Every time a student walks to the Devon House campus at Northeastern University London they pass what was once a hub of Black life. Just off the River Thames on the east end of the city, the campus is flanked by London’s only marina, St. Katharine Docks. But before the 19th century, these docks were nowhere to be found; instead, there stood a 12th-century parish church and hospital.
Now just a spot on the water, the location was once a hot spot for Black Londoners who were reaching some of their lives’ biggest milestones: a man named William Butcher was baptized at the parish at 40 years old in 1783; an unnamed man thought to be from India was buried there in 1782; and in 1702, Adam, “a Black and Servant to Mr Lansdon,” was baptized there.
“People were flocking to this area to get married or to get baptized,” says Libby Collard, a recent graduate from Northeastern University London. Collard thinks the parish may have been the location of a Black minister who was known for marrying people of color.