of the early structure into the Inn must have taken place. Chief conservation officer at the time John Leech considered the discovery one of the most important archaeological finds in Leek. It appears that the front of the hall was removed when the Red Lion was built and a second floor added with a flat roof. It had been long thought that the hall built by William Joliffe in 1627 had been demolished to make way for the coaching Inn.

 A daughter of the Jolliffe family Dame Elizabeth Ash married into wealth in the City of London and a dedication to her memory and the Jolliffe family appears on the Almshouses on the corner of Compton and Broad St with the date 1696. It was her brother Thomas Jolliffe of Leek born in 1617 from who the Prime Minister’s wife descends. Thomas was active in developing trading links with Russia especially in furs and fishing rights. From Thomas who was active in Parliament after the Restoration the line leads to John Jolliffe who married Catherine  Michell the daughter of Robert Michell the MP for Petersfield acquiring the seat in the 1730s. It was this branch of the family that the interest in slaves developed. The Ballenbouche Estate in St Lucia was worth £4,174 at the time of the abolition when it was inherited by William Jolliffe the grandson of John worth about £3 million for which they were compensated by the state.

Another brother of Thomas Jolliffe was William Jolliffe another successful merchant who owned Caverswall Castle He went into trade in London, where his uncle, John Joliffe, was already established. His growing prosperity was augmented by  fortunate marriages into prominent families. Although on his father’s death he inherited Caverswall Castle, he remained active in the city of London and was appointed alderman by royal commission in 1687. The appointment was superseded by the restoration of the charter in October 1688.As a historical side line one marriage that William Joliffe made was to Mary Hastings the daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon whose family were descended from the Plantagenet monarchs through George Duke of Clarence the brother of Richard III