Gwent Archives holds a marriage settlement between Nathaniel Wells and Harriet Este, which details the names of the 146 enslaved men, women and children on one of his plantations.
Nathaniel Wells was born in 1779 on a plantation on St Christopher Island (St Kitts). He was born a slave, but went on to become the Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Monmouthshire, a Justice of the Peace, a lieutenant in the Yeoman Calvary of Gloucester and Monmouth, and the churchwarden of St Arvans.
His father was William Wells, a plantation and slave owner from Cardiff, and his mother was Juggy – later Joardine Wells – a house slave. In 1783, Nathaniel was manumitted or ‘freed’ by his father and he was sent to England to be educated. When William Wells died in 1794, he left the vast majority of his estate to Nathaniel and manumitted Juggy.
Nathaniel Wells inherited an estate worth £200,000 – including several plantations and slaves. Shortly after, Nathaniel purchased the Piercefield House estate and later married Harriet Este, the daughter of a chaplain to King George II, in 1801.
Nathaniel Wells contributed much to Welsh society, but what of the men, women, children and infants who were owned by him and whose names appear in his records solely as part of a property transaction? His father, William Wells, had children with several of his female slaves so it is likely that Nathanial was related to some of the slaves that he owned.
The Marriage Settlement of Nathaniel Wells and Harriet Este refers to the Vanbells plantation at St Kitts and lists the names of 146 slaves. Little is known of the lives and experiences of enslaved adults known as George Crabhole, Landaff, Tom Pigeon, Pompey, Little Mimba, Little Kitty, Nannet, and Doll; nor the lives of the children known as Candice, Juba, Angelick, Sappho and Quamina. Some of them may have lived as family units as suggested by the names of Tom and Bess Theroude, and Tom and Mary Bishop.
Although the trade in slaves in the British Empire was abolished in 1807, slavery itself was not outlawed until 1833. This came into effect in 1834, but former slaves had to become apprentices or little more than indentured workers until this law was abolished in 1838.
In 1850, Nathaniel Wells sold the Piercefield Estate and in 1852, he died at Bath, aged 72.