The Legacy of Slavery

Yesterday I visited the ‘Slavery, culture and collecting’ exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands which investigates the relationship between European culture and transatlantic slavery. It’s an uncomfortable truth that many ‘philanthropists’ commemorated for their associations with charitable causes generated their wealth from slavery.

And Blackfen is directly affected by this. Danson House was the lavish country home of Sir John Boyd who owned sugar plantations on St Kitts. He acquired the freehold of Danson Hill in 1759, had a new Palladian villa built and set about greedily acquiring parcels of land to enlarge his estate to display his wealth and social status – this took the boundary up as far as Westwood Lane and south of Blackfen Road, including the cottage which became the ‘Chapel House’. He travelled abroad, purchasing works of art for his villa. In later life he focused ‘on religious subjects and good deeds and administering local charities’.

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Neill Malcolm inherited the Malcolm family fortune made in Jamaican sugar plantations and through marriage inherited Lamorbey House (now Rose Bruford College) in 1812. He extended Lamorbey’s estate by buying up surrounding parcels of land. The Malcolm family went on to endow the chapel at Holy Trinity, provided land for a new vicarage, supported the church school in Hurst Road, established another school in Burnt Oak Lane and built cottages for workmen. Although the family moved away from the area, it was Lt-Col G. I. Malcolm of Poltalloch, a descendant of the Malcolms of Lamorbey, who laid the foundation stone for the Church of the Good Shepherd in Blackfen Road in 1967.

A long way to go to church

Until the late 19th century Blackfen was in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Bexley (pictured here). Those who lived in Blackfen had to travel (most likely on foot) to Bexley village for baptisms, marriages and funerals and to attend services if they wished. That’s quite a hike!

The parish records show that on 4 April 1638 John Philips de Blackfen was buried at St Mary’s Bexley.

It was only when Holy Trinity Lamorbey was built in 1880 that people didn’t have to travel quite so far to get to church. Meanwhile, the north side of Blackfen became part of the parish of Christ Church, Bexleyheath.

St Mary's Church Bexley 1910