Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Statue of Oliver Heywood, Albert Square, Manchester

Oliver Heywood was born in 1825 in Manchester, the son of the banker and philanthropist, Sir Benjamin Heywood. The family’s fortune was derived from banking in the 1800s – Heywood’s Bank in St Ann’s Square was one of the best known of the Manchester banks.

Wealth from slavery

But the origins of the family’s wealth can be traced back to the 1700s, when the members of the family, then in Liverpool, had been involved in the transatlantic slave trade, dispatching ships with Manchester goods to west Africa, carrying enslaved Africans to Barbados, and returning to Liverpool with sugar and cotton. This had been all but forgotten by the time that Oliver entered the family business in the 1840s. His great grandfather, Benjamin, was remembered as the member of the family who had succeeded in establishing the Manchester Bank in 1788, rather than as the young merchant who in the 1740s, with his elder brother, Arthur, had been involved in the infamous triangular transatlantic trade.

Heywood’s bank and philanthropy

Heywood’s bank prospered in the Victorian period and Oliver was able to devote considerable time to assist charities and liberal causes in both Manchester and Salford.  Education was a particular interest and he supported schemes ranging from the establishment of working men’s colleges to Owens College, the forerunner of the University of Manchester. Heywood’s willingness to devote both time and money to improve the city was viewed as exemplary, especially at a time when many wealthy citizens were moving to the suburbs and ignoring such public duties. Heywood was a supporter of many progressive causes and it is not surprising to find him attending meetings against slavery, such as the one held in Manchester in November 1872 which was concerned with the trade in enslaved Africans in east Africa.


In 1888 Heywood’s public work was recognised, when he was made Manchester’s first Honorary Freeman. After his death in 1892 it was decided to erect a public statue in Albert Square. A memorial committee quickly raised over £2,600 and commissioned Albert Bruce Joy to provide a marble statue, complementing his statue of John Bright. The statue was unveiled in December 1894 in a ceremony in which the speeches bore out the truthfulness of the inscription on the pedestal that Heywood’s life had been one ‘devoted to the public good.’

This information was provided by Terry Wyke.

Photo credit Creative Commons Matt Haworth