Chasing Freedom: The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Chasing Freedom told the human story behind the slave trade, and the Naval campaign for its suppression, including the accounts of enslaved Africans, and naval personnel serving in the West Africa Squadron. Visitors could listen to first hand accounts of life on the Squadron through audio extracts from the original diaries of Cheesman Henry Binstead, an officer on the Squadron’s ship HMS Owen Glendower. Binstead vividly described daily life on the Squadron: patrolling the vast West African coast, boarding overcrowded slave ships and living as part of a crew who are suffering – and in no small numbers, dying – from tropical diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria.
Visitors experienced the traumatic crossing of the Middle Passage – endured by millions of enslaved Africans – in a reconstructed slave deck, and handled reproductions of the artefacts used to restrain the Africans during their capture and subsequent journey, including leg irons, handcuffs and a neck collar. The exhibition also featured two exclusive films, produced especially for Chasing Freedom, which recreated the abolition debate with key figures from the time – including Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson – and discussed the legacy of the Squadron’s work.
Key exhibits on display included:
Figureheads of ships that served in the Squadron, patrolling the coasts of West Africa to intercept slave ships and liberate the enslaved Africans on board, including the figureheads of the West Africa Squadron ships, HMS Blazer and HMS Madagascar
Watercolour sketches by EJ Bennett showing HMS Britomart involved in various activities on the West Africa Squadron
The diary of Cheesman Henry Binstead, a Midshipman who served on the West Africa Squadron’s ship HMS Owen Glendower, between 1823-4
A range of artefacts linked to the slave trade and its abolition, including a Wedgwood medallion