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Edward Colston: Bristol churches remove windows dedicated to 17th century slave trader

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Windows celebrating the 17th century merchant and slave trader Edward Colston are being removed from two churches in Bristol.

Panes at St Mary Redcliffe have already been taken out while others at the city’s cathedral ⁠— including the large Colston Window ⁠— have been covered up ahead of being withdrawn from the building.

It comes less than a fortnight after a statue of the one-time Conservative MP, who died in 1721, was pulled from its plinth in the city by anti-racist protestors.

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Canon Michael Johnson, acting dean of Bristol Cathedral, said the removal was “the right response”.

And he confirmed officials would also remove other dedications to Colston, who was once celebrated as a philanthropist, as part of action that had been under consideration for several years.

“We haven’t responded to the issue of racism well over the years,” he said. “We need to see what is realistic for us to acknowledge the evils of slavery but which treads the line between removing those and doesn’t rewrite history.

“It’s easy for us to look back and say ‘if only we’d have known’. Clearly it’s not the end of the road.”

In a further statement, the Diocese of Bristol added: “The dedications to Colston, in two significant places of worship, has prevented many people from finding peace in these beautiful buildings.

“Most of these dedications have now gone and the rest will follow.

“The removal or covering of window panes is also a symbolic moment.

“It doesn’t change history and it doesn’t change the fact that black people in Bristol, Britain and the world still face discrimination, injustice and racism.”

It did not say why the action was only happening now despite Colston’s legacy ⁠— his company forcibly displaced 80,000 people ⁠— having long been well known.

The churches are not the only buildings that will be changed in the current reassessment of the slave trader’s legacy.

Bristol’s main concert venue, Colston Hall, will have its name changed later this year ⁠— a transformation that follows years of calls for such action ⁠— while Colston Tower, one of the city’s tallest high-rise blocks, has had the letters of its name removed.

Both Colston’s Girls’ School and the separate Colston’s School, meanwhile, have said they are also considering a name change.

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