At the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was a great expansion in Britain's black population. Many wealthy plantation owners were returning to London with their fortunes and personal slaves.
The Earls of Essex, who lived at Cassiobury in Watford, had no known links to the plantations or slave trade, but employed black servants who were likely to have been recruited in London. Having a black servant was almost like having a fashion accessory - they were flaunted as evidence of wealth.
The lives of these servants are recorded in paintings, gravestones and parish records.