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Bristol Cathedral/ PA Media
Bristol Cathedral/ PA Media
Bristol Cathedral/ PA Media
Bristol Cathedral/ PA Media
UK News

Bristol Cathedral covers up and removes references to slave trader Edward Colston

by Tola Mbakwe

Dedications to slave trader Edward Colston have been removed or covered up from Bristol Cathedral and another prominent church in the city.

Work was carried out on Monday to cover up parts of the cathedral's large Colston Window, dedicated to the 17th century merchant, that will later be removed.

Panes from a window at St Mary Redcliffe Church were also taken out on Monday, with other references to Colston also covered up at the sites.

The Diocese of Bristol described the toppling of the Colston statue during a Black Lives Matter march on 7th June as a "symbolic moment" and "signal for change".

"The dedications to Colston, in two significant places of worship, has prevented many people from finding peace in these beautiful buildings," it said in a statement.

"Most of these dedications have now gone and the rest will follow,

"The removal or covering of window panes is also a symbolic moment.

"It doesn't change history and it doesn't change the fact that black people in Bristol, Britain and the world still face discrimination, injustice and racism.

"We must not let it distract us from the work that needs to be done."

Acting dean of Bristol Cathedral Canon Michael Johnson told Premier although they've now only taken action after recent Black Lives Matter protests, it's not a case of jumping on the bandwagon.

"The conversations have been going on for some time, I think around 2017. And at that point, a willingness to enter into a conversation about that happened. But I think the Black Lives movement has helpfully brought this to the top of the agenda. And we're now taking action that I think is timely and appropriate."

Canon Michael added that the removing and covering up references to Colston demonstrated its "renewed sense of urgency" to address race issues. 

"Let's not forget what this is really all about, which is, the whole business of racism and inequality and injustice that's going on.

"This is not just a one hit wonder. What we're doing is starting to look carefully at the whole of our heritage, also the way we work. Are we are we inadvertently embracing any of those kind of qualities that we are opposed to?

"We're taking a close look at ourselves so that we can as a cathedral church…  be leading the way on this one."

The diocese said discussions and work around the transatlantic slave trade, racism, identity and justice will continue at Bristol Cathedral, St Mary Redcliffe Church and the Church of England in Bristol.

"We will complete an inventory of all our churches to identify and understand references to slavery," it added.

"We will engage with black Christians, theologians, historians and all members of the community as we listen, learn and explore these important issues and agree the right course of action.

"The removal of historical items is a complex subject that evokes strong feeling.

"We want to work with others to address the true cost of our history, heal our divisions and build a unified city of hope that values and cares for everyone."

Canon Michael told Premier they've got mostly good feedback for taking action, with a few people opposing their decision. 

The diocese will be take part in a commission due to consider Bristol's past and share its stories.

On 7th June, protesters used ropes to pull the Colston statue, which was erected in 1895, from its plinth in Bristol city centre.

It was then dragged to the harbourside, where it was thrown into the water at Pero's Bridge - named in honour of enslaved man Pero Jones who lived and died in the city.

Bristol City Council retrieved the statue, which will be displayed in a museum along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest, from the water on 11th June.

Since the removal of the statue, music venue Colston Hall and high-rise building Colston Tower have both removed lettering from their facades.

Both Colston's Girls' School and the separate Colston's School are considering a name change.

Listen to Premier's interview with Canon Michael Johnson here: 


Additional reporting by Press Association

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