Bank of England condemns ‘inexcusable’ slave trade links of its former leaders

The Bank of England has condemned and apologised for the “inexcusable” links that its former governors and directors had with the slave trade.

It comes after insurance giant Lloyd’s of London and pub chain Greene King said they will devote large sums to projects assisting minorities, after they were all named in a database of companies connected to slavery compiled by University College London.

The list is a sign of how Britain’s past involvement with the slave trade, which has led to the tearing down of statues, has begun to impact on the corporate sector.

Lloyd’s of London
Lloyd’s of London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Describing the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade as “an unacceptable part of English history”, the Bank of England vowed to block any images of its notorious former leaders from being displayed there.

A spokesman said: “As an institution, the Bank of England was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former governors and directors and apologises for them.

“The Bank has commenced a thorough review of its collection of images of former governors and directors, to ensure none with any such involvement in the slave trade remain on display anywhere in the Bank.

“The Bank is committed to improving diversity and is actively engaging with staff, particularly with our BAME colleagues, to help us identify and shape concrete steps that can be taken now to progress the Bank’s efforts to be as inclusive as possible.”

Greene King was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, who became one of 47,000 people who benefited from compensation paid to slave owners when slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833.

Greene surrendered rights to three plantations in the West Indies in return for what amounts to £500,000 in today’s money.

While Greene King’s past connections to slavery are not mentioned on the company’s website, chief executive Nick Mackenzie told the Daily Telegraph the company would update its site on Thursday, while he also offered an apology for that chapter of the pub chain’s history.

Greene King
Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie (Greene King/PA

He told the paper: “It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s.

“We don’t have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners, as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work.”

Mr Mackenzie said Greene King would make a “substantial investment” to benefit the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and work to support its own race diversity.

With regard to Lloyd’s, the database shows that Simon Fraser, a founder subscriber member, was given £400,000 in today’s money to give up an estate in Dominica.

A Lloyd’s spokesman told the Telegraph: “We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd’s market in the 18th and 19th century slave trade.

“We will provide financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for black and minority ethnic groups.”

A manager, one founder subscriber and three directors of the Colonial Bank are listed as claimants or beneficiaries by UCL. It was merged with Barclays in 1917.

A Barclays spokesman said: “The history of Barclays, like other institutions, is being examined following recent events. We can’t change what’s gone before us, only how we go forward.

“We are committed as a bank to do more to further foster our culture of inclusiveness, equality and diversity, for our colleagues and the customers and clients we serve.”

A spokesman for P&O, who were also named on the list, said: “We are committed to equal rights and respect for all people, both now and in the future.

“We believe that these records relate to a time before P&O was incorporated.

“Also, P&O ships did not trade on the Atlantic in this era and first went to the West Indies almost 100 years later, in 1932.”

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