Plans to rebrand a statue of Sir Francis Drake to highlight his ‘horrific slave trading expeditions’ are going ahead despite receiving only one letter of support – and 89 objections.
The sculpture, based in the explorer’s home town of Tavistock, West Devon, was reviewed by local council officials in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.
Now a new sign that claims he ‘brutally attacked’ African communities has been authorised.
Sir Francis is renowned for circumnavigating the world in a single expedition on his ship the Golden Hind from 1577 to 1580 and for defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The sculpture, based in the explorer’s home town of Tavistock, West Devon, was reviewed by local council officials in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests. Now a new sign that claims he ‘brutally attacked’ African communities has been authorised
The plan for the new plaque was raised by Tavistock town council with West Devon borough council, which approved it.
Officials received 89 written objections to the proposal, including some that argued Sir Francis was a ‘national hero’ and a ‘seminal historical figure’.
There was just one letter of support which urged officials to put his defeat of the Spanish Armada in the ‘most prominent position’ on the sign. The statue currently features a brief biography set in granite at its base.
The new panel, which will stand next to the sculpture, will read: ‘His life story is full of contrasts. He was seen as a hero for being the first Englishman to sail right around the world, and he played a major role in defending England from the Spanish Armada.
‘But he was also involved in several horrific slave trading expeditions. Furthermore, as a privateer he looted and plundered Spanish towns and ships in Europe and throughout their Empire in the Americas.’
The sign will ‘provide understanding to residents and visitors’, according to planning documents for the scheme.
One objection to it said there was ‘no need for an information sign that would pander to an anti-British mob’.
Another claimed: ‘For the overwhelming majority of the British people, Drake will always be remembered as one of our nation’s greatest heroes.’
Sir Francis is renowned for circumnavigating the world in a single expedition on his ship the Golden Hind from 1577 to 1580 and for defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588
One said: ‘I do not understand why a small number of extremists who have contributed precisely nothing to the history of this great country or to society in general feel they have a right to sit in judgment over historical figures.’
Robert Poll, of the campaign group Save Our Statues, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The Government’s ‘retain and explain’ policy is fostering a worrying new acceptance that any commemoration of our history must come with an apology attached and that slavery is now the single most important issue that every other achievement must be viewed in the shade of.
‘Drake helped save our country from invasion and we shouldn’t have to apologise for remembering that.’ Other controversial statues in the UK have faced removal, including one dedicated to Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University. Campaigners said it celebrated the 19th-century imperialist who operated in southern Africa and represented white supremacy.
A commission examined the figure’s future at Oriel College and most of its members supported its removal. But the college said in May it would not move the statue due to costs and planning issues.