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Bank of England removes paintings of governors linked to slave trade

by Wanda Rich
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By Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England said on Friday it has removed 10 oil paintings and busts of seven governors and directors who had known connections to the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and hired a researcher on slavery for its museum.

The British central bank said following Black Lives Matter protests last year that it would review its art collection.

“The review is now complete and artworks depicting former Governors and Directors, where we have been able to establish links to the slave trade, have been removed from display,” a BoE spokesperson said.

“We have also appointed a researcher to work in our Museum to explore the Bank’s historic links with the transatlantic slave trade in detail. This work will inform future Museum displays interpreting these connections.”

The portraits and busts depicted Gilbert Heathcote, the Bank’s founding director and a governor, James Bateman, Robert Bristow, Robert Clayton, William Dawsonne, William Manning and John Pearse. They had been on display within the BoE’s headquarters and adjoining museum.

Announcing the review in June 2020, the BoE said it had never itself been directly involved in the slave trade, but that it was aware of some “inexcusable connections” involving former governors and directors, and apologised for them.

The 330-year-old Lloyd’s of London insurance market advertised in February for an archivist whose tasks would include researching artefacts related to the African and Caribbean history of slavery and abolition.

The City of London, where both financial institutions are located, is itself reviewing what to do about the statue of William Beckford in its ancient Guildhall home.

Beckford was twice Lord Mayor of London in the 18th century and had plantations in Jamaica with slaves.

(Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn, Editing by Catherine Evans)