Descendants of James* Field Stanfield


1. James* Field Stanfield

Irish Writer. Irishman, educated in France for Roman Catholicpriesthood but did not take orders. Went to sea on a vessel engagedin the slave trade. "After a terrible experience of the traffic atsea and for a short time on shore in Africa, he returned to England,one of the three survivors of the voyage."

He renounced the sea and joined a theatrical company, appearing in1786 at York. Joined the ranks of the abolitionists, and there madenew friends including Thomas Clarkson. In 1788 he published a bookabout his experience in the slave trade called "Observations on aGuinea Voyage in a series of letters addressed to the Rev. ThomasClarkson" and in the following year a vigourous poem "The GuineaVoyage". In 1807 both works were published as a single volume.

In 1813 he published an "Essay on the Study and Composition ofBiography".

Twice married. First wife Mary Hoad (mother of son ClarksonStanfield) of Cheltenham died in 1801. Clarkson Stanfield (the son,famous artist) was the fifth and youngest son of James Field Stanfieldand Mary Hoad.

Original birth date recorded was 1747 in Ireland. Revised to 1749 inDublin, Ireland based on "Spectacular Career of Clarkson Stanfield"


In his 1801 marriage to Maria Field Kell, it shows him to be widowedand to be of Morpeth, Northumberland, England.


A record shows a Charles Lowen Stanfield as the son of James FieldStanfield and Mary, christened on 10 Apr 1789 at Saint Nicholas,Durham, Durham, England (LDS P00050-1, source film 90788)



James Field Stanfield: An Unrecognised Hero of the Movement to Abolishthe Slave Trade

A Seaman on a Slave Ship

James Field Stanfield (1749-1824), a sailor, actor and wine merchantis a figure whose role in the campaign for the abolition of the slavetrade deserves to be better known today. He was the first ordinaryseaman involved in the transport of enslaved Africans to write aboutits horrors and the power of his work increased public revulsionagainst the trade.

Born in Dublin, Stanfield initially trained for the priesthood, butinstead became a merchant seaman and sailed on ships to all parts ofEurope as well as to North America and the West Indies.

In 1774-1776 he made a voyage which started on a ship which took goodsfrom Liverpool to Benin on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. After astay of eight months while captured Africans were gathered together,his slave ship made a horrific journey on the ‘Middle Passage’ to theWest Indies; he then returned to England.

The Guinea Voyage

The horrors he witnessed on board the slave ship, which he describedas "a floating dungeon", made Stanfield a confirmed abolitionist. In1788 Stanfield wrote Observations on a Guinea Voyage, graphicallydescribing his experiences and addressed to a leading anti-slaverycampaigner, the Revd Thomas Clarkson. The Guinea Voyage, A Poem inThree Books – "The direful Voyage to Guinea’s sultry shore AndAfrica's wrongs, indignant Muse 'deplore'"- was published thefollowing year.

Because of the time he spent in Benin, Stanfield was able to give thelie to those who said that the condition of those taken to the slaveryin the West Indies was preferable to their birthplace in Africa. Hewrote that in all his voyages he had never seen a happier race ofpeople than those in the Kingdom of Benin with its well-stockedmarkets of food and different commodities.

The pamphlets gave a powerful description of the sufferings of boththe enslaved Africans and of the crew. Nearly all his fellow sailorsdied of disease in Benin or on the voyage to Jamaica.

Remembering Slavery is at the museum in September

Stanfield recorded the sadism of the captain who, ill in bed on thepassage from Africa to the West Indies, had a female slave floggedbefore him in his cabin for a minor offence. As the unwilling sailoradministering the punishment was judged to be too lenient the sailorhimself was flayed and the woman was then flogged 'until her back wasfull of holes'.

She was bandaged by Stanfield, whose knowledge of Latin and a littlemedical reading had led to him being placed in charge of the medicinechest after both the ship's doctor and the doctor's assistant haddied.

Stanfield’s writings were serialised in newspapers in Britain andAmerica and shocked their readers. His evidence that the slave tradewas extremely destructive of the lives of English sailors as well asAfrican Slaves was an additional argument that the abolitionists wereable to apply after the publication of the Guinea Voyage pamphlets.

A combined edition of the two works was published in 1808 to mark thepassing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. It was dedicated toSir Ralph Milbanke, MP for County Durham, whom Stanfield records asseconding Wilberforce’s Abolition bill.

Stanfield in Sunderland

By 1782 James Field Stanfield had become an actor and appeared on thestage in various towns, joining the Scarborough-Sunderland theatrecircuit in 1789.

Sunderland was then to be his home for over twenty years. He played asignificant part in the life of the town, being a leading figure inthe foundation of the town's Subscription Library and in the PhoenixMasonic Lodge.

Stanfield was a wine and spirit merchant in High Street East inSunderland for three years from 1793. The business was unsuccessfuland in 1796 he became a travelling actor again, but still had his basein Sunderland; two of his daughters were christened in Holy TrinityParish Church in 1809 and 1811.

He later taught composition and elocution in Edinburgh. James FieldStanfield died in London in 1824.

As well as his writings on the slave trade, Stanfield was the authorof songs, poems and books. He wrote the Life of John Howard, theprison reformer, and An Essay on the Study and Composition ofBiography which was published in Sunderland in 1813.

An Unrecognised Hero

James Field Stanfield is less well-known today than hisSunderland-born son, the artist Clarkson Stanfield (who himself wasnamed after the Revd Thomas Clarkson), but deserves to be rememberedfor his abolitionist role.

Marcus Rediker, the author of The Slave Ship: A Human History, to bepublished in November with a chapter on James Stanfield, considersthat he is "an unrecognised hero of the movement to abolish the slavetrade".

Sunderland Museum’s portrait of James Field Stanfield will be ondisplay in the Remembering Slavery exhibition when this is on show atSunderland Museum from 22 September to 4 November 2007.

The Author
Neil Sinclair is a local historian and former Senior Curator ofSunderland Museums.

Mary* Hoad

Mary was an actress, likely acting along with James. She taughtpainting and did some writing. The book "Poems Tales and Fables, fromvarious authors, by a lady, for the instruction and amusement of herchildren" was reportedly by her, published by J. Graham, Sunderland,in 1810 after Mary's death.

Burial record shows spouse to be James Field Stanfield, burial placeis Corbridge, Northumberland, England.

4. Jemima Stanfield

actress - name uncertain

5. Mary Stanfield


Possible baptism is:

British Vital Records Index - Second Edition:

STANFFIELD, Mary Christening
Gender: Female
Christening Date: 23 Aug 1791 Recorded in: Scarborough, Yorkshire,England
Collection: BTs
Father: James Field STANFFIELD
Mother: Mary
Source: FHL Film 919206 Dates: 1765 - 1812

Maria* Field Kell


9. William James Stanfield

scene painter

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