Statues of four historic figures on the facade of Deptford Town Hall which have been linked to the slave trade could be torn down.

Goldsmiths University, which owns the 116-year-old building, has launched a public consultation on the future of figures of Sir Francis Drake, Cromwellian admiral Robert Blake, Lord Horatio Nelson, and an anonymous representative naval figure.

Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action, a Black and Person of Colour-led student protest group, demanded the statues were removed during a 137-day occupation of the building in 2019.

The statues were further criticised by anti-racist activists in summer 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests.

News Shopper: Deptford Town HallDeptford Town Hall

Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths said: “Deptford Town Hall is a local landmark so it is only right that we ask local people what they think about the statues which embody the complex legacy of the area’s maritime heritage.

“We want those living in the area to engage openly and honestly with troubling aspects of the history these statues represent and tell us how they want these issues to be addressed.

“These statues were carved in 1905 to reflect the wishes of the local community then and it is vital that, a little over a century later, any decision on their future reflects the wishes of our local community now.”

The consultation, running from September 1 until October 17, will prioritise the views of people in Lewisham, but is open to the wider public, including those with an interest in the building or Deptford’s maritime heritage.

Options include retaining the statues with further explanation, altering some or all of the statues, or removing some or all of the statues.

Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596) was a pioneer of the slave trade, who made multiple trips to West Africa, kidnapping and then selling Africans.

For this he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 1581, which he was granted on the famous Golden Hind in Deptford.

Robert Blake (1598 – 1657) was an admiral responsible for trafficking the first waves of enslaved people to and from the Caribbean, installing the plantation system.

He is also deemed responsible for massacres in Drogheda.

Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) was a naval officer who spent a large part of his career in the Caribbean, using his influence to argue against the abolitionist movement in Britain.

Opened in 1905 as a municipal building, Deptford Town Hall was acquired by Goldsmiths in 1998 and since then has been used as a space for teaching, administrative offices, and public events including exhibitions and concerts.

As a Grade II listed building any significant alterations to its façade, which faces onto the busy New Cross road, would need planning approval from Lewisham Council, who would notify Historic England.

Respondents can submit their views online at or by filling in and returning a pre-paid postal survey sent to around 8,500 homes in the New Cross area.

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