City statues with links to slavery to be retained and contextualised

Statues of two prominent City of London figures with links to the historic slave trade will be retained and contextualised.

The City of London Corporation’s principal decision-making body, the Court of Common Council, today voted to keep statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass in place.

However, the two monuments in its Guildhall headquarters will have plaques or notices placed alongside them, with contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery.

Members approved the recommendations of a Statues Working Group set up earlier this year, which included hosting educational and cultural events that directly address the context of the statues and the contemporary issues they raise.

City of London Corporation Statues Working Group Chair Doug Barrow said:

“We are committed to equality, inclusivity and diversity and to ensuring the Square Mile is a place where people of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel safe and welcome.

“We’ve carefully considered this matter, taking into account strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and made what we think is a sensible, proportionate response to a sensitive issue. It enables us to acknowledge and address the legacy of our past with openness and honesty – not to try and erase history but to place it in its proper context.

“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. We are committed to confronting modern slavery in our areas of influence.

“Our Tackling Racism Taskforce took the first steps towards a more diverse and inclusive City and the educational activities proposed will support their work, including measures to tackle racism and promote inclusion in the City Corporation, our schools and institutions and the City as a whole.”

Beckford was an 18th century slave owner and two-time Lord Mayor of London, while Cass – an MP and philanthropist – was a key figure in the Royal African Company, which traded in slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in the City and the nearby Cass Business School have both changed their names recently to remove the association with their founder and his links to slavery.

The City Corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce, set up last year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, introduced measures aimed at tackling racism and boosting diversity in areas including staffing, culture and education.

The full report and recommendations approved by Court of Common Council can be viewed online here.

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk