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Lancaster Priory Sophia 3.png
Rob Battersby
World News

Lancaster church recognises slave trade ties with girl sculpture

by Kelly Valencia

Lancaster Priory is currently showcasing a significant art installation featuring three sculptures of Sophia, an 11-year-old enslaved girl baptised in the church in 1799.

This initiative is part of the church’s effort to confront its historical role in the slave trade, considering Lancaster's ranking as the fourth-largest slavery port in the UK.

Working alongside Facing the Past, an organisation committed to reflecting on and addressing historical omissions, the church has gained valuable insights into its historical involvement with slavery.

This includes a deeper understanding of how the church benefited from slavery and the individual narratives of 76 enslaved individuals documented in the church registers. Among them is Sophia Fileen, baptised on 15th February 1799, and specifically recorded in the church register as a “negro aged 11 years of Lancaster”.

Rob Battersby

Rev Leah Vasey Saunders, vicar of Lancaster Priory, said: “We continue to respond to the disruptive act of protest in our churchyard by seeking to disrupt the inside of the church, making space for Black history and presence and encouraging dialogue, to enable us to develop future resources to face the past truthfully.

“We also want to remember and make visible the 76 Black Africans named in our registers. Sophia is the first step towards this. Her name means ‘wisdom.’ Our prayer is that she will inspire us as we step into a future that makes space for those exploited and unacknowledged in the past.”

The installation ends on 31st January.


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