Incorporating the Case Fund & the John Gregson Trust

History of the Trusts

Hibbert Trust and the Legacy of Slavery

Update May 2024

The Hibbert Trust and the Debt to Jamaica

Derek McAuley, chair of the Hibbert Trust, was interviewed by Professor Verene Shepherd of the Centre for Reparation Research in "The Gleaner" newspaper on 5 May 2024 and explained the current position of the Trustees regarding making reparation and their journey that they have undertaken to explore the legacy of slavery.

Update May 2022

Confronting a slaver's legacy - The Inquirer

Derek McAuley, chair of the Hibbert Trust, spoke on the work of the Trust in confronting it's legacy of slavery which was the cover feature of "The Inquirer" magazine on 22 May 2022. Download here.

Statement of Trustees 2020

Hibbert Trust and Slavery   

The Hibbert Trustees, when they met on 20 June 2020, considered the deep association of the original founder of the Trust, Robert Hibbert, with the institutions of slavery. The Black Lives Matter campaign has caused them to reflect upon how the funds they have disbursed have reinforced white privilege yet made ever more damning by the fact that they arose from the exploitation of black slaves. 

Like many historic institutions the Trust has been on a journey of exploration as to the basis of its founding, the use of its funds and the implications for its future activities. What has emerged is a complex, sometimes hidden, picture reflecting painful aspects of the colonial history of Great Britain and Africa and the Caribbean. The Trustees accept that they should have done more when issues were raised in the past about the origins and use of its charitable funds. 

The Trustees have in recent years sought to promote its objectives in ways that reflect inclusivity and diversity and commit to taking further steps to address white privilege and the legacy of colonialism and resulting inequalities in access to power and resources.

The Trustees acknowledge that people of colour have been victimised by white privilege for over 400 years. They agree that they must find ways to make reparations for the Trust’s connection with slavery, in the context of fulfilling their legal obligation to the remit of the Trust;

Origin of the Hibbert Trust 

The Hibbert Trust owes its origins to Robert Hibbert (1769-1849) who established a trust, executed by a deed in 1847, to apply the income from capital 'in such manner as the trustees deem most conducive to the spread of Christianity in its most simple and intelligible form, and to the unfettered exercise of the right of private judgment in matters of religion'. The Trustees carefully consider whether each project accords with this clearly stated intent when deciding whether to award grant funding. 

The Hibbert family owed its great wealth to the possession of sugar plantations and related businesses in Jamaica - an integral part of the slave based economy. Robert Hibbert was a slave owner and derived a large income from his property. 

The “Legacies of Slave Ownership” project at UCL has identified Robert Hibbert [Junior] as one of 61,000 individuals connected as owners or associates to the slavery business. Robert Hibbert personally received £10544 11s and 5d in compensation following the abolition of slavery in 1833. 

In the article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Alan Ruston describes Robert Hibbert’s connection to slavery as follows:

“In Jamaica Hibbert owned slaves and was unconvinced by the arguments of [Rev William] Frend that this was immoral. In 1817 he sent out a Unitarian minister, Thomas Cooper, as a missionary to his slaves; he stayed in Jamaica until 1821 in the attempt to improve their moral and religious condition. Controversy attended the publication of Cooper's report describing his failure. Hibbert sold his Jamaica holdings at a loss in 1836, having previously disposed of his Bedfordshire estate in 1833 and moved to London.” 

The Hibbert Trust acknowledged the basis of Robert Hibbert’s wealth in the “Memoir” of Jerom Murch of 1874, republished in “The Book of the Hibbert Trust” (1932) and more recently in “The Hibbert Trust: A History” (1984) by Alan Ruston. Cooper preached to and visited the slaves in their dwellings on Hibbert’s plantation. He also invited those who were interested in religious matters to his house and set up a class to teach children to read. Cooper’s report about conditions on the estate, first published in the Unitarian journal “The Monthly Repository”, was published as a book by Zachary Macaulay in ”Facts Illustrative of the Condition of the Negro Slaves in Jamaica”, by the Anti-Slavery Society. This led to a very public controversy and its exposures contributed to the campaign for the emancipation of slaves in the British colonies. 

Origin of the Case Trust 

The Hibbert Trust administers a separate Trust Fund which originates in a bequest of George Case, former Anglican and Roman Catholic clergyman, the funds of which were received in 1898. The Trust has investigated the origins of this money and discovered a probable link with slavery in Liverpool. 

The “Book of the Hibbert Trust”, page 96, quoting the Twenty-Fourth Report of the Trustees, June 1899, refers to his family origins as: 

“Mr Case was the eldest son of Mr John Deane Case, and grandson of Mr George Case, a gentleman of the old school, formerly well known and much respected in Liverpool, who was, with Mr William Roscoe and Mr William Rathbone, and others, one of a band of cultivated liberal friends who joined to institute the well-known Liverpool Athenaeum, of which he indeed was the first President”. 

The Legacies of British Slave Ownership project has the following entry: 

John Deane Case 

1. Son of Alderman George Case (1747-1836, a large-scale slave-trader). Council Member and Treasurer of Liverpool 1833.   

This would indicate that the substantial funds received, which were likely inherited by Mr Case rather than earned, had their origins in slave trading and /or the Government compensation received by his father. 

The Trust Funds Today 

It has not yet proved possible to identify how far the current assets of the Hibbert Trust owe their origins of the funds donated by Robert Hibbert or George Case. These are certainly now much less than half of the total assets as the Trust received significant donations of capital to both Hibbert and Case in 2006 (equivalent to their then assets) and in 2019 a legacy of over £1million. Over the years funds were also raised for specific projects, such as the Hibbert Houses, from individuals, organisations and state bodies and grants subsequently made therefore the financial picture is confused. What is clear is that some of the current funds undoubtedly originate with the original donations. 

Next Steps 

A task group of Trustees have been asked to urgently review the current  position in light of this statement and to bring proposals to a future Trustees Meeting for actions to be taken by the Trust in terms of its name, its governance and its grant making and other activities. 

6 July 2020

The Hibbert Trust

The Hibbert Trust was founded in 1847 under the will of Robert Hibbert, a Unitarian. It seeks to promote public interest and private scholarship in "Christianity in its simplest and most intelligible form."

The Trust awards scholarships to Unitarian ministers and lay people. It also supports publications such as The Inquirer and Faith & Freedom. It finances projects including international interfaith work and local seminars.

Find out about our grants for research, education and events.

The Case Fund

The Hibbert Trust also administers the Case Fund, left to the Trust in the will of Reverend George Case. It seeks to promote liberal religion more generally and upholds "the unfettered exercise of private judgement in matters of religion."

Find out about our grants for research, education and events.

The Gregson Trust

Unitarian, John Thomas Gregson (1862-1949) was born and educated in Bolton. He went to South Africa in 1886 where he made a considerable fortune as a banker. On his retirement he returned to Bolton, where he lived until his death. He was a bachelor, and at his death his only near relatives were his two nieces, Mrs Amy Howarth and Mrs Sybil Dodson.

In his will, he appointed these two nieces as his executors and directed that, after a period of five years, half of his remaining estate should be given to such institutions as his nieces should determine.

The Gregson Trust was established in 1957 to give assistance to “the maintenance of the fabric of Unitarian and Free Christian Church Buildings of historical and architectural merit”.

To-date the Trust has assisted many chapels in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland including all the oldest Unitarian church buildings and meeting houses. The Trust has therefore played an significant role in helping to maintain part of our national religious heritage.

Find out about our grants for buildings.