Monument to Margaret Sandbach

WAG 7505


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 Sandbach family were part of the Sandbach, Tinne & Co. dynasty. They were shipowners, merchants, bankers, politicians and plantation owners. They exported sugar, coffee, cotton, timber, molasses and rum from the Caribbean. The company were prominent in Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo in British Guiana, now known as Guyana. The Sandbachs became extremely wealthy through the enslavement, trafficking and forced labour of many tens of thousands of people. Margaret Sandbach (1812-52) was an accomplished poet and novelist. She was the granddaughter of Liverpool banker, abolitionist and art collector William Roscoe (1753-1851). In 1832, Margaret married Henry Robertson Sandbach (1807-95), son of slave-owner, merchant, and Mayor of Liverpool, Samuel Sandbach (1769-1851). Margaret married into a family who gained their wealth through exploitation and forced labour. This poses the question of whether opinions about slavery influenced family and social relationships amongst abolitionists and those who supported slavery. In Margaret’s poem 'On Reading of Slavery in America' (1840), she portrays a sense of empathy and sorrow for the enslaved Africans overseas: “We weep for the poor slave […] cast off the load of slavery and sin!” Margaret’s feelings towards slavery reflected the views of many people in Britain at the time. Despite their involvement and financial gain from crimes against humanity, many were oblivious to the horrors of slavery because it did not happen on British soil. Britain had abolished slavery seven years before this poem was published. The British people positioned themselves as the global moral leaders despite slave-owners, such as the Sandbachs, receiving large compensation for the enslaved people they were forced to free. This interpretation was developed in collaboration with 'The Colonial Legacies of the Liverpool Sandbach family' community steering group. More information about this project can be found on the Walker Art Gallery's website.