Statues of a slave owner and slave trader from the 18th century may remain at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall headquarters, despite initially deciding to take them down earlier this year.
The statues of Sir John Cass and William Beckford were going to be removed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, which sparked calls for the powerful local authority to examine its past links to slavery.
Beckford owned 1,200 slaves on a Jamaican plantation and Cass was directly involved in the slave trade.
Elected members of the Corporation voted to remove both of the statues in January, however a new report from the authority said there is “low level demand” for this to happen.
The government has also made its stance clear that it opposes removing controversial statues such as the ones of Beckford and Cass.
The report suggests that the Square Mile authority should instead retain the statues and adorn them with “explanatory plaques or notices placed alongside them in order to provide contextual information”.
“The City of Londdon Corporation is united in its commitment to equality, inclusivity and diversity and to tackling slavery and racism in all its forms,” the report said.
The report said it would cost £100,000 to remove the statue of Beckford and £7,500 for the one of Cass.
It suggested that if the prominent monuments were to be concealed and moved somewhere out of sight that the Corporation should seek “aesthetically pleasing solution with limited impact on the Guildhall as a venue”.
Cass – whose name was also removed from the title of City University’s business school last year – was a major figure in the Royal African Company, which made much of its money directly from the slave trade.
Cass went on to donate chunks of his fortune to philanthropic causes throughout the City of London in the early 18th century.
Beckford, who held senior positions within the City of London Corporation during the 18th century, made his vast wealth thanks to the ownership of some 1,200 slaves on Jamaican sugar plantations.
The Corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness said in January that she supported the removal of the two statues from the historic Guildhall building.
“I didn’t go into the taskforce expecting to come out myself supporting that sort of proposal, but after hearing the very careful debate, and after considering the prominence between those statues in the Guildhall, I fully support what’s being recommended here,” she said.