Ships used in the slave and associated trades

The following items are from the Merseyside Maritime Museum's collections.

'A Liverpool slave ship' by William Jackson

Accession number MMM1964.227.2

painting of a ship used in slavery

This unidentified 16-gun ship is typical of the vessels used in the slave trade. She is shown in a port profile against a wooded coastline, intended to represent West Africa. The ship is about to drop anchor and a boat is to be launched. The ventilation holes below her deck suggest she is intended to carry slaves.

In a section of this painting recent cleaning revealed three small boats with Africans on board approaching from the coast. It is thought that this part of the painting was covered to distance the ship's links with the slave trade.

'Armed vessel in the Mersey off Birkenhead' by John Jenkinson

Accession number MMM1964.227.2

painting of a ship

Although this 14 gun brig is unidentified, she is typical of the large merchant vessels which were involved in slaving from Liverpool. The Liverpool guide of 1796 comments, 'The Guineamen [slave traders] here, are in general the handsomest ships; being every way modelled after the Frigates, and rather more ornamented'. The ship is shown in a starboard view in the Mersey off the Wirral coast, near Birkenhead.

The Dobson

Picture of ship in a large white bowl

Detail from ship bowl, text reads ' Success to The Dobson 1770'

The Dobson was a 200-ton ship built in Liverpool in 1770. Her principal shareholder was William Davenport, one of the most active slave traders in the port, who invested in some 120 slave voyages during a career of nearly 40 years.

The Watt

Wooden model of the hull of a ship, without masts or sails

Contemporary builder's model of the Watt

The Watt, built by Edward Grayson of Liverpool for the firm of Watt & Walker, was launched in February 1797. She was a 22 gun ship-rigged vessel of 564 tons. The firm's main business was in trade with Jamaica, where the Watt family also had an estate, and the vessel was mainly employed bringing back sugar from Jamaica.

The Grand Turk by WG Leavitt

'Grand Turk' ship model

This brig of about 300 tons was built at Wiscasset, Maine, in the USA in 1812 and was purchased by a group of merchants from Salem who gave her the name Grand Turk. She was used in privateering, particularly against the British, with whom the Americans were at war from 1812 to 1818. Although pierced for 18 guns, the model only shows 16. The vessel is typical of the fine lined vessels which were also used in slave trading.