Book launched to tell story of Bristol Slavers

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By sophia1980 | Tuesday, January 07, 2014, 12:02

A book which discovers the truth about previously unknown aspects of Bristol's Slave Trade has been launched by a popular local character with the help of an esteemed psychiatrist.

Peter Martin, also known as Pirate Pete, has been on a world-wide fact-finding mission for the past 12 years to write the book 'Bristol Slavers' which tells the history of the triangular slave trade from West Country ports.

Peter, who wrote the book with psychiatrist Dr. Isioma Nwokolo, will be launching the project on Thursday 20 February at Plantation Caribbean Bar and Restaurant in Cotham, where guests can hear more about the journey to write the book and take a look at some of the evidence gathered.

Peter, 72, who lives in Knowle, said: "The difference between this book and others written on the subject is that I have solid evidence. This isn't hearsay or opinion, I'm not interested in the politics of it; I'm simply laying out the facts. The book has serious foundations and I'm peeling back history to reveal what went on.

"The book focuses on all the estates in the South West which have slave trade connections. I don't take no for an answer which has meant I've been into houses not explored for slavery artefacts before and people have really bared their souls to me.

"We cover all the famous Bristol families – the Colstons, Smyths, Nelsons, Wills, Goldneys, Frys and Berkeleys to name a few – and look at how their estates fit into everything.

"I know how much of a controversial subject this is but everyone I've spoken to about it has said 'this is a story that needs to be told' and I truly believe that. There's a lot of talk in Bristol about the subject but it's time we talked about the truth.

"I originally brought Isioma on board to help portray an African perspective but since we've been working together the connections she has to what went on are unbelievable."

Isioma, originally from Nigeria but now living in Dorset, found she is from a lineage of African rulers after beginning to explore her roots.

The direct descendant of the African King known as 'The Greatest of Kings', who ruled when the Bristol Slavers were trading, Isioma became interested in the human aspects of slavery and what it meant to the people involved.

She said: "As a practising psychiatrist I am, of course, interested in how slavery affected people and the mental trauma caused. I also look at how they behaved in the face of adversity and how they improved themselves. While Peter is the fact man, I explore the human side.

"I think the balance between the motivation for slavery and the result of it makes this book so interesting and I hope people appreciate the research and thought that has gone into it.

"Our journey to write the book has been exciting and interesting but it's also been a real eye opener because we're discovering real information on the history of generations gone.

"The discoveries, we hope, will lead to improving education on an important part of our history and also generate interest in the cities and towns where the artefacts we talk about have been found. For example, we recently found a sought after bell at the entrance to a secret tunnel in a popular hotel in Bristol. The bell was cast in 1750 by slave trader William Reeves which came as a bit of a surprise to the hotel!"

Peter himself has a varied history and having travelled widely in his lifetime his experiences are charted in the book. Born during an air raid on Bristol Cathedral and an ex-pupil of Fairfield School, Peter worked as a window display designer at Harrods for 20 years before travelling the Middle East designing interiors for clients.

Upon returning to Bristol, Peter began 'Pirate Walks' and now gives tours to over 10,000 tourists, locals and school children every year, specialising in corporate event evenings.

Peter continued: "In 2009 I published a pirate book called 'Swashbuckling Tales of the Westcountry'. It was such an overwhelming success, especially with teachers who use it to teach their classes about pirates and Bristol's history, I decided to work on another book.

"I am hoping the new book will be a great resource for teachers covering the Slave Trade as well as being of general interest.

"We want people to come along to the launch and get involved. It's going to be a great night full of music and fun and I'm looking forward to showing people our work.

"We are now looking into launching a follow up website, providing a framework for people to interact and share information about family histories, which will launch next year. This will be a community resource available to anyone who buys a book and registers with us."

The book will be launched at Caribbean restaurant The Plantation on Thursday 20 February. Tickets to the event cost £10 if pre-booked or £15 on the door and include food, drinks and a reggae after-party until 3am. Books will be available to buy at the event for a special price of £10, signed by both authors.

There is a limit of 200 tickets available so organisers are urging those interested to get in touch soon.

Tickets can be bought by emailing Peter at or through contacting The Plantation directly on 0117 9077932 or 07747623788.

For more information about Pirate Pete visit



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