Scipio Africanus' grave

Scipio Africanus

Scipio Africanus (c.1702-1720):
St Mary the Virgin, Church Close, Henbury, Bristol BS10 7QF

Almost the sum total of our knowledge of Scipio Africanus can be found on his elaborate memorial. He had been a servant to Charles William Howard, the 7th Earl of Suffolk and Bindon (an earlier restoration had incorrectly inscribed ‘Bradon’), and he died at 18 when he was scarcely a man.

The memorial is unusual in several respects. It has been restored to its original condition, unlike others in the churchyard, with the two decorative stones have been painted. It is also prominently located by the path leading to the church entrance, a location that often denotes status.

Scipio’s master had married into the Astry family of Henbury, and they lived in the Great House nearby. The Earl outlived his servant by just over a year, dying in February 1722, before his 29th birthday. His wife followed him to the grave just four months later. Somewhat ironically, their graves are unknown, and the Earl is best remembered for his association with Scipio Africanus.

The memorial consists of a headstone and footstone. The inscription on the headstone reads:
Lieth the Body of
Negro Servant to ye Right
Honourable Charles William
Earl of Suffolk and Bradon
who died ye 21st December
1720 Aged 18 Years

The footstone reads:
I who was Born a PAGAN and a SLAVE
Now Sweetly Sleep a CHRISTIAN in my Grave
What tho’ my hue was dark my SAViORS sight
Shall Change this darkness into radiant Light
Such grace to me my Lord on earth has given
To recommend me to my Lord in Heaven
Whose glorious second coming here I wait
With saints and Angels Him to celebrate’ 

It has become an important site of remembrance in Bristol. The grave was listed by Historic England in 1977.

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