Church of England and Bank of England apologise over slavery links

19 June 2020, 10:07

The Bank of England has issued an apology along with the Church of England
The Bank of England has issued an apology along with the Church of England. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Church of England has apologised for its historic links to slavery and labelled it a "source of shame" amid a wave of apologies from British organisations over connections to the slave trade.

Analysis of a University College London (UCL) database found that almost 100 clergymen benefited from slavery.

The Church said an apology over historic cases had been issued in 2006, but it reiterated a commitment to tackling slavery "in all its forms today" on Thursday.

Research by the Telegraph newspaper found that 96 Church of England clergymen were involved in claims for compensation paid to slave owners when the trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1833.

These claims would total £46 million in today's money and the construction of 32 churches is linked to claimants.

"Slavery and exploitation have no place in society," a spokeswoman for the Church of England said.

"While we recognise the leading role clergy and active members of the Church of England played in securing the abolition of slavery, it is a source of shame that others within the Church actively perpetrated slavery and profited from it.

"In 2006 the General Synod of the Church of England issued an apology, acknowledging the part the Church itself played in historic cases of slavery.

"We reiterate our commitments to support every effort by the Church and other agencies to oppose human trafficking and all other manifestations of slavery across the world.

"The Church of England is actively committed to combating slavery in all its forms today, particularly through the work of the Clewer Initiative which works with our 42 dioceses to help support victim of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their communities."

The Bank of England has also condemned and apologised for "inexcusable" links that former governors and directors had with the slave trade.

The organisation vowed to block any images of its notorious former leaders from being displayed in its buildings and described the 18th and 19th century slave trade as "an unacceptable part of English history”.

A Bank of England spokesman said: "As an institution, the Bank was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former governors and directors and apologises for them.

"The Bank has commenced a thorough review of its collection of images of former governors and directors, to ensure none with any such involvement in the slave trade remain on display anywhere in the Bank.

"The Bank is committed to improving diversity and is actively engaging with staff, particularly with our BAME colleagues, to help us identify and shape concrete steps that can be taken now to progress the Bank's efforts to be as inclusive as possible."

It comes after insurance giant Lloyd's of London and pub chain Greene King said they will devote large sums to projects assisting minorities after being named in the academic database.

Greene King was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, who became one of 47,000 people who benefited from compensation following abolition after he surrendered rights to three plantations in the West Indies.

Chief executive of the chain, Nick Mackenzie, told reporters that Greene King’s website would be updated on Thursday to highlight its founder’s links to the slave trade.

He told the newspaper: "It is inexcusable that one of our founders profited from slavery and argued against its abolition in the 1800s.

"We don't have all the answers, so that is why we are taking time to listen and learn from all the voices, including our team members and charity partners, as we strengthen our diversity and inclusion work."

Mr Mackenzie said Greene King would make a "substantial investment" to benefit the black, Asian and minority ethnic community and work to support its own race diversity.

The database also revealed that Simon Fraser, a founder subscriber member of Lloyd's of London, was given £400,000 in today's money to give up an estate in Dominica.

A Lloyd's spokesman said: "We are sorry for the role played by the Lloyd's market in the 18th and 19th century slave trade.

"We will provide financial support to charities and organisations promoting opportunity and inclusion for black and minority ethnic groups."

A manager, one founder subscriber and three directors of the Colonial Bank, which was merged with Barclays in 1917, are listed as claimants or beneficiaries.

A Barclays spokesman said: "The history of Barclays, like other institutions, is being examined following recent events. We can't change what's gone before us, only how we go forward.

"We are committed as a bank to do more to further foster our culture of inclusiveness, equality and diversity, for our colleagues and the customers and clients we serve."