Johanna Vassa Bromley

Joanna Vassa(1795-1857) was the only surviving descendant of author and leading anti-slavery campaigner, Olaudah Equiano, who is also known as "Gustavus Vassa, the African".

Joanna's early life was tragic. In 1796, only a year after her birth, her English mother, Susannah Cullen of Fordham, Cambridgeshire, died, and was buried at St Andrew's Church, Soham. In the following year, her famous West African father Equiano died in London (31 March 1797, aged 52), and this was shortly followed by the death of her elder sister and only sibling Anna Maria (b.1793), on 21 July.

In 1816, on reaching her 21st birthday, Joanna Vassa, being Equiano's only known surviving relative, inherited a silver watch and £950 from his former estate; a figure that would perhaps be worth a hundred times that value today.

She married the Congregational minister, the Rev. Henry Bromley, whose first position was at Appledore in Devon, where he worked for five years.  For many years Joanna Vassa (Bromley) lived near the Congregational Chapel at Clavering in Essex, England, where her husband, the Rev. Henry Bromley was pastor between 1827 and 1845.

Joanna and her husband moved to London in 1845, for her health, her husband taking on only occasional commitments at Clavering thereafter; the chapel relying on students from Cheshunt College until a permanent appointment could be made. In about 1870, the Clavering Congregational Chapel needed extensive repair and a new one was built on its site, opening in August 1872 with dedicating prayers by Rev. Henry Bromley and other invited ministers.

Joanna died on 10 March 1857 aged 61. She was buried on 16 March close to the memorial statue to Isaac Watts in Dr. Watts' Walk, the principal axial walk of Abney Park Cemetery. Her husband Henry survived her for twenty years, and was buried with her on 12 February 1878. It has not been discovered whether Joanna had any children. Her memorial at Abney Park was re-pinned and re-erected in 2006, in time for the 150th anniversary of her death in 2007 which coincided with the bicentenary of the first legislation of the British Parliament that began to outlaw the West African and transatlantic slave trade into which her father had once been sold, and about which he wrote an account together his later life and travels; a book that had great political influence, and literary merit.


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