Sir Thomas Brancker, Mayor of Liverpool

WAG 7032


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. Thomas Brancker (1783 - 1853) was part of a well-established merchant family in Liverpool. He was the eldest son of Peter Whitfield Brancker (1750 - 1836), a ship's captain who was responsible for the enslavement and transportation of many African people to the Caribbean. As an heir to his father’s wealth, and with close connections to transatlantic slavery, Thomas Brancker entered the sugar refining business. Sugar was a luxury commodity, and its demand rapidly increased when the drinking of coffee became more popular. Sugar, rum and molasses were the main commodities that fuelled the transatlantic triangular trade. The triangle route involved Liverpool traders setting out towards Africa’s west coast where they bought people in exchange for goods. They then travelled to the Caribbean, known as the middle passage, where many Africans lost their lives. Those who survived the journey were sold in the Caribbean and put to work as enslaved labour on plantations. The ships then returned to Liverpool with goods such as sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice and later cotton. The sugar was refined in factories such as Thomas Brancker’s, before being distributed throughout Britain and Europe. The wealth that Thomas Brancker gained gave him great power and influence in Liverpool. He was elected to the Common Council in 1823, and was a bailiff in 1824 and 1826. He became Mayor of Liverpool in 1830 - 31 and was knighted by George IV in 1831. This portrait shows Brancker in his robes while in office. It was shown at the Liverpool Academy in 1831 and presented to the town by his brother and business partner James Brancker (1790 - 1852) in 1834. The artist Alexander Mosses (1793 - 1837) was a leading Liverpool portrait painter of the early 19th century and was Professor of Drawing at the Liverpool Academy.