Clarkson Memorial

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Clarkson Memorial at Eusemere - home of anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson

Thomas Clarkson was a leading anti-slavery campaigner, and in 1787 he helped to establish the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, later recruiting Wilberforce to provide a 'Voice in Parliament'. But it was Clarkson rather than Wilberforce who was the real driver of the campaign.  He was a tireless and effective activist in what has been described as “The first successful large scale human rights campaign”. He was probably the only one of the Abolitionists to risk his life for the cause, and he did so on several occasions.

Heroes of the Slave Trade Abolition © the National Gallery

Clarkson lived for 10 years at Eusemere in Pooley Bridge, where he became friends with the Wordsworths and with Coleridge. It was when Dorothy and William were on their way home after visiting Clarkson that they came upon the wild daffodils massed on the lakeshore. Wordsworth was so impressed by Clarkson's anti-slavery zeal that he wrote a poem “To Thomas Clarkson” which described him as a "firm friend of human kind". The poet Samuel Coleridge saw him as “a moral steam engine” and a “giant with one idea”. Both recognised that Clarkson was the real powerhouse in the anti-slavery movement. He is said to have travelled 35,000 miles on horseback in his quest for evidence of the evils of the slave trade, also promoting anti-slavery petitions and the sugar boycott. He continued to work for the cause into his 80s.


The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade had as its emblem the motif of a kneeling slave in chains surrounded by the words “Am I not a man and a brother?” This motif was reproduced on medallions which became the 'wrist band' of the day and were distributed by Clarkson all over the country (the historian Simon Schama says: “by the box load”). These Slave Medallions were seen as instrumental in the ultimate swing of popular feeling against slavery.

By Janet Wedgwood, resident of Pooley Bridge

The Anti Slavery Society Convention 1840, by Benjamin Robert Haydon © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG 599. It shows Clarkson addressing the convention at the age of 80.

To Thomas Clarkson

CLARKSON! it was an obstinate hill to climb:

How toilsome--nay, how dire--it was, by thee

Is known; by none, perhaps, so feelingly:

But thou, who, starting in thy fervent prime,

Didst first lead forth that enterprise sublime,

Hast heard the constant Voice its charge repeat,

Which, out of thy young heart's oracular seat,

First roused thee.--O true yoke-fellow of Time,

Duty's intrepid liegeman, see, the palm

Is won, and by all Nations shall be worn! 

The blood-stained Writing is for ever torn;

And thou henceforth wilt have a good man's calm,

A great man's happiness; thy zeal shall find

Repose at length, firm friend of human kind!


William Wordsworth  - On the final passing of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March 1807

Creating the Clarkson Memorial Plaque

The Clarkson Plaque was created by local artist James Reynolds.  Jimmy has used his skills in letter-cutting and modelling to produce this memorial which is based on the 18th century Wedgwood medallion that was widely distributed to support the abolition of slavery movement. 

Jimmy decided that the finished memorial plaque should be made in black material to echo that early medallion. The material he chose was pigmented slate filled with resin. 

He first cut the lettering on a prepared piece of slate.

He then modelled the slave in clay.

He then made a plaster mould of the clay model...

and cast the figure in plaster, destroying the mould in the process

He then fixed the plaster cast to the slate and made a silicon mould of the whole unit.

All photos courtesy of Jimmy Reynolds

You can see more of Jimmy’s work on his website .His creations are elegant, often humorous and many incorporate letter-cutting. 

Thanks to our funders and supporters

The Lake District Communities Fund

Kay and Paul Greenhalgh

Alan and Janet Wedgwood

Nick Stamper

Inauguration of the Clarkson Memorial

The Clarkson Memorial was inaugurated on 21st May 2017 in the presence of members of the Clarkson family and local residents. After the inauguration Tom Clarkson, a descendant of Thomas Clarkson, gave a presentation in St. Paul’s Church, Pooley Bridge.

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