Aspinall, John Bridge

Born on 28th April 1759, John Bridge Aspinall became Mayor of Liverpool in 1804 when the city was home to a leading port driving trade of enslaved people and commodities.1 By 1810, John Bridge was frequenting Bath and later took up residence. Until the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, he and other family members were heavily involved in the transportation and trading of enslaved people. Between 1765 and 1807 members of the Aspinall family were connected to 197 slave voyages, John Bridge was involved with 113 of those.2

His father, James Aspinall (1729-c.1788), was co-owner of the slave ship The Zong which was subject of ​in​famous legal action between 1781-83.3 The Zong left Accra, Ghana in August of 1781, carrying 442 enslaved people to Jamaica in overcrowded conditions. During the voyage, the ship began to run low on drinking water which resulted in the deaths of 232 enslaved people, at least 133 of whom were ​intentionally ​thrown overboard.4 This event became known as The Zong massacre. The owners of the ship claimed compensation for the deaths of these enslaved people, who were viewed as commodities, instead of human beings,​​ but the claim was denied. However, Judge Mansfield later ruled that although the ship’s crew were negligent, the enslaved people were treated like any other property and The Zong’s owners were acquitted of any liability for their deaths. 5
John Bridge’s younger brother Thomas Aspinall (1765-1813) was a slave-owner. He owned Windsor Forest, a sugar and rum plantation in Kingston, Jamaica. Thomas had eight children, all who appear to be born to Elizabeth Espinall, a woman of mixed heritage. 6
His sister Sarah (1770-1853) married Sir John Tobin (1763-1851), a palm oil trader and Mayor of Liverpool (1819-20), also involved in the trading of enslaved people between Africa and the Caribbean. Tobin was a captain on​ numerous​ slave voyages between 1793 and 1803. He owned several ships which ran slaving voyages between 1794 and 1804, two of which he co-owned with John Bridge. 7
John Bridge is buried in Bath Abbey alongside both his first wife, Nanny, with whom he had seven children, and his second wife Jane. Jane was the widow of Richard Downward, a sugar merchant and friend of John Bridge.

Reviewed by Lisa Kennedy, Consultant, 2023.

  1. ‘John Bridge Aspinall’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

  2.  Holcomb, Janet Early Merchant Families in Sydney: Speculation and Risk Management on the Fringes of Empire. London, Anthem Press, 2014, p.171

  3. ‘John Bridge Aspinall’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

  4.  Olusoga, David Black and British: A Forgotten History. London: Picador, 2021. P. 204-5

  5. ‘John Bridge Aspinall’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

  6. ‘Thomas Aspinall’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

  7. ‘Sir John Tobin’, Legacies of British Slavery database, [accessed 22nd June 2023].

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