Councillor wants Nelson ward renamed after ‘truly great Norwich person’

PUBLISHED: 17:49 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:02 13 June 2020

The Lord Nelson statue, in Cathedral Close, Norwich. Photo: Talking Statues

The Lord Nelson statue, in Cathedral Close, Norwich. Photo: Talking Statues

Talking Statues

A county councillor has called for Nelson ward to be renamed to “honour one of the truly great people in Norwich”.

Jess Barnard, county councillor for the ward, which is named after naval hero Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, has suggested the ward be renamed in the wake of calls to take down statues celebrating colonialism and the slave trade.

Labour councillor Ms Barnard said her division was: “named after Horatio Nelson, a man who opposed the abolition of slavery.

“Renaming our ward to honour one of the truly great people of Norwich is long overdue.”

But supporters of Nelson say a 1805 letter he wrote opposing the abolition of slavery has been taken “somewhat out of context”.

Labour county councillor for Nelson ward Jess Barnard. Picture: Danielle BoodenLabour county councillor for Nelson ward Jess Barnard. Picture: Danielle Booden

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After the removal of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, activists listed around 60 UK monuments which they say should be taken down as they “celebrate slavery and racism”.

And Ms Barnard said her call to rename the ward was about “recognising a lot of historical figures we glorify built off of the pain and suffering they caused”.

She said: “There is a backlash from people who feel its writing out history. It’s remembering what we want to move forwards with.

"Where is my polling station" map showing people what their polling district and ward boundaries are. Map for the Nelson ward. For Daniel Grimmer.

“He was quite staunchly a defender of colonialism and it’s said he would use his position in the House of Lords to prevent the abolition of slavery. I don’t think people learn a huge amount from just knowing his name.”

She added: “I think this can be a positive. Has anybody really asked the people of Norwich who they want to remember and celebrate?

“It’s an opportunity to do that.”

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Chris Brett, vice-chairman of the Nelson Society, said while renaming wards was “entirely up to the council” they were keen for his actions to be understood within their historical context.

“Britain was a colonial power during his life,” Mr Brett said. “Nelson’s ethos was duty and service to his king and country.”

He added: “When slavery was outlawed in Britain in 1807, the navy vigorously applied the law.”

And he said 1,600 slave ships were stopped with 15,000 people freed from 1807 to around 1860.

“Had Nelson lived he would have seen it as his duty to apply the law with his usual vigour.”

A Norfolk County Council spokeswoman said: “We have not received any complaints about the name of electoral divisions and would not usually change such names outside of a wider electoral review.”

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