Description: Headstone of Charles Bacchus Approximately 1 Metre East of the South Porch of the Church of St Mary
Date Listed: 4 July 1985
English Heritage Building ID: 234063
OS Grid Reference: SP5443346926
OS Grid Coordinates: 454433, 246926
Latitude/Longitude: 52.1180, -1.2064
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471/11/34 QUEENS STREET
04-JUL-85 (North side)
HEADSTONE OF CHARLES BACCHUS APPROXIMA
TELY 1 METRE EAST OF THE SOUTH PORCH O
F THE CHURCH OF ST MARY
(Formerly listed as:
HEADSTONE APPROXIMATELY 1 METRE EAST O
F SOUTH PORCH OF CHURCH OF ST MARY)
This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.
1762. A very simple rectangular headstone, crowned with a shallow segmental arch. The inscription reads: 'In Memory of / CHARLES BACCHUS / (an African) / who died March 31. 1762. / He was belov'd and Lamented / by the Family he Serv'd / was Grateful, and Humane / and gave hopes of Proving / a faithful Servant / and a Good Man. / Aged 16' // Here titles cease! Ambitions oer! / And Slave of Monarch, is no more. / The Good alone will find in Heav'n, / Rewards assignd, and Honour giv'n.' The headstone was re-tooled, and the inscription re-cut in the late 1970s. On the back of the gravestone are the intertwined initials 'ED' and 'CB'.
HISTORY: Charles Bacchus probably began his life in Jamaica, where the two brothers of his master, Richard Bond, had sugar and coffee plantations. If so, he was almost certainly born into a slave family, but it is likely that he was favoured from early in his life, since by the age of eight he had been brought back to England to work as a domestic servant. The fact that he was given a stone memorial, with a lengthy and affectionate epitaph, demonstrates that by the time he died, the 16-year old had won a valued place in the Bond household.
We do not know when or how Charles Bacchus entered the service of Richard Bond, but certainly he was living with Bond at Haselbech, some distance north of Culworth, by 18 October 1754, when the baptism is registered of, 'Charles Bacchus, a Negro belonging to Richard Bond'. 'Bacchus', the name of the Roman god of wine, is one known to have been given to slaves; it may have been chosen by Bond at the time of the baptism, especially if the boy had recently come into his service, or it may have been given to him by a previous owner. If Charles Bacchus was indeed born into slavery, it is not known whether or not he was ever legally freed.
It is possible that, like his brothers, Richard Bond had West Indian interests, either on his own account, or through his wife, Dorcas, whose first husband had had property in Jamaica. Dorcas had made Bond the largest landowner in Haselbech; when she died in 1757 he moved to Culworth. Richard Bond had two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca, probably born between 1752 (when he married) and 1757. These daughters presumably formed part of the family by whom Bacchus was 'beloved and lamented'. Bacchus died on 31 March, 1762, and was buried on 6 April. The verse on the headstone suggests that, to the Bonds, Bacchus's status as a servant, or a slave, was a worldly matter, and that as a good man, he would now rightfully find himself equal with other good men.
The grave has long been an object of interest in Culworth. In the late 1970s Anne Lindsey Brookes had the headstone restored in memory of her parents, who had lived in the village since the 1920s; her mother had been concerned about the increasingly decayed condition of the headstone.
We know very little about the lives of individual men, women and children brought to England as slaves. Graves represent one of the few forms of tangible evidence regarding the existence of slaves in England, and such graves are rare; the vast majority died without trace. The survival of a tomb commemorating Charles Bacchus, and the little we are able to surmise about his life, makes him exceptional. Such memorials may help us understand more about the lives of others, whose graves were not marked; this fragment of Bacchus's history serves to remind us of the many histories which have been lost.
The tomb lies in the churchyard of St Mary, Culworth, approximately one metre east of the south porch. The church is listed, as are the walls and gateway of the churchyard, which contains a number of listed chest tombs and headstones.
SOURCES: http://www.northants-black-history.org.uk/ accessed on 12 December 2007; N. Cornwall, 'Black and Asian People in the Local History of Northamptonshire' (1988) found at http://www.northamptonshirerec.org.uk/ accessed on 15 October 2007
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The tomb of Charles Bacchus is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The tomb is of particular historical interest, having been erected to commemorate Charles Bacchus, a black servant, who may have begun life as a slave in the West Indies; his headstone is a demonstration of the high regard in which black servants might be held
* Group value with the church of St Mary, and a number of other listed tombs.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.