Following our piece in last month’s issue about Liverpool streets, such as Penny Lane, named after slave traders, a row has broken out over a building in another UK seafaring city famous for its slave traders.
Colston Hall, a music and event venue in Bristol was named after Edward Colston, deputy governor of the Royal African Company which got very rich indeed from 1672 to 1698 transporting around 100,000 captured Africans to plantations in America and the West Indies, with thousands dying and being dumped in the sea. Colston, who also has half a dozen streets, pubs, three schools and student flats named after him, as well as a stained glass window dedicated to him in Bristol Cathedral latterly made lots of friends in Bristol with generous philanthropy. His bronze statue in the city centre has a plaque describing the slaver as “virtuous” and “wise”.
Another naming row, this time in London, is over an apartment block that has been named by Wandsworth borough council after aviation pioneer Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, who was a member of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Facists. The group’s gangs of yobbish Blackshirts intimidated London’s Jewish community in the 1930’s.
Meanwhile GeoPlace, the local government quango that oversees the official database of addresses used by councils and emergency services has warned against naming streets after individuals who may later be linked to “inappropriate activities”, citing the case of DJ Jimmy Savile where hundreds of streets, footpaths and plaques had to be altered when Savile was exposed, after his death, as a child abuser. At the time of the namings paedophile Savile was proudly described by Leeds council members as “a typical Leeds lad”.
The Local Government Association has defended the warning saying that it could save taxpayer’s money in the future, whereas others have argued that it will stop the honouring of local heroes, such as soldiers killed doing their duty, by having streets named after them.