In Brief

The luxury London neighbourhood that may be renamed over slavery links

Holland Park under scrutiny by city authorities after local statue vandalised by protesters

One of London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods may be renamed as part of a review into the capital’s links to slavery.

Holland Park, in west London, was named after colonising courtier Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland, whose family owned hundreds of slaves.

What is happening in Holland Park?

A local statue of Rich’s descendant Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, was targeted by protesters this week - the latest in a string of attacks on monuments by anti-racism activists in the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests.

The statue was topped with a sign saying “I owned 401 slaves”, and “401” was daubed on the plinth in red paint along with handprints, reports The Telegraph.

Following the attack, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the statue stands, suggested that the monument’s placement could be reviewed as part of a “conversation about the figures we see in our public realm”.

The entire neighbourhood may also be investigated for links to slavery, alongside the park, tube station and electoral ward of the same name, as part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s city-wide public realm review, according to the Daily Mail.

A spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea said that Khan’s review was expected “to consider station names, statues and street names”.

“Any decisions will need to take into account the views of local people and we are absolutely committed to representing the views of residents in our diverse communities in Kensington and Chelsea,” the spokesperson continued, adding that London “must oppose racism in all its forms”.

Who was Henry Vassall-Fox?

Vassall-Fox was a Whig politician and lord privy seal in Lord Grenville’s coalition government.

Encyclopaedia Britannica says that Vassall-Fox helped to “secure the abolition of the slave trade in the British colonies”, in 1807. He was praised by key abolitionist William Wilberforce for being a “most zealous partisan” for the outlawing of slavery.

But Vassall-Fox technically owned slaves through his wife’s estate, and received compensation for 401 slaves after abolition.

Despite the recent attack on his statue, however, he was not on a “hit list” of monuments posted on a “Topple the Racists” website that was established in the wake of the BLM protests.

The first Lord Holland, Henry Rich, gives his name to the broader Holland Park area, the local underground station and Holland House. Rich oversaw the colonial Providence Island Company, which was also linked to the slave trade.

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