Channel 4 News – Richard Drax: time to accept responsibility

Ayesha Tull visits Barbados

Richard Drax featured on Channel 4 News recently. Reporter Ayesha Tull visited Barbados on the occasion of the island becoming the world’s newest republic

Whilst there, she spoke to Esther Philips, Barbados’ Poet Laureate, about Drax Hall, the slave plantation founded by James Drax, the ancestor of Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset

When she was a child, Esther said, she had walked on the bones of her ancestors

Drax Hall off limits

Richard Drax still owns Drax Hall, memorably described by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies, as a “killing ground”

The Conservative MP has not responded to requests from the Barbadian people to make restitution and reparation for the historic involvement of his family in slavery

Drax Hall – unlike other former plantations on the island – remains closed to the public, with notices warning off any trespasser

The Drax family grew rich on the profits of slavery: Richard Drax’s Dorset Country House, Charborough Park, has one of the longest estate walls in England

Pevsner says that the “landscaped park is the most splendid in Dorset” (1)

Slave owners’ manual

The records of Drax Hall are kept secret from historians by the family – yet Ayesha Tull was able to read pages from a 64-page manual published in 1786, co-written by one Edward Drax (2): “Instructions for the Management of a Plantation in Barbadoes (sic) and for the Treatment of Negroes” (2)

Ayesha quoted the comment by the authors: “the blacks are commonly addicted to thieving”, and that any caught stealing sugar, molasses or rum should be “severely handled”

On 30 November 2021, Barbados became a republic, with its own head of state.

Stains on our history

Prince Charles attended the ceremonies marking the birth of the new republic, acknowledging the “appalling atrocity of slavery” that “forever stains our history”

Taking responsibility

Richard Drax, however, continues to say that although regrettable, the historic involvement of his family in slavery is nothing to do with him, and that no one can be held responsible “for something that happened hundreds of years ago”

Professor Pedro Welch of the University of West Indies, however, says that the “blood, sweat and tears” of those working the plantation enriched the family – and that whether he likes it or not, Richard Drax does have a responsibility to atone for the actions of his ancestors


1 – “The Buildings of England: Dorset”, John Newman and Nikolaus Pevsner, P: 140

2 – Along with 7 other sugar planters: Edwin Lascelles, James Colleton, Francis Ford, John Braithwaite, John Walter, William Thorpe Holder and Philp Gibbes

3 – See: Legacies of British Slavery – University College London: