New exhibition shines spotlight on one of city’s most famous sons

A new exhibition at the Museum of Gloucester aims to examine the life and legacy of one of the city’s most famous sons – from the founding of Methodism to his active support for the relegalisation of slavery.

George Whitefield is often celebrated for his great achievements; however, he is also a difficult and controversial figure due to his links with slavery though his ownership of 49 enslaved people and a plantation.

Born in 1714 on Southgate Street, he is credited alongside John and Charles Wesley as one of the founders of Methodism and travelled extensively in America and the colonies preaching.

The former Crypt School pupil who went on to study at Oxford University, also set up the Bethesda Orphanage for Boys in Georgia, to teach young boys a trade.

However, the exhibition seeks to delve deeper into Whitefield’s story, exploring the good he achieved alongside his links to the slave trade and his active support for this terrible trade.

It also asks the audience how they feel about Whitefield and how his story is presented.

The exhibition follows the city council’s historic statues and monuments review which pledged to do more to explore Gloucester’s links to slavery.

Councillor Andrew Lewis, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “The aim is to raise awareness and to let people know more about how we benefited from the terrible cruelty of the Transatlantic slave trade. George Whitefield is a celebrated figure in Gloucester; however, he is also a divisive figure that warrants a more in depth investigation by our audiences. We are not aiming to erase this history but to shed more light over the past so as a city we can be more informed about our history.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday, 8 October and is being held in the Overmantel Gallery, first floor of the Museum of Gloucester.