Bank of England removes portraits of former directors linked to slave trade

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey speaking at the Financial and Professional Services Address, previously known as the Bankers dinner, at Mansion House in the City of London. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021.
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, as ten artworks depicting former governors and directors who had links to the slave trade were removed from display. Photo by Stefan Rousseau/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Bank of England (BoE) has removed a number of artworks from display depicting former governors and directors who had links to the slave trade, following a review launched in June last year.

The bank identified 10 items — eight oil paintings and two portrait busts — relating to seven individuals with known connections to the slave trade.

These included former governor James Bateman (1705-1707), former directors Robert Bristow (1713-1720), Robert Clayton (1702-1717), William Dawsonne (1698-1719) and founding director Gilbert Heathcote. There were also items on display depicting William Manning who was governor from 1812-1814 and John Pearse who was governor from 1810-1812.

The items were on display in Parlours, the Rotunda, and the Museum.

The collections database was cross-checked for items relating to a list of figures from the UCL Legacies of British Slave-ownership database who were connected to the Bank of England.

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

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“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, adding the central bank has also hired a researcher on slavery for its museum.

“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.”

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