It’s Black History month, giving us the opportunity to learn from stories and events about people whose lives have been unknown or undervalued in the past. Many institutions are working to find out more. HALS, the Hertfordshire Archives and Local History service, has searched its own collections of records with the help of volunteers and found new information to make available to all.
Another great treasury of British life, the National Trust, has launched a wide-spreading enquiry into the foundations of wealth underlying the fortunes that built the great houses and art collections they hold.
‘The National Trust cares for places and collections on behalf of the nation, and many have direct and indirect links to colonialism and historic slavery. We’ve released a report examining these connections as part of our broader commitment to ensure that these links are properly represented, shared and interpreted.
The buildings in our care reflect many different periods and a range of British and global histories – social, industrial, political and cultural. As a heritage charity, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are historically accurate and academically robust when we communicate about the places and collections in our care.’
‘The Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery details the connections 93 historic places in our care have with colonialism and historic slavery. This includes the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour, abolition and protest, and the East India Company. It draws on recent evidence including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project and the Trust’s own sources. It also documents the way that significant Trust buildings are linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.’
At SLHS we continue to search for local records of Black History. Theo van de Bilt is still trying to find more out about Morgiste – George Ottea (1852 – 1927), butler at Terlings Park in Gilston. We know that relatives of Mr. Ottea lived locally until the late 40s. Descendants of him must still be about but we have been unable to locate them. Who can help? Sadly we have to admit that very little has come to light about the history of black people in our area generally or that of other ethnically diverse groups. Please do contact us if there is anything you can tell us.