A long coat from the 18th century

Object info
Unknown maker
William Wilberforce’s Coat, c. 1780–1800

Where to see it
Not currently on display 
(But other similar examples are on display at Wilberforce House Museum)

Accession number

Purchase a print or image licence
William Wilberforce's Coat on Bridgeman Images

About this object

This jacket made of gold and mauve woven silk belonged to Hull’s William Wilberforce. It was part of his court dress – the costume he would have worn to visit the King’s court. Court dress was more luxurious than everyday wear. This particular jacket would have been worn with knee-length trousers, white stockings, buckled shoes and a waistcoat.

About William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce was born in 1759 at 25 High Street, Hull – now home to Wilberforce House Museum. His family came from Wilberfoss near York, which was the original spelling of the family name.

In 1776, Wilberforce left Hull to study Classics at St John’s College, Cambridge. He wasn’t a model student since he preferred entertaining and playing cards! But all this changed once he left University and became interested in politics and religion.

At the young age of 21, Wilberforce became MP for Hull. At the next election, in 1784, he became an MP for the whole of Yorkshire, one of England’s most powerful counties.

Soon after 1784, Wilberforce became an Evangelical Christian. He believed that religion should carry through into every area of life. Through his religious beliefs, Wilberforce became involved in the movement to abolish the slave trade. In Parliament, he was the leader of the campaign against slavery. And once Parliament passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill in 1807, he campaigned against slavery itself.

Wilberforce had many other interests apart from slavery. He wanted to improve morals and tackle the causes of poverty. He worked for prison reform and became interested in charity schools and improving the lives of children in poverty. He also tried to end the sport of bull baiting and wanted to introduce compulsory smallpox vaccinations.

Find out more about William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce lived a fascinating life. If you’d like to dig a little deeper into his story, or find out about the fascinating history of his home, visit The History of Wilberforce House.