1760: "Juba Thomas Royton, Negro belonging to Thomas Percival Esq of Royton", from Parish register, St Paul’s Royton
Today, Manchester has a multi-ethnic population, a quarter of which is from non-white minority backgrounds. Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, African and African Caribbean communities have been settled in the city since the 1950s. In terms of religious diversity, the Greater Manchester area, including the neighbouring towns of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Wigan and others, is home to some 200,000 Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists as well as 1.8 million Christians and half a million ‘nones’, those with no stated religion.
Ethnic diversity is not a new feature of this part of Britain as the story of Juba Royton shows. Juba Royton was a ‘negro belonging to’ an Oldham linen manufacturer, Thomas Percival, in the mid-18th century. It was not uncommon for wealthy merchants to own black servants, and Juba had probably been acquired in an exchange of goods for slaves as part of the transatlantic trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. How do we know about Juba? His name is recorded in the baptism register of St Paul’s Church in Royton on the 2nd June 1760. A later Parish record, from St Mary’s Oldham, confirms that Juba – who was by then a ‘waitingman’ – was married to Betty Mellor in March 1765. Their three boys – Thomas, John and Robert – were baptised at St Paul’s in 1766, 1769 and 1771 respectively, the last in the same year as Juba’s own death.
© Greater Manchester County Record Office
Oral histories of Manchester
Since that time migrants from Europe, the Indian sub-continent, Hong Kong and other parts of South-East Asia, the Caribbean and Africa have made their way to Manchester. The lives of some have been recorded as oral histories. The Manchester Jewish Museum, once a Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, has a collection of stories about Manchester’s Jews. The Tameside Oral History Project recorded the memories of people who came from the Indian sub-continent in the 1950s and 1960s; and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust interviewed 70 local people as part of ‘Exploring our roots’, a project which investigated the heritage of Manchester’s Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Chinese, African Caribbean and West African communities.
If you are interested in interviewing members of your own family, you can find a helpful guide on the Bangla Stories website.