Lancaster's 'hidden' slave trade past to come under the spotlight as at least 58 prominent historical city figures are linked to slavery

Lancaster City Council is calling on the public to help it reveal the district’s ‘hidden history’ as part of review into statues, street names and other items linked to the slave trade.

By Nick Lakin
Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 1:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 1:57 pm

The review follows protests across the world, as well as in Lancaster, against racism, prejudice, injustice and discrimination in the wake of the death of George Floyd and calls for Lancaster to tackle its slave trade legacy.

The review was announced at a meeting of Full Council on June 24 in response to a question from Geraldine Onek, a schoolteacher from Bolton-le-Sands whose family moved to the area from South Sudan.The intention of the review is not to erase history, but to examine how the district could better reflect on its past and how it has formed today’s society, including its buildings and places.

Councillor Alistair Sinclair, cabinet member with responsibility for social justice, said: “Being honest about our links to the slave trade is a vital first step in our journey to becoming a fairer and more inclusive society.

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A statue at Lancaster Priory with links to the slave trade.

“Slavery was the foundation on which the industrial revolution was built and paid for many of the Georgian buildings of Lancaster and many subsequent Victorian industrial buildings.

“We need to acknowledge that some of our most notable citizens were intimately involved in the exploitation on enslaved people.

"There are at least 58 prominent Lancaster figures linked to slave trade activity including Miles Barber, Sir Richard Owen, the Gillows, William Lindow, the Rawlinsons, and the Satterthwaites.

“We want to work with the community on how we can better understand Lancaster’s link with slavery, and also other parts of our history which have been forgotten, to develop a deeper exploration so we can learn, educate, uncover, and recover our past.”

Protests against racism have been staged in Lancaster's Dalton Square.

Anyone who would like to be involved in the review can email Councillor Sinclair at [email protected]

Councillor Jean Parr, cabinet member with responsibility for arts, culture, leisure and tourism, will also be holding an online discussion of the area’s heritage in general, including the slave trade, on 10th July at 6pm.

She added: “Our local heritage must be examined with open and honest eyes, and a willingness to tell the true story of Lancaster’s dark past in slave trading.

“As a city we cannot change our past, but we must not hide from it. It is our mission to inform and educate those who are unaware of the true nature of our history.

The monument in the grounds of Lancaster Priory.

“It is very important that visitors to the area are just as aware of our slavery past as they are of our relationship to the Pendle Witches.

"How we do that, and what other areas we need to explore which may have been ‘forgotten’, is an open question to which we’d like to hear from anyone who has an interest.”

Details of how to register an interest in attending the meeting will be published on the council’s social media channels and

Geraldine Onek.