William Davidson and the West End Job: Part 2

William Davidson and the West End Job: Part 2 The Wrong Salt: coming to Terms with the Mother Country
William arrives in England to study the law. He is pressganged into the Royal Navy and is violently rejected by the father of Miss Salt, the girl of this dreams.

The Wrong Salt: Coming to Terms with the Mother Country

William Davidson continues his story with his arrival in the Mother Country. Davidson transferred his legal apprenticeship to Liverpool where he felt more at home. Davidson became a clerk on a merchant ship, where he was press-ganged into service of the Navy for the Napoleonic Wars. For the first time, Davidson experienced slavery first-hand. After returning from sea, Davidson was apprenticed to a cabinet maker. On a ship home to Jamaica, Davidson was press-ganged a second time and deserted.  Davidson returned to England and began working as a cabinet maker in Litchfield.  Davidson took many commissions, including one for Lord Harrowby, the future President of the Council under Lord Liverpool. Davidson married Sarah Lane and moved to Marylebone where he became involved with the debate surrounding the fencing in of common land.

  • 25 March 1807 – Last slave ship left Liverpool after the slave trade was banned
  • 1803 – 1815 – Napoleonic Wars
  • 3 June 1816 – Married to Sarah Lane
    • Two sons born in 1816 and 1819, respectively

Background to our William Davidson film:

2020 has also shone the spotlight on Britain’s colonial past and its role in the slave trade. We decided to tell the story of the Cato Street Conspiracy through the eyes of Jamaican conspirator William Davidson.  We were able to work with film makers Digital Works and WCRAG volunteer Susi Hilmi to film actor Michael Lyall in role at the Household Cavalry Museum, whose stables stood in for Davidson’s Newgate prison cell.

Although the words of the story that follow are not those of William Davidson, they are based mainly on research undertaken by our volunteers Rebecca Simons and Amber Hederer from contemporary sources. Our key source has been: An Authentic History of the Cato-Street Conspiracy,’(1820) and the transcripts of the trial that are available from the Old Bailey Online website www.oldbaileyonline.org. Both of which have provided contemporary accounts of Davidson’s story that we have been able to adapt as if written by Davidson himself.

We are delighted to highlight William Davidson, a significant individual in Black British history, whose story deserves to be more widely known.


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