Anti slavery protest reaches Honiton

Author walks from Combe Martin to remember conditions lace makers worked in.

ANTI-slavery protestors gathered at Allhallows Museum in Honiton last week to remember the town’s industrial past.

Author Valerie Belsey walked to Honiton from Combe Martin, following in the footsteps of silver and lead miners, and visited historic industrial sites en-route - including evidence of iron workings at Luppitt.

She was met in Honiton by fellow supporters of Anti Slavery International Tony and Edna Simpson and museum curator Margaret Lewis.

The 66-year-old undertook her ‘Green lanes to Freedom’ walk to remember the children and families whose circumstances drew them into Honiton’s famous lace making industry:

“The quality of Honiton Lace is known all over the world, but what is less well known is the appalling conditions faced by many of the young lace makers,” said Ms Belsey.

“They worked long hours in cramped, ill-ventilated conditions and in poor light. It is no wonder many did not live long lives.

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“These conditions ended, but similar conditions are still endured by women and young children in ‘sweatshops’ in the developing world.

‘”Just as lace was bought without regard to its sweated cottages, so clothing and other products, like carpets, are purchased by today’s consumers with little regard to slave-like conditions.”

Ms Belsey added: “People tolerated the English slave trade for two centuries before it was abolished, along with child labour. Now we have to tackle similar slave-like conditions today - people trafficking, gang-masters and bonded labour. It can be done.”

In welcoming Ms Belsey to Honiton, Mr Simpson said it was important to show how slavery existed in the past and still exists in many countries.

Mr Simpson has given over 30 talks to local groups on the beginnings of the slave trade and Devon. His talks address Devon’s links with the Hawkins family, plantation slavery and the later strength of the abolition campaign in Devon.

In 1792, Honiton residents raised a petition against the slave trade.