New exhibition explores Leamington's links to slavery - The Leamington Observer

New exhibition explores Leamington's links to slavery

Leamington Editorial 31st May, 2024   0

LEAMINGTON’S links to the dark days of colonialism and the slave trade are explored in a new exhibition.

Built with malice aforethought: Leamington Spa and the Black Atlantic can be seen at Leamington Art Gallery in the Pump Rooms.

It highlights the town’s variety of links with West Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas from the late 18th to the early 20th century.

Like places and people all over Britain, Leamington and its inhabitants benefited hugely from the wealth generated by colonialism and the transatlantic slave economy.




This cash funded much of Leamington’s grand Regency architecture, and flowed down through the generations, supporting wealthy residents through the Victorian period and beyond.

The term ‘Black Atlantic’ was coined to describe the cultures shared among people of the African diaspora as they confronted enslavement, empire and their after-effects.


In the exhibition, the term is used to encompass the wide variety of personal, political, economic, and cultural connections spanning the Atlantic as a result of enslavement and empire.

The exhibition features the history behind local landmarks including the Royal Pump Rooms and the former Regent Hotel, alongside surprising stories like the town’s popularity with Confederates during the American Civil War.

Objects on display include rarely seen 19th-century West African pieces such as Congolese ivory carvings and a traditional Sierra Leonean percussion instrument known as a balafon.

Curator Lily Crowther said: “People are talking more and more about the role of the transatlantic slave trade in the development of Britain’s big trading cities – like London, Liverpool and Bristol – but the histories of empire and colonialism are intertwined with our local history all over the country. This exhibition shows the variety and complexity of relationships with the Atlantic world even in an inland resort town like Leamington.”

The exhibition runs until September 15 and entry is free.

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