diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 11, 2020

For the attention of the Mayor's Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm

Draft review of TfL station names


London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet station names largely reflect pre-Windrush Britain.

This review is an initial attempt to identify TfL stations that may not suitably reflect London’s broader history and diversity in the most appropriate way.


West India Quay - The West India Docks were founded by slave traders in 1800 to help streamline London's involvement in the trans-Atlantic triangular trade. A statue of Robert Milligan, Governor of the West India Docks Company, has already been removed from the dockside. This may subsequently force the renaming of the adjacent DLR station.

Bank - Humphry Morice, Governor of the Bank of England from 1727 to 1731, has been described as "the foremost London slave merchant of his time". He commissioned the Whydah Gally merchant ship which transported nearly 500 Africans into slavery in the Caribbean. Although there is no evidence that all 18th century governors acted similarly, the reputation of the Bank of England must be called into question.

Westminster - William Gladstone was Prime Minister of Great Britain four times, and gave his maiden speech at Westminster in defence of the rights of West Indian sugar plantation magnates. When slavery was abolished in 1834 his family earned £106,769 in official reimbursement for the 2508 slaves they owned across nine plantations in the Caribbean. Although the majority of other Members of Parliament have behaved more appropriately, Gladstone's transgressions cannot be overlooked.

Camden Town - William Camden was a sugar refiner who in 1773 became joint owner of several slaving ships linking West Africa and the Caribbean. This partnership grew to become the largest company in London involved in the slave trade. Although William was not directly linked to the Camden area of North London, a strong nominal connection remains.

King's Cross St Pancras - Thomas King was a trading partner of William Camden as part of the firm of Camden, Calvert and King. His maiden voyage carried 120 slaves from the Gold Coast aboard the Royal Charlotte. By the end of his life he owned 500 slaves on plantations across British Guiana. Although King was never directly linked to the mainline station, a strong nominal connection remains.

Phipps Bridge - James Phipps was Captain-General of the Royal African Company and Governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, a fortress used to confine African natives before they were loaded onto ships and sold in the Americas. Although Phipps was not directly linked to the Merton area of South London, a strong nominal connection remains.

Preston Road - Preston Brooks became a member of the US House of Representatives in 1844 representing South Carolina. He asserted that the enslavement of black people by whites was right and proper, and fought to ensure that Kansas would be admitted to the United States as a slave territory. Although Preston was not directly linked to the Wembley area of North London, a strong nominal connection remains.

Holland Park - The Dutch slave trade transported half a million Africans across the Atlantic between 1596 and 1829, mostly from the Dutch Gold Coast (Ghana) to Dutch Guiana (Surinam). Although not in any way linked to the park in West London, a direct nominal connection remains.

St James's Park - King James II, as Duke of York, was the first Governor of the Royal African Company, a mercantile company which shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Many of the slaves were branded 'DY' - the monogram of the Duke of York. Although James was not directly linked to the founding of the Royal Park close to Buckingham Palace, a strong nominal connection remains.

Earl's Court - John Earle established a successful trading business in tobacco and sugar, and was elected Mayor of Liverpool in 1709. His children continued to profit from a variety of commodities derived from slave trading on the African coast. Although Earle was not directly linked to the Kensington area of West London, an approximate nominal connection remains.

Liverpool Street - Many of the streets in Liverpool, a key port in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, are named after prominent slave traders. These include Ashton Street, Bold Street, Blackburne Place and perhaps Penny Lane. There is therefore a possibility that the Liverpool Street referenced in this station's name may be perceived to be connected to human trafficking.

Manor House - The building now used as Manor House Library in Lee was home to several generations of London merchants involved in slave trading. Chief amongst these was William Coleman, agent to the wealthiest plantation owners in St. Kitts and Nevis, who moved into the Manor House in 1749. Although not directly linked to the Finsbury Park area of North London, a strong nominal connection remains.

Snaresbrook - The Brookes was a British slave ship launched in 1781, which became infamous after prints of her were published showing the appalling cramped conditions experienced by slaves enduring the Middle Passage across the Atlantic. Although not directly linked to the Wanstead area, an approximate nominal connection remains.

Hammersmith - Richard Smith, born in Westmorland in 1707, was a successful merchant in West Indies trade. He also became a director of the East India Company and was a plantation owner on the island of Barbados. Although Richard was only one of many Smiths in the history of the English nation, it remains possible that some might take offence at the unnecessary appearance of his name.

Gloucester Road - The statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, recently toppled into the city docks, could be reached from London via a journey along the A4. Although this road does not go to Gloucester, and Bristol has not been in Gloucestershire since 1373, a potential administrative misconception remains.

Elizabeth line - Queen Elizabeth I became a partner in the triangular trade from Africa to the Americas in 1562. Initially reticent, she quickly changed her mind after pirate John Hawkins first revealed the riches to be made, and was soon using proceeds from the slave trade as a means of boosting England's economy. Although she is not the monarch intentionally referenced in the name of London's newest railway, a strong nominal connection remains.

Victoria - Queen Victoria came to the throne following the abolition of slavery, but this should not blind us to the fact that some of her ancestors may have acted entirely inappropriately and this could bring the organisation into disrepute.

White City - Potentially problematic
Chalk Farm - Ditto
Whitechapel Possibly more controversial
Blackfriars - Unlikely to balance out the above

East India - The East India Company traded with countries around the Indian Ocean rather than shipping slaves across the Atlantic. Although there were several highly questionable activities during their three centuries of trading, including involvement in the Indian Mutiny, the East India Docks are only nominally connected to the atrocities in question.

Canary Wharf - Canary Wharf earned its name when coal ships returning to London from the Canary Islands were made more profitable by loading their holds with fruit. In 1937 one of the dock berths at the South Quay Import Dock, let by Fruit Lines Limited, was named after the place of the cargo's origin. Canary Wharf therefore has nothing whatsoever to do with the slave trade, but people may assume it does and take direct action anyway.

Monument - Several monuments to the slave trade exist in London and across Great Britain. Although the monument in question references the Great Fire of London and not the slave trade, the name of the station is not explicit in this respect and could potentially be misconstrued.

For a list of proposed alternative names, see separate appendix.


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