Joseph Pease Statue & Town Clock

Joseph Pease Statue & Town Clock


In these days when statues are toppling on a daily basis, Darlington should say a word in praise of Mr Pease who stands on a plinth in High Row.

In 2008, this statue, erected in 1875, was one of 21 across the country to have their listing schedules enhanced because of their importance to the anti-slavery movement.

Four friezes on Joseph Pease’s plinth tell his life story. On one of those friezes, a slave writes the word “freedom” above the heads of a rejoicing crowd.

The Peases were Quakers, who believed that all people were equal before God. Joseph’s uncle, also called Joseph, lived at Feethams where the Town Hall is today, and from the earliest years of the 19th Century, he led a national campaign against slavery in India.

He fired his daughter, Elizabeth, with enthusiasm for the cause of fairness, and she founded the Darlington Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in the mid-1830s – it was one of the first women’s political movements in the country.

In 1840, Elizabeth was one of six women to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London where, to her horror, she discovered that because she was female she was not only forbidden from speaking but she had to sit behind a bar and a curtain. This unfairness fired her further and she became a feminist, arguing that women should be equal also.

In 1853, though, she married a Glasgow university professor of astronomy who was not a Quaker. “Marrying out” was still frowned upon and so broke ties with Darlington and lived the rest of her life in Edinburgh, campaigning for women to get the vote.

In 1832, Elizabeth persuaded her cousin Joseph to break with Quaker tradition and stand for Parliament so he could further the cause of anti-slavery. He won the South Durham seat, and became the first nonconformist MP in the Commons for 200 years.

Joseph joined fellow MP William Wilberforce in campaigning to free slaves.

In his longest speech, Joseph appealed to other MPs "on behalf of their poor brethren of colour whose sufferings under the present system were of a nature to stimulate every feeling bosom to concede to them a paramount consideration”.

The speech covers 40 pages in Hansard, the Parliamentary record, and as Joseph delivered it, he became increasingly wrapped up in the emotion of it, much to the delight of the Whig MPs opposite him.

Hansard records: "He felt the inadequacy of his powers in pleading such a cause. (Here, the hon gentleman was so affected he was obliged to pause for a moment. Much cheering.)

"The house will pardon me (concluded Mr Pease) for having so long trespassed upon their attention. I am unable to go on. But when the great and solemn day shall come, when I shall myself stand in need of mercy, I hope it will be meted to me in the same measure as I am disposed to mete it to others."

Despite the ridicule, Joseph’s speech was widely regarded by anti-slavery campaigners as for providing moral justification for the cause, and the Abolition of Slavery Act received Royal Assent on August 28, 1833.

Unfortunately, Wilberforce never lived to see it – he died a month earlier, just as the Stockton & Darlington Railway was taking delivery of its engine No 23.

The Wilberforce engine crossing the Gaunless.
It was designed by Timothy Hackworth, but had been built by Robert Stephenson & Co in Newcastle. It was a major step forward for the railway: Locomotion No 1 of 1825 had been able to pull 250 tons of coal per mile per hour but locomotive No 23 was able to pull 1,250 tons of coal per mile per hour, and it was the first engine in the dark green paint that the S&DR then adopted for all of its locos.

No 23 was named Wilberforce in honour of the anti-slavery campaigner.…

Posted by Preston Ashton on 2020-07-05 16:13:02

Tagged: , darlington , town , pease , statue , joseph , clock , tower , icon , iconic , ne , north east , england , uk , market , silhouette , black , outline , shadow , preston , prestonashton

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