Juba Royton was a slave who was brought to live in Oldham in the Eighteenth Century by Thomas Percival, a wealthy linen manufacturer. He is one of the earliest examples we can trace in the records at the Greater Manchester County Record office, of a black man living in the Manchester area.
With that in mind, when we were approached by the school librarian from Loreto High School in Chorlton to do a Black History Month project with some of the students there we jumped at the chance to get to know Juba better.
Through Parish registers we are able to trace Juba’s baptism, his marriage to a local woman, and the baptisms of his three sons, as well as his premature death at the age of 23. However, we know nothing of his birth, which country he came from or even the circumstances surrounding his death.
We wanted to use the original archives to give the students, a group of 9 from years 7 and 8, the opportunity to try and piece together Juba’s life and then to recreate what he might have looked like with the help of an artist using clay.
We asked them to research Juba’s life through the archives, but also to look into the history of the family who owned him, the place he lived and took his name from, as well as various elements of slavery and the slave trade. Using this knowledge we then asked them to consider what Juba was like and how he might not only have looked, but how he might have felt about his life.
To do this they used clues such as the fact that Juba could write, as evidenced by his marriage banns. Juba signed his name but his local bride left her mark – meaning that she was illiterate. The couple named their first son after the man who had brought him to England, Thomas Percival, who had died before the child’s birth. We were impressed with how hard the student’s worked over the two days, the amount of information they gathered and the quality of the resulting clay model of Juba and the book documenting the project are testament to that.
So without further ado we would like to introduce you to Juba Thomas Royton –
I think you’ll agree he certainly has character!
You can see more photographs of the workshop here!
If you’re interested in learning more about Juba’s life take a look here at Royton Local History Society’s research.