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Why is this village memorial in Norfolk being targeted by ‘topple the racists’?

PUBLISHED: 16:23 13 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:38 15 June 2020

Southern Rhodesia memorial in Southrepps. Picture: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

Southern Rhodesia memorial in Southrepps. Picture: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

Evelyn Simak/Geograph

A memorial in a quiet Norfolk village has been targeted by ‘topple the racists’ campaigners for its commemoration of the “apartheid regime in Rhodesia”.

Cecil Rhodes was one of the leading figures in British imperialism at the end of the 19th century. Southern Rhodesia was named after him. Picture: Museum of Norway/Wikimedia CommonsCecil Rhodes was one of the leading figures in British imperialism at the end of the 19th century. Southern Rhodesia was named after him. Picture: Museum of Norway/Wikimedia Commons

Following the pulling down of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, activists have turned their attention to other monuments to Britain’s slave trade and imperialist past around the UK.

Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was colonised by Cecil Rhodes in the late 1800s. The country was named Southern Rhodesia after him.

The Southern Rhodesia Memorial in Southrepps, near Cromer, includes an avenue of trees, a flagpole and plaque bearing the dates 1890-1980, marking when the Union flag first flew in the de facto colony and the year of Zimbabwean independence.

Southern Rhodesia Memorial Avenue in Southrepps including flagpole where flag flying cermonies have been held. Picture: Evelyn Simak/GeographSouthern Rhodesia Memorial Avenue in Southrepps including flagpole where flag flying cermonies have been held. Picture: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

MORE: Norwich MP joins calls for schools to teach slavery and colonialism

The international debate over statues of historical figures has seen the website ‘topple the racists’ create a map listing dozens of memorials across the UK.

It states they hope to “promote debate”, adding: “It’s important to shine a light on the continued adoration of colonial icons and symbols.

“It’s up to local communities to decide what statues they want in their local areas. We hope the map aids these much-needed dialogues.”

Further considerationis given to the context and interpretation of the Lord Nelson statue by Thomas Milnes in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. Picture : Antony KellyFurther considerationis given to the context and interpretation of the Lord Nelson statue by Thomas Milnes in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. Picture : Antony Kelly

The Southrepps memorial was established in 1990 by Peter Sladden who lived at nearby Southrepps Hall and who had links to Southern Rhodesia. He died in 2018.

Prior to his death an annual flag raising ceremony was held every September at the memorial similar to those held each year until 1980 in Fort Salisbury, now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

The memorial is located on private land. Southrepps Parish Council said it was not on land owned or managed by the council.

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA WireProtesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The ‘topple the racists’ map entry for the memorial includes a link to a 2019 article on the website The Norwich Radical entitled ‘Rhodesia in Norfolk and the dangers of Britain’s imperial amnesia’.

Written by Josh Doble it states: “The explicit white supremacy of the Rhodesian regime was entirely comparable to the better-known case of apartheid South Africa.”

He adds: “The Rhodesian flag is a living symbol of colonialism, having it flying in Southrepps is an example of both the blind arrogance of neo-imperialists – who propagate a warped version of Britain’s colonial history – and the conservative ‘safe-space’ that rural Norfolk represents to such views.”

MORE: ‘Norfolk won’t allow his statues to be toppled’ - Nelson defended amid racism row

The ‘topple the racists’ map also includes the statue of Admiral Nelson at Norwich Cathedral and the Nelson monument in Great Yarmouth stating he was “A vocal supporter of the slave trade and British imperialism.”

Norwich Cathedral has said in light of the current debate, further consideration will be given to the “context and interpretation” of the statue, which is owned and maintained by Norwich City Council.

Boris Johnson has said removing statues of controversial figures is “to lie about our history”, as he argued that national protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the US had been taken over by extremists.

In a lengthy Twitter thread the Prime Minister said: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history.

“The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations. They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults.

“To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.”

What do you think of the Southern Rhodesia Memorial in Southrepps? Send your views to simon.parkin@archant.co.uk and casey.cooper-fiske@archant.co.uk


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