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Mesopotamia Plantation, Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica

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  • Joseph Foster Barham, MP (1759 - 1832)
    Joseph Foster Barham , the younger (1759 – 28 September 1832) was an English politician, merchant and plantation owner. " FOSTER BARHAM, Joseph (1759-1832), of Trecwn, Pemb. ", The History of...
  • Joseph Foster Barham I (1729 - 1789)
    Joseph Foster Barham I (1729–1789) was the English owner of the Mesopotamia plantation in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica. Originally Joseph Foster, he took Barham as an additional surname (1750) for H...

This project covers the ancestry and descendants of the Mesopotamia Plantation, Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica. This is the first of the individual plantation projects in the Jamaican Planters and Plantation series.


"About sixty sugar estates were operating in Westmoreland parish at the western end of Jamaica in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, staffed by some thirteen thousand slaves. Mesopotamia was one of these estates, a larger-than-average sugar production unit, with a slave population that fluctuated from a low of 236 in 1744 to a peak of 421 in 1820. In August 1834, when the British government began to emancipate the Jamaican slaves, 316 slaves were attached to this estate. Mesopotamia was situated five miles inland from the port town of Savanna la Mar, on the winding Cabaritta River and in the shadow of the rugged Hanover Mountains. Today sugar is still grown on this land, but only a dilapidated stone gate post and twelve gravestones commemorate the white people who managed the estate in slavery times, while nothing memorializes the many hundred black people who lived and worked and died here. Yet much can be done to reconstitute the slave experience at Mesopotamia, because the owners of this estate kept the most detailed slave records yet discovered for any Jamaican plantation.

Mesopotamia was laid out around 1700, and was owned and operated for more than a century by four generations of the Barham family. The Barhams were absentee owners who lived in England, but two members of the family- Joseph Foster-Barham ( 1729-89) and his son Joseph Foster-Barham II ( 1759-1832)--took special interest in their slaves. They established a Moravian mission at Mesopotamia, at a time when most slaveholders on the island were adamantly opposed to any form of religious instruction, and they required their bookkeepers to compile annual inventories (taken on 31 December or I January) so as to keep track of changes in the slave population. Eighty-five of these inventories, taken over a span of nearly a century between 18 April 1736 and 1 January 1832, survive among the Barham family papers.

Joseph Foster Barham (1759-1832) lived at Stratford Place, Middlesex, and Stockbridge, Hampshire, was MP for Stockbridge, the owner of considerable estates in the West Indies and the United Kingdom, and the husband of Caroline, daughter of Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet. He was a business man and landowner of considerable substance. A great part of his wealth flowed from the West Indies, but he also owned sizeable estates in England and Wales. His Welsh property came to him through his mother, Dorothy, who was a Vaughan of Trecoon, Pembrokeshire. His West Indies inheritance appears to have derived from family conquest, for his great-grandfather, Colonel Thomas Foster, was reputed to have served as an officer under Penn and Venables in the 1655 expedition. Certainly he established himself at Elim in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. His grandfather, Colonel John Foster, also of Elim and the son of Colonel Thomas Foster, married Elizabeth Smith, by whom he had a large family. Joseph Foster of Hardwick Hall, Shropshire (father of the MP for Stockbridge), was a son of this marriage. Elizabeth Smith subsequently married secondly Henry Barham, MD (not to be confused with his father, Henry Barham, FRS) (see the Dictionary of National Biography) and under the will of this Henry Barham, Joseph Foster, his stepson, took the surname of Barham by Act of Parliament.

Papers dealing primarily with the administration of the two Barham estates, the Island Estate and Mesopotamia, in the West Indies Papers dealing mainly with estate matters in the United Kingdom, that is, with the Barham property at Stockbridge, Trecoon and Westmorland Political papers which concern the activities of Joseph Barham and his son John as MPs for Stockbridge and Kendal, and also show that these were not the easiest times to own negro slaves or to sell sugar in England Family and other private papers Miscellaneous papers Collections of William Shaw, 1714-46, with additions by 'H.S.', consisting of: a commonplace book; extracts of records relating to St. John's College, Cambridge; topographical collections; indexes of personal names and heraldic terms.

Quentin Foster-Barham"

Thanks to Margaret, volunteer curator, for this research.


1812 - Barham, Joseph F., Misopotamia [Mesopotamia], 308 slaves/ 361stock.

1816 - Barham, Joseph Foster, Mesopotamia 341 slaves/ 445 stock.

1818 - Barham, Joseph Foster, Mesopotamia, 317 slaves/355 stock.

1818 - Barham, Mary, xxx, 8 slaves/5 stock.

1820 - Barham, Joseph Foster, Mesopotamia 312 slaves/ 396 stock.