George Edward Doney

Servant to the 5th Earl of Essex

Doney's gravestone
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Doney's baptism record
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

George, known as Edward, worked for 44 years for the 5th Earl of Essex. The inscription on his gravestone reveals that he was captured from Gambia as a child and sold into slavery.

Poor Edward blest the pirate bark which bore
His captive infancy from Gambia’s shore
To where in willing servitude he won
Those blest rewards for every duty done –

Kindness and praise, the wages of the heart;
None else to him could joy or pride impart,
And gave him, born a pagan and a slave,
A freeman’s charter and a Christian’s grave.

George is first mentioned in the Watford baptisms register on 1st August 1774: ‘George Edward Dony, a negro servant to the Earl of Essex, age about 16 as presumed’. Like many of the black servants found in burial registers, he was baptised during his teenage years.

When George died in 1809, the entry in the Watford burial register states that he was a widower, but so far no information has been discovered about his wife. Unusually, an obituary to George was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, which was a rare honour for a servant.

George was not the only black servant to appear in the Watford baptism registers. In 1727, Charles, a servant to the Duchess of Bedford was baptised at Cashiobury. Three years later, on 9th June 1730, Othello, another of the Earl of Essex’s servants was baptised on the same day as the Earl’s daughter, Lady Anne.

This page was added on 22/07/2009.

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  • Hi Penny. I believe the folder was meant to imply “African and Caribbean”. I’ve changed the title to clarify this.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (17/10/2018)
  • Why is Mr Doney under the folder African Caribbean people when he is known to come from Gambia?

    By Penny Bennetts (11/10/2018)
  • This gravestone is now listed at St Marys in Watford

    By Beverley Small (22/07/2009)