Harmony Hall

Is this not the quintessentially pretty name for a beautiful Georgian house? It sits close by the parish church in Milnthorpe, Cumbria. Its pleasing symmetry and large bays bespeak an architectural harmony in keeping with its overall proportions. It is an elegant old house, the internals of which are recorded and celebrated by its former estate agent’s brochure which still appears on the web.

Yet its name belies the source of its original owner’s wealth, for he was a Jamaican slave trader. Joseph Fayrer owned the Golden Age in 1783-1792. I understand he captained his own ship, so would have played a leading part in the procuring and securing the human cargoes which helped to pay for his retirement. He may have named his home after Jamaica’s Harmony Hill, a place associated with the trade and plantations.

It has become fashionable to blanche with horror at any known association with the slave trade. I hope that no woke mob pops up from London to pull this house down. The past has happened and cannot be altered. If we invested as much energy into wiping out the modern slave trade instead of shedding crocodile tears over the old, we might have been rid of it by now. Still, I wonder at the house’s ironic name. Though it doubtless provided Captain Fayrer and his heirs a tranquil retirement and provincial prestige, the fate of the people he transported was anything but harmonious. That is what sin does. It wrenches apart people from each other, and people from God. As those poor blacks sweated in the cane fields and boiling houses of the Caribbean, a deep resentment and bitterness between white and black emerged, the consequences of which are still with us. Only Christ can heal the wounds between races, classes, rivals and enemies.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:7 ESV