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Diocese of Cornwall says slave trader memorial 'clashes with Christianity'

by Alex Collett

Church leaders have said a memorial to a 17th century slave trader in a church in Cornwall "clashes starkly" with the message of the Christian Gospel.

The eulogy, written on a marble plaque, to Thomas Corker sits in King Charles Church in Falmouth. 

The Diocese of Cornwall has told the BBC it glorified the "despicable" slave-trade.

Thomas Corker died in the town in September 1700 at the age of 31.

According to Kate Thomas, an amateur historian, Corker married into a local royal family in Sierra Leone while working for the Royal Africa Company. But after being sacked, he returned to Falmouth bringing slaves with him. 

Thomas told the BBC she was among those campaigning to have the plaque removed but believed it shouldn't be hidden as "history shouldn't be lost and children should know Falmouth's real history". 

For the diocese, the memorial highlights the "despicable transatlantic slave-trade" and "clashes starkly and profoundly with the message of the Christian Gospel".

It said it had "heard the heartfelt sentiments of the black community" and others, including a direct descendant of Corker.

The church has already placed a temporary plaque besides the memorial stating is "contested heritage". 

A consultation asking the congregation whether to keep the plaque as an "educationally" tool was launched last year.  Particularly in contrast with a nearby memorial which commemorates the life of a black musician and freed slave who had strong associations with Falmouth

Rev Canon Bill Stuart-White, vicar at King Charles told the BBC he had "every sympathy with those who would like to see it gone, [but] I personally don't agree that's the best way forward.

He said: "We would welcome further discussions on how best to do it, because, if we are to use it educationally, then we need all voices to be involved."

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