Next step in plan to ‘retain and explain’ City’s statues linked to slavery

7 July 2023


Next step in plan to ‘retain and explain’ City’s statues linked to slavery

The City of London Corporation has applied for permission to fix a plaque to a statue of a historic figure linked to slavery as part of its commitment to tackling racism in all its forms.

The organisation’s Court of Common Council – its primary decision-making body – previously agreed to ‘retain and explain’ statues at its Guildhall headquarters of two-time Lord Mayor William Beckford and former MP and philanthropist Sir John Cass.

The City Corporation partnered with arts and heritage charity Culture& to commission designers, writers and poets, and set up an inter-generational panel, to devise wording for plaques to be attached to both statues.

It has now applied for Listed Building Consent for the Beckford plaque, which, if approved, will be installed along with the plaque on the Cass statue later this year.

The plaques will explain both men’s links with slavery and help the City Corporation ensure that the Square Mile is a place where people of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel safe and welcome.

City of London Corporation Policy Chairman Chris Hayward said:

“The application for Listed Building Consent is the next step towards making a permanent and highly visible change to statues of two men whose lives were inextricably linked with the horrific transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans.

“This has been a process which has taken some time but it’s important we make sure we do this right, working closely with people from black and minority ethnic communities whose ancestors were victims of slavery.

“Subject to Listed Building Consent being granted, the plaques will present a frank assessment of how these men, and the City of London as a whole, profited from the evil trade in human beings.”

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Sub-Committee Andrien Meyers said:

“Installing these plaques is part of our commitment to confronting openly and honestly the City’s links with slavery and working to ensure the Square Mile is a place where people of all backgrounds feel welcome

“The slave trade is a stain on our history and explaining the roles that these two men played in it is a vital step forward in creating a more inclusive City.”

The City Corporation must apply for Listed Building Consent to itself as the local planning authority for the Square Mile, and the application will be considered on its merits and in accordance with the strict requirements of planning legislation and guidance.

The decision will be made in conjunction with Historic England, while the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has the power to make the final decision. 

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

 Culture& is an Arts Council supported charity that aims to open up who makes and enjoys arts and heritage, working collaboratively with cultural organisations and universities all over the UK – www.cultureand.org