Royton Local History Society






Juba Thomas Royton was a negro slave employed by Thomas Percival of Royton Hall. It is not known how Percival came to employ Juba, but as a linen manufacturer in the late 1700s, Percival could have had contact with two points of the so-called 'triangular trade' of slavery. The raw cotton his mills required was grown using slave labour in the Americas, while his finished product could have been traded for enslaved Africans on the West coast of Africa. In 1788 an account of the trade of Manchester with Africa, prepared for the Privy Council, explains that the value of goods annually supplied from Manchester and its neighbourhood for Africa employs immediately about 18 thousand men, women and children - this figure represents almost two-fifths of Manchester's then population.

Nothing is known about Juba's life before he was baptised. His baptism is unusual in that he is not given an English Christian forename, retaining instead his African forename. In addition he is given (or takes) the name of his town of residence as a surname, rather than the surname of the family he worked for.

Juba Thomas Royton, Negro belonging to Thomas Percival

Juba next appears in banns of marriage at St Mary, Oldham, in 1765. Banns were intentions to marry that were announced in the respective churches of the bride and groom in the three weeks before the marriage took place. The banns give Juba's occupation as a 'waiting man', in other words a domestic servant. While Juba signs in his own handwriting, his new wife Betty marks her signature with a crude cross. Signing with a simple mark like this was very common at this time as there were no schools for the poor. His signature tells us that he could write, while she was illiterate.

St Mary, Oldham: banns (published 10, 17 and 24 Mar), Married 25 Mar 1765:
"Juba Thomas Royton, Waitingman & Betty Mellor"

In August of the next year, Juba and Betty's first child is baptised as Thomas Percival Royton. This baby therefore takes his father's employer's name as his first and middle names. Juba's wife's name is included too, and this time she uses her proper name Elizabeth.

St. Paul, Royton, baptism 26 August 1766
"Tho Percival son of Juba Tho Royton of Royton by his wife Elizabeth"

Another son, John, is baptised in February 1769.

St. Paul, Royton, Baptism 6 February 1769
"John son of Juba Thomas Royton, by Elizabeth his wife"

A third son is baptised in April 1771. In this register short addresses are given. Juba's address is recorded as the Poultry-House, Royton. Poor rate books of the time do show that Thomas Percival paid rates for Aynshoughs (also known as Hen House), which was part of the holdings of Royton Hall. This Hen House was still in existence seventy years later when the 1841 census was taken.

St. Paul, Royton, baptism 29 April 1771
"Robert son of Juba Thomas Royton, Poultry House, by Betty his wife"

In September of the same year Juba dies. At that time burial registers usually only contained the name and date. From 1813 all burial registers included the name, address and age of the person being buried. If Juba had died 50 years later we might now have a clue to his age. But because Juba's well-travelled life was during the eighteenth century, we will never know for sure when - or where - he was born.

St. Paul, Royton, burial 14 September 1771
"Juba Thomas Royton of Royton.   Negro"

To the right of his entry is a faint '23' in pencil - this could be a later addition to the register, taken from Juba's headstone. If this is the case then he was approximately 12 when he was baptised in Royton in 1760. Many of the enslaved were children when they were taken from Africa to the Caribbean.

Information courtesy of Manchester Archives and Local Studies