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Statue of slave owner Robert Milligan removed from West India Quay

PUBLISHED: 09:33 10 June 2020

Workers take down the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan at West India Quay. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Workers take down the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan at West India Quay. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Press Association

A statue of a slave owner has been removed from West India Quay.

Campaigners by the Robert Milligan statue as it is removed. Picture: @MayorJohnBiggsCampaigners by the Robert Milligan statue as it is removed. Picture: @MayorJohnBiggs

The figure of Robert Milligan was taken down from its plinth at West India Quay in the Docklands on Tuesday evening, two days after campaigners tore down a statue of a slave trader in Bristol.

The removal came after the Canal and River Trust charity, which owns the land where the statue was located, said on Tuesday, June 9 it would organise its “safe removal” following a petition launched by Cllr Ehtasham Haque.

That same evening, the statue was removed from its plinth.

Cllr Haque said: “This statue was not built to teach us history. It was displayed publicly to honour and glorify a slaver who has no relevance in a 21st century civilised society.”

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan is taken away from West India Quay. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireA statue of slave owner Robert Milligan is taken away from West India Quay. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Milligan was a wealthy 18th century merchant and ship owner who was involved in the construction of the quay.

He served as chairman of the West India Dock Company and the statue was commissioned by the company after his death in 1809.

According to the Museum of London Docklands, near where the statue is located, at the time of Milligan’s death he owned 526 African slaves who were forced to work on a plantation in Jamaica.

The dock itself was partially funded by slavery profits and was even designed to enhance those profits by improving the efficiency of how slave-grown goods were imported.

Myor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “I know the strength of feeling about this following the removal of a similar statue in Bristol, and we’ve acted quickly to both ensure public safety and respond to the concerns of our residents, which I share.

“The East End has a proud history of fighting intolerance. We now need a wider conversation about confronting this part of our history and the symbols that represent it.”

The statue had stood outside the Museum of London Docklands, and a Canal and River Trust spokesperson said that it hoped the safe removal would allow the museum “a chance to consider if the statue should be part of its exhibition on slavery”.


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