110 Broomwood Road, Battersea, SW11 – Tube: Clapham South (Northern Line)
Place of Worship by William Wilberforce
Holy Trinity Church, Clapham Common North Side – Tube: Clapham Common (Northern Line)
Tomb of William Wilberforce
Westminster Abbey, London – Tube: Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee)
Wilberforce remains today perhaps the most popular and well known abolitionist in British history, otherwise known as ‘The Voice of Abolition’ Wilberforce is more commonly associated with Kingston upon Hull, from where he was MP and it is there where you will find statues, buildings and even a museum dedicated to him. There are however locations scattered across London where Wilberforce is remembered and commemorated.
Born in Hull into a rich merchant family Wilberforce was initially a small and sickly child who suffered with numerous bouts of bad health, particularly that of his poor eyesight. At the age of 9 Wilberforce moved to London following the death of his father, however three years later returned when there were signs of Wilberforce leaning towards evangelicalism (something Wilberforce later went on to embrace).
At the age of 17, Wilberforce left for St. Johns College in Cambridgeshire and it was here that he met future Prime Minister William Pitt. Whilst still in his studies, Wilberforce was elected as an MP for Kingston upon Hull and sat as an ‘Independent’ MP siding with neither the Tories nor Whigs.
Whilst Wilberforce was travelling through Europe he underwent an intense religious conversion, tempted to leave politics for religion, it was his friend and mentor John Newton that persuaded Wilberforce to continue his service of God in public. Wilberforce’s new found beliefs led him to abandon his old lifestyle of racehorses, clubs and gambling and focus his attentions to the abolition of slavery.
During this time Wilberforce lived at Broomfield House, which today is situated at 111 Broomfield Road, there is a plaque indicating the building which was once Wilberforce’s base during his campaign for abolition.
One of Wilberforce’s key influences in gaining support for the campaign was his ability to change the sentiments of the more privileged societies into real opposition and gain support beyond the politics in each party to gain support from many MP’s within parliament.
Once the Abolition of the Slave-Trade Act was passed in 1807, Wilberforce did not stop campaigning and went on to campaign for an end to all Slavery within the British Empire, however by 1821, Wilberforce’s declining health resulted in him handing over leadership of the campaign to Thomas Buxton and when in 1833, the abolition of slavery was enacted, upon hearing the news Wilberforce died 3 days later on the 29th of July 1833. Wilberforce’s tomb lies in Westminster Abbey where it lies next to that of his good friend William Pitt.
Wilberforce was also a key member of the ‘Clapham Sect’ a group of social reformers from the Church of England, responsible for the creation of Freetown in Sierra Leone, the first British colony in Africa and the African Academy where young male slaves went to be educated. At the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham there is a plaque dedicated to Wilberforce as well as one for other members of the Clapham Sect.