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Background Information and Context

Introducing the Lascelles Family of Harewood House

The Lascelles family have lived at Harewood House in Leeds, Yorkshire, for over 250 years. The family’s wealth primarily originates from the West Indian sugar trade and their extensive participation in the trade in enslaved Africans. In the early 1700s, Henry Lascelles positioned himself to control all aspects of the West Indian sugar trade - a trade that was reliant upon the procurement and sustained exploitation and subjugation of enslaved labourers. Henry worked as both a Customs Collector in a lucrative port in Barbados and a financier to other enslavers and sugar plantation owners. He also owned sugar distribution warehouses in the UK, as well as shares in over 20 slaving ships that would have forcibly carried enslaved Africans to the West Indies under brutal conditions. From here the family’s wealth and influence grew and at the time of Henry’s death in 1753, he was one of the wealthiest men in England.

Henry’s son Edwin would eventually own or manage 24 plantations in the West Indies and possessed over 3,000 enslaved individuals who were forced to work on them. Edwin used some of his immense wealth to build Harewood House in Yorkshire. The building took 11 years to complete, and was built, decorated and furnished by the best craftsmen in England.

The Lascelles family involvement in the transatlantic slave trade continued until the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. Over the following years, the family reduced their business interests in the Caribbean, but their last plantation was not sold until 1975.