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Petition urges West Hampstead primary school to reconsider slave trader name

PUBLISHED: 17:58 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:20 11 June 2020

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

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A West Hampstead primary school named after a slave trader has been urged to rebrand amid a momentum of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beckford Primary School on Dornfell Street is named after William Beckford, London mayor from 1761 to 1962 and 1769 to 1770, who owed his inheritance to the slave trade in Jamaica.

His father, Peter Beckford, was known as Alderman Sugar-Cane because he had 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.

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A petition calling for the name change reads: “William Beckford has absolutely no place in London, and does not deserve any honours. The removal of the name, we propose, would bring recognition to Britain’s role in the slave trade, and honour the people he enslaved. The name could be changed to that of a local historical figure without such an abhorrent past.”

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Nearby resident Georgios Samaras was alerted to the name about four years ago, but was prompted to make the petition alongside protests about racism by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I want to raise the issue as to why there is a school named after a slave trade and plantation owner and I think it is important to make sure parents and pupils are aware of the origin,” said Georgios,who is studying a politics PhD at King’s College London.

Headteacher of Beckford Sam Drake said: “We are aware of the issue around the name of the school, and I will be talking to our governors, parents, staff and the council about how to address this.”

This comes as Camden Council launches a cross-party review into statues, monuments and place names around the borough.

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “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.”

The review group will be chaired by Cllr Abdul Hai, cabinet member for young people and cohesion, and will work with residents, schools and community institutions.

View the petition at https://tinyurl.com/ycjfpekn


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