The Edmonstone Women

The Edmonstone Sisters Anne, Helen and Eliza, were a key part of famed naturalist Charles Waterton’s life. Though it was their inheritance that helped fund Waterton’s pursuits in the natural sciences, and that it was Helen and Eliza who ensured that, after Waterton’s death, his legacy was preserved in the form of his many letters, their names have virtually been written out of the narrative. But these women of colour, descended of a prominent Arawak nobility, lived at Waterton Hall too, and finally their story lives.

We unveiled a blue plaque to the Edmonstone Sisters at an event to commemorate International Women’s Day 2023 on Sunday March 12 at Wakefield’s Westgate Chapel. Unveiling the Blue Plaque was 

Artist Response by Zainab Jode

Local artist Zainab Jode responded to the stories of the Edmonstone women through her manga art style, contrasting the sisters’ rich heritage against a modern, beautiful art form. As seen through Zainab’s eyes, the defiant story told by this image speaks of three sisters, Eliza, Anne and Helen, reclaiming their narrative.

Artist Response by Jason Wakefield

Gratefully funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the following three short films shine a light on the links the sisters had to slavery, and being women of colour themselves, how that affected them and their relationships with the people and places of Wakefield. Charles Waterton benefited greatly from the patrimony of Anne’s father, Scotland’s most celebrated slave trader and catcher Charles Edmonstone, and as Anne, aged just 17, was married to Charles Waterton, aged 47, this project explores the reality of the Edmonstone Sisters and how their lives were at the behest of men.

These videos were created by local video maker Jason Wakefield, with the voice of Catherine Clarke reading a narrative supplied based on research by Helga Fox, Sarah Cobham, and the creative research team. 

Awards Celebration

Following on from winning the Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year 2023 from the National Community Archives and Heritage Group, Dream Time Creative and the Forgotten Women of Wakefield Project gathered to unveil the latest Blue Plaque to be erected in Wakefield. The following video was generously filmed by KLTV:



Throughout late 2022 into 2023, and in the countdown to International Women’s Day 2023, project lead Sarah Leah Cobham has published a weekly column for Yorkshire Bylines in which she serialises, contextualises and explains the sisters’ story, the patrimony that has written them out of the narrative, and the ways in which Charles Waterton’s connections to slavery have been wilfully overlooked. 

You can find the article series here: Sarah Cobham, Author at Yorkshire Bylines.

And at the link below you can see an entry into the official UCL database, The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, regarding Charles Waterton and his proven links to the enslavement and exploitation of indigenous peoples. To find his entry, please type into the search bar “Charles Waterton” and select his name from the results. 

Summary of Individual | Legacies of British Slavery (

All of our researchers, Helga Fox, Sarah Cobham, Catherine Clarke, Zainab Jode, and Abibat Olulode, are credited here for their work uncovering, exploring and exposing the truth about Waterton’s links and how his contributions to natural history were directly aided by his financial gains from British Slavery. 

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