Vale Reviews Its Statues

Vale Reviews Its Statues Following Recent Events

In the light of recent events, Neil Moore, Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council has asked officers to begin work to review statues and commemorations, including street names, public buildings and plaques. ‘It is vital those on public land are representative of local people’s values and those of a modern, inclusive Council. We will work with our communities and appropriate organisations to investigate links to slavery and any other behaviour or practice not befitting our ethos’ he said.


The legacy of the slave trade runs through the history of many British ports, but it was largely the profits of coal and iron ore that led to the growth of ports in Wales. Cardiff has become one of the most multi-cultural cities in the UK, but nevertheless its history shows it was not immune from the issue. In November 1843, the Times published a short story (below) about an incident at Cardiff docks. The Times is scathing in its condemnation of the people of Cardiff, although it doesn’t make clear what could have been done to help the poor man. Hopefully he lived to see the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865.

‘A runaway slave, belonging to an American vessel that lay out in the Penarth roads last week, was found secreted on board a Waterford brig in the Bute docks, which he had entered some weeks previous as an able seaman. A strong party of the American ship’s crew, having ascertained his place of retreat, entered the brig and forcibly bore off the unfortunate slave. Neither remonstrance nor resistance was offered on the occasion, and the Yankee trader having conveyed the poor fellow on board, immediately set sail for his destination. The captured slave was an excellent seaman, and borne upon his person many and severe marks of his helpless condition, and the brutality of his task-masters. It is a disgrace to the people of Cardiff to have allowed this poor fellow to be recaptured and dragged back by his tormentors from the sanctuary of the British soil.’

Swansea had a more direct link to the slavery issue through its world famous copper works. The 19th century Welsh demand for copper meant turning to the notoriously cruel El Cobre mines of Cuba, worked by slaves. James Whitburn, a Cornish man who worked in the mines described what went on. ‘The flogging of the Negroes in this country is most cruel. I have seen them laid on the ground, sometimes tied to a ladder, and at other times held by one man at the foot and another at the head, while another Negro with a whip 10 or 12 ft long from the end of the stick to the point of the lash, gives the Negro confined 25 blows or I may say, cuts …every blow rattles almost as loud as a gun.’

The Lord Mayor of Cardiff has called for a bust of one slave owner, Thomas Picton, to be removed from City Hall. Picton, the most senior general to die at the Battle of Waterloo, was accused of the torture of a teenage girl, when governor in Trinidad. The historian Prof Chris Evans has suggested cases be looked at on their own merits and the views of local communities taken into account. For some monuments it may mean demolition and for others removal to a museum where they can be properly contextualised and explained. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Vale.

Elsewhere, we investigate the case of Iolo Morganwg, the anti-slave trade protestor from Cowbridge