Statues of two politicians in central London will be removed over their links to the slave trade.
The City of London Corporation voted on Thursday to re-site monuments to William Beckford and Sir John Cass in Guildhall because they accrued wealth through the slave trade and symbolise “a stain on our history”.
This comes days after communities secretary Robert Jenrick said Britain should not try to edit its past, as new legal protections meaning historic statues will be removed only in “the most exceptional circumstances”, came into force on Monday.
Under the new legislation, if a council intends to grant permission to remove a statue and Historic England objects, Jenrick will be notified so he can make the final decision.
The City Corporation said it will remove and replace the statues in Guildhall, and is considering commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade.
Catherine McGuinness, the City Corporation’s policy chair, said the decision was the result of “months of valuable work” by their Tackling Racism Taskforce, which was set up in June following Black Lives Matter protests in central London.
She said: “The view of members was that removing and re-siting statues linked to slavery is an important milestone in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse city.”
The death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis sparked protests across the world, with the statue of Edward Colston dumped into Bristol Harbour and a memorial to Winston Churchill adorned with the words “is a racist”.
The Tackling Racism Taskforce co-chair Caroline Addy said she is “really pleased” the committee voted for the “correct response to a sensitive issue”.
She said: “The slave trade is a stain on our history and putting those who profited from it literally on a pedestal is something that has no place in a modern, diverse city.”
The statue of William Beckford, a two-time lord mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be rehomed and replaced with a new artwork.
Meanwhile, the likeness of Sir John Cass, a 17th and 18th century merchant, MP and philanthropist who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?