History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Tomb of James Stephen, Churchyard of Old Church of St Mary

A Grade II Listed Building in Hackney, London

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5613 / 51°33'40"N

Longitude: -0.0845 / 0°5'4"W

OS Eastings: 532874

OS Northings: 186452

OS Grid: TQ328864

Mapcode National: GBR HC.7CM

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.H05Y

Entry Name: Tomb of James Stephen, Churchyard of Old Church of St Mary

Listing Date: 21 December 2007

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392347

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504163

Location: Hackney, London, N16

County: London

District: Hackney

Electoral Ward/Division: Clissold

Built-Up Area: Hackney

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Mary Stoke Newington

Church of England Diocese: London

Find accommodation in
Highbury

Listing Text


735/0/10216 STOKE NEWINGTON CHURCH STREET
21-DEC-07 Tomb of James Stephen, Churchyard of O
ld Church of St Mary

GV II
Chest tomb commemorating James Stephen (1758-1832) and earlier members of his family: his father, his beloved mother, his two wives, Anna Stent and then Sarah Wilberforce, and two daughters who had died in infancy. The Neo-Classical tomb is sited in the east part of the churchyard, facing the public footpath with 'James Stephen' carved into the west end of the capstone, visible from the path and facing the east end of the church. The tomb is of Portland stone with a gently convex capstone overhanging a deep frieze and tapered legs to each corner. The legs and frieze are all inscribed with delicate fluting. The capstone was largely illegible and covered with moss when inspected (2007), but some words were visible after the gentle removing of the moss, including 'his mother'. The inset panels to each side and end are blank and have a slightly irregular surface that suggests remains of a lime-wash. All this rests on of a continuous chamfered plinth and the whole tomb is raised on a stone platform.

HISTORY: James Stephen was born in Poole, Dorset in 1758 and brought up in an educated but financially unstable household where his father worked as a dealer and a conveyancer. Choosing to study law, Stephen entered Lincoln's Inn in 1775, the year his mother died from tuberculosis, causing him much grief. His first significant post was to report on debates in parliament and important trials for the Morning Star. Following his marriage to Anna Stent at St. Leonard, Shoreditch, Stephen sailed to St. Kitts, the home of his uncle and godfather, with the intention of practicing law. On route, and in Bridgetown, Barbados, Stephen observed the trial of four slaves accused of a murder which they clearly did not commit; this was to shape his beliefs - he determined never to own a slave - and his career. After practicing law in St. Kitts, Stephen and his family returned to England where his wife Anna died in 1796, and this sadness intensified the religious convictions that Stephen had developed with the untimely death of his mother. He soon moved to Clapham where he significantly became active in the Clapham Sect, with which he would maintain a lifelong association. Here, Stephen met William Wilberforce and the other prominent anti-slavery figures in the Sect, and he also married Wilberforce's sister, Sarah in 1800.

Back in St. Kitts, Stephen had a unique opportunity to provide Wilberforce with first-hand information about slavery in the West Indies. He used his legal training to serve as counsel for the Sierra Leone Company, drafted an order to prevent the slave trade in Guiana and drafted a bill to abolish the foreign slave trade. He worked closely with the London Abolition Committee through its successful campaign for Parliament to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, which it did on 25 March 1807. Following this, Wilberforce helped to establish the African Institution, which was established to encourage legal and humane trade with Africa. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1808 to 1814, during which time he worked on proposals for slaves to be registered in Trinidad (passed in 1812) and extended to other colonies soon after; he resigned when the Registration Bill was not passed. Stephen went on to write the two-volume text, 'The Slavery of the British West India Colonies Delineated', acknowledged as the main source for anti-slavery campaigners. Stephen presided over an Anti-Slavery Society meeting in 1832 and died later that year. An engraved portrait, seated next to a chest of African products - reflecting his work to encourage proper trade with the continent - is included in the permanent exhibition 'London, Sugar & Slavery' at the Museum of Docklands, which opened in November 2007.

The tomb has group value with the Grade II* Old St. Mary's Church, in the churchyard of which it sits, and the Grade II* New St. Mary's Church, directly across the road. It also groups with the Grade II tomb of Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), poet and essayist.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The tomb of James Stephen is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It has special architectural interest as an early-C19, Neo-Classical form, with fluting and tapered legs.
* It has special historic interest for its association with the lawyer and campaigner against slavery, James Stephen, who through his involvement with the Clapham Sect and William Wilberforce, and his legal skill and residence in St. Kitts helped to shape the late-C18 and early-C19 anti-slavery campaign in this country. He also was a founding member of the African Institution, which promoted proper trade with Africa.
* The tomb stands in the churchyard of the Grade II* Old St. Mary's Church and directly across the road from the Grade II* New St. Mary's Church.
* Designation is particularly poignant at this time given that 2007 marks the bicentenary commemoration of the 1807 Anti-Slavery Act.

SOURCES: Patrick C. Lipscomb, III 'Stephen, James (1758-1832), lawyer and slavery abolitionist' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004-7, online editon.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Reasons for Listing

The tomb of James Stephen is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It has special architectural interest as an early-C19, Neo-Classical form, with fluting and tapered leg;
* It has special historic interest for its association with the lawyer and campaigner against slavery, James Stephen, who through his involvement with the Clapham Sect and William Wilberforce, and his legal skill and residence in St. Kitts helped to shape the late-C18 and early-C19 anti-slavery campaign in this country. He also was a founding member of the African Institution, which promoted proper trade with Africa;
* The tomb stands in the churchyard of the Grade II* Old St. Mary's Church and directly across the road from the Grade II* New St. Mary's Church;
* Designation is particularly poignant at this time given that 2007 marks the bicentenary commemoration of the 1807 Anti-Slavery Act.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.