Member of the Brancker Family

WAG 9194


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. The sitter of this portrait is possibly John Barnes Brancker (1795 - 1871) in his later years, who was part of a well-established merchant family in Liverpool. He was the fifth son of a ship's captain, Peter Whitfield Brancker (1750 - 1836), who was responsible for the enslavement and transportation of many African people to the Caribbean. In his earlier years John Barnes Brancker began his career in business in Hamburg. He married Marianne Grien (dates unknown) in 1817. He returned to Liverpool working as a produce broker, mostly dealing with trade to and from the Caribbean. He became a Town Councillor in 1852-1858 and was a Justice of the Peace. He was a promoter of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society and laid the foundation stone of the original Philharmonic Hall in 1846. At least two of John Barnes Brancker's brother's, Thomas Brancker (1783 - 1853) and James Brancker (1790 - 1852), entered the sugar refining business. Sugar was a luxury commodity at the time and its demand rapidly increased when the drinking of coffee became more popular. Sugar cane has a long and thick fibrous stem and can be harvested several times in each season. The harvesting of the cane is very laboursome and dangerous and enslaved people were forced to undertake this work on plantations in the Caribbean. The juice of the cane produces sugar, rum or molasses, which were the main commodities that fuelled transatlantic slavery. As heirs to their father’s wealth, and with close connections to influential people in Liverpool, the Brancker family were well established in the trade in enslaved African people and its wider economy. Their refining business and associated trade brought much wealth to future generations of the Brancker family. John Barnes Brancker's only son (dates unknown), of the same name, was Chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and was an influential public figure in Liverpool. This painting by an unknown British artist, was presented to the Gallery by the Trustees of the wife of the sitter's great-grandson.