William Beckford statue – Lord Mayor and Slaver
The City Corporation has a change of plan regarding the statue of William Beckford. Whilst we are somewhat loathe to give more air time to this controversial man, colloquially known as “The King of Jamaica” because of his vast slave plantations, we felt we should update our followers on the latest news regarding this statue in Guildhall. We posted earlier this year that a committee of councillors had agreed to back a call from the City of London’s anti-racism task force to remove two statues of men whose enormous fortunes came largely from the slave trade – William Beckford and John Cass. But it was then decided to set up a working group to look further into the issue.
The City’s Common Council has now accepted the recommendations of that working group to retain and “explain and contextualise” the statues. As the Chair of the Working Group has said “It is important that we acknowledge both Cass and Beckford as well as the City’s evident role and involvement in the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade…….The history of the City is, sadly, inextricably linked to that appalling activity and it will be forever to our shame”. We await with interest just how this acknowledgement is going to be done and also hope that the City vastly improves the public access to the Guildhall which has been negligible in recent times so that people get to see how Beckford and his crimes are “contextualised”. If the space continues only to be used for official events and ceremonies this aspect of the City’s history might simply be glossed over.