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Map showing how the Allason brothers used the triangular trade
NTS image

Slave ship with enslaved people – detail
Durham University Library

The forts (or coastal dungeons)
The captured people were held in slave forts (and some in big pits). They might have to wait weeks before boarding a slave ship, while more people were rounded up. A slave trader liked to sail with a full ship. Many died of disease or hunger while still on African soil. Some forts, in coastal areas of West Africa, have been kept as evidence of the past.

The slave ship
A slave ship could take up to two months to sail to the Caribbean islands from West Africa. There might be over 400 people on one ship. Most traders packed in as many people as they could – for maximum profit. (Some opted for fewer slaves in the hope that more would survive.)

The men were chained together (with shackles and chains made in Britain), lying or crouching next to each other with barely room to move. At times, they could hardly breathe. In one report, the space allowed for each person was 125 x 45cms (4 x 1.5ft). Women and children were kept in separate areas of the ship or sometimes on deck (which made them more vulnerable).

Many died en route
In 1788, one ship was reported to have carried 600 slaves – though built for a maximum of 451 people. The ships were notorious for diseases such as dysentery and smallpox. Some slaves committed suicide by jumping overboard (nets were put over the decks to prevent it) or by refusing to eat. It has been estimated that over 3 million enslaved people were transported on British ships. Another estimation is that 20% of the people died before reaching their destination. Some people put the figure as much higher.

Port Glasgow and Greenock
Robert Allason, who built Greenbank House, near Glasgow (now cared for by the NTS) took part in the Transatlantic Trade. He traded in tobacco and slaves. He sent goods from Port Glasgow to his brother Sandy, who was based in Calabar (now in Nigeria), who then took slaves on board his ship and sailed to the West Indies and America – where William Allason ran a tobacco plantation (in Virginia) that was worked by enslaved people. Robert was sent the tobacco which he sold in Britain and Europe. Port Glasgow and Greenock were the principal tobacco ports in Britain.

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