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Guildhall report suggests William Beckford and Sir John Cass statues linked to slavery should remain

A man wearing a mask outside Guildhall in the city of London. Credit: Reuters/John Sibley/File Photo.

The report recommends that the Sir John Cass and William Beckford statutes should stay, as long as there is explanatory plaques or notices alongside the statues, to provide context.

The report by the statue working group recommended that Guildhall should preserve these statues after considering not only the past, present and future, but also what the city of London is doing to tackle racism and what they should be doing as well.

After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, a joint statement was released by the Lord Mayor, Chair of Establishment Committee, Chair of Police Authority Board and Chair of Policy and Resources Committee.

However the city corporation realised a statement was not going to be enough, which eventually led to the statue working group to come up with recommendations on how to handle statues that were linked to slavery within the city.

In the report it states that originally the plan was to remove both Sir John Cass and William Beckford, which was recommended by the Tackling Racism Taskforce. However, it was felt that not all options were explored in enough detail, resulting in the statute working group to intervene.

In the report it highlights that some members of the government disapproved of removing the two statues. The former Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden wrote to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and shared these thoughts. He said:

“....the Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects. Historic England, as the Government’s adviser on the historic environment, have said that removing difficult and contentious parts of it risks harming our understanding of our collective past". - Oliver Dowden

"Rather than erasing these objects, we should seek to contextualise or reinterpret them in a way that enables the public to learn about them in their entirety, however challenging this may be," He wrote.

"Our aim should be to use them to educate people about all aspects of Britain’s complex past, both good and bad," He said.

However, the report also notes that some MPs did not want to remove the statues due to the cost. It was estimated that it would cost £100,000 for Beckford and £7,500 for Cass to be removed.

To read the full report, you can find it here


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