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‘Completely wrong’ to remove statues of man who ‘did awful amount of good’

Written by on June 12, 2020

Statues of Sir Robert Peel have been listed as locations that could be targeted by those aiming not to honour those with links to the slave trade.

Sir Robert Peel – the 19th century Prime Minister who founded of the police service and has statues in Preston, Manchester and Bury – was brought into the conversation over his father’s involvement in the slave trade.

His family originate from Oswaldtwistle and have strong links with Blackburn.

There have been calls to remove statues of figures involved with slavery by ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters in response to the death of American George Floyd.

It also comes after the tearing down of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol last Sunday (June 7).

It has been deemed a ‘difficult and complex issue’ while one Lancashire MP says it would be ‘completely wrong for the statues to be removed.

Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe said: “Robert Peel did an awful amount of good for this country.

“In a society that stands up for people being judged by their own merit and success. I would find it completely wrong if his statues were removed.”

East Lancashire historian Roger Frost said: “This is a difficult and complex issue but it would be impossible to find any major local cotton family whose original wealth did not come in some part from slavery in the Southern United States and Caribbean and the slave trade.”

Councillor Miles Parkinson, Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council, said: “We have no plans for a review.

“You cannot hold Peel responsible for the actions of his father. He was the first Prime Minister to tackle child labour.”

Preston City Council has already indicated that the statue of Sir Robert at Winckley Square is likely to remain in the city centre.

They cited confusion that exists between Peel Jr and his father – also Sir Robert Peel – who had a pro-slavery stance and opposed the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill in 1806.

Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader at Preston City Council, said: “We understand the concerns that are currently being discussed on a national scale, regarding the historic figures honoured by statues and monuments across the country.

“Shortly after his death in 1850, Preston erected a statue honouring Sir Robert Peel (junior), paid for by public subscription, predominantly in honour of his founding of what has become modern policing, his support for the abolition of the Corn Laws and his leading of a relief programme for the Irish potato famine.

“His involvement in this made him a highly revered ‘hero’ of Britain’s poor at the time.”