The early life of George Africanus is vague and under documented. The date of his birth is thought to be 1763 based on calculations from his burial certificate. His obituary in the Nottingham Review newspaper of 30 May 1834 states that George was born in a small village in Sierra Leone, which became a British colony in 1787.
George was baptised on March 31 1766 in the Collegiate church of St Peter in Wolverhampton, ‘George John Scipio Africanus’ by the Molineux family who owned Molineux House, now on the grounds of the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Football Stadium.
George probably worked as a servant in the Molineux household, before becoming apprenticed to be a Brass Founder.
The Molineux name originates from Benjamin Molineux, a successful local merchant (and a distant relative of the now extinct Earls of Sefton) who, in 1744, purchased land on which he built Molineux House (later converted to the Molineux Hotel) and on which the stadium would eventually be built. The estate was purchased in 1860 by O.E. McGregor, who converted the land into a pleasure park open to the public. Molineux Grounds, as it was titled, included a wide range of facilities including an ice rink, a cycling track, a boating lake and, most crucially, an area for football.
Benjamin Molineux supported George’s education from the age of three. After Bejamin’s death in 1772, his eldest son George inherited the family estate.
Benjamin Molineux’s grandfather was Darcy Molineux (1652-1754) and served as High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1687 and then served as Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire between 1698-1702. Darcy Molineux raised George Molineux’s father, John ( 1685-1754) in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire before settling in Wolverhampton around 1700. The family Molineux came from Teversall near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
Links to Nottingham
As an adult, aged around 18, George moved to Nottingham, a place familiar to the Molineux family as they had links to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. After the death of Sir William Molineux, 6th Baronet of Teversall in 1781, George may have become familiar and interested with Nottingham after passing through Nottingham town centre with the Molineux family to attend the funeral. Nottingham had around 18,000 people in 1781 and was a very pleasant with surrounding countryside.
George Africanus moved to St Peter’s Parish, Nottingham, aged around 21 in 1784. There, he met a local girl called Esther Shaw (sometimes spelt as Ester). They got married on 3 August 1788 at St Peter’s Church, Nottingham (next to Marks & Spencer). Records of their marriage certificate are kept at the church and at the Nottingham Archives.
George and Esther had seven children. However it is only Hannah who lived to adulthood.
Daughter Hannah married Samuel Cropper (1802-1886/7) a watch and clock maker at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham in 1825. They had three children: Sarah Ann Cropper (1825-1842); George Africanus Cropper (1838-1839) and Esther Africanus Cropper (1840-1911).
Granddaughter Esther Cropper married Charles Edward Turnbull at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham on September 28, 1865. They lived at 9St. Paul’s Crescent, St. Pancras, London.
Esther Cropper died aged 69 years in Kingston, Surrey. The 1881 census shows that Esther Cropper had three children: Arthur (aged 14), Frederick (aged 13) and Margaret Hannah (aged 9). More research needs to be carried out to trace the life and death of George’s great grandchildren.
Sarah Ann Cropper died aged 17
Business – Register of Servants
Around 1793 George Africanus and Esther started their own business- an employment agency called ‘Africanus Register of Servants’. Their business was opened in their home at 28 Chandlers Lane, now Victoria St, Nottingham. At this time, George pursued other forms of business – trade directory lists George as a waiter and a labourer. George purchased 28 Chandlers Lane and adjoining properties in Bluchers Yard for £380 on 24th October 1829.
Following George’s death in 1834, his widow Esther remained in their family home and continued to run their family business. Esther died on the 12th May 1853. A statement was written for the Nottingham Review which read: ‘Yesterday (Thursday) aged 85 years, Mrs. Africanus for upwards of sixty years proprietor of the Servants’ Register office in Chandlers Lane’.
According to the Last will and Testament of George Africanus, George was unhappy with his daughter Hannah’s marriage to Samuel Cropper. Hannah and Samuel had lived apart for years during George’s life. However, the 1881 census shows that Hannah and Samuel were living on Chandlers Lane with Hannah’s mother Esther, now 70 years old and still working as the manager of Africanus servants’ register.
A tribute goes to Len Garrison, former director of the Afro- Caribbean Family and Friends (ACFF), Nottingham who ensured that George Africanus’s history was included