West Hampstead school named after slave trader answers calls to rebrand

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A West Hampstead school named after a slave trader has answered calls from anti-racism campaigners and is hoping to start consulting on a new title.

Last week, this newspaper reported on a petition calling for Beckford Primary School to reconsider its name, which is dedicated to William Beckford.

The two-time London mayor owed his inheritance to the slave trade in Jamaica because his father, Peter Beckford, owned eight plantations.

According to University College London (UCL), William owned 1,356 slaves when he died in 1770, including serving slaves in England and plantation workers in Jamaica.

READ MORE: Petition urges West Hampstead primary school to reconsider slave trader nameREAD MORE: Camden launches cross-party review into names of public spacesFOLLOW THE HAM&HIGH ON FACEBOOK TO JOIN THE DISCUSSIONHeadteacher Sam Drake said they have listened to the community and hope to start the consultation procedures on a new name soon.

“We will initially be consulting parents of children at the school, whose views will take priority,” he said.

“We are committed to engaging with the school community and will involve our families, staff, governors and children within any decision making.”

However, he noted it will be subject to the outcome of a cross-party review into public statues, monuments and place names in Camden announced by the council on June 10.

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Sam added: “As a school, we stand together with the local authority in rejecting racism. We also believe in educating our children, so that we can move forward together towards an equal society.”

Nearby resident Georgios Samaras, who started the petition, said: “It’s a good first step, and it is a first step of many baby steps that are currently taking place in the UK, but it is not enough.

“This area is filled with Beckford, for example houses or small sections of libraries named after him.”

Cllr Georgia Gould, Camden Council leader, said the authority stands against racism and pointed to the naming of Mandela Street in solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement and of Bourne Estate after Olaudah Equiano, a former slave and leading black campaigner.

“I myself feel very uncomfortable that certain figures are on a pedestal when what they stand for is so incompatible with our values and, in some cases, inextricably linked to racist brutal oppression,” Cllr Gould added.