Castletown Roberts, a slave, was hung on August 5th, 1834. It was a Tuesday. Castletown was hung, from the top terrace level of the Nassau prison, what is now the Nassau Public Library. Roberts was hanged just four days after, the abolition of slavery, in the Bahama Islands. His crime was larceny.

Less than a year later, in 1835, the Bahamas Assembly took the unusual measure, of compensating Castletown’s slave masters, rather than having this slave compensation claim sent to London. There had to have been a very good reason, why monies were appropriated from the Bahamas public treasury, to stop this claim going forward. The law is a strange beast.

The old Nassau Goal became the Nassau Public Library. Castletown Roberts was hung from the top terrace.

THE CRIME – Theft of cloth and pins to make clothes

“In the course of last week, the discovery was made of very extensive Robberies from the stores of Messers. Greenslade and Forster, of a variety of dry goods, from pieces of fine broadcloth to paper of pins. Some parts of the goods have been recovered, which had been sold by the thieves and their agents, but mostly cut out, ready for the seamstresses, to be made into male and female dresses. Several of the accused have been taken up and examined at the Police Office; and four men and a woman have been committed to trial. The principals in the robberies are said to be Castletown belonging to James Roberts, and Edinburgh, to W. I. P. Johnson, Esq.”

Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser Wednesday 25th June 1834

Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser Wednesday 25th June 1834


Castletown Roberts (principal) and four others charged as Accessories to larceny, broke into the store if Messers. Greenslade & Foster on Bay Street. On their appearance before the Magistrate, all defendants pleaded not guilty. As the law stood in 1834, anyone caught stealing or convicted of theft, of any items, from a ship or vessel or stealing any merchandise that originated from a ship or vessel, may be convicted of Larceny. Larceny, a felony charge, carried a death sentence.

THE KING vs. Castletown and others as Accessories. Castletown as the principal, was convicted on 19th July 1834 for the crime of larceny, which was, a felony. The other four who were charged, were acquitted.

The Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser, Saturday 19th July 1834


Trial Comments and Sentencing

On Saturday last, Castletown Roberts, and four others were brought to trial, on Indictment is found against them, for robbing the store of Messrs. Greenslade and Forster of a quantity of dry goods, when Roberts was found guilty by the Jury, and the others acquitted.

The court met today, when his honour the Chief Justice passed sentence on Colin Taylor, who was found guilty on two Indictments for stealing; for the first offence to be confined to the Common Jail for one calendar month, and to receive, on Tuesday next, 25 lashes for the second offence, and to receive 30 lashes the day Previous to his imprisonment being expired.

After which, Mr Justice Lees, in a most solemn, impressive and lengthy address passed sentence on the prisoner Castletown Roberts to be carried back once he came viz. the common Jail and to be there hung on Tuesday the 5th August next.

The Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser, Saturday 26th July 1834

Tuesday 5th August 1834

Yesterday, the awful sentence of the law was carried into affect on Castletown Roberts, who was convicted in the late sitting of the General Court, of Robbing the stores of Messers Greenslade & Foster of a quantity of merchandise. The execution was performed, agreeably to sentence, on the top of the prison, where there is a terrace round the cupola, and is a most convenient site for purposes of this lamentable kind. There was several others implicated in the crime for which this man has suffered, but who escaped conviction; and it is hoped his fate will be a serious warning to them, to be more cautious during their future lives, and to avoid even the appearance of evil, let the temptation to it be what it may.”

Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser Wednesday 6th August 1834


In the year after the execution of Castletown Roberts, for larceny of some cloth and pins, his slave masters, James and Henry Roberts, were compensated by the Bahamas Assembly. A further sum of £36 was awarded, in lieu of them giving up their claim, to any additional sum, they sought to claim under the British Slavery Compensation Act.

The question, then becomes, why? Why would the Bahama Assembly, vote such an extraordinary payment, when slaveowners could simply claim through the British government. The answer could only be that the Bahamas Assembly were afraid, of some sort of repercussions, in the trail and hanging of Castletown Roberts. The Assembly wanted this matter quickly quieted and not the subject of an inquiry in London.

Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser, Saturday 4th April 1835