Watford has a direct link to slavery, the vicar of St Mary's Church in Watford has discovered.

Reverend John Aldis has carried out research into the life of George Edward Doney who was born in Gambia and transported to Virginia to be sold as a slave while still a boy.

George is thought to have arrived in Watford in 1765 and for the rest of his life dutifully served the Earls of Essex at Cassiobury House.

When he died in 1809, two years after slavery was abolished, Edward - as he was known - had become a Freeman.

Rev Aldis said: "The poem on the grave shows that they had great respect for him.

"Edward's grave here in St Mary's makes it very real that slavery was here in Watford.

"I realised that some of the church members never knew about this grave. Fortunately, it's very well preserved."

Parish records show that Edward, "a Negro aged about 16", was baptised at St Mary's Church on August 1, 1774. At that time, servants were often baptised together with children of the family they served.

The Watford Militia Lists from 1782-86 record the name of George Doney. His burial at St Mary's Church took place on September 8, 1809 and his gravestone can be seen near the Almshouses.

The first known record of Watford's black history is a painting of a view of Cassiobury Park by John Wooton from about 1748, depicting Cassiobury House and Park and the third Earl of Essex, his family, friends and servants.

In the bottom left hand corner of the painting which is on permanent display in Watford Museum is a black servant.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery and St Mary's Church will join in celebrations taking place across the UK.

"It's wonderful that we can celebrate this week the events 200 years ago that finally paved the way to abolish slavery," Rev Aldis said.

"The whole fight to abolish slavery was a wonderful thing. William Wilberforce and the rest of the Clapham Sect at Holy Trinity Church did a huge amount of work. They set out to change the social face of Britain and they achieved that goal.

"They were an extraordinary group of people."

For more information on slavery in Watford, you can visit Watford Museum's website at www.watfordjunction.org.uk.