Anger From Ministers as Historic England Lists Sites With Slavery Connections
Historic England, the government body that 'looks after England's historic environment', faced anger from government ministers after the publishing of an audit last year which examined the “built environment of English cities, towns and villages in relation to transatlantic slavery”.
The publicly-funded body, receiving £88.5 million a year from the government for the conservation of heritage sites and buildings, commissioned the audit covering 157 pages following on from the “events associated with the Black Lives Matter movement”. According to the audit, “the history of transatlantic slavery is indivisible from the history of England” and the BLM movement “serves as a potent reminder of how [Englands] history of exploiting human life for profit permeates many aspects of English history”.
The audit aims to “identify and re-contextualise remnants of England’s slavery past found in its buildings, houses, streets, industrial heritage, urban fabrics and rural landscapes”. It compiles a vast list of housing, civic society organisations, churches, village halls, farms, shooting lodges and hotels, citing figures such as Edward Colston and Francis Drake as part of the “money trail”.
The audit finally gives a variety of recommendations for further research, including ascertaining “how far slavery connections are obscured in the 300 registered historic public parks on the National Heritage List for England” and advocating for research “focusing on a particular property, place or family and establishing the development of slavery associations through time”.
A source within the Department of Culture told the MailOnline of Ministers’ “increasing frustration” with “public bodies focusing on divisive parts of Britain's history rather than celebrating our shared heritage”. The source told the MailOnline that “we should face up to the challenging parts, but this needs to be done in a balanced way rather than constantly putting down our past”. Despite the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's plea to public bodies to disengage from “activism”, Historic England's three-year strategy has been based on the research and aims to add more “diverse” sites to the protected National Heritage List.