Archbishop Welby showing the archbishops of the West Indies and West Africa items on display at the Lambeth Palace Library

Items in the exhibition are from the Library’s archives, which were studied in detail for research by the Church Commissioners for England into links to historic transatlantic chattel slavery.

The display includes early 18th century ledgers from Queen Anne’s Bounty that was founded in 1704, a predecessor fund to the Church Commissioners’ endowment, and an anonymous letter written by an enslaved person in 1723 to the ‘Archbishop of London’, the earliest known such advocacy for freedom. A missionary book from 1808 published specifically for enslaved and former enslaved people will also be on display. This book contained selected sections of the Bible, deliberately edited to remove all references to freedom from slavery.

In 2019 the Church Commissioners decided to conduct research into the source of its endowment fund, to know its past better in order to understand its present and to ensure that the Church Commissioners continues to support the Church of England’s work and mission in the future as best it can. The Church Commissioners worked with forensic accountants to review financial ledgers and other original documents from the archives.

Gareth Mostyn, Chief Executive of the Church Commissioners, said:
“We welcome members of the public to review these important findings from the Church of England’s national collections in the Lambeth Palace Library. What we discovered from our research into our predecessor fund’s links to historic chattel slavery is shaming. We want to learn from the past to better support the Church of England’s ministry for current and future generations.”

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury and preserves the national archives of the Church of England. This free exhibition will be open to the public until 31 March 2023. Please visit the Library’s website for more information:

Information about the Church Commissioners’ research and findings can be found here: Church Commissioners Links to Historic Transatlantic Slavery | The Church of England

Digital images of Queen Anne’s Bounty’s ledgers and benefactions registers can be found here.