Calls to rename Gladstone Library in Hawarden over former prime minister's links to slavery

A library named after former Prime Minister William Gladstone has responded to calls for its name to be changed and his statue to be removed due to links with slavery.

Activist Ciara Lamb said the name of the Gladstone Library in Hawarden ''glorifies'' the former prime minister and that his family, including his father John Gladstone, was ''one of the largest slave-owning families in the country.''

It comes in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests around the world, including calls to remove a statue of slave trader Thomas Picton from Cardiff's City Hall.

The library was known as St Deiniol's Library until 2010

The library was formerly known as St Deiniol's Library, but changed its name in 2010.

In 1895, Gladstone bequeathed £40,000 to the library - the equivalent to £3.31m today - and much of his own book collection can be found there.

Ms Lamb, who launched a petition to change the library's name, said it is a ''symbol of oppression'' and changing it would be a sign of progress which the community ''so desires.''

Responding to the calls, Peter Francis, warden and director of Gladstone Library, said: ''We believe that if it is the democratic will, after due process, to remove statues of the founder, William Gladstone, we would not stand in the way. Nor, I think, would Gladstone.

''At the core of our being, we at Gladstone's Library believe that Black Lives Matter.

''What matters is how we live today: our values, our democratic process and political involvement.

''William Gladstone, whose politics were strikingly different to his Tory father's politics and values, was the first British politician to lead a left-leaning government and to institute dramatic democratic changes.

''Gladstone's Library, and I should add the Gladstone family, have continued to uphold and promote those liberal values.''

The statue of former Prime Minister William Gladstone

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

He said it is ''undeniable'' that, during the early 19th century, Gladstone's father owned land in the West Indies and South America that used slave labour.

While John Gladstone received £106,769 in compensation when slavery was abolished, Mr Francis said William Gladstone himself received nothing.

"In 1831, William did speak in the Commons in favour of compensationfor slave owners," said Mr Francis.

"It was his first speech in the Commons and he was still in thrall tohis father."

But Mr Francis said that, by 1850, Gladstone was "a changed man" anddescribed slavery as “by far the foulest crime that taints the historyof mankind in any Christian or pagan country.”

The University of Liverpool has said it will rename its Gladstone student halls because of the former PM’s links to the slave trade