If you watch the video above, please fill out this follow-up survey.

What’s in a name?

Do you know the origin behind the names of places you encounter every day? The names and the history of the people for which places have been named are often forgotten. For many, Goulbourn is one of those names. First established in 1818, Goulbourn Township included the towns of Richmond, Stittsville, Munster, Ashton, and many small hamlets. This area is now amalgamated into the City of Ottawa, but the name Goulbourn is still very present. Goulbourn Middle School, Henry Goulburn Way, and Goulbourn Museum make up some of the present-day bearers of the name in the area.

On February 23rd, Goulbourn Museum hosted a live discussion on the Township’s namesake, Sir Henry Goulburn, and how historic naming practices affect people today. We invited experts and community groups to lead the discussion as panelists, including Executive Director, Tracey Donaldson, and a representative of Black History Ottawa, Sarah Onyango.

The discussion focused on three areas

  • The history of Sir Henry Goulburn centered around his participation in the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. As well as his involvement in slavery through his ownership of sugar estates such as Amity Hall in Jamaica.
  • Contemporary case studies on how other communities and organizations have approached controversial historic naming practices.
  • Diverse perspectives on how historic naming practices impact today’s community.

We apologize for technical difficulties which resulted in some lapses in recording. The Case Studies section was re-filmed after the event to ensure the information presented would be still accessible.

Click below to view the synopsis and annotated bibliography

Synopsis Annotated Bibliography

Questions and Answers


During the live “What’s in a Name?” discussion on February 23, the Museum received many questions. Due to time constraints, we could not answer them all. The following are unanswered questions taken directly from the Zoom Q&A and Chat transcript. The Museum has done its best to provide answers below.

These answers are subject to change as the Museum continues its research.

1. I read that Goulburn wanted to ameliorate the condition of his people. What were the wages?
In 1797 a motion in British Parliament began the gradual abolition of slavery through the process of amelioration (to make improvements to slavery practices, as opposed to abolition, which would end slavery practices). Henry Goulburn was a member of British Parliament and his views on slavery matched the conservative administration that he served. He thought slavery was an institution to be ameliorated rather than abolished.

When the apprenticeship term ended a number of the formerly enslaved people at Amity Hall continued to live and work on Goulburn’s property. In Brian Jenkins’ biography of Goulburn he writes about how the former enslaved people transitioned into a new system of “free labour” and how wages, rent, and working conditions were negotiated with Goulburn’s attorney in Jamaica. Jenkins quotes a letter from Goulburn to McPherson: “Ultimately I am satisfied that the best course will be to pay liberal wages and enforce proportionate rents” (Jenkins 277).

Goulbourn Museum staff are currently working with the Surrey History Centre and British Online Archives to learn more about the conditions at Amity Hall.

2. Where in Jamaica was the plantation and exactly how long did he own it?
Amity Hall was located in the parish of Vere, Jamaica. It was located along the Rio Minho, less than 10 miles from the southernmost point of Jamaica and in close proximity to the location of Old Harbour.

3. Did any of the Black volunteers who fought on the British side in the War of 1812 receive land titles in the town of Goulburn?
Goulbourn Museum staff are currently researching the original land patent owners for Goulbourn Township. This research project will allow us to learn about the individuals who participated in the assisted settlement of Goulbourn Township.

4. As part of his immigration program, was there any mention of black loyalists?
The Loyalists were Americans who supported the British during the American Revolutionary War(1775–83). Loyalists migrated to British North America primarily in 1783 and 1784. Henry Goulburn was born in 1784 and began working at the War and Colonial office in September 1812, placing his political career after the settlement of the Loyalists.

5. Did you encounter any information about the enslaved people who were forced to work at Amity Hall and their lives after emancipation? Did Henry Goulburn offer any support to them?
Henry Goulburn is quoted in a letter to his estate attorney Evan McPherson, “So long as the Estate produces anything… I hold them to have a claim to support and I should above all things be unwilling because the Parliament has been unjust to be cruel and unjust to them” (Jenkins 276). Goulburn instructed McPherson that health care should be provided to the elderly, the infirm, and to labourers where needed (Jenkins 276). Goulburn instructed McPherson, “Ultimately I am satisfied that the best course will be to pay liberal wages and enforce proportionate rents” (Jenkins 277).

6. Do you know how much he was paid in reparations when slavery was abolished?
Assessors visited Amity Hall in September 1834, and the enslaved people at the plantation numbered 242 people (Jenkins 252). The total monetary value attributed to the enslaved people was £12,885 and his reparation was approximately one-third of that assessment (Jenkins 252). We approximate Goulburn received £4,295 in reparations.

7. Could you please tell us about any reactions, good or bad, to the text used to contextualize the sites/statues of institutions that decided to keep their names?
In the “Case Studies” section of the Annotated Bibliography released by the Museum, there are a number of documents that outline the public response when an institution has opted to keep and contextualize a controversial name or statue. At Ryerson University, for example, the plaque installed next to the statue of Egerton Ryserson has attracted both praise and criticism. The 2017 article “Applying Critical Race and Memory Studies to University Place Naming Controversies,” touches on some of the factors that impact the effectiveness of a contextual plaque or installation, such as size and location (Brasher et al. 5).

8. Have you looked at the experiences of the Province of Quebec and Montreal in particularly changing the street names e.g. Dorchester to Rene Levesque?
The Museum had not previously considered the case of René Lévesque Boulevard and other Montreal street names. We appreciate the additional examples of how place names in Canada have changed over time.

9. Has the discussion of the township/museum’s namesake also made the museum question it’s imagery/logo, specifically the image of the British Soldier, which can also have negative connotations for Indigious people?
What is so great about discussions of this nature is that they often bring to light other points to consider. Prior to this discussion we had not reflected on the possible negative connotations of the Museum’s logo. As we move forward with this discussion and next steps the Museum will certainly be taking this into consideration.

10. Could you tell us where Sarah got her figures on Amity Hall Profits. “Slavery in Jamaica, Records from a Family of Slave Owners, 1686-1860) says the following were the plantations profits: 960# in 1845, 1,512# in 1849, and 341# in 1850. They had a loss of 81# in 184. Do you know how much Goulbourne was paid in reparations at the end of slavery?
The figures quoted in the question postdate the emancipation of enslaved people at Amity Hall. During the “What’s in a Name?” discussion, we highlighted Goulburn’s income before the emancipation of enslaved people at Amity Hall to demonstrate that he profited from the labour of enslaved people. Goulburn’s political career, livelihood, and material comforts depended on profits from Amity Hall.

The following are references to Goulburn’s income used during the “What’s in a Name?” discussion:

When Henry Goulburn married Jane Montagu, December 20, 1811, “his annual income [was] still averaging almost ?6,000.” (Jenkins 57, referring to Surrey Records Office Ref. Acc 304/24).
Goulburn received a pension of?1,000 a year for his political service (Jenkins 132).
Goulburn’s pension increased to ?2,000 in 1825 (Jenkins 226).

11. Please note that John Graves Simcoe abolished the Slave Trade Canada in 1793. What would have been the perspective of Simcoe in this conversation?
This would be a very interesting topic to cover. Unfortunately, the Museum cannot reasonably draw conclusions about Simcoe’s opinions.

12. In terms of past history, there was obviously trapping/hunting/fishing happening seasonally in the township, but do we have evidence of past native Canadian settlement in what is now Goulbourn Township?
Goulbourn Museum values the role of Indigenous people who were stewards of the land before the colonization of Goulbourn Township. The Museum has no information at this time of Indigenous settlements in the area of the former Goulbourn Township.

Archipel Research and Consulting has prepared an Indigenous relations handbook for the Ottawa Museum Network with the goal of increasing knowledge and understanding of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation, as well as other Indigenous communities who call Ottawa home. The handbook provides the following information:

“The Algonquin Anishinabeg have been stewards of the Ottawa Valley since time immemorial. Once the ice age started to recede the area became rich with waterways and forests which held the life for fish, plants and game. Archaeologists have found Indigenous tools in this area dating as far back as 8,500 years, but the ancestors of the present-day Algonquin Anishinabe nation have been here much longer. The Algonquin nation’s territory covers the entire Kichi Sibi (Ottawa River) watershed from the headwaters to St. Lawrence River. Prior to contact there was no border where the Ontario- Quebec border now lies. The entire territory was the responsibility of the Algonquin Anishinabeg” (Archipel 3). Click HERE to view the Archipel Handbook.

13. If we are included in the ‘next steps’ as Tracey mentions, then will all who are attending tonight’s zoom be emailed about any upcoming discussions? How will you ensure that the community is represented in future discussions?
All attendees of the Zoom discussion that took place on February 23rd will be sent a survey to complete where they can let us know if they would like to take part in other discussions of this nature. Additionally anyone interested in receiving information can sign up for the Museum’s mailing list. You can join the mailing list by clicking HERE.

14. How do you plan to include all in the community in this discussion given some people do not use Zoom nor are on Facebook? How do you plan to reach out to differently abled persons, seniors, etc. who may not be comfortable with online technology? Will you publish a notice in Stittsville Central, for example, or other local news sources?
Given the current realities we are living in it will be difficult to be accessible to those who do not have access to, or are uncomfortable with technology. However the Museum will do its best to ensure all community members have the opportunity to make their voice heard in this discussion. In addition to live discussions over Zoom and recordings available on the Museum’s website the Museum will look into other modes of communication available to us. Possibilities could include enabling the call-in option on Zoom discussions, facilitating telephone discussion or surveys, reaching out to community groups, placing ads in the local papers and reaching out to other forms of media like radio and television.

15. Does it complicate the discussion that the entity that was originally named after Goulbourn no longer exists as such, which makes it different from the Russell Township case for example?
A key part of the Museum’s mission is establishing an understanding of the former Goulbourn Township and placing it in historical context, and this will not change. The Museum remains committed to telling the stories of the Township and ensuring they are preserved for future generations.

16. How should we contemplate things which are only indirectly related to Henry Goulbourn. E.g. The Goulbourn Recreation Centre. It wasn’t named to honour Henry Goulbourn, but rather just because of the jurisdiction in which it was located.
This type of indirect connection is not uncommon. There are many examples of structures, organizations, and other entities that derive their name from their location, which, in turn, is named after a historical figure. Some cases to consider include:

Bristol Beacon (formerly Colson Hall)
Tairawhiti Museum (formerly Gisborne Museum)
Kunstinstituut Melly (formerly Witt de With Centre for Contemporary Art)

One way to approach this scenario is to think about the intention behind the selection of a name versus the impact that the name has on community members. In the case of Goulbourn Museum, the name was chosen to represent the former township whose history the museum preserves and interprets. Due to its association with a man who enslaved people, the name can potentially cause discomfort and distress. It’s the Museum’s responsibility to consider the impact its name has on the community it serves.

17. Sorry, perhaps this was already addressed: is the museum considering removing Goulbourn from its name?
At this time no steps other than the need for future discussion on the topic has been decided.

18. Is the question related to the museum name or the broader area ?
Currently the Museum is undergoing this discussion in order to bring to light new information about Sir Henry Goulbourn that we’d not previously been aware of. The discussion is meant to be a forum where the impacts of this new information can be considered by the community. Our hope is that the help, insight and input of our current community will lead the Museum in deciding what the next steps should be. At this time no steps other than the need for future discussion has been determined.

19. If you were to change the name to a first nations name – how would you decide this?
At this time no steps other than the need for future discussion on the topic has been decided. That being said should any changes be made they would take place with consultation.

20. Did Goulbourn in any of the documents citing him indicate any presence of First Nations populations in the areas which he helped settle?
The Museum’s communications with the Surrey History Centre, British Online Archives, and William M. Clements Library have allowed us access to over 6,400 digitized manuscripts, primarily focused on Amity Hall and the Treaty of Ghent. Henry Goulburn’s role in the colonization of unceded Indigenous land is a subject we believe is important and is something that we are investigating, but we don’t have any conclusive answers at the moment.

21. Was there anything about the enslaved people from the USA who were freed as part of the war strategy overseen and developed by Goulbourn?
In 1814 a British proclamation was issued which offered an opportunity for those living in the United States to enter British military service or be sent “as free settlers” to British colonies (Jenkins 79). This offer did not specifically mention enslaved people, but an intent of the proclamation was to recruit American enslaved people for British military service and settlement of British North America. Henry Goulburn’s role in the recruitment of enslaved people for military service and settlement of British North America is a subject we believe is important and is something that we are investigating.