The Church of England has apologised for its historical links to the slave trade after a University College London database found that nearly 100 clergymen benefited from the industry and were involved in claims for compensation paid to slave owners.
According to UCL, some 47,000 people in the UK who received compensation worth a total of £20 million, which equates to £2.4 billion in today's money. The money was paid to those who were profiteering from the slave trade when it was abolished under the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act. 151 clergymen were involved in claims worth £66 million, 96 of whom were in the Church of England. The construction of 32 churches is also linked to claimants.
Vicar brothers Revd George Trevelyan and Revd John Thomas Trevelyan, from Somerset, received compensation of more than £3 million in today's money after giving up six inherited estates in Grenada, where more than 1,000 people were enslaved. In addition, the Rt Revd Henry Philpotts, the Bishop of Exeter from 1830 to 1869, benefited to the sum of more than £1.5 million after being named executor over three plantations in Jamaica.
Responding to the disturbing findings, which were first reported by The Telegraph, a Church of England spokeswoman said:
"Slavery and exploitation have no place in society. While we recognise the leading role clergy and active members of the Church of England played in securing the abolition of slavery, it is a source of shame that others within the Church actively perpetrated slavery and profited from it.
“In 2006 the General Synod of the Church of England issued an apology, acknowledging the part the Church itself played in historic cases of slavery.
“We reiterate our commitments to support every effort by the Church and other agencies to oppose human trafficking and all other manifestations of slavery across the world.
“The Church of England is actively committed to combatting slavery in all its forms today, particularly through the work of the Clewer Initiative which works with our 42 dioceses to help support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their communities.”