Stories from the Switching the Lens project - Dederi Jaquoah
Dederi Jaquoah was baptised at Saint Mildred Poultry on 1 January 1611 (Z/PROJECT/BAL/C/P69/MIL2/A/001/MS04429/001/8), taking the name John.
He is described in the baptism entry as “John Jaquoah, a king's sonne in Guinnye” but a marginal note attached to the entry goes into more detail. He was about 20 years old and son of Caddi-biah, King of River Cestos, modern day River Cess, south east of Monrovia in Liberia. River Cestos was part of the area of West Africa known as ‘Guinea’ by the English merchants who began to trade there from the second half of the 16th century. However, it had already been trading with the Portuguese since the mid-15th century and was known particularly for ivory and for meleguetta pepper otherwise known as ‘grains of paradise’, a member of the ginger family. The Portuguese gave the river its name ‘cestos’ from the baskets in which the pepper was sold.
Dederi was brought to London by John Davies, a haberdasher who became a leading Guinea merchant in the 1590s. His ship ‘Abigail’, captained by Roger Newse, arrived at River Cestos in 1610 and carried Dederi back to England, where he lived with Davies and his second wife Margaret at their house by the Stocks Market in the City of London.
Dederi’s father Caddi-biah may have sent him to England to learn English and/or to learn about trading practices, although it is interesting that the baptism entry states that he was “sent out of his cuntrye by his father ... to be baptised”. He stayed in London for two years, returning to River Cestos in 1612. Two years later a delegation of East India Company merchants visited the area on their way to Bantam. Captain David Middleton reported in a letter that they met Dederi and his father at that time, although Dederi introduced himself as John Davies. Middleton reported that Dederi spoke good English and offered to trade with the delegation, although they declined his offer and continued on their way.
Switching the Lens Project
The Switching the Lens project refocuses our attention on Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous heritage. The dataset highlights records of over 2600 individuals drawn from Anglican parish registers at London Metropolitan Archives and is the result of research carried out by staff and volunteers, which began as the British Library funded Black and Asian Londoners project carried out in 2000 to 2002, and continues today at LMA.