This site is easier to read in landscape format on mobiles.

Fair Trade Exhibition Explores Lancaster's Slaving History

Chris Satori


The FIG Tree slave trade / Fair Trade Exhibition opens today and will be on display in the Thomas Storey Gallery until 31st March 2017. The FIG Tree is the world’s first International Fair Trade Centre, founded in the world’s first Fair Trade Town, Garstang and now based at Lancaster Priory. The exhibition was developed as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund project that explores Lancaster’s role as Britain’s 4th largest slave trade port during the 18th century, the area’s involvement in promoting fair trade as a Fairtrade District today and Quakers who were prominent in the abolition - but also included Lancaster merchants and the slave trader Dodshon Foster. 

In the 18th century, slavery was considered a respectable enterprise and the trade fuelled the growing European economy, changing history to create problems the world still struggles with. The slave ships followed a triangular trading route.  They left Lancaster laden with manufactured goods such as mirrors, hats, clothes, hawks bells, beads, iron bars, brass pans and copper and brass bracelets for the East coast of Africa.

Lancaster merchants focused almost exclusively on Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and Windward Coast. There the Captain would sell and barter the goods for slaves, many of whom had been captured in the African interior and marched many miles to the coast in shackles and chains. Once the slaves had been purchased they were transported to the colonial plantations and industries in the Caribbean and America where they worked in agriculture, mining, domestic service and various other skilled and unskilled roles.

Lancastrian traders had strong links with South Carolina merchants, and there the Captain would collect exotic products such as rum, sugar, tobacco, cotton, rice and cocoa for transportation back to England. The Lancaster traders also brought mahogany and cedar wood back to supply the town's furniture industry, including the renowned Gillow's cabinet makers.

In 2001 Garstang became the world's first Fairtrade town. In 2005 Lancaster became the first UK city since the 17th Century to erect a memorial recognising its role in the slave trade. 'Captured Africans' (pictured) was created by Kevin Dalton-Johnson and stands on St George's Quay in Lancaster. 

An exciting weekend of events will take place on 25th/26th March 2017, commemorating 210 years since the Act was passed to abolish the British Transatlantic slave trade. As part of ‘210 Abolition – Lancaster slave trade port to Fairtrade City’ several events will take place in Lancaster including a Regency Banquet and Ball at the Borough; a service, lecture and chocolate workshops at The Priory; and Quaker worship and slave trade / Fair Trade Debate at the Friends Meeting House. The abolition of the slave trade act was passed exactly 210 years earlier on 25th March 1807.

The '210 Abolition' weekend events will include:


10.30am & 12 – Chocolate Workshop at The Priory – cost £5. Booking essential.   Duration 1 hour

4pm – 5pm Slave trade / Fair Trade debate at Lancaster Friends Meeting House  – The motion: “It is simply immoral that people should be allowed to suffer in order to provide us with luxuries such as tea, coffee and sugar at a cheap price” Slave trade abolitionists circa 1790

6pm Regency Banquet at The Borough, Dalton Square – £20/person . Followed by

8pm – 9.30pm Regency Ball – music provided by Northern Frisk


6.30pm – 7.30pm Evensong & Lecture both at The Priory

You can find out more about the local FIG Tree Fairtrade initiative at and at