City confirms statues with links to the slave trade to be kept on display at Guildhall

statues with links to the slave trade

Statues of two politicians with links to the slave trade are going to be kept on display in Guildhall despite it being agreed they would be taken down, City leaders have confirmed.

Statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass will return to the Guildhall in Moorgate as the City of London Corporation has reconsidered its decision to relocate them.

William Beckford was a Lord Mayor of London who profited from Jamaican plantations and trading African slaves in the 1700s.

Sir John Cass was an MP and philanthropist in the 17th and 18th centuries and a boss of the Royal African Company, which traded African slaves.

The City Corporation agreed to move the statues elsewhere in January 2021.

But the City’s statues working group has now decided to keep the figures on display following the recommendations of further research.

The group agreed to put plaques next to the statues explaining their historical context and who the men were.

The City’s Court of Common Council agreed to keep the statues with links to the slave trade on display during a meeting on Thursday October 7.

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Doug Barrow MBE said: “It should be noted that neither statue was erected because of the individual’s involvement in slavery.

“It is impossible to do an effective audit now weighing the good and bad of their lives.”

Barrow, Chair of the Statues Working Group, added: “We can be blind to history and the City’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, which is why we feel that contextualisation and education are most important.

“This is not simply a proposal to stick up a plaque and move on.”

He said the statues can be used to educate people about the wrongs of slavery and QR codes could be used to provide context about historic events.

A report by the chair of the statues working group says it would cost around £107,500 to remove both statues.

It adds: “The City [of London] Corporation is united in its commitment to equality, inclusivity and diversity and to tackling slavery and racism in all its forms.

“The corporation want to ensure the Square Mile is a place where people of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel safe and welcome.”

Featured image by Hannah Neary

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