George Africanus Tram unveiled in Nottingham

The George Africanus Tram is listed no.234 and was a suggestion by the public and school pupils for a tram to be named after him.

George Africanus was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1763 and brought to England during the transatlantic slave trade period as a servant aged three to the Molineux family of Wolverhampton, but ended his life as a wealthy businessman and a free man in Nottingham.

After an apprenticeship as a brass founder in Wolverhampton, George Africanus moved to Nottingham, after visits to Nottinghamshire where the Molineux’s had relatives in Teversal, Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. Documents held at the Nottinghamshire Archives state that George Africanus married local girl Esther Shaw in St Peter’s Church Nottingham in 1788 and had seven children. George was also involved with the Watch and Ward group, a volunteer police force, established to protect businesses and the public against rioting gangs of Luddites in the early 1800s.

Africanus’ grave, in the churchyard of St Mary’s Nottingham, was uncovered by historians Len Garrison and Ray Gale. A green plaque was later unveiled in 2003. On 25th March 2007 and a new gravestone rededicated by the Right Reverend Robert Thompson, Bishop of Kingston Jamaica and the High Commissioners of Jamaica and Sierra Leone.

Africanus founded what was probably the first employment agency in Nottingham called Africanus’ Register of Servants and became a prominent businessman and freeholder, which enabled him voting rights.

He died in 1834 aged 71, but it was not until the late 20th century that interest in his life and the contributions he made to the Nottingham economy and to society really took off through the work of researchers and historians.

His place of business and residence, formerly 28 Chandlers Lane, was formally recognised through campaign work and fundraising by Norma Gregory with a blue heritage plaque erected by Nubian Jak Community Trust, London, led by community pioneer, Jak Beula Dodd, and sponsored by the Nottingham News Centre and Nottingham City Council in October 2014. The building is now part of the Major Oak public house, on Victoria Street in Nottingham. Norma has set up the George Africanus Society UK to share knowledge about George Africanus and Castle Rock Brewery produced the George Africanus beer in his honour in April 2014.

Norma Gregory was honoured by a request from NET and Nottingham City Council to unveil the name on the new tram. Norma, 47, historian and author of Jamaicans in Nottingham, Narratives from Nottingham has been director of Nottingham News Centre since 2013.

Norma actively contributes to the growing research activity into the African contribution and presence in Nottingham and the UK and was commissioned to create the Nottingham Carnival Archive for Tuntum Housing Association, hosts of the Nottingham Carnival for the last 17 years.

Norma Gregory said: “I believe that George would be proud of this honour and his life story is a lesson many can learn from. With a vision to succeed and to contribute to society, George Africanus made himself part of the community of Nottingham through his resilience, ambition and desire to improve his life and those around him, created through his own employment business. George’s legacy and our heritage must be preserved and recognised and we must contribute to this crucial task.”

NET Marketing Manager, Jamie Swift, commented: “George is obviously very well-known now as his name was put forward on numerous occasions. His story is real rags to riches, which inspires people. It’s fitting that we celebrate the achievements of this man, who did so well in his time.”

Councillor Jane Urquhart, Nottingham City Council Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing, Nottingham stated: “George Africanus’ story is one of hope and triumph. His impact is rightly commemorated in the places he lived, worked and is buried. Naming a tram in his honour further recognises the active and important contribution he made in our city.”

Nottingham Tram Interesting Facts (featured in the Nottingham Post August 2015)

  • The tram network has taken 10 years to complete and cost £770m (Phases 1&2)
  • The network extends 32km
  • There are 37 named tram cars
  • 600km of power cables used for electricity
  • Construction of Net Phase Two generated £150m worth of contracts for East Midlands businesses
  • There are 8 modern tram networks in the UK: London, Nottingham, Tyne & Wear, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Blackpool and Birmingham.

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© Nottingham News Centre