Statues, buildings and streets across the UK that commemorate the slave trade

Statues, buildings and streets across the UK commemorate those who may have been philanthropists, but also owned and traded slaves.

Almost 300 years since his death, demonstrators in Bristol have toppled the statue of a wealthy businessman who worked as a slave trader.

Edward Colston’s bronze memorial, situated on Colston Avenue in the city centre, was built to honour one of the "most virtuous and wise sons" of Bristol.

But in recent years, campaigners have expressed anger at the commemoration of a several figures across the UK prominently involved in Britain’s slave-trade past.

Colston's company had transported around 100,000 enslaved Africans in chains to the Americas. Credit: PA

Why was the statue of Edward Colston so controversial?

Born into a prosperous Bristol merchant’s family, Colston was educated in London and joined the Mercers’ Company in 1673, where he traded in woollen textiles and wine.

He became a member of the London-based Royal African Company - which at the time had the monopoly of Britain’s slave trade - in 1680.

Other members of the Colston family also had connections with the company: his brother Thomas supplied beads that were used to buy slaves, and his father William owned shares.

By 1689, the company had transported around 100,000 enslaved Africans in chains to the Americas, who were branded with the firm’s initials RAC on their chests.

Unhygienic and cramped conditions meant many of those enslaved died while being shipped, with their bodies said to be thrown overboard.

An 11,000-strong petition said the statue of Colston had "no place" in Bristol’s "beloved" city centre.

In a victory for campaigners, Colston Hall - Bristol’s largest concert hall - announced in 2017 it would be re-branding, while a school formerly known as Colston’s Primary School was renamed last year.

Campaigners have previously called for the dismantling of Edward Colston. Credit: PA

What was Britain's role in the slave trade?

From 1660, the British Crown passed various acts and granted charters enabling companies to settle, administer and exploit British interests on the West Coast of Africa and to supply slaves to the American colonies.

The African companies were granted a monopoly to trade in slaves.

March 2007 was the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act which made slave trading in British ships illegal.

British slave traders, up to that point, had transported more African people across the Atlantic than any other nation.

Abolitionists in Britain, both black and white, had fought a unique public campaign to end the trade.

The abolition of the trade did not bring about the immediate emancipation of enslaved people in British colonies.

Slave rebellions continued, and the final decisive one occurred on the island of Jamaica at Christmas 1831.

The British military garrison ruthlessly put down the rebellion, killing over 500 enslaved people altogether.

In some Caribbean territories, this took place in 1833 followed by a period of 'Apprenticeship' for four years, although in other areas of the empire emancipation came later.

The racism that made it possible to think of people as slave labour gave way to a racism that freed individual slaves while justifying the domination of entire nations.

Eventually, like the sovereignty of the slave master, imperial dominion had to be relinquished as Britain’s colonies gained independence and joined the Commonwealth in the decades that followed the Second World War.

The scars of plantation slavery and colonialism never fully healed; ideas of white superiority proved remarkably durable, particularly within powerful institutions such as national police forces in Britain and the United States.

The Penrhyn Castle in Wales belonged to the Pennant family. Credit: PA

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, in Wales

The castle at Penrhyn is another reminder of the ubiquity of Britain's links with slavery.

It belonged to the Pennant family, famous for its slate quarries in North Wales, but whose major fortunes came from the Caribbean.

The Pennants turned to Caribbean sugar and trade in the 17th century. The family acquired plantations in Jamaica and held high office on that island, before a new generation returned to Britain and started trading from Liverpool.

With the money the family made from these varied slavery-based enterprises, the Pennants acquired substantial holdings in Wales and also developed slate quarries.

Penrhyn Castle was developed on the site of an ancient property, but it is a 19th-century version of a Norman castle.

Alongside Harewood House, it provides an example of the levels of material wealth that was accumulated by those engaged in the slave trade, which was then invested into British property and land.

Street names in Liverpool connected to the slave trade

International trade shaped Liverpool for centuries and street names here have become a contentious issue due to the fact that many commemorate individuals who prospered from the slave trade.

The aim was to provide factual information about the individuals and families which were involved in both slaving and abolition in Liverpool and how it was they came to have places and streets named after them.

From this trade, the system of warehousing developed to store cotton, tobacco and other goods imported from the West Indies, North America and elsewhere, as well as mansions of the most prominent slaving dynasties.

Penny Lane in Liverpool, which was named after slave ship owner James Penny, but is now more associated with the Beatles song. Credit: PA

One important aspect of this trade was the slave trade, and whilst streets were not necessarily named after people directly because they were slavers, the trade did often play a big part in building the fortunes and social status of these people.

Tarleton Street, Manesty’s Lane and Clarence Street are just a few of the streets in Liverpool which were about to be renamed in 2006.

But the idea was dropped - partly because it would have meant renaming Penny Lane, which was named to commemorate slave ship-owner James Penny, but is now more famous as the title of a Beatles song.

Other street names in Liverpool also include; Ashton Street, Blackburne Place, Blundell Street, Bold Street, Cropper Street, Cunliffe Street, Earle Road, Earle Street, Earlestown, Gladstone Road, Parr St, Roscoe Street, Roscoe Gardens, Roscoe Lane and Sir Thomas Street.

Cecil Rhodes - Former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony

There have been long-standing calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University to be removed.

Students lined across the university campus in 2016 marching in solidarity calling for the removal of the statue.

Rhodes was a student at Oxford and a member of Oriel College in the 1870s. Credit: PA

Since the toppling of Edward Colston, there have been renewed calls from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, among other student groups, demanding the university removes the statue.

Campaigners protesting against the statue of the imperialist have said Oxford University has "failed to address its institutional racism".

They have long argued Rhodes, a 19th Century businessman and politician in southern Africa, represented white supremacy and is steeped in colonialism and racism.

Rhodes was a student at Oxford and a member of Oriel College in the 1870s. He left money to the college on his death in 1902.

A scholarship programme in his name has so far been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students.

Students lined across the university campus in 2016 marching in solidarity calling for the removal of the statue. Credit: PA

However, the college has distanced itself from his views, saying his "values and world view stand in absolute contrast to the ethos of the Scholarship programme today, and to the values of a modern university."

Oriel College decided not to remove the statue in High Street in 2016 and said the presence of the statue "an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today".

Sir Thomas Picton in Wales

There are mounting calls for statues and monuments to Sir Thomas Picton to be removed in Wales.

Cardiff's Lord Mayor, Cllr Dan De'Ath has written a letter calling for a statue of the "sadistic" Picton to be removed from the Marble Hall in Cardiff City Hall.

There are mounting calls for statues and monuments to Sir Thomas Picton to be removed in Wales. Credit: PA

Sir Thomas Picton is remembered for his role in the Peninsular War and for being the highest ranking officer killed at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

But he also earned the moniker of "Tyrant of Trinidad" after serving as a governor there. He was known for his brutal regime on the island.

In 1806 he was convicted of ordering the illegal torture of a 14-year-old girl, Louisa Calderon.

He admitted to the charge but the conviction was later overturned.

Picton is also accused of having amassed a substantial fortune after profiting from the then legal slave trade.

Buchanan Street in Glasgow

In 2017, a city councillor in Glasgow proposed temporarily renaming Buchanan and Dunlop Street, named in honour of tobacco magnates, according to The Guardian.

Buchannan Street, named after a Scottish tobacco merchant with plantations in Virginia, has been dubbed George Floyd Street. Credit: PA

Nina Baker, a Green party councillor, acknowledges it would take a huge effort to rename them permanently, but, she says, "I thought we could start the ball rolling by raising awareness."

"I’d seen something about Spain doing this, renaming streets that had been named after fascist-era people after women freedom-fighters," she added.

Buchanan Street in Glasgow previously had a sign up alternatively naming it 'George Floyd Street'.

Cochrane Street was changed to Sheku Bayoh Street in honour of the 32-year-old who died in 2015 after being restrained by officers responding to a call in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Activists have put up names of black people and civil rights activists throughout history alongside street names around the Scottish centre as part of the ongoing worldwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.