“Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of Negroes, and therefore seeing she would not yield by perswasions to company with a Negro young man he had in his house…”
… from John Josselyn as recounted in Two Voyages to New England, published 1674
One story of millions
by West Side Davie
“Cumba” was her name. She died a slave in Romford, England in April, 1668 – the property of John Burch and his wife Margaret of Hogsty Plantation. (I’m not sure whether Captain John Burch of Barbados is also referred to and is the same as Colonel John Burch of Barbados, but this family history and other websites seem to say it is the same man. I remain open for correction!)
Today, Cumba is remembered as Havering’s first black resident in an excellent article by Professor Ged Martin just published in the Romford Recorder:
It was 350 years ago this year that a fabulously rich couple, John and Margaret Burch, arrived in Romford.
They’d made their money in Barbados, exploiting slave labour to produce the bonanza crop: sugar.
In 1664, they retired to England, buying Romford’s biggest estate, Gidea Hall, then usually called Giddy Hall. The mansion, demolished in 1930, stood just east of Raphael Park.
Madam Burch, as she was fawningly called, brought her personal maidservant from Barbados, the ultimate status symbol.
Cumba was Havering’s first black resident. A slave, a piece of property, Cumba survived the English climate just four years.
But when she died, in April 1668, somebody had the humanity to record her name in the register of Romford’s St Edward’s church. “Cumber, a ffemale Blackamore servant from Guyddy Hall, buried.”
Today, “blackamore” is an offensive term. But in 1668, when “black” was used to describe complexion, it was an attempt to identify Cumba with some dignity. The double “ff” indicated a capital letter.
… read the entire article Cumba: Havering’s first black resident remembered on the 350th anniversary of her arrival.
We know very little about Cumba, but we still know far more about her than we do about millions of other people who were enslaved with her and since. We know about the times in which she lived, and we also know a little about the socially-condoned cruelty of slave owners. I believe that much of history has been ‘cleansed’, but not all of it. What passed for ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ when Cumba lived gives us some idea of her personal circumstances, what she probably saw even if she was not herself subject to all of the abuses. We simply don’t know the details of her life, but we know the times.
So to learn more about Cumba, we will talk of the people around her: the powerful elites of society at the time…
John Burch, Hogsty Plantation, Barbados
In 1644, Captain John Burch was deeded 120 acres in Christ Church, Barbados. Burch also owned Noddle’s Island, now part of Logan Airport, Boston, Massachusetts. John Burch bought Noddle’s Island from George Briggs of Barbados. Briggs had bought Noddle’s Island from the 17th-century English colonist Samuel Maverick. (also worth a read: Samuel Maverick at Blogspot)
Samuel Maverick, son of Anglican Reverand John Maverick, was one of the earliest settlers in Massachusetts, who became one of the largest landholders and the first slave owners in the colonies. He became an important man, with the King making him Commissioner to settle disputes, and giving him land in New York as well. No doubt his peers considered him a fine example to follow: a hard working, god fearing family man, although he did run into trouble for being a Royalist.
But Samuel Maverick was also the sort of man who ordered one of his male slaves to rape one of his female slaves.
“Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of Negroes, and therefore seeing she would not yield by perswasions to company with a Negro young man he had in his house; he commanded him will’d she nill’d she to go to bed to her, which was no sooner done but she kickt him out again, this she took in high disdain beyond her slavery, and this was the cause of her grief.”
—John Josselyn, Two Voyages to New England, 1674 as recounted in The cause of her grief: The Rape of a Slave in Early New England
And there is the illustration of the time that our slave Cumba lived in. A man could order the rape of a woman, and still be considered “the only hospitable man in all the Country, giving entertainment to all Comers gratis.”
The will of John Burch also tells us much:
John Burch of Guydiehall, cb. Essex, Esq. Will dated 17 Nov. IGUS. Funeral not to exceed £300.
To my -wife Margaret t B., my manor & lands of Gruidiehall in the p. of Ilornechnreh, the house, the parke with the warren, & the Unicorno Inne for her life, then to my sister ltebeccah llothersall. On my purchase of tho
s d manor I settled a lease of 1000 years of a part of the lands in the names of Tho. Kendall, Esq., since dee’ 1 , & of Win. Drax, Esq., to be for my wife & sister.
To my said wife £1500, books, Jewells, plate, coach-horses, coach & produce, & the one moyetie of my plantation called Hogsty, in S’ John’s p.,
I. of Barbadoes, cont. 500 a., negroes, cattle & stock, & the moiety of my storehouse in the town of S’ Michael’s, & the other moiety to my sister Rebecca H., & the reversion of my wife’s j to her, & the remainder of the whole to my 2 nephews Tho. If. & Burch
II. All produce to be consigned to M 1 ‘ Tho. Cooper, merchant, & whereas my brother-in-1., Thos. II., hath, in pursuance of an agreement of marriage had between Tho. Muddiforde, son of S r Tho. M., lit., & Frances, the dan. of the said Thos., since dee’ 1 , contracted a debt of £1200, secured by a mortgage of some est. in the Barbadoes, I give to my six nephews & nieces, the ch” of my s d sister ltebeccah, £1200, to redeem the said mortgage, & to be secured to them. To my sister £500. Eliz. Clarke, my housekeeper, £100. My cosen Tho. Cave, £100. My cosen Abigail, wife of Geo. Ash, £50. M 1 ‘ Tho. Cooper, £100. Governors of Christ’s llosp. £100.
To my nephews & necces John, Tho, Burch, Eliz., Reb a & Anne H., & my neece Abiah Trott, the dan. of my sistor Eliz. Trott, £300 apiece at 1G or m. All residue to my wife & sister.
My wife sole Ex’trix in Eng., & my loving friends Col. Sam. Barwiek, Capt. James Thorpe & L l John Sayera Eiors. in T. at the B’oes., M r Tho. Cooper & M 1 W” 1 Drax, overseers in Eng., £30 a piece.
To the chapel of Rumfonl, in the p. of Ilornechnreh, 2 silver ilaggons of £12 apiece. £5 to the minister for my funeral sermon.
Proved 4 Dec. 1GGS by Marg 1 B., p. r. to the others. (151, Henc.)
Proved also in B’os 8 Eeb. 1GG8-9 by Chr. Codringtou with a copy attested by the Lord Mayor. (Barbados Records, vol. xv., p. GO.)
No matter that we study history as we should, we must never forget: There are 27 million slaves in the world today…