The University of Bristol has launched a consultation asking if it should rename seven of its buildings - with links to the slave trade and Edward Colston. Officials at the uni say it has started a ‘’listening exercise” and is “open to hearing all” views on the name changes.
Bristol was at the centre of the slave trade in the 18th century and many of its buildings have links to figures from the historic people trafficking industry. The University is now ‘’seeking views on whether seven buildings whose names are linked in different ways to the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans should be renamed’’.
The seven buildings found to be linked to the trade were:
- Wills Memorial Building
- Fry Building
- Merchant Venturers Building
- HH Wills Physics Laboratories
- Goldney Hall
- Wills Hall
- Dame Monica Wills Chapel
A spokesman said: ‘’The University is doing so with an awareness that there are a range of views and is open to hearing all of them before taking any next steps. Staff, students and the wider community of Bristol will be asked for their thoughts on prominent buildings such as the Wills Memorial Building and Goldney Hall.
‘’The online consultation, which runs until December 19, follows feedback from some staff and students who feel that building names and the University logo should be changed to better reflect a modern-day institution in a diverse and forward-thinking city, as well as those who believe that the complexity of our past could best be recognised through greater in-depth understanding and explanations.
‘’One of the key arguments put forward was that, for example, money donated by Henry Overton Wills III to help found the University in 1909 had its early origins in importing and selling tobacco produced on plantations of the US South, where enslaved labour made up the majority of the workforce until 1865.
‘’In their view, a building named for Wills failed to respect the lives of those harmed by slavery. As a result, the University made a commitment to fully interrogate its history to help it better understand its past and use that knowledge to shape its future. The University is also planning some in-person events in December so it can get as many views as possible. Details of these will be published very soon.’’
In addition to building names, the University has already made a commitment to reviewing its crest and logo which features the symbols of Colston, Wills and Fry.