Anti-racism campaigners have called for a ‘racist’ and ‘dehumanising’ statue named Blackboy Clock to be removed from Stroud.
Stroud Against Racism (SAR) said there should instead be an educational purpose for the clock, which, according to a Stroud District Council report, came about ‘directly or indirectly through the influence of slavery and colonialism’.
The news comes after the Council launched a public consultation on the future of the statue, but SAR said no discussion is needed.
Group spokesperson Ben Aaron said: “The fact that we need a public discussion to decide whether Stroud should depict an enslaved Black person in a public place in our town is a powerful reminder of the racism which is built into the fabric of our community and the work we still need to do to make our town the welcoming and tolerant place we claim that it is.
“As a predominantly white community, we have a responsibility to recognise and understand the dehumanisation and abuse of Black and Brown people which this statue represents.
“I believe that most Stroud residents agree that those values have no place in our community. The statue should be removed and used as an educational tool.
“The recent abuse of the England football team is only the most public example of the fact that this is not ‘just’ a piece of history but an ongoing issue which white people have a responsibility to address.”
Blackboy Clock is a mechanised figure of a Black child dressed in a leaf skirt, holding a club with which he strikes a bell on the hour.
Made in 1774 by watchmaker John Miles, the figure’s lips are bright red and accentuated as was commonplace in historic, racist depictions of Black people.
“Were it to have been carved by Miles, it is unlikely that he took the boy’s image from life, although there was a small Black presence in Stroud in the late eighteenth century,” reads a Council report on the statue.
It continues: “It is possible that the boy’s appearance, instead, derives from images of Black people in the woodcuts and etchings of the time, including tobacco advertisements.
“Whatever the inspiration or its origins, it has to be remembered that, without a doubt, the boy’s image came directly or indirectly through the influence of slavery and colonialism.”
The clock was first positioned at Miles’ shop in the High Street, before being moved to the Duke of York pub in Nelson Street in the early 19th century.
In 1844, it was placed onto the front of the National School for Girls in Castle Street, now called ‘Blackboy House’.
The clock was in a bad condition by the 1990s and was restored in 2004.
Chair of the statue’s review panel councillor Natalie Bennett said: “Last year the Council committed to consult with the community on statues, commemorations, streets and buildings to ensure that the diversity of our communities is appropriately reflected.
“A Review Panel consisting of community representatives, councillors and historians will review the findings to determine the action that should be taken. The suggestions received will be reviewed and the panel will then publish its recommendations based on the representations made.”
As a listed building, any physical alterations to ‘Blackboy House’ would require listed building consent.
New legal protections implemented by the Government this year mean proposals for the removal of any historic statue will require listed building consent or planning permission, and that Historic England must be notified of any such application.
If Historic England objects, the final decision will be made by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark.