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New Life Old Dorchester – Bath Spa University

A New Life in Old Dorchester


A new life in old Dorchester

Wednesday, 6 March, 2024

Bath Spa University MA Heritage Management student, Jordan Cole has curated an exhibition detailing the fascinating story of John Brown, former slave turned herbalist from the 19th Century. 
From her extensive research, Jordan uncovered John Brown’s incredible story of his emancipation and subsequent life in Dorchester in the 1860s. Brown was born into slavery in Virginia, USA around the year 1811. Fast forward to 1845 and Brown would make the escape to Michigan, a state where slavery had been abolished, via The Underground Railroad

A drawn portrait of John Brown

Brown would emigrate to the UK where slavery had been fully abolished in 1850. He held lectures detailing his experience and raised support funds to end the enslavement of people in the US. He also wrote a book called Slave Life in Georgia in 1855, which was published with the help of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. 

Jordan uncovered that Brown’s time in Dorchester had been spent as a herbalist, treating customers for ailments with his tinctures. He ran multiple marketing and ad campaigns which included testimonials from customers, and there is record of three separate court cases filed by Brown for lack of payment from customers. 

Jordan told Dorset Museum and Art Gallery: 

“Researching John Brown’s strength and courage in escaping slavery and starting a new life here in Dorchester has been an amazing experience and I hope that this exhibition gives people the same opportunity I have in learning about his journey.” 

As an MA Heritage Management student at Bath Spa University, Jordan is already making her mark on the history and heritage world with her fantastic research in this part-funded exhibition by the Wessex Museums Partnership. 
Talking about Jordan's work, MA Heritage Management course leader Sarah Morton said: 

“This project was Jordan's final project for her MA in Heritage Management and is a great example of the type of work our students do for heritage organisations. Jordan is a BSU graduate, so this project builds on her experience of working with heritage organisations she gained thorough the placement work she did as an undergraduate and an MA Heritage Management student.” 

Jordan’s work is on display at the Dorset Museum and Art Gallery located on High West Street in Dorchester, until 30 May 2024. 

Check out our fantastic MA Heritage Management course and explore the mark that you could make on history.


Image credit: J. Dudman - Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries

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