William Robertson Sandbach

WAG 7502


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. William Robertson Sandbach (1813-91) and his older brother Henry (1807-95) received shares in Sandbach, Tinne & Co. in 1833 when their father Samuel Sandbach (1769-1851) retired. Samuel Sandbach had joined the company in 1790 and was instrumental in its success. He was elected Mayor of Liverpool in 1831 and became the High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1839. 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. The Sandbachs were important patrons of Gibson and his artistic circle in Rome. They displayed their work in a purpose-built sculpture room at the family residence, Hafodunos Hall, near Abergele in North Wales. Traditionally, artists were patronised by royalty and aristocracy. Perhaps the Sandbachs believed they could establish the same social status by commissioning art and immortalising their legacy. It is important to consider that these significant works were funded through wealth gained from Britain’s colonial empire and the exploitation and enslavement of many thousands of people. William Robertson Sandbach’s estate was worth £320,257 in 1891, which would be about £45 million today. 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.