A number of south Cumbrians played a role in the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, new research has highlighted.

Research from University College London's Legacies of British Slave-ownership centre has identified thousands of slave owners who received a share of the £20m (around £17bn in today's moneu) in compensation from the UK Government following the abolition of slavery throughout the majority of the British Empire in 1833.

Among them were a number of south Cumbrian families, in places such as Ulverston, Milnthorpe and Bowness, where Storrs Hall still stands today.

The hall was once owned for use as a "summer villa", according to the research, by the slave trader John Bolton, from Ulverston, who was compensated by the Government following abolition.

In a bid to make this moment in history more accessible, the UCL centre has put together a map which shows where dozens of Cumbrian slave owners and traders lived when they were awarded compensation for slavery having been made illegal.

This research helps to remind Cumbrian residents that the slave trade was never a far-off, foreign experience, but something that is interwoven into the county's history, said Mohammed Dhalech from community development group AWAZ Cumbria.

"A lot of local people don't know that whole history, and the connections between that time and what you see around you today," Mr Dhalech said.

He said that our changing understanding of history helps us better understand who we are as a community today.

This applies to both the aspects of our history to be celebrated and condemned.

One positive example Mr Dhalech used is the stories of John Kent, who had been forgotten until research uncovered just a few years ago that John Kent was Britain's first black policeman.

Another example he pointed to was the 3rd century garrison at Burgh-by-Sands on the western edge of Hadrian's Wall - the first recorded African community to live in Britain.

"Our history doesn't teach us this, Mr Dhalech said.

"It doesn't matter whether you're black or white, you're not taught that at school.

"Parents are therefore teaching this history to their children, if they know what that local history is, and they know what the role, say Whitehaven played in the slave trade.

"Otherwise, it remains hidden."

Mr Dhalech said that the only way to ensure this new, deeper understanding of what it means to be Cumbrian comes into play is by actively encouraging more education on the subject.

"Unless you push people to address this issue, it never gets addressed," he said.

"That history is still there. There are buildings in Cumbria that were built with the profits of the slave trade.

"We can go some way towards addressing this sort of thing with Black History Month, but Black History Month should be a 12-month programme."

Mr Dhalech added that teachers had a role to play in "decolonising the curriculum", but that he recognised many teachers may not feel able to stray too far from the established roster of topics to be taught.

"Unfortunately teachers I think sometimes lack the confidence to do this, or perhaps feel they cannot go beyond the curriculum they have to work with," he said.

"But it's also about getting different communities involved, and encouraging them to help contribute to that."

Mr Dhalech said this is one of the things that AWAZ Cumbria is working to make happen, by organising visits and talks in schools to help encourage exposure to a wider range of voices.

"By focusing on the history of Cumbria's involvement in the slave trade, or by celebrating Carlisle as having had the first black policeman, we help to reinforce that the experiences of black and minority ethnic people have never been restricted just to London, or to Birmingham or Bristol," Mr Dhalech said.

"Cumbria's had a role to play in that as well.

"People can get an understanding of Cumbria, they can get an understanding that a lot of the buildings have been built off the back of the slave trade.

"It's not that it's something that we've lost, it's that people are not remembering it."

Most crucially, Mr Dhalech said that truly recognising this helps to ensure there is a wider understanding that "everybody's had a role to play in what's happening now", with members from ethnic minority communities across Cumbria and beyond building on the demonstrations taking place in the USA over the death of George Floyd to highlight the isolation and abuse that they feel and experience in the UK today.

Mr Dhalech said that resources like the research put together by UCL helps to more effectively counter the "online trolls" who seek to minimize or outright deny Britain's role in the slave trade, and the ensuing legacy that has left in British society.

"Things like this map helps provide an answer to the online trolls who might say that it didn't happen. It did happen, so let's talk about it," he said.

  • A map showing the Cumbrian addresses which received compensation for their slave-owning businesses can be found here.