Barbara Wilberforce

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Portrait in about 1797 by John Russell

Barbara Ann Wilberforce (née Spooner; 24 December 1777, Birches Green, Erdington, Warwickshire – 21 April 1847, The Vicarage, East Farleigh, Kent) was the spouse of abolitionist and MP William Wilberforce.

She was the eldest daughter and third child of Isaac Spooner of Elmdon Hall, Warwickshire, a banker of Birmingham, and his wife, Barbara Gough-Calthorpe, the sister of the first Lord Calthorpe.[1] On 15 April 1797, while at Bath, she met her future husband, William Wilberforce,[1] to whom she had been recommended by Wilberforce's friend, Thomas Babington. The couple were married at St Swithins Church, Walcot, Bath on 30 May 1797.[1]

She nearly died following an attack of typhoid in 1800, after which her health was never strong. Nevertheless, she bore six children, all of whom survived to adulthood. The children were William (July 1798), Barbara (1799), Elizabeth (1801), Robert (1802), Samuel (1805), and Henry (1807). Her daughters predeceased her, Barbara dying in 1821 and Elizabeth in 1832.

Following her husband's death in 1833, Barbara Wilberforce spent her time with her sons, Robert and Samuel, or with her sister Ann Neale in Taplow in Buckinghamshire. She is buried next to East Farleigh church, Kent, her son Robert Wilberforce's first living, and where her son Henry would minister a decade later.

In the 2006 film Amazing Grace, about her husband's involvement in the movement to eliminate the slave trade, she was portrayed by actress Romola Garai.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Wolffe, John; Harrison, B. (September 2004). "Wilberforce, William (1759–1833)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (May 2006 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861411-1.
  2. ^ "Barbara Spooner played by Romola Garai". Amazing Grace. Bristol Bay Productions. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010.