Bristol to keep building names linked to slave trade

Institution to remove Colston dolphin emblem from its logo and set up £10 million programme to tackle racial injustice

November 28, 2023
Bristol England September 07, 2018 The Wills Memorial Tower of Bristol University Seen from Park Row
Source: iStock

The University of Bristol is to remove the dolphin emblem of slave trader Edward Colston from its logo but will not change the names of buildings commemorating people with ties to the practice.

At the end of a 12-month consultation with students, staff and residents, Bristol also said that it would pledge £10 million over the next decade to a programme to “address racial injustice and inequalities both within the university itself and in the local communities it works with”.

Announcing its decisions, the university said that it would remove the Colston dolphin from its logo, even though he died more than 150 years before the institution was founded and it consequently received no funding from him. Due to his involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, Colston has become a focus of Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol and a statue of him was toppled into the city’s docks in 2020.

However, Bristol said that despite students’ requests it would not rename seven buildings named after families with connections to the slave trade or associated products. Many are named after the Wills and Fry families, who – while they did not own or traffic slaves – made their wealth in commodities such as tobacco, sugar and cocoa, which were closely connected with slave labour. Both families helped to found the university in the early 20th century through substantial financial gifts.

The sun symbol of the Wills family and the horse emblem of the Frys will also remain part of Bristol’s logo, the university said, but it would work “to ensure the full stories of the institution’s origins, both positive and negative, are made more visible”.

Evelyn Welch, Bristol’s vice-chancellor, thanked the more than 4,000 people and organisations that responded to the consultation.

“Throughout, I heard many distressing stories from those who had experienced racism and racist behaviours while engaging with, working at or studying at the University of Bristol. What began as a consultation on our history and building renaming became a powerful platform to expose deep hurt and frustration with our slow progress and commitment to racial equity,” Professor Welch said.

“I am deeply sorry for these damaging and hurtful experiences, which continue to the present day, and I apologise to everyone impacted by those injustices. We aspire to be an inclusive institution and we must do better.

“I know that some of these decisions will not please everybody – but we have listened carefully. We must tell our history in an honest, open and transparent way, while at the same time putting our full weight behind substantive action to address the broader issues of systemic racism and inequality here in Bristol and beyond.”

Bristol said that the new initiatives would add to existing work such as the Black Bristol Scholarship Programme.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Reader's comments (1)

As a Bristol graduate, it's odd that the Goldney family aren't mentioned in the report. They made a lot of their money through the slave trade - and Goldney Hall was built using the proceeds of slave-linked metal trade. The family sold the house to the university later on so it isn't even the case that they were generous donors to the university - if that counts as mitigation.