Now St Botolph’s Church in Aldgate removes bust of John Cass following George Floyd killing in US
- Credit: London Diocese
A bust of the 17th century slave trader John Cass has been removed from St Botolph parish church at Aldgate in the wake of global protests following the killing of black activist George Floyd in America.
The removal carried out this-morning which was given the go-ahead by the Archdeacon of London after a vote at an emergency meeting of St Botolph’s parochial church council.
The church decision to distance itself from historic links to its benefactor’s involvement in the slave trade follows Sir John Cass secondary school in Stepney pledging to change its name and the Cass Foundation in the City removing a similar bust.
“We voted unanimously to seek permission to remove the bust,” St Botolph’s rector Laura Jørgensen said in a statement to the East London Advertiser. “Permission was given and the bust was removed this morning.
“We apologise for the years spent celebrating the legacy of a man without understanding the origin of his wealth, gained through slavery and human exploitation.
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“Removing the bust is an important step in acknowledging that history, but it’s not the end of our journey. We are a diverse congregation and promise to do all we can to eradicate racism, discrimination and inequality.”
John Cass was born near Aldgate in 1661 and served as a City alderman and sheriff before being elected an MP in 1712. He had set up a school in 1710 in Aldgate for 50 boys and 40 girls and rented buildings in St Botolph’s churchyard.
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The name Cass appears on many institutions in the East End and the City. His foundation set up in 1748 gives grants to promote education in inner London including the secondary school in Stepney Way and a primary school in Aldgate both named after him.
The secondary school now wants to change its name and is looking for suitable proposals.
Two universities also adopted the name Cass for centres of learning with funding from the foundation.
The Metropolitan’s Cass School of Arts was embroiled in controversy three years ago when the Aldgate and Whitechapel campuses were occupied by students to stop them being closed down, drawing support from the mayor of Tower Hamlets.
The occupation protest stopped the arts school being transferred to the university’s main campus in Holloway. The school also changed its name after the mass protest.
City University’s business school in Clerkenwell adopted the name Cass in 2002 following a donation from the foundation to promote education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It has now begun a review of all its historic funding sources to find out if there are any other links with slavery.
The foundation commissioned an independent academic in February to look into links to the slave trade. It reaffirmed its “abhorrence of racism and discrimination” in an initial statement following George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests around the world.