A PROJECT at University College London is looking at the legacy of British slave ownership, and it has compiled a database of all known slave-owners.

Darlington Councillor Chris McEwan, who enjoys a dabble in local history, draws to our attention that one of the entries concerns a John Graham, who was a resident in Darlington when he made his will in 1826. He owned the Durham estate at Trelawny in Jamaica on which he had 91 slaves.

We presumed he was a member of the Graham and Clarke-Graham slave-owning family of Newcastle, but we can’t fit him into their family tree.

This John Graham died shortly after making his will, which was proved in court on March 28, 1828. Under its provisions, he placed his plantation in Jamaica in a trust which was to pay £50-a-year to his mother, Margaret Graham of Darlington, and £200-a-year to his widow, Sophia.

Other beneficiaries included his relative John Graham of Aycliffe, who was the son of weaver Ralph Graham – entirely possible because Aycliffe is a textile village.

When the slaves were emancipated in 1833, the British government paid compensation to the slave-owners who had lost their workforce.

On May 16, 1838, the trustees of John Graham lodged a claim for £1,952 4s 8d for the 97 slaves who had been kept on his Durham plantation.

Does anyone have any clues as to how this slave-owner may fit into a town where the anti-slavery Quakers were at the height of their influence?