Havering Council will consider erasing public tributes to slave traders, says leader
- Credit: Archant
Landmarks in Upminster and Harold Hill, named in tribute to wealthy slave trading families, could be renamed.
The leader of Havering Council has said streets named after slave-trading dynasties could be changed.
Conservative councillor Damian White said that if there was sufficient strength of feeling, the council would consider renaming three roads in Upminster and Harold Hill.
He said: “Like a vast majority of people in the borough, I was unaware of the history surrounding the names of some of our local streets and their links to the slave trade. I understand that local residents may be uncomfortable and offended that their streets are named after individuals who committed horrendous acts on their fellow people.”
A school in Upminster has echoed Cllr White’s sentiments, saying it too would consider changing its name if there was a public consensus.
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The Recorder reported last week that a petition was calling for landmarks to be renamed.
In Upminster, Branfil Primary School and Branfill Road are both named in tribute to the Branfill family, whose wealth came from the slave trade.
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Andrew Branfill traded slaves for Britain’s Royal African Company. He was known as the company’s “toughest sea captain” and so was tasked with trafficking “disobedient” slaves.
He used his slave-trading fortune to buy Upminster Hall, which has family then owned for 200 years.
Champion Road in Upminster is named after the boat Branfill used to traffic the slaves.
In Harold Hill, another road – Neave Crescent – is named after the Neave dynasty, which included several generations of slave owners and traders.
Richard Neave used his earnings from people-trafficking to buy 1,600 acres in Dagnam Park and left behind the equivalent of a £7million fortune in today’s currency. He left slaves in his will to his children.
Cllr White said: “If we start removing statues and changing street names, we run the risk of sanitising history; removing those painful but important reminders that we need to do better.”
But he also accepted that he had not known the history behind the names, suggesting they did not serve much educational purpose.
He continued: “Hiding from the past may send the message that we are trying to erase what happened. However, this is a very emotive subject and if the strength of feeling amongst local residents is that these names should be changed, then it is certainly something we can look at.”
A Branfil school spokesperson: “If there is a strong feeling towards changing the school’s name then the governing body will consider this and gather the views of the wider community to inform their decision.”