Alleyne, Hannah

Hannah Alleyne was born Hannah Downes c.1727 in Barbados. She was the daughter of John Downes (1698-1772) of The Spring, St. Thomas, Barbados.1 The Downes were a family who owned plantations, where enslaved people worked. She was one of five children, four daughters and one son. In September 1762 her sister Elizabeth Downes (1728-1778) married William Franklin (1730-1813), who was the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers. William later became the last Colonial Governor of the province of New Jersey. The couple met when Elizabeth was visiting Hannah in London with their father. At the same time William Franklin was in London studying in Middle Temple. 2

In December 1747 Hannah married Thomas Alleyne, son of John Alleyne and Mary née Peers.3 The Alleynes were a large multi-generational family of powerful plantation owners in Barbados. Hannah’s husband was a plantation owner and slave owner who inherited Rock Hall from his father. In c.1745 Thomas merged Rock Hall with Four Hills (the same plantation owned by John Alleyne 1695-1730, also buried in Bath Abbey). The two plantations totalled 370 acres and had 168 enslaved people.4 Hannah died in Bath and was buried at Bath Abbey in February 1762.

Interestingly, Thomas and Hannah’s only surviving child was a son, John Alleyne, who became a lawyer and an abolitionist.5 John was one of the five attorneys who served on the famous ‘Somerset v Stewart Case’ 1772.6 The Somerset Case, also known as the Mansfield Judgement, involved James Somerset, an enslaved person who was purchased in Virginia, America, by Charles Steuart (or Stewart).7 The verdict ruled that it was illegal to forcibly take an enslaved person from England and sell them. This decision was popularly taken to mean that slavery was illegal in England, which supported the the abolitionists’ long fight to end slavery. 8

Reviewed by Lisa Kennedy, Consultant, 2023.

  1. Brandow, James comp. Genealogies of Barbados families. Maryland, Clearfield Company, 2001. p. 33

  2. Stumpf, Vernon O. ‘Notes and Documents: Who was Elizabeth Downes?’, 1970 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 22 June 2023]

  3. Barbados, Church Records, 1637-1849 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

    Original data:Barbados, Church Records, 1637-1887. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

  4. ‘Rock Hall [ Barbados | St Peter ]’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

  5. Goodrich, Philip The Woke Surgeon: John Alleyne, Esq., 2020. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 22 June 2023]

  6. Olusoga, David Black and British: A Forgotten History. London: Picador, 2021. P. 129

  7. English Heritage The Somerset V Stewart Case, undated. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 22 June 2023]

  8. Olusoga, David Black and British: A Forgotten History. London: Picador, 2021. P. 127-138

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