Return Passage

Having loaded the ships with sugar, tobacco and rum, paid for from the proceeds of the sale of slaves, the Captains would try to set sail for England, on the final part of their triangular voyage, before the Hurricane season began in mid-July. This was to avoid much higher insurance rates, which were demanded for ships leaving at more "dangerous" times of year. Captains would always wish to be fully loaded, to ensure greater profit, but this might not always be the case if time was short.

The journey home, following trade winds, could be expected to take between 6-8 weeks. The journey was not without many dangers associated with fierce Atlantic storms prevalent at that time of year. A ship that sank, or was wrecked near the English coast, could mean disaster for a single owner. This was the reason most Merchant Venturers shared the risk, and therefore the profit, by investing jointly in the trade.

Once back in Bristol the cargo would be unloaded and sold for usually a very good profit margin, releasing funds for financing  new Transatlantic Trade.

In the early days of the slave trade it was rare for slaves to be aboard ships on the return journey to Bristol, although one or more personal servants might accompany their master.

These slaves were taken to England purely to indicate the wealth of their owner although some were undoubtedly well loved and cared for. However they would usually be looked upon as 'pets' rather than as human beings.

However, by the end of the Transatlantic Trade period, thousands of the new African-Caribbean or African-American slaves were being transported to England. Many were to spend their remaining years as English domestic slaves, but a small number were eventually granted their freedom and continued to live and work in England.

Sugar barrels being unloaded at Bristol, about 1800

The Grave of Scipio Africanus
St Mary's Church, Henbury, Bristol

© 2002-2005 Andrew Nash