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Indentures of the Gale family and others relating to Jamaican plantations

Identifier: GALE

Scope and Contents

This collection of indentures are concerned with property in Jamaica originally owned by the Gale family but which descend through marriage into the families of John Fisher and Joseph Chaplin Hankey. They are primarily concerned with plantations in the parish of St Elizabeths, including Luanna Pen, Goldren Grove and the Union estates, but also some apparently unrelated properties such as Rose Hall.


  • Creation: 1760-1838

Biographical / Historical

These indentures primarily relate to land owned in Jamaica by the Gale family and its descendents. However, there are also indentures in GALE/2 and GALE/3 that have no obvious connection to the Gale family or their estates. These are concerned with Swanswick Plantation in Trelawny apparently in the hands of the Clarke family, and Rose Hall (the site of a series of notorious murders in the later nineteenth century) in Saint Thomas in the hands of the Caswells and the Thoyts.

The earliest Gales mentioned in the indentures are Sarah and Jonathan Gale. Jonathan Gale died before April 1737 leaving Sarah, as his widow and executor, with debts of about £10,100. "Her estates and effects in England were very small and inconsiderable but the debts owing her and her effects in Jamaica and other parts beyond the seas amount to £13,200". A portion of this debt having been paid the remaining £3,150 was assigned to John Fisher and Joseph Chaplin Hankey in 1760 (GALE/1/1). Sarah and Jonathan Gale's relationship to the other Gales is unclear but, as Fisher and Hankey were the sons-in-law of Isaac and Dorothy Gale, some family connection can be surmised.

On 28 May 1735 Isaac and Dorothy Gale conveyed plantations in St Elizabeths to Claudius Archbould (including those previously owned by John Came of St Elizabeths deceased). Archbould died in October 1740 and left his estate to his daughter Willemina, held in trust by Henry Archbould and Robert Ashbourne. She married Edward Willson and her estates passed to him (GALE/1/4).

Isaac Gale and Dorothy Gale appear to have had at least four children; Dorothy (b 10 March 1726), Jane Isabella (b 9 December 1734), John (b 10 November 1735) and Catherine (b 9 June 1738). Isaac made a will leaving a legacy of £3000 to both Jane Isabella and Catherine in March 1749 (these are the only legacy recited in a release of 1763 (GALE/1/3) and it seems likely that similar legacies were left to his other children) and he died soon afterwards. Dorothy (the eldest daughter of Andrew Orgill of Nonsuch, Trinity and Unity in the parish of St Mary, Jamaica) died on 8 May 1750. John Gale then died without issue on 6 May 1758 (his will is dated 10 February 1757, in which he bequeathed his remaining estates to his sisters). By 1754 Isaac Gale's daughters had all married. Dorothy married William Foster of The Bogue Estate, Jamaica on 19 February 1744. Jane Isabella married, on 13 October 1753, John Fisher of Greenwich. Catherine married Joseph Chaplin Hankey of Bergholt, Suffolk on 23 February 1754 (who died 18 October 1773, aged 46, having had issue). Catherine Gale was also left £1000 in the will of Samuel Orgill of Jamaica esquire deceased and payment was secured by Zachary Bayly of Jamaica esquire (who purchased some part of the said Samuel Orgill's estate).

By 1763 Hankey and Fisher "are intitled in equal moietys to several judgements debts and other incumbrances affecting the real and personal estates late of Isaac Gale late of the parish of Saint Elizabeth in the island of Jamaica esquire deceased Dorothy Gale his wife and John Gale late of Jamaica esquire deceased" and for the same of Jonathan Gale deceased and his widow Sarah Gale. The arbitrators of an award of 6 April 1763 ordered that John Fisher and Joseph Chaplain Hankey release a house in Spanish Town to a William Gale of the parish of Vere in Jamaica in exchange for £650 (see GALE/1/8). William Gale was the surviving son and executor of John Gale of Vere deceased (GALE/1/8). William Gale died in 1784 and had married Elizabeth Morant, who had died in 1759 (Exeter University, MS 44). Again it is unclear how these Gales are related to Isaac and Dorothy or their children.

The property known as Golden Grove in 1763 had originally been granted by the Crown by Letters Patent as follows: 465 acres to William Ivey on 1st March 17--, 300 acres to Samuel Rushton on 24th August 1717, 145 acres (part of 300 acres) to Nicholas Coleman on 24th August 1717, 85 acres (part of 3,000 acres) to Samuel Rushton on 7th November 1718, 500 acres to Joshua Crosbie on 24th August 1717, and 232 (part of 465 acres) to William Ivey on 1 March 1730. Likewise, what was known as Luanna plantation had originally been granted by the Crown by Letters Patent as follows: 300 acres to Bonetta Jennings on 5th October 1698, 318 acres (part of 1863 acres) to John Vassall on 10th June 1694, 40 acres to Samuel Vassall on 1st June 1708, 170 acres (part of 350 acres) to Robert Rawlins on 20th June 1723, 32 acres to John Vassall on 10th June 1674, and 200 acres to Isaac Gale on 8th December 1736 (see GALE/1/6). Although Golden Grove had now become part of the Union Estate the lease excluded "a certain portion or plot of land part of [Golden Grove] estate lying west of a line drawn between certain cane pieces and parcels of land known by the several names of Dawson and Cromwell on the west and certain other pieces called Campbell and Warsaw on the east and continued to the river called One Eye River on the north and a certain estate called Windsor Estate on the south and including the said pieces or parcels of land called Dawson and Cromwell" (GALE/1/12).

Jane Isabella Fisher and John Fisher appear to have had two children, John Fisher and James Fisher. John Fisher senior died on 11 February 1769 and was buried at Greenwich. By 1783 Jane Isabella had remarried John Spooner of Grovesnor Place, Middlesex. In a release of 1788 Jane Isabella is now the widow of John Spooner. In 1783 John Foster Barham bought from John and Jane Spooner and James and John Fisher for £350, 219 acres woodland in Nassau in St Elizabeths. In 1788 this land was further released to Jane Isabella Spooner by Richard Vassall (see GALE/1/10).

John Fisher junior (by 1813 being given as 'of Tidwell House in the parish of East Budleigh in Devon' (GALE/1/11) and by 1815 leasing out some of his father's properties in Jamaica (GALE/1/12)) married Elizabeth Lyte of Bath on 2 May 1815 (GALE/1/14). Elizabeth Lyte had an annual £400 payable out of the tolls of the Honiton Turnpike, was entitled to £266 13s 4d upon the death of Betty Palfrey of Chard in Somerset and had secured annuities in the names of James Henry Arnold and Mary Lyte widow (GALE/1/13). Elizabeth Lyte died on 20 October 1837, her marriage with Fisher having produced no children. The text of her will is recited as follows: "In the name of God amen I Elizabeth Fisher of East Budleigh in the County of Devon do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following first I direct my executors hereinafter named to pay within six months after my death to Mrs Arnold Widow of the late James Henry Arnold Esquire LLD her administrators or assigns the sum of six hundred pounds which was kindly advanced to Mr Fisher by my much loved and esteemed friend the late Doctor Arnold together with any interest that may become due thereon from the date of this my will and I likewise direct my said executors to pay within the like period of six months to Miss Elizabeth Meyrick of Holsworthy in the County of Devon aforesaid her executors administrators or assigns the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds together with any interest that may become due thereon from the date of this my will and after the above payments are made I give and bequeath to my dear husband John Fisher all the rest residue and remainder of my property of what kind or nature soever and wheresoever situated and I hereby nominate constitute and appoint the said John Fisher sole executor of this my will and my residuary Legatee In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this eighteenth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand and eight hundred and thirty six Elizabeth Fisher (LJ) and which said Will is attested as follows signed sealed and delivered by the said Elizabeth Fisher as and for her last will and testament in the presence of Mary Hill Mary Ann Webber- both of East Budleigh" (GALE/1/14).

In 1813 John Fisher junior (who owed £3780 to John Fisher Weare and £3612 6s 10d to George Weare Braikenridge, John Braikenridge and Richard Honnywill of Bristol) released the Union Estate (incorporating land formerly known as Golden Grove) and Luana Pen and "the said John Fisher doth hereby for himself his heirs executors and administrators further covenant promise and agree to and with the said William Weare and George Braikenridge their heirs executors administrators and assigns that he the said John Fisher his heirs executors administrators agents and assigns shall and will within the space of two calendar months next after these presents shall arrive in the said Island of Jamaica make or cause to be made a true perfect and exact list or schedule of the negro and other slaves in upon or belonging to or used or employed upon the said plantation and penn hereby released or otherwise assured or intended so to be or any part thereof containing the particulars of their names employments and sexes and of the issue offspring and increase of the females of the said slaves and cause the said list or schedule to be signed by the agent or attorney of the said John Fisher his heirs or assigns and annex or cause the said list or schedule when so signed to be annexed to these presents". Along with GALE/1/11, two further indentures (GALE/2/1 and GALE/2/2) in this collection contain lists of the enslaved people on Swanswick plantation, and in one instance the indenture itself is conveying enslaved people (GALE/2/1). The majority of these only give the names and occupations of the enslaved people, but GALE/2/2 also gives ages and ethnic categories, as well as some details of births and deaths. This list shares a page with a list of the chattels on the Swanswick plantation and the plantations referred to in this collection are often indentured along with "all the Pastures Provision Ground Plantation Walks Lands Messuages Houses Erections Buildings Negroes and other slaves Implements Utensils Stock of cattle Hereditaments and Premises thereunto belonging" (for example see GALE/1/16). When John Fisher leased the Union Estate, Luanna Pen and Archibolds Pen to Henry James Arnold, Robert Campbell and Thomas Meade in 1815 he did so along with "all negroes and slaves men women and children and the increase and progeny of the same and all horses cows oxen sheep and other cattle whatsoever and all coppers stews ladles skimmers potting basons sugar pots stills still heads worms worm tubs coolers cisterns plantation tools and all other implements goods and chattels whatsoever" (GALE/1/12 ). Enslaved people usually appear in these indentures after the property and before the livestock on the plantation, clearly this was the status of enslaved people on Jamaican plantations.

Information from GALE: Indentures of the Gale family and others relating to Jamaican plantations, 'Jamaica Surveyed' by B W Higman (Institute of Jamaica: 1988) and 'Gale Family History' (


20 documents

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection has historically been known as the 'slave papers'. Late in 1984 BCA began negotiating with L E Fisher, an antiques dealer in Hammersmith for the 'slave papers'. BCA was given first refusal for a price of £2,000. This money was raised from a number of black groups, individuals and the community at large. Specific donors included the Greater London Council, Shell, The Caribbean Teachers Association and Lambeth CRC. The indentures were bought on 2 February 1985.

Black Cultural Archives: Indentures of the Gale family and others relating to Jamaican plantations
Black Cultural Archives
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives Collection Repository

Black Cultural Archives
1 Windrush Square