Controversial plaque commemorating slave owner removed

Posted On 12 Jun 2020 at 10:37 am

The plaque coming down. Picture by Tim Clapham


A blue plaque commemorating an admiral who was also a slave owner has been taken down this morning.

The plaque to Admiral Edward Codrington was being chipped away from its spot on Codrington Mansion on Western Road this morning.

It comes after an open letter identifying the Codrington plaque and another to William Gladstone – who early in his political career opposed the abolition of slavery – gathered hundreds of signatures ahead of being delivered to the council on Monday.

The Spearhead

The managing agent of the building said he had consulted with the freeholder after being alerted to the possible offence it was causing yesterday afternoon.

The freeholder had agreed to take it down, and it was removed with a hammer by 8am this morning.

The agent said: “A chap strolled into our office yesterday afternoon and said about the plaque.

“We took some instructions from the owners and organised for it to be taken down this morning, just to make sure if doesn’t offend anybody.”

Yesterday, the council said it was reviewing all local plaques, statues, building and road names in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Becca Bashford, a student at Sussex who was one of the authors of the letter, said this morning: “I’m so glad this plaque has been removed so swiftly.

“It symbolises a part of British history which we should refuse to glorify, and doesn’t reflect the ethos of our amazing city.

“I look forward to seeing the council continue to listen to their community and make efforts to be actively anti-racist and anti-imperialist.”

Codrington was honoured with a plaque by the Brighton and Hove Commemorative Plaque Panel for being a hero of the Battle of Trafalfgar and Battle of Navarino.

  1. TOWYN Reply

    Good grief. All this drama over a small blue plaque that the majority of us didn’t know was there. We are mostly all aware of Britain’s colonialist past but it is in the past. Past meaning not the present. In all honesty, I very much doubt the student in question knew who this man was or what he did or didn’t do up until around a week ago.The word on the tip of my tongue is ‘bandwagon’. Still, Labour need to re-group desperately after their dire election results over recent years. Another term on the tip of my tongue is ‘political bribery’.

  2. Frazer streames Reply

    Hi towny, I am surprised by your response, I guess you have no access to the internet and were unable to research the widely available information on him. For the record, he was a slave owner, he owned an island called Barbuda in Antigua where black people who had been kidnapped were worked to death, men women and children, from 5-63 years., for over a hundred years. They refused to feed them, they had Sunday’s off unpaid work and were expected to grow their own food. Punishment for ‘poaching’ slave owners food by fishing or hunting was severely punished. They didn’t retire at 63, that’s the oldest known slave who was of course still working. The slaves were tortured and maimed habitually. The Codringtons not only used them to farm land, they also were a commodity themselves and they farmed the slaves to replace dead ones and to sell on to other estates. Even at the time the government called them exceptionally brutal. They even received compensation from the government when slavery ended, abolition was unsurprisingly strongly opposed by his son. The Codringtons reinvested that slave money, including in railways, and of course a large plot of land and building in Western road Brighton. The Codringtons did not disappear at the end of slavery, remain to this day a rich and powerful family, donating generously to the conservative family, a codrington married the UKIP treasurer. In the 80’s they sold slave archives they owned for profit, ignoring requests from the newly freed Antiguan govt to buy them as they are part of their heritage, they justified commercial sale saying they needed money to maintain the stately home (built from slave money) for the benefit of the 150,00 a year visitors. They then flogged to Sir James Dyson. So this was no insignificant crime, not about colonialism, and remains very much a current issue as the descendents of slave owners and their wealth are embedded in our society. All this is easily available on any quick search. We all as white people share some responsibility, we all benefit in hidden ways in society, and Brighton with its aristocratic and railway connections is part of this sordid picture. We can’t undo the past, we can face up to it and try to be better people.

    • TOWYN Reply

      As a result of the way in which you have spoken to me, I’ll make this pledge to you. I have been involved in fundraising my own money and the money of others in order to help those less fortunate in many different ways. Not just money but food, clothing and other donations. I have also been directly helping to finance another local family through choice. But I tell you what, I’ll stop now, because it seems to me that you have nothing but disdain for another point of view regardless of who they are as a person. So I’ll leave you to continue to dwell on the mistakes of people who aren’t living any longer. All the best.

    • Jayne Reply

      This plaque was Sir Edward Codrington , in the Royal Navy from 13yrs old, rising through the ranks continually. NOT THE EDWARD CODRINGTON YOU HAVE MISTAKEN HIM FOR. Yes he was a ancestor. However if you were an ancestor of a murderer or peodophile and had same surname, you would never ever be able to shake that off the whole of your life would you according to your theory?

  3. TOWYN Reply

    It is in the past. Move on and make the most of your present.

    • Bryan Green Reply

      Yes and now this horrible plaque is gone, so in your own words move on and make the most of your present : D

      • TOWYN Reply

        Frankly, I don’t see how any of this is helping us to address all the current inequalities people who are living now in real time are facing. It’s coming across as political point scoring when there is some serious inequality people alive right here and now are struggling with and through. If I feel strongly about something, I will comment but I also do a lot more to help people than get a PC bee in my bonnet about it and naively believe taking a statue or plaque down as the answer.

    • Psimon Reply

      Towyn, if it’s in the past does that mean we don’t have to worry about keeping it in the present. It’s over, who needs a commemoration?

      Personally I’m for keeping them. Yeah, these weren’t good people, but awareness of history is important, especially the bad bits. Recontextualisation would help, perhaps by amending the plaque to recognise the basis of his wealth might be a better way.

  4. Frazer streames Reply

    The plaque is indeed in the past now, thanks to decent local people. I’m glad you are able to move on from your objections and make the most of the present. The present includes investigation by BHCC of who authorised this and why, new processes put in place ensuring interested parties are able to comment on proposed honours and memorials – and retrospectively remove items if needed. A present where we ensure racists never get public honours in Brighton. I’m sure we’ll see you at tomorrow’s blm march. I understand the broken remains are to be placed at the feet of the Baden Powel statue in Pool.

  5. roy pennington Reply

    surprised no campaign to remove the name Codrington Mansions and House = how long had the plaque been there? Was there planning permission to remove it ?

  6. Frazer streames Reply

    The plaque unveiling story was in the Argus 24/10/2009, it was put up it says by ‘Montpelier and Clifton hill society and the city council’. BHCC website states there’s an application form where the justification for it is stated, and a £1200.00 fee. Currently goes to roger.amerena, but no idea who in 2009. I think this form should be published immediately to see what was claimed. Who paid for it, were the Codringtons involved, do they still own Codrington mansions- I believe they own a land company Codco co ref 11151410. Roy, as a long-standing activist and politician for ordinary people, can you get to the bottom of this scandal? The minimum is a new transparent system to approve these things and a system to cancel them.

  7. Valerie Reply

    Focus on a single slice of time and just one set of historic figures in one country massively distorts reality & obliterates millenia of worldwide context.

    Tribal attitudes legitimised slavery, land & people grabs along with murders & eating each other on every continent until very recently. Empire building was and is part of ongoing human greed, territorialism & sheer murderous tribal brutality. Me & mineism.

    Homing in on British slave dealers & slave owners & racists does not whitewash Africa’s vicious history even into the 21st century present where tribal affiliation decides who and what quite openly in Zimbabwe & where Idi Amin kept human body parts in his Uganda fridge.

    Romans, Greeks, everyone from as far back as archaeologists can evidence were at it.

    By all means use this moment to learn what has not been taught widely in schools but don’t put virtue signalling violence on pedestals in place of statues. It does not change human treatment of perceived differences. It does not stop prejudice.

    A very good book to read instead of trying to look big by trashing artifacts & protesting, published in 2016 will change how you view – for instance – India, and make you cringe at what this country did to it. Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor is awesome.

    The present cannot erase or replace the past – we need to be setting the record straight in our heads with education & humility.

  8. Frazer streames Reply

    Valerie, That’s a really odd post. I’m almost tempted to forensically dismember it for fun, but my tea breaks over. I’m sure others can enjoy unravelling the very interesting and unusual ideas you have (anonymously).

  9. Rolivan Reply

    Is anyone receiving less than a living wage deemed a slave?

  10. roy pennington Reply

    Frazer: hi, yes i’ll poke around a bit = both Montpelier and Clifton hill society and council still operates a transparent web-site and all records are there to peruse . Roger Amerena is a real person and works hard to keep Brighton history alive when I knew him in my capacity as a councillor up to 2007 … the green party ward councillors at the time of the placing of the plaque in 2009 might have been involved in the first place, indeed.

  11. Andrew Webb Reply

    I’m sorry but you’ve made a TERRIBLE mistake. Sir Edward Codrington, whose plaque you removed was a HERO of Trafalgar and the Greek War of Independence. He had no link to slavery. You’ve confused him with another Codrington, Christopher Codrington who WAS a slave owner.

    You’ll find the different WIKIPEDIA Entries Here:
    EDWARD Codrington – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Codrington

    CHRISTOPHER Codrington – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Codrington

    You need to rectify this mistake and remove this false slur from the name of an honorable British Naval hero!

  12. Mozza Reply

    Admiral Sir Edward Codrington was born in 1770, 29 years after these people are suggesting he inherited slaves.
    How can this be? Seems they’ve made a mistake and have unjustly slandered a great British hero.
    Shameful for the council to cave in so easily.

  13. Peter Venkman Reply

    you daft idiots got the wrong Codrington – seriously, are you not aware of your own history?

  14. roy pennington Reply

    The sins of the fathers seems to have haunting the life of Sir Edward Codrington who seems to have inherited the plantations while his actual work was as a British admiral, who took part in the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Navarino =
    the real villain in the saga was the Christopher Codrington (1668 – 7 April 1710), a Barbadian-born British plantation and slave owner, colonial governor and soldier.
    He got his father’s office of captain-general and commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands in 1689 =
    As a governor his rule was not wholly popular, since in 1702 an appeal was made against his behaviour by the inhabitants of Antigua. … When war broke out again with France and Spain, Codrington’s first military operations as captain-general were initially successful. However, in 1703 the Siege of Guadeloupe he led was a failure. After this, he resigned his governorship and retired to his estates in Barbados, passing the remainder of his life in seclusion and study, chiefly of church history and metaphysics.

    His two plantations in Barbados, now known as the Society and the College, together with part of the island of Barbuda, he left “to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for the foundation of a college in Barbadoes,” in which his “desire is to have the plantations continued Intire and three hundred negroes at least Kept thereon, and a convenient number of professors and scholars were to be maintained, all of them to be under the vowes of poverty, chastity, and obedience,” and “obliged to study and practice physick and chirurgery, as well as divinity, that by the apparent usefulness of the former to all mankind they may both endear themselves to the people, and have the better opportunity of doing good to men’s souls, while they are taking care of their bodies.”

  15. Geoff Reply

    People concerned about the erasure of history should note three things:

    1. I looked this plaque up on Google StreetView to see if I could read the inscription, and it doesn’t exist in their imagery from 2019. Apparently this sign was installed very recently. (I also have my own picture from 2014, where it is also notably absent.)

    2. The building is still prominently named ‘Codrington Mansion’, in big letters above where the sign used to be. (Unless this has also been removed recently?)

    3. History itself has not been erased, simply the commemoration of a small aspect of history. Anyone researching Admirals or slave owners of Brighton locals throughout history will still find that information recorded in much greater detail elsewhere.

  16. Mark Hermitage Reply

    That hand-wringing liberal Platts and cohorts responsible for a case of mistaken identity and destroying Brighton’s history in the process. Where was the local vote to decide this?

  17. Valerie Reply

    Just listened to the wonderful Dotun Adebayo on 5 live give a view about the statues & commemoration removals. Like an Indian lady I heard about yesterday, he does not applaud this.

    To my mind its about white people trying to feel better about themselves & gesture like mad – like giving a kid a sesame street bandaid for a sore thumb. Its showing off!

    As Dotun said, it does not change the lives of black people. Its a diversion. As he also observed, real change takes time – happens over time.

    He also said he knows the two Little Britain comedians & he defended them as not being racists.

    Time to calm down & address the acceptance & equality problems people face today & to stop justifying vandalising self indulgences. In the workplace, in police habits, in education & in relations with people in our communities.

  18. roy pennington Reply

    The Topple the Racists generated this story a bit: but if they had read The Oxford Mail story 28th February 2014 and talked to a living relative it might have had not resulted in the minor desecration. Although the story is a promo for the film 12 Years A Slave that won the Bafta Best Picture Award the news item is good. By the way, there is another blue plaque on Purley Library placed July 24th 1993.
    https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/opinion/columns/11042474.shameful-truth-slavery-paid-fine-library/

    • Valerie Reply

      What a great article, Roy! A lesson there for kneejerk thrashers. So much buried knowledge & too few bithering to learn from history without trying to erase it.

      Imagine what holocaust deniers could get away with had Aushwitz not been preserved as testament…

  19. David Guy-Johnson Reply

    The ignorance on here is stunning. The plaque is not for that Coddington, it’d not even his son.

  20. Chris Reply

    Wrong Codrington. Admiral Edward Codrington was a career naval officer and war hero. Christopher Codrington was a plantation owner. Are you going to condemn the man for his family name? This sudden obsession with judging historical figures in the court of public opinion is pathetic. It won’t stop racism today.

  21. Jo Wadsworth Reply

    We’re getting a few comments saying the activists have got the wrong man. While it’s true several members of the same family ran slave plantations, this link shows Admiral Edward Codrington was one of them – and received compensation for them when he was forced to free them.

    https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/40899

    • Valerie Reply

      Let he who is guiltless cast the first stone. You now defend in a way that suggests shoring up support in the face of a questionable act, not just reporting of what is going on.

      Can you also report an example of how any lives are tangibly , constructively changed by taking down plaques, statues, street names etc?

      The argument against slavery (including zero hours contracts) is already understood & accepted as appalling. Its nothing newly realised.

      Time for actual change not vindictive trashings like some Maoist Cultural Revolution seeking a tabula rasa on which to indoctrinate a rewired population.

      • Jo Wadsworth Reply

        No Valerie, I’m saying the activists are not factually wrong when they say he owned slaves

  22. a Brightonian Reply

    Can we please have a thoughtful and kind debate between all parties and not take rash, Wikipedia-formed judgements regarding the cultural heritage of our city. It is horrific to see an individual making a unilateral decision and taking it into his own hands to hack off the city’s history with no debate or discussion. How can that be right? Sake Dean Mahomet was in the East India Company Army putting down insurrections in India and called the tribal people savages. Are we going to chip his plaque off? Try and erase him from history? I sincerely hope not. Let’s have a reasoned and educated debate. Most people, including our own parents and grandparents, had very different views to ours. Let’s educate not destroy. I don’t want to live in a city where the history has been removed from the streets without proper consideration. If individuals are going to decide unilaterally what is acceptable that is going to lead us down a very dangerous path.
    This is not Bristol where request for Colston statue removal was ignored for years. Most people didn’t know Codrington was there or who he was. Except the Greek population who celebrate his efforts to free them from oppression.

  23. roy pennington Reply

    btw, argus covered “Rottingdean church covers G.H. Elliott gravestone” but had no comments allowed, but no coverage here?

  24. TOWYN Reply

    As all comments are disallowed on pretty much all Brighton & Hove media platforms regards the subject of racism and inequality, other than this, I’d like to say a few words. #freedomofspeech.

    If there is anyone out there listening… I am what you would call mixed race or half cast or whatever, basically I’m not pure white skinned. I would like to thank you for allowing me to have the same chances as everyone else. Yes I’ve had my battles with a minority of individuals who didn’t like me because I wasn’t white, but on the whole, you’ve all been really great. I mean that. I don’t want to see Britain’s historical monuments taken down and put behind glass. Britain is more than that. It’s a democracy, that’s how I’m here and able to write this.

    To everyone who stood guard to protect historical monuments and statues, I’m with you. Not the violent bit mind you, but your strong feelings about preservation etc. The statues aren’t racist in themselves, they serve to recall a point in history. A long and great and diverse history.

    Thank-you for having me : )

    #freedomofspeech

    • Valerie Reply

      I’m listening & appreciate getting your gracious perspective. Removing the relics that tell the stories of our past destroys evidence. Old saying says of history that the past informs the future – if one cares to pay attention.

      • TOWYN Reply

        Thank you Valerie x This is hard because I’ve not had to have a conversation about racism for a long time. I’m distraught to see what is happening to the country who gave people of different nationalities and skin tones like me the opportunities which our own countries didn’t provide us.

        My skin may be a different colour but my feelings and ethics are the same.

        I am so, so, sorry for the ignorance and violence committed by those who believe they are on the same side as me.

  25. G. Stavrinou Reply

    I am British born of Greek decent. I am broadly in support of the BLM campaign and I would be interested to know reader’s views on how I should view Sir Edward Cordington who is considered a hero of the Greek War of Independence. Between 1825 and 1827 an Ottoman army was occupying the Peloponnese in modern day Greece. Its women and children were being transported to Egypt to be sold into slavery and plans were in place to replace the Christian population with settlers from Egypt. The surviving population was being ravaged by starvation and living in fear of massacre. Cordington commanded a combined British, Russian and French fleet sent by the great powers to enforce a peace treaty. He controversially engaged the Ottoman fleet, at least partly inspired by reported accounts of continuingb atrocities against civilians. The Ottoman fleet was destroyed, securing the establishment of a free Greece and the return of Greek slaves (which he subsequently negotiated). This is a snapshot in the life of a man, long dead and from another time, that should be known as we rewrite history. Incidentally, the slave market in Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman empire, was trading human flesh until 1910.

  26. Alan Marsh Reply

    A case of mistaken identity. How many more acts of vandalism are going to result from illiterate mis-identification by political activists?

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