A Brighton and Hove Black History detective story about an African slave boy who lived and died in Brighton in 1870.

1. It started with a tweet…

Presenter Bobby Brown meets Bert Williams MBE D Lit to find out the story of an African slave boy called Thomas Highflyer, who was buried in Woodvale Cemetery. Together, they visit Thomas’s grave and then talk to the Woodvale Cemetery Office, where they discover the first mystery.  

2. From Zanzibar to Brighton

Bobby and Bert visit the Keep to visit the historical records and photos, which help tell Thomas’s story including life on the slave dow for 2 years.  Come find out what his life was like on board: what he ate and drank and what he did on the ship. But how did he end up in Brighton? 

3. Thomas life in Brighton

Bobby meets researcher Suchi Chatterjee, who shares details about Thomas’s life in Brighton. Thomas lived on Great College Street, Kemptown with his adopted family and was a school boy at St Marks School. Come see where he lived and where he went to school. Can you image how Thomas might have felt like going to a new school as the only Black child?

4. Remembering Thomas life

There are many things known about Thomas’s life – he was a good cricket player and he went to church regularly – but there are many things we don’t know. One mystery: we don’t know who paid for Thomas’s grave.  What is Thomas’s legacy? Come find out what Brighton & Hove Black History, along with many others, have done to honour Thomas’s life in Brighton. And find out more about the mystery of his life. 


Our educational specialist has created free resources for teachers to use in the classroom to explore the story of Thomas’s life from a historical perspective. They are designed to inspire and educate young minds ages 10/11 (Key Stage 2) and age 14 (Key Stage 3).



The project aims to honour the life of an African slave boy who lived and died in Brighton 148 years ago. Initiated by Brighton & Hove Black History in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council and Woodvale Cemetery and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.