Inside the secret facility restoring Edward Colston statue toppled in Bristol Black Lives Matter protest

The torn-down statue of Edward Colston is being painstakingly renovated at a secret warehouse in Bristol.

The controversial memorial to the slave trader became the centrestage when it was pulled down by protesters during a Black Lives Matter march, before being thrown into the water.

It had stood on its plinth, in the centre of Bristol, for 125 years.

  • WATCH: The moment the statue was brought down during the protest.

Council teams recovered the statue as dawn broke on Thursday 11 June - and the hollow bronze has been kept under a close and secretive guard ever since.

The several-week-long project will see it restored to stability before it is moved to a museum to educate future generations about Bristol's past.

Fran Coles, Documentation and Conservation Manager at Bristol City Council, has been restoring Colston's statue.

Our main concern is actually that we preserve the graffiti that's painted on him now as that's actually the most fragile part of the sculpture.

Fran Coles, Documentation and Conservation Manager, Bristol City Council

She says: "When he came from the harbour he was full of mud and sediment from the harbour floor. We were quite keen to remove that very quickly in case that had any effect on the statue itself or the painted surfaces that are now on the statue.

"Considering his journey to the harbour, he's actually in pretty good condition. You can see the scrapes and stuff on him as he was being rolled to the harbourside."

She adds that the damage to the statue included Colston losing his coat tails and walking stick.

Conservators want to preserve the statue as it is - including with the graffiti sprayed by protesters.

The toppling of the statue has caused controversy around the world - and seen many similar actions in other cities and countries.

It sparked national debate about the place of statues and memorials that commemorate the UK's links to slavery and the slave trade.

There have been calls for Plymouth memorials to Francis Drake and his cousin Sir John Hawkins to be removed due to their links.

Colston Hall has recently removed the lettering from its venue entrance - in a move first agreed in 2017. Bristol Cathedral has also now removed the slave trader's name from its windows.

Samuel Williams, Bristol's Conservative Mayoral Candidate for 2021, condemned the protesters and said urged people to stop "pulling down symbols of our history".

We must start recognising our whole history - for good and bad - is part of who we are as Britons today, and we must embrace it, and not shy away from it and be fearful of it because actually the good and the bad are what make us who we are and it will strengthen us.

Samuel Williams
Colston's statue lost his coat tails and staff as he was transported to the harbourside by protesters.

Avon and Somerset Police were forced to defend their actions after officers did not intervene to stop protesters pulling down the statue.

Some argue the police should have intervened while others argue they made the right call.

Avon and Somerset Police have since said its toppling was an illegal act and have launched an investigation into the matter.

On Saturday 13 June, hundreds of protesters congregated around the Cenotaph, claiming to be "defending" the war memorial, while holding signs with 'Not Far Right' and 'All Lives Matter' on them.

Colston was recovered by Bristol City Council at the break of dawn.

A bike tyre, which also came out of the harbour alongside the Colston statue will also be preserved as an "iconic" part of his retrieval.

Ray Barnett, Head of Collections and Archives at Bristol City Council, says people will be asked to help decide what becomes of the statue.

He says: "We're still open to all sorts of ideas and suggestions. Clearly one idea has been to put him in one of our city council museums and certainly that is something we could do and we'd be very happy to."

I can fully understand the feeling people have - this has generated huge emotion, and has done for a long time - so I can fully appreciate and understand that.

Ray Barnett, Head of collections and archives at Bristol City Council

He adds that wherever the statue ends up on display it has to allow people to express their emotions as to "whether it was right or wrong to bring him down, to put him in the water, to take him out".

Conservators are painstakingly removing mud and silt from the statue to ensure it can be preserved for the future.