The Transatlantic Slave Trade between Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas began in the 15th century and lasted into the 19th century. Britain abolished slave trading by an Act of Parliament in 1807 but slave ownership was still permitted.
Like many families of their class at that time, the Hall-Dares had made money from plantations employing slave labour. When slave ownership was finally abolished by the British Government in 1833, Mabel’s grandfather, Robert Westley Hall-Dare, was awarded compensation of £14452, 14 shillings and 1 penny for the 273 slaves employed on his plantation, Maria’s Pleasure, on Wakenaam Island at the mouth of the Essequibo River in Guyana. It seems that he died before the compensation was paid out and the money was eventually paid to his son, Mabel’s father, Robert Westley Hall-Dare. The award is estimated to be worth around £12million at today’s value.
Mabel’s grandfather was born Robert Westley Hall in Essequibo River, Guyana on March 3, 1789. He changed his name to add the hyphenated Dare on 25 April 1823. His father, Mabel’s great-grandfather, also Robert Westley Hall, had married Maria Elizabeth Brower, after whom we presume the plantation of Maria’s Pleasure was named. Maria’s father, Cornelius, is listed as having lived at Demerara, so one wonders whether her family were also members of the so-called plantocracy, the Guyana ruling class of plantation owners. Mabel’s grandfather died on May 20, 1836 at the age of 47 and is buried at Theydon Bois, Essex, where Theodore and Mabel were later laid to rest.
As part of the abolition legislation, records were drawn up of 46,000 compensation awards to the British owners of 800,000 slaves. Any judgement on individual morality should be tempered by the ‘normality’ of such a practice in those less-enlightened times.
The payouts to slave owners was extremely controversial at the time and amounted to the biggest ever bail-out by the British Government – £17billion at today’s value – only recently eclipsed by the £20billion bail-out of the Royal Bank of Scotland following the financial collapse of 2008. The slaves themselves got nothing, not even freedom until 5 years later in 1838 after a period, of what was effectively still slavery, called ‘apprenticeship’.