Memorial to slave trader Thomas Corker has been hidden from public view at a church in Falmouth

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report here.

A church in Falmouth has covered up one of its monuments after campaigners argued it should condemn slave traders, not memorialise them.

The stonework at the Church of King Charles the Martyr honoured Thomas Corker, a man who brought slaves back from West Africa at the end of the 16th century.

A petition to remove the figure from the religious building has been handed over, and now the church says it has covered up the monument until a permanent decision over its future has been made.

Canon Bill Stuart-White, the Vicar of the Falmouth church, says until the fall of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol he was only "half aware" of the controversy.

"Now, this is fully in the public eye, and I and all of us have been forced to think about what it means."

Reflecting on the strength of feeling behind the 100 people who signed the petition, the vicar says the image of memorialising the slave trader "impacts me quite profoundly."

"This is by no means cancel culture. This object must be retained and it must tell its story. Is that just the question of where and how?"

Thomas Corker's life was celebrated by this monument before it was covered from public view Credit: ITV News

Thomas Corker joined the Royal African Company as a 14-year-old apprentice in 1684 and worked his way up as English Agent working in Sherbro - the country which we now know as Sierra Leone.

His brother Robert Corker was elected five times as the Mayor of Falmouth and the pair were baptised as children at the Church of King Charles the Martyr.

Amateur historian Kate Thomas, who started the petition, says "we don't talk about the transatlantic slave trade enough and how it benefited the economy in England."

"The biggest conversations we can have is to expose this and to understand the history and the history of how racism towards Afro-Caribbean people, in particular, has been imbued into society."

Kate Thomas has written a book called "Collective Amnesia: Falmouth and the Transatlantic Slave Trade" Credit: ITV News

Her thoughts are echoed by fellow campaigner and Truro town Councillor Clinton who says "the memorial has no place in a church".

"So once it has been removed from the church we can all sit around the table and have a different discussion about whether it should go into a museum, whether it should go back to the family, etc."

The church authorities say they will consult on what to do next with the memorial while it is covered from public view, and are "welcoming views from all".