‘Racist’ Blackboy Clock in Stroud could be removed

COUNCILLORS are to consider street and building names following significant public response.               

This could start a process leading to the removal of the Blackboy clock and statue from its current location in Stroud.

More than 1,600 responses to a Stroud District Council-led review of street or building names and monuments helped inform recommendations which elected members will carefully consider next week.

Recommendations under consideration could start a process leading to the removal of the Blackboy clock and statue from its current location in Stroud, following concerns raised by residents in the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests of 2020.

Recommendations include:

•           The Council consult with the legal owner of the statue and the clock to secure its removal. If listed building consent is received and the statue and clock removed, the statue and clock is offered to The Museum in the Park collection.

•           Blackboy House is renamed.

•           The Council should undertake a review of the street name ‘Blackboys’, Dursley.

•           The Council should progress plans for the restoration of the Anti-Slavery Arch, Paganhill, and a task force established by the Council to contextualise the statue and oversee the installation of an information plaque outside Blackboy House, and develop a community project for the commemoration of an individual, group of individuals or event suggested in the survey responses.

•           The Council’s street naming protocol is reviewed so that names will not be considered that may be construed as discriminatory or offensive under the Equality Act 2010; or those which could be considered as ‘not in the spirit’ of this act, will not be considered.

•           The Council’s Culture Strategy, which is currently in development, should empower communities and individuals to celebrate and share their history, heritage, culture and identity, focus on increasing representation of Black, Asian and Ethnically diverse communities as well as those from a range of social and economic backgrounds, celebrate aspects of the district’s cultural and community diversity, encourage and support the creation of work that demonstrates collaboration across a wide range of diverse backgrounds

The day after the Edward Colston statue was toppled into Bristol Harbour on June 7, 2020, all four Stroud District Council political group leaders issued a joint statement reaffirming the council’s commitment to promoting equality and tackling discrimination, then actions were outlined including consulting on any street and building names, statues and architectural features that may be considered offensive.

Subsequently, district residents raised concerns about Blackboy Statue, Blackboy House, Castle Street, Stroud and called on the council to consider its removal. SDC established a Review Panel to undertake a public consultation and review of streets, statues and monuments across the district including Blackboy Statue as part of this review.

Academics and historians were invited to be part of a Review Panel and three community representatives were recruited through an open application process.

The Review Panel carefully researched, analysed, and debated evidence on the origins of the Blackboy Clock and Statue. As well as this, the Panel received and considered more than 1600 responses to a public consultation which ran from Wednesday7 July 2021 to Wednesday 1 September 2021.

The clock is dated 1774 and is an unusual example of a Jacquemart clock, designed by John Miles and originally set on the front of his shop in Kendrick Street, Stroud before being moved to the Duke of York pub in Nelson Street, Stroud before being bought by subscription and finally installed on the front of the National School for Girls, now known as Blackboy House, Castle Street, Stroud.

Since 1974, Blackboy House has been listed as a Grade II building and freehold is owned by Blackboy House Management Company Limited. However the statue and clock belong to The Blackboy Clock Trust.

The key findings from the survey were:

•           79 per cent  of respondents felt the statue should be removed

•           59 per cent felt the statue should be placed in a museum

•           22 per cent felt the statue should remain where it is

•           A broad spread of people/groups to potentially commemorate were suggested

•           The consultation did not identify any individuals who were central to the slave trade as having have been commemorated, although there are beneficiaries of hereditary wealth and colonialism within the district.

The survey responses made clear that the statue causes pain and offence but it should not be hidden from the public, instead put in a place where an interpretation can be provided, providing learning and education so that we can continue to challenge what is no longer acceptable, provoke thinking and to demonstrate that change is needed.

Most Blackboy House residents supported removal of the statue though some wanted to keep the clock.

The Review Panel is consulting with a family member of the trustees of the Blackboy Clock Trust, who are unable to comment, however conversations with the family member continue.

Any removal would need Listed Building Consent, and under new national regulations if a council intends to grant LBC and Historic England objects, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will make a final decision.

Any artefact offered to a museum must fit its collecting policy in order to be accepted into the collections.

The Review Panel also considered that regardless of the origins, the street name of Blackboys in Dursley causes offence.

Other reviews have taken place for similar names across the country which have resulted in name changes.

There are eight properties on this street with a ‘Blackboys’ address and the Review Panel recommend that the council consults with the residents of Blackboys to consider renaming the street.

All elected members will consider the report at the Full Council meeting on Thursday, April 28.

Councillor Natalie Bennett, who chairs the Review Panel said: “Consulting with the public was a positive action for SDC to have taken and enabled a democratic, transparent and open process to be followed.

“The Review Panel has taken time to carefully consider the responses and a complex set of issues before making recommendations.

“Key to moving this work forward will be the ongoing involvement of our communities so that we can continue to take a collective and collaborative approach to equalities, diversity and inclusion in our district.

Review Panel member Dan Guthrie said: “Being a part of this review panel over the last few months has been an interesting experience, and I hope people take the time to read through and think about the recommendations we have come up with.

“Hopefully, these recommendations will help us to continue conversations about how our district can become a more inclusive place for everybody living in it, and potentially start new ones off too.” 

Council Leader Doina Cornell added: “This review was undertaken in response to the rightful challenge posed to us all by the Black Lives Matter movement and by local residents, to tackle systemic racism, and is part of a wider piece of work that the council has undertaken.

“I’m grateful to the panel for all the work they’ve put into this and how they have ensured that their recommendations reflect our community’s views as to what next steps are needed.”

 

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