The Clapham Sect

The Clapham sect was a group of prominent and wealthy people who worshiped at Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common in the late 18th century. Under his influence, Clapham became a center of evangelization and they combined their efforts to put pressure on the government. They were credited with founding several contracting and missionary societies, and they made a significant contribution to the abolition of slavery. Its members were primarily wealthy and prominent Evangelical Anglicans who shared common political goals regarding slave liberation, the abolition of the slave trade, and reform.

The group’s name comes from those who visit Holy Trinity Church in Clapham Common, an area southwest of London that was then surrounded by fashionable mansions. Henry Venn was Curate of the Holy Trinity (1754) and his son John became Rector (1792-1813). Wilberforce and Henry Thornton, two of the group’s most influential leaders, lived nearby, and many of the meetings were held in London. They were assisted by Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London, who was sympathetic to many of their goals. The term “Clapham Sect” was a later invention by James Stephen in an 1844 article celebrating and romanticizing the work of these reformers. In their day, the group did not use a specific name, but was derided by outsiders as “the saints”.

They founded Freetown in Sierra Leone, the first great British colony in Africa, whose purpose, according to Thomas Clarkson, was “to abolish the slave trade, civilization in Africa and the introduction of the gospel there”. After decades of work in both British society and Parliament, the group saw their efforts rewarded with the final passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which banned trade throughout the British Empire and, after many more years of campaigning, the total emancipation of British slaves the death. of the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833. They also campaigned vigorously for Britain to use its influence to eradicate slavery around the world.