Item of the month: Codrington College, Barbados. After a drawing by the bishop of Barbados

A post by University Archivist Jonathan Bush

This print of Codrington College, Barbados, was sketched by William Hart Coleridge (1789-1849), the bishop of Barbados and the Leeward Islands, and is one of the earliest examples of lithography by William Louis Walton (1808?-1879). The date of printing is uncertain, but likely to be shortly before the Slavery Abolition Act (1833), which abolished slavery on a gradual basis in most parts of the British Empire.

The Codrington plantations had a long connection with slave labour, having been established by Christopher Codrington (1640?-1698) and his father of the same name, to farm sugar cane. The third Christopher Codrington (1668-1710) bequeathed the Codrington estate to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), with the intention of establishing a college to provide a secondary level of theological education. Christopher intended a portion of his bequest to be used for the education of the enslaved Barbadians, although this stipulation was ignored following the College’s foundation in 1745. The SPG continued to exploit slave labour, branding the word ‘Society’ on the chests of the enslaved, with the Church of England benefitting financially from the sugar cane trade as a result. Following the abolition of slavery, Bishop Coleridge was influential in elevating Codrington College to an Anglican seminary, and the College’s missionary status continued to grow throughout the nineteenth century. In 1875, it became affiliated to Durham University, allowing graduates of Codrington to receive a Durham degree in Classics or Theology. This affiliation lasted until 1965 when the college transferred to the University of West Indies, Cave Hill.

This print is held in Durham University’s Archives and Special Collections (Ref: RM5/PF5/35/1). Durham University are currently researching their historic links with slavery and colonialism (Library and Collections – Durham University).

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