Deptford Town Hall Nelson figure
The figure of Lord Nelson has stood above New Cross Road since 1905

Statues of Lord Nelson and Sir Francis Drake will stay in place on New Cross Road after local residents said they wanted them to stay.

Student campaigners at Goldsmiths University had demanded that four figures – Nelson, Drake, the 17th century admiral Robert Blake and an anonymous naval figure – should be removed from the old Deptford Town Hall during a 137-day sit-in three years ago.

Following the protests, the university sent surveys to 8,500 residents in the New Cross area asking them if they wanted the statues removed from the building, which has been part of the university campus since the 1990s.

Only 122 people replied, with 58 per cent saying they were against removing the statues from the 117-year-old building. An online survey, where anyone could submit views, 85 per cent of people said they thought the carvings should stay.

Goldsmiths has now decided that the statues will remain. Instead the university will install panels explaining the history of the individuals represented and their links to the slave trade. Local schools will also be handed information packs explaining their history.

Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to travel across the globe, but he was also one of Britain’s first slave traders. Drake took part in voyages to west Africa to capture men and women as early as 1560.

Lord Nelson, Britain’s most famous naval hero, won a series of victories at sea against the French during the Napoleonic wars. But he also defended the slave trade while others like William Wilberforce were arguing against it.

Professor Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit their views as part of our public consultation.

“We will continue to consult with local people as we develop our plans to address the complex legacy of the area’s maritime heritage embodied in the Deptford Town Hall statues.”

Last year, 853 spoke to the local people who want to set up a Museum of Slavery and Freedom to tell the story of Deptford’s links with human trafficking.

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Robert Firth is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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