The UK abolition of transatlantic slavery in 1807 is well commemorated. However this decision was not a popular choice in places like Liverpool that had prospered as a direct result of its involvement. Many industries had strong links to forced migration like rope making, ship building, textiles as well as the banking and insurance industries.
Foundries in the areas around Liverpool, such as St. Helen’s and Warrington, produced metal trade goods such as manillas for use in the slave trade. These horseshoe shaped pieces of metal were used for casting and as a form of currency in West Africa. Manillas were used by Europeans to trade for enslaved Africans.
This particular manilla was salvaged from the Liverpool ship, Douro which sank off the Isles of Scilly in 1843. Although reputedly heading for Oporto in Portugal, the large cargo of manillas, textiles and munitions on board raises the possibility that the Douro may have been engaged in illegal slave trading or in supplying goods for the trade.
Although the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in the UK in 1807, it continued in other countries such as Brazil and Cuba where it survived well into the 1880s. Liverpool ships and merchants were almost certainly involved in the trade illegally, showing that although the law had changed many attitudes hadn’t.