Robert Wedderburn, forgotten son of Inveresk
Today’s after work walk took me past the big houses of Inveresk Road again, many of which have a history not always pleasant, but which should be told.
Inveresk Lodge in East Lothian, is today in the ownership of the National Trust but, from 1774 to 1911, it was home to the Wedderburn family who made their fortune on a sugar plantation and in the slave trade.
Robert Wedderburn was the son of Rosanna, a slave and her owner, James Wedderburn.
Although born free, Robert was raised in a harsh environment, as his mother was often flogged at the insistence of his father. When Rosanna was re-sold by James Wedderburn, Robert was raised by his maternal grandmother before joining the Royal Navy at the age of 16 and arriving in Britain.
Impoverished and desperate, Robert arrived at his father’s house in Inveresk only to be turned away.
“I visited my father, who had the inhumanity to threaten to send me to gaol if I troubled him,” he wrote years later of his trip to Inveresk Lodge. “He did not deny me to be his son, but called me a lazy fellow and said he would do nothing for me. From his cook I had one draught of small beer, and his footman gave me a cracked sixpence.” The Horrors of Slavery (1824).
Robert became a prolific writer and speechmaker and campaigner for abolition of slavery.
The British Labour politician Bill Wedderburn, Baron Wedderburn of Charlton, was a direct descendant of Robert Wedderburn.
It’s only a house but it’s got some history ...