The Wilberforces

The Wilberforce family originally came from Wilberfoss near York, which was on the outskirts of the ancient forest of Galtres. The forest was occupied by herds of wild boar, from which the village got its name Wild Boar Foss, which later became Wilberfoss and the family name went from Wilberfoss to Wilberforce.

The family tree dates back to Ilger, son of Osbert of Eggleston who at the Battle of Alnwick in 1174 fought under the banner of Willian de Kyme (Lord Wilberfoss).

Ilger of Eggleston was of Saxon descent, and there is a family tradition that his great-grandfather was the man responsible for Harold Hardrada’s overthrow at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Eggleston unobserved launched a swill –tub and sailing beneath the bridge thrust his spear upwards to kill the giant Norseman. There are probably few people in modern times who realize that it was a Wilberforce antecedent who wielded the fatal spear!!

 

Ilger married Margert de Kyme and the manor of Wilberfoss was part of his wife’s dowry. Ilger changed his name to Wilberfoss.

He reportedly came from a village in the north of Durham County now called Eggleton and carried an Eagle as his heraldic device. The family retained as its device or coat of arms an eagle .The earlier the arms the simpler they were and in the case of the Wilberfoss arms, there is no Crest. The arms are recorded in simple terms as:
“Argent, an eagle displayed sable, beaked and membred proper” this translates as a silver shield with a black eagle with  beak and claws.

From 1175-1710 Wilberfoss was the family seat.

Samuel Wilberfoss of Beverley was born in 1663 and married Anne, daughter of Robert Davye of York. They moved to Hull and William Wilberforce was born in 1690.

William Wilberforce (Mayor of Kingston–upon-Hull) was married to Sarah Thornton in 1711 and inherited the Manor of Markington. Their son Robert Wilberforce (born 1728) married Elizabeth Bird and it was their son William born in 1759 who became the Emancipator.

 

Willliam Wilberforce was a deeply religious English member of parliament and social reformer who was very influential in the abolition of the slave trade and eventually slavery itself in the British empire.

William Wilberforce was born on 24 August 1759 in Hull, the son of a wealthy merchant. He studied at Cambridge University where he began a lasting friendship with the future prime minister, William Pitt the Younger.

In 1780, Wilberforce became Member of Parliament for Hull, later representing Yorkshire. His dissolute lifestyle changed completely when he became an evangelical Christian, and in 1790 joined a leading group known as the Clapham Sect. His Christian faith prompted him to become interested in social reform, particularly the improvement of factory conditions in Britain.

The abolitionist Thomas Clarkson had an enormous influence on Wilberforce. He and others were campaigning for an end to the trade in which British ships were carrying black slaves from Africa, in terrible conditions, to the West Indies as goods to be bought and sold. Wilberforce was persuaded to lobby for the abolition of the slave trade and for 18 years he regularly introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament. The campaign was supported by many members of the Clapham Sect and other abolitionists who raised public awareness of their cause with pamphlets, books, rallies and petitions. In 1807, the slave trade was finally abolished, but this did not free those who were already slaves. It was not until 1833 that an act was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British empire.

Wilberforce’s other efforts to ‘renew society’ included the organisation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802. He worked with the reformer, Hannah More, in the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday. Its goal was to provide all children with regular education in reading, personal hygiene and religion. He was closely involved with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was also instrumental in encouraging Christian missionaries to go to India.

Wilberforce retired from politics in 1825 and died on 29 July 1833, shortly after the act to free slaves in the British Empire passed through the House of Commons. He was buried near his friend William Pitt in Westminster Abbey.

The descendants of William Wilberforce have honoured his legacy and over the past 200 years have continued to be involved in a wide range of social, legal and political issues.

For further information please look at: http://www.wilberforce.info