'Racist' road names and controversial gravestones are covered-up

Britons erase their past: ‘Racist’ road names and controversial gravestones are covered-up while plaques are torn down in latest responses to BLM protests

  • Paint was thrown at a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South East London
  • Gravestone of music hall singer GH Elliott who sang in blackface covered is up in East Sussex
  • Residents on Colston Road in Bristol have taped over their street sign over links to slave trade 
  • National Trust bosses will review statue of black man at Dunham Massey Hall in Altrincham

Road names and gravestones were covered up and plaques torn down across Britain today as the campaign to radically overhaul town centres intensified and more councils bowed to pressure to review their links to slavery. 

Paint was thrown at a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South East London, while the gravestone of music hall singer GH Elliott who sang in blackface was covered up in Rottingdean, East Sussex.

Meanwhile residents on Colston Road in Bristol have taped over their street sign and have put a suggestion box for new names underneath, four days after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in the city.

Elsewhere, National Trust bosses said they will review a statue of a kneeling African figure clad in leaves carrying the sundial above his head which stands in front of Dunham Massey Hall in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. 

And in South Wales, a plaque honouring the memory of 17th century slave trader Captain Thomas Phillips in Brecon has been taken down by an unknown person, with the council saying it had been under review at the time. 


A paint-spattered statue of Horatio Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South East London is pictured this morning

The gravestone of music hall singer GH Elliott has been covered up outside St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean, East Sussex

Residents on Colston Road in Bristol have taped over their sign and put a suggestion box for new names underneath today

National Trust bosses said they will review a statue of a kneeling African figure clad in leaves carrying the sundial above his head which stands in front of Dunham Massey Hall in Altrincham, Greater Manchester (file picture)

Scores of statues and memorials could be removed and public buildings, pubs and streets renamed after days of Black Lives Matter protests since black man George Floyd died in police custody in Minnesota on May 25. 

Campaigners linked to the anti-racism movement have called for 92 statues, roads or other monuments which they deem racist to be toppled – with a full list being compiled on the website www.toppletheracists.org. 

The Nelson statue at Deptford Town Hall had streaks of red paint either side of it today, with protesters targeting the naval hero over claims that he was a white supremacist and was against the abolition of slavery.

Meanwhile the grave of GH Elliott who performed in blackface has been covered up in Sussex. He performed on stage in the early 1900s under the persona of the ‘Chocolate Coloured C**n’ – now a highly offensive racial slur.

Meanwhile Harry Enfield sparked outrage by mentioning the performer’s controversial stage name live on BBC Radio 4 today while defending his own use of blackface after impersonating Nelson Mandela on his sketch show.  

The comedian’s comments came after Ant and Dec apologised for using blackface during a segment on Saturday Night Takeaway. Little Britain has also been removed from BBC iPlayer over the use of blackface in some sketches.

A ‘hit list’ of statues and memorials to some of Britain’s most famous figures has been created by an anti-racism group

The statue of Edward Colston is pulled out of the harbour by Bristol City Council today after it was rolled in on Sunday

Last week, comedian Leigh Francis issued a tearful apology for portraying black celebrities on sketch show Bo’ Selecta. Netflix has also pulled The Mighty Boosh and League Of Gentleman over their use of blackface. 

The 78 ‘racist’ statues BLM supporters would like to be destroyed

In Bristol, residents ’embarrassed’ by their road’s link to Colston have revived a campaign to get it renamed.

Blue tape has been plastered over the Colston Road sign in Easton, and a suggestion box has been installed below asking for new name ideas.

Residents initially raised concerns in 2018, when former city councillor Abdul Malik penned a petition calling for a name change.

Businessman Mr Malik, who is also chairman of Easton Jamia Mosque, has lived on Colston Road his whole life and said he still supports the campaign.

He said: ‘Bristol is a city of inclusion – a city that provides sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers.

‘[But] when you drive around Bristol, it’s quite embarrassing to see places like Blackboy Hill and Whiteladies Road, and Colston being celebrated.

‘Times have changed, and what was seen to be acceptable and normal at one time can’t be seen to be acceptable at this time. 

‘Easton is diverse and inclusive and I think it makes sense to rename that particular road to something that encapsulates that, rather than Mr Colston.’

He said residents were divided in 2018 and there was not much support for the petition, but he feels now is ‘a good time to have the conversation’.

But he admitted it could be ‘quite a nightmare’ to go through the process of getting a name change, which would require cooperation from Bristol City Council.

Most authorities also charge several hundred pounds to rename a street and install new signs.

Big Jeff Boulevard, Massive Attack Mile and Streety McStreetface Street were among the ideas posted online, when a photo of the suggestion box was posted on Reddit this week.

The more thoughtful Stephenson Road was also thrown into the hat, likely referring to civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson.

Colston Road resident Dan Stone, who installed the new suggestion box, said discussions were still at an early stage but there had been about a dozen contenders put forward so far.

Asked why some people wanted it renamed, he said: ‘Who wants to live in a street named after a slave trader? This is a multicultural area, we like that about it. It [the slave trade] is not something we want to celebrate.’ 

It comes as the statue of Colston that was toppled during an anti-racism demonstration in Bristol has been lifted out of the city’s harbour after being rolled into the water by protesters.

Bristol City Council posted a video clip on Twitter of the statue being fished out of the water this morning.

It tweeted: ‘Early this morning we retrieved the statue of Colston from Bristol Harbour. It is being taken to a secure location before later forming part of our museums collection.’

Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees had previously confirmed the statue would be exhibited in a museum, alongside placards from the Black Lives Matter protest.

A decision on how the statue’s empty plinth will be used will be decided through democratic consultation, he said. The statue was pulled down on Sunday amid worldwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd. 

The statue’s retrieval comes after a senior Labour MP said its forced removal was the result of years of frustration with the democratic process.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston yesterday, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said people decided to take action over the memorial because they felt their voices on racial issues were not being heard.

She said: ‘Why was that statue removed in the way that it was removed?

‘Because for 20 years, protesters and campaigners had used every democratic lever at their disposal, petitions, meetings, protests, trying to get elected politicians to act, and they couldn’t reach a consensus and they couldn’t get anything done.

‘Now this is reflective of what has happened to people of colour in this country and across the world for a very long time. We’ve had seven reviews into racial discrimination in this country in the last three years alone, and very few of those recommendations have been acted on.

‘That is why people are so frustrated, and that’s the question we should be asking ourselves, is why is it so difficult for so many people to actually be heard and to pull the democratic leaders to get the democratic change that they need?’

As for the statue at Dunham Massey, a woman called Naomi Bea wrote on the stately home’s National Trust Facebook page and attached a picture of the statue.

She said: ‘Hi, with recent events this image has come to light in your grounds. I was wondering if you are taking the same initiative as London by reviewing your offensive statues in National Trust spaces? Thank you.’

In response, Dunham Massey National Trust wrote: ‘Hello Naomi, thanks for getting in touch about this. The National Trust looks after places and collections that are linked to world histories in so many ways including the legacies of colonialism and slavery.

Rover Scouts Chris Arthur (left) and Matthew Trott pose in front of a statue of Lord Baden-Powell at Poole in Dorset today

‘We have a long way to go but we’re working to tackle the often painful and challenging histories attached to our places and collections through interpretation and exploration. In relation to this statue, we are currently reviewing it and we should be able to give you more information shortly.

Sir Thomas Picton’s descendant says he’s ’embarrassed’ by his links to slave-killing ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’ and Cardiff statue should come down

Descendants of British historical figures were today split over whether statues and memorials to be removed from UK town centres over their links to slavery.

A relative of Waterloo hero Sir Thomas Picton has called for his statue to be removed and put into a museum, saying he was ‘rather embarrassed’ to be a descendant.

But those with family links to Admiral Lord Nelson, Robert Clive and Henry Dundas have all hit back against calls for monuments of their descendants to be taken down.

Public buildings, pubs and streets are also facing being renamed after days of Black Lives Matter protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25.

Picton descendant Aled Thomas, 28, is the nine-times great grandfather of the Napoleonic Wars hero who was also known as the ‘Tyrant of Trinidad’.

A marble statue of Picton stands in Cardiff City Hall, but Mr Thomas has written to council leaders to join calls led by the city’s Lord Mayor for it to be taken down.

Picton was the highest-ranking British officer killed at Waterloo after the Duke of Wellington called him ‘a rough foul-mouthed devil’ but ‘very capable’.

His statue has stood in the Welsh capital for more than 100 years even though he was involved in the trade and executed dozens of slaves during his time as Governor of Trinidad, and authorised the torture of a 14-year-old girl.

In a letter to the council, Mr Thomas said: ‘While I am related to the Picton family, I do not defend the cruelty that Sir Thomas Picton caused.

‘In fact, I feel rather embarrassed to admit I am related to him. We cannot help where we are from and who we are descended from. Also, we cannot change what has happened in the past. But what we can do is learn from them.’ 

‘We recognise the need to explore the contested stories behind places. It is crucial we do it in a high-quality, properly researched way, and in a way that is respectful and sensitive. 

‘We have no wish to remain silent on this and are grateful to you for sharing your views.’

Ms Bea added: ‘Thank you for your response. I appreciate it is a delicate matter to remove these offensive and quite upsetting features, while still preserving history. This particular statue is deeply upsetting for some people.

‘At least you are not dismissing the issue and working towards what is fair and respectful to others.’

The life-size lead statue was created by 18th century sculptor Andrew Carpenter as part of a series representing the world’s continents.

In Dorset, local residents have vowed to fight to protect a statue of Robert Baden-Powell which is set to be removed temporarily for its protection after it was placed on a target list by protesters.

The statue of the founder of the Scout Movement in Poole Quay has been targeted by campaigners due to his associations with the Nazis and the Hitler youth programme, as well as his actions in the military.

Vikki Slade, leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, tweeted the decision to remove it was taken following a ‘threat’, adding: ‘It’s literally less than 3m from the sea so is at huge risk.’

A crowd of local residents gathered around the statue today, vowing to protect it and to stop the council from removing it. 

Mark Howell, the local authority’s deputy leader, said the statue would only be removed to protect it.

He added that this would be with the aim of it permanently remaining in its position overlooking Brownsea Island where Baden-Powell held his first experimental camp in 1907. 

He said the final decision to temporarily take it down had not yet been made.

He said: ‘We are considering whether we should remove it temporarily to protect the statue.

‘In terms of its long-term future, this statue stays here, Baden-Powell did an enormous amount of good, he created an organisation that brought people from different religions, ethnic backgrounds and races together and we are very proud of that in Poole and our connection to him.

The next in line? BLM supporters have pinpointed a list of their next targets, but the most widely shared are  (top left to bottom right) 1) Lord Nelson – tried to stop abolition (Nelson’s column) 2) Sir Thomas Picton 3) Thomas Guy – London, Guy’s Hospital 4) Sir Robert Peel 5) Sir Francis Drake 6) William Beckford 7) Henry Dundas 8) Clive of India 9) John Cass 10) General Sir Redvers Buller 11) Lord Kitchener 12) Ronald Fisher 13) Lord Grey – Grey’s Monument – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Grainger Street 14) Oliver Cromwell – Statue – London, Houses of Parliament 15) Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde – Statue – Glasgow, George Square 16) William Ewart Gladstone 17) William Leverhulme – Statue – Wirral, outside Lady Lever Art Gallery 18) William Armstrong – Memorial – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Eldon Place 19) King James II – Statue – London, Trafalgar Square 20) General James George Smith Neill, Wellington Square, Ayr

‘This has been an emergency reaction because the police have advised us the statue is on the target list being circulated by protesters. This is an artwork and if it was damaged it wouldn’t be easily repaired. There is no controversy about it being here, it’s the right place for it.’

The 130 Labour councils considering whether they should pull down imperialist statues

Majority Labour  

Amber Valley. Barking and Dagenham. Barnsley. Barrow-in-Furness. Bassetlaw. Birmingham.  Blackburn with Darwen. Blackpool. Bradford. Brent. Bristol. Bury. Calderdale. Cambridge. Camden. Cardiff. Chesterfield. Chorley. Copeland. Corby. Coventry.  Crawley. Croydon. Doncaster. Durham. Ealing. Enfield. Exeter. Gateshead. Gedling. Gravesham.  Greenwich. Hackney. Halton. Hammersmith and Fulham. Haringey. Harlow. Harrow. Hastings. High Peak. Hounslow. Hyndburn. Ipswich. Islington. Kingston upon. Hull. Kirklees. Knowsley. Lambeth. Leeds. Leicester. Lewisham. Lincoln. Liverpool. Luton. Manchester. Merton. Neath. Port Talbot. Newcastle upon Tyne. Newham. Newport. North Tyneside. Norwich. Nottingham. Oldham. Oxford. Plymouth. Preston. Reading. Redbridge. Rhondda Cynon Taf.  Rochdale. Rossendale. Rotherham. Salford. Sandwell . Sefton.  Sheffield. Slough. South Tyneside. Southampton. Southwark.  St Helens. Stevenage. Sunderland. Swansea. Tameside. Telford and Wrekin. Tower Hamlets. Trafford. Wakefield. Waltham Forest.  Warrington. West Lancashire. Wigan. Wolverhampton.

Labour in coalition

Cannock Chase. Cheshire East. Cheshire West and Chester. Cumbria. Dumfries and Galloway. East Lothian. Flintshire. Inverclyde. Lancaster. Lewes. Mansfield. Midlothian. Milton Keynes. North Ayrshire. North Hertfordshire. North Lanarkshire. North Somerset  Nuneaton and Bedworth. Pembrokeshire. Pendle. Rother. Scarborough. South Ayrshire. Southend-on-Sea. Stirling. Stockport. Stockton-on-Tees. Stroud. Swale. Thanet. Vale of Glamorgan. Waverley West Lothian. Wirral. Wyre Forest.

The target list emerged following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis last month.

Len Banister, 78, a former Scout, said of the Baden-Powell statue: ‘He is the reason I am still here, the pleasure he gives to so many people, they shouldn’t take it down, I will fight them off.’

Spencer Tuck, 35, said: ‘Unfortunately he was in fascist times but there is more to it and this statue is nothing to do with racism, it’s to do with the heritage of Poole.’

Sharon Warne, 53, suggested controversial statues should have information panels installed explaining the positive and negative points about the figures they depict.

She said: ‘He had a bad past but he was the founder of the Scouts which today is a great organisation and it’s ridiculous to get rid of him.’

Rover Scouts Matthew Trott and Christopher Arthur travelled from Cwmbran, Wales, to express their support for the statue.

Mr Trott, 28, said: ‘I think the proposal to remove the statue is necessary to protect it at the moment given the circumstances. I’d rather see the statue placed in a box in a warehouse for the moment rather than at the bottom of the harbour.

‘There have been vicious rumours of Baden-Powell but they are not true at all. He started the foundation I love, I have been a Scout my whole life since I was six, Scouting is my whole life so he is my hero.’

The Scouts said in a statement: ‘We look forward to discussing this matter with Poole Council to make an informed decision on what happens next.

‘Baden-Powell was the founder of the Scout movement. Currently there are over 54 million Scouts in the world and we operate in almost every nation on earth, promoting tolerance and global solidarity.

‘The Scout movement is resolute in its commitment to inclusion and diversity and members continually reflect and challenge ourselves in how we live our values.’ 


George Floyd (left), a 46-year-old black man, died after white police officer Derek Chauvin (right) put his knee on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25 for nine minutes

Meanwhile a university vice-chancellor has called for the controversial statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes to be taken down from an Oxford college.

William Gladstone ‘would not have stood in the way of statue removals’ 

A descendant of William Gladstone has suggested the former prime minister would not have stood in the way if there was ‘democratic will’ to remove statues of him.

Charlie Gladstone, great-great-grandson of the 19th century politician, issued a statement after an online petition called for Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales, to be renamed due to the family’s links to the slave trade.

The petition, launched by Ciara Lamb, which has only gained just over 40 signatures, claims the name is a symbol of ‘oppression’ and changing it ‘would be progress our community so desires’.

It argues that the name is a ‘glorification’ of a man whose ‘family was one of the largest slave-owning families in the country’. In a statement, Charlie Gladstone, president of the library, said that ‘at the core of our being’ its staff ‘believe that Black Lives Matter’.

The message posted on Facebook, which is also signed off by the library’s warden, Peter Francis, continued: ‘We also believe that if it is the democratic will, after due process, to remove statues of William Gladstone, our founder, we would not stand in the way.

‘Nor, we think, would Gladstone himself – who worked tirelessly on behalf of democratic change. This is why we believe that what matters is how we live today, our values, our democratic process and political involvement.’

It comes after the University of Liverpool confirmed that a ‘democratic process’ will be used to select a new name for a hall named after William Gladstone, after students pointed out that he had defended the rights of owners of slave-run plantations, such as his father, John Gladstone.

Mr Francis and Mr Gladstone said the library is aware of John Gladstone’s ‘plantation-owning past’, and has ‘instituted a scholarship for research into historical and contemporary slavery’.

They said it is ‘undeniable’ that John Gladstone ‘owned land in the West Indies and South America that used slave labour’.

While his father had received £106,769 in compensation at the time of the abolition of slavery, William Gladstone himself ‘received nothing’, the statement continued.

It added: ‘Yes, in 1831 William did speak in the Commons in favour of compensation for slave owners. It was his first speech in the Commons and he was still in thrall to his father. By 1850, he was a changed man and in Parliament he described slavery as ‘by far the foulest crime that taints the history of mankind in any Christian or pagan country’.’

Originally known as St Deiniol’s, the library was founded in 1895 by William Gladstone who bequeathed it £40,000 when he died three years later.

Gladstone, born in Liverpool, was prime minister for 12 years across four terms between 1868 and 1894.

Baroness Valerie Amos, director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London, questioned why a statue of the imperialist was needed ‘to have a conversation about history’.

Her comments came after a large demonstration was held outside Oriel College at the University of Oxford as part of a long-running campaign to demand the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue.

Asked about the movement, Baroness Amos, who will become the first black head of an Oxford college later this year, told BBC Breakfast: ‘We shouldn’t airbrush history but I don’t think you need a statue of Cecil Rhodes to help you to have a conversation about that history. I would take it down.

‘This is a man who was a white supremacist, an imperialist. He founded a company that made money through slave labour in the mines, and you’re telling me that we have to put up a statue of this person, glorify their memory, to have a conversation about our history?’

Her comments came after the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford said she was ‘delighted’ to see students engage in debate around the Black Lives Matter movement.

Professor Louise Richardson said universities should face questions about who they accept money from, but she described the issues as ‘complex’ and said they are likely to be debated for decades to come.

Prof Richardson said the university has ‘benefited enormously’ from having the Rhodes scholarship – which is a programme, run by the Rhodes Trust, that allows graduates from around the world to study at Oxford.

Earlier this week, governors at Oriel College said the institution ‘abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms’ but that the college continues to ‘debate and discuss’ the presence of the Rhodes statue.

On Tuesday, demonstrators called for the college to remove the statue from the High Street entrance of the building, as well as protesting against racism following the death of George Floyd in the US.

Speaking on the BBC, Baroness Amos, who will become Master of University College in Oxford in August, said: ‘So many of those young people say they don’t understand, have not been told about that history. 

‘They feel an affront, as I do, having to walk past those statues day after day after day.

‘Why are we glorifying people who made their money from the slave trade? Why are we glorifying people whose brutality and violence contributed to them making money?

‘Why are we not, as a country, talking about how the slave trade helped us to grow and develop and become an important world power? Why aren’t we talking about that and how that past has informed our present and will inform our future?’

She added: ‘The Rhodes Trust doesn’t need a statue to do good work. A statue is a memorial. It is a symbol of something. And we say that our country is about values – those are not the values that we should be promoting.’

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