History | October 10, 2021 6:30 am

City of London Opts to Keep Two Statues With Ties to Slavery In Place

This reverses an earlier decision

Guildhall, City of London
Guildhall in the City of London.
The wub, CC BY-SA 4.0

Last year, the movement to take down statues of historical figures who profited directly from the slave trade became especially visible on both sides of the Atlantic. That included the toppling of one statue of Edward Colston, whose historical legacy has sparked heated debate. But while a prominent statue of Colston ended up dumped in a river in 2020, statues of two other men with ties to the transatlantic slave trade are set to remain where they are in London.

That’s the latest decision from the City of London Corporation, anyway. At The Art Newspaper, Gareth Harris reported that statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass will remain where they are in the Guildhall. That overrides a previous decision made by the same institution, which had originally comes down in favor of removing both.

That isn’t to say that the statues will be left entirely as-is, however. Harris’s article notes that both statues will, in the corporation’s words, be accompanied by “plaques or notices placed alongside them, with contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery.”

Last year, the government of the U.K. announced its support of a “retain and explain” policy, in which statues of controversial figures would remain in place with expanded information about their role in history.

The City of London plans to host “educational and cultural events” dealing with the historical figures in question.

“We can’t be blind to the fact the history of the City is inextricably linked to slavery, which is a stain on our past and, shockingly, remains a feature of life today in many parts of the world,” said Doug Barrow, Chairman of the City of London Corporation Statues Working Group, said via a statement.