It was in 1655, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, that the British took Jamaica from the Spanish. It wasn’t even a fair fight. Around 7,000 English troops landed on Jamaica, after being defeated in their bid to take the island of Hispaniola. In their retreat they stopped off at Jamaica, found only 2,500 people on the whole island, killed the few Spaniards that were there, then claimed the island as a new British colony.

Of all the British West Indian slave colonies, by the late 1700s, Jamaica stood out as a cauldron of unspeakable violence, depravity and cruelty toward African slaves. The sewers of Britain opened up to disgorge the worthless to its fledging colonies. England needed bodies to colonise these lands and were not overly concerned about who went, as long as large numbers quickly settled before anyone else did.

For many negro slaves it was their sad misfortune to end up being owned by the misfits, the violent and the depraved of Great Britain.

No act was more depraved toward the slave than the sexual violence meted out to everyone, including men, but especially to negro women and children.

In plain speak, negro female slaves, who were chosen to be the house bed wench, were forced into sexual servitude by their masters. Coarse and licentious slave masters literally held the life of these nameless women in their hands. They could do with them as they pleased, because in the eyes of the law, all slaves, including the house bed wench, were property.

Often disgusted with themselves for having relations with a negro, white masters would take out their inward shame on the slave. This usually took the form of beatings, subjected to extra hard labour in the fields in order that they should die early or selling them off to another master. Out of sight, out of mind.


Jamaica was a sugar producer and a particularly brutal place for enslaved Africans. The death rate among plantation slaves, in Jamaica, rivalled that of Haiti. Masters were especially violent in order to meet sugar export demands for England. Concomitant with the physical violence, was heat of the Jamaican plantation fields and the near hell like temperatures of the sugar processing rooms. All of it combined killed African slaves in untold and unrecorded numbers.

In June 1786, in Kingston, Jamaica, a coarse and licentious slave owner, Mr. George Geddes, had been making some of his female slaves, his house bed wenches. This had been going on for some time.

His wife strenuously objected to this.

Her haranguing to him about one negro woman in particular in 1786, drove George Geddes, to do unspeakable things one night, just to shut his wife up.

Geddes did these things to appease Mrs. Geddes. The husband surmised that if he disfigured his favourite bed wench, then his wife would have nothing more to nag him about.

Apparently though, this wasn’t the first time Mr. George Geddes had taken a sharp knife to the face of a female slave property.


Kingston, Jamaica, June 14, 1786

Last night about 10 o’clock, a negro woman, the property of Mr George Geddes, went to the guard house, disfigured in a manner almost too shocking to relate, her nose being entirely cut from her face, her ears dug from her head, so that her skull remained bare, and other parts of her body very much bruised.

On being asked who was the perpetrator of such on heard of cruelty, she replied her master, that he had beat her much that evening, and afterwards treated her in the manner related.

Lieutenant McKelly (the officer on guard) immediately headed a party of men and went to the house, the door of which being open, they entered and secured Geddes, who had several marks of blood upon his clothes, but said he knew nothing of the matter: The ears were found in the house and several pieces of a stick, which it seems she had been beaten with. Geddes was secured.

“On the 17th Geddes was examined before the sitting magistrates at the courthouse, on Wednesday morning, when he confessed the horrid deed with all its barbarous circumstances. It appeared on his examination, that his wife had been frequently jealous of the negro woman, and in particular that evening had used very opprobrious language concerning her, which irritated Geddes to such a pitch, that seizing the poor unhappy creature, he bound her hands behind her, and with a savage ferocity threw her down and kneeled on her neck, while he treated her in the manner already described.

Previous to this he had cut off a piece from the ear of another wench his property.”

(The Times (London, England) Thursday 10 August 1786)

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