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Would YOU ditch your dream wedding venue because of its history?

Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds made headlines this week when he admitted it had been a ‘giant mistake’ to marry wife Blake Lively on a former plantation.

The couple tied the knot in 2012 at Boone Hall, a 730-acre estate in South Carolina that relied on slave labour. 

‘It’s impossible to reconcile,’ Reynolds said. ‘What we saw at the time was a wedding venue on Pinterest. What we saw after was a place built upon devastating tragedy.’

The comments have sparked debate on both sides of the Atlantic, with Twitter users torn over whether it is appropriate to ‘ignore’ the dark history of a dream wedding venue.

Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds made headlines this week when he admitted it had been a 'giant mistake' to marry wife Blake Lively on a former plantation.  The couple tied the knot in 2012 at Boone Hall, pictured, a 730-acre estate in South Carolina that relied on slave labour

Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds made headlines this week when he admitted it had been a 'giant mistake' to marry wife Blake Lively on a former plantation.  The couple tied the knot in 2012 at Boone Hall, pictured, a 730-acre estate in South Carolina that relied on slave labour

Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds made headlines this week when he admitted it had been a ‘giant mistake’ to marry wife Blake Lively on a former plantation.  The couple tied the knot in 2012 at Boone Hall, pictured, a 730-acre estate in South Carolina that relied on slave labour

The issue could prove problematic for some stately homes and castles across the UK which have their own dark pasts rooted in the British slave trade.

Slavery and the British Country House, a book published by English Heritage in 2013, examined in detail the links between the nation’s great houses and its colonial past. 

Some, including Grade I-listed Harewood House, near Leeds, were built using money derived from slavery. Others were inhabited by wealthy businessmen in the trade.

Here, FEMAIL examines the dark histories of four popular British wedding venues.   

HAREWOOD HOUSE, WEST YORKSHIRE 

Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. Edwin later acquired a vast portfolio of West Indian property. In just 14 years more than 2,947 slaves were acquired

Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. Edwin later acquired a vast portfolio of West Indian property. In just 14 years more than 2,947 slaves were acquired

Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. Edwin later acquired a vast portfolio of West Indian property. In just 14 years more than 2,947 slaves were acquired

Sitting in 1,000 acres, Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood

Sitting in 1,000 acres, Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood

It was inherited by his cousin, Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl Harewood, a slave trader

It was inherited by his cousin, Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl Harewood, a slave trader

Sitting in 1,000 acres, Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles (left), 1st Baron Harewood. It was inherited by his cousin, Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl Harewood (right), a slave trader

Sitting in 1,000 acres, Harewood House, a Grade -I listed building in West Yorkshire, was built in the 18th century for Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood.

At the time of its construction (1759-71), Edwin owned neither slaves nor plantations. However the wealth underpinning the estate derived from an immense West India fortune created by his father, Henry Lascelles (1690-1753), who owned a Barbados plantation (sold off in 1758) and set up a syndicate investing in slaving.

Edwin later acquired a vast portfolio of West Indian property. In just 14 years, between 1773 and 1787, more than 27,000 acres and 2,947 slaves were acquired, worth £293,000 (about £28.3 million).

Ties to the West Indies were strengthened still further when Edwin died childless and the estate was inherited by his cousin, Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl Harewood. 

Edward made an incalculable fortune from buying and selling men and women out of Africa. He then locked them up for months on so-called factory ships, from which they were eventually dispatched to the New World. Many died on the voyage from Africa to Barbados, while countless others were murdered or executed when they rose in rebellion at their savage treatment upon arrival.

Today Harewood is an upmarket wedding venue and serves as a filming location. The Downton Abbey film and ITV series Victoria were both partly filmed on site. Part of the estate has been developed as the village in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale.

LEIGH COURT, SOMERSET 

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles. Philip John Miles was a major beneficiary of the Slave Compensation Act, in which slave owners were paid for enslaved people freed in the colonies

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles. Philip John Miles was a major beneficiary of the Slave Compensation Act, in which slave owners were paid for enslaved people freed in the colonies

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles. Philip John Miles was a major beneficiary of the Slave Compensation Act, in which slave owners were paid for enslaved people freed in the colonies

Built on the site of a house of rest for the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey and then an Elizabethan mansion, the current Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles.

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles, pictured

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles, pictured

Leigh Court, in Abbots Leigh, Somerset, was constructed in 1814 by Bristolian businessman Philip John Miles, pictured

According to Madge Dresser, an Honorary Professor of History at the University of Bristol, Miles ‘built on his father William’s success as a planter and trader, to become Bristol’s first sugar millionaire and its largest West India merchant’.

Writing in Slavery and the British Country House, Professor Dresser notes Miles’ family business papers ‘contain mortgages dating from the 1760s and 1770s for the Vallay, Rhodes Hall and other 32 Jamaican plantations containing hundreds of enslaved Africans’.

Philip John Miles was a major beneficiary of the Slave Compensation Act, in which slave owners were paid for enslaved people freed in the colonies. Records show he sought over £36,000 for over 1,700 slaves at plantations in Jamaica and Trinidad. 

Leigh Court, a Grade II-listed property, is now a private conference centre and wedding venue.

STORRS HALL, CUMBRIA 

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, a Liverpool slave owner and slave trader. Storrs Hall, pictured, is now a hotel

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, a Liverpool slave owner and slave trader. Storrs Hall, pictured, is now a hotel

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, a Liverpool slave owner and slave trader. Storrs Hall, pictured, is now a hotel

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, a Liverpool slave owner and slave trader. 

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, pictured, a slave trader

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, pictured, a slave trader

Originally constructed in the 1790s for landowner and politician Sir John Legard, Storrs Hall was substantially remodelled and enlarged in 1808-1809 by John Bolton, pictured, a slave trader

Bolton’s fortune originated in slave-related business. He began his career as an apprentice for the Liverpool West India partnership of Rawlinson and Chorley, Professor Jane Longmore, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cheshire, wrote in Slavery and the British Country House. 

‘In 1773 he was sent out to St Vincent and returned to the UK 15 years later when he began his own counting house and engaged in slaving and trade in West India produce,’ Professor Longmore continued. 

The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database shows him as participating in 69 slave voyages between 1788 and 1807. Initially (1788-1791) Bolton was one of a dozen or so partners in the voyages but subsequently he appears as the sole owner in the vast majority of them. His activity peaked between 1798 and 1805, in each year of which he sent at least five ships from Liverpool. 

Storrs Hall, on Windermere, is now a private hotel which hosts weddings.

A Storrs Hall spokesperson said: ‘Some of the more extreme stories about John Bolton’s use of Storrs do not have any historically documented basis, they have however become part of folklore, as promoted by a local visitor attraction. 

‘He was the third owner of Storrs and extended the original building; when later owners turned it into a hotel in the late 19th century it was extended and more than doubled in size again. The debate about the heritage left by people who made their fortunes in the slave trade, is one that is right to have.’ 

FRAMPTON COURT, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Set on 1,500 acres, Frampton Court hosts an annual country fare and is a coveted wedding venue. It has associations with slavery, although none as concrete as other properties

Set on 1,500 acres, Frampton Court hosts an annual country fare and is a coveted wedding venue. It has associations with slavery, although none as concrete as other properties

Set on 1,500 acres, Frampton Court hosts an annual country fare and is a coveted wedding venue. It has associations with slavery, although none as concrete as other properties

Set on 1,500 acres, Grade I-listed Frampton Court hosts an annual country fare and is a coveted wedding venue. 

However Professor Dresser notes the estate has ‘associations with slavery’ although they are ‘harder to determine with precision’. 

The current stone mansion was rebuilt in 1730 by Richard Clutterbuck, who had inherited Frampton from his father William Clutterbuck, who in turn had been given the estate by his grandfather John Clifford in 1684. 

Professor Dresser writes: ‘Richard Cutterbuck made his fortune as the Bristol Controller of Customs and whose father seems to have served in the more lowly office of customs server before him.

‘Given his role of regulating the merchandise going in and out of the port at the height of Bristol’s involvement in the African trade, it is virtually certain that Richard Clutterbuck profited from it, either directly or covertly through loans, bribes or emoluments.’

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