The memorial in the cathedral is of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, the most senior officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After discovering his links to the slave trade and rule of the Caribbean island of Trinidad, the statue could be removed following the introduction of a new project into the history of statues at St Paul’s. The project, ‘Pantheons: Sculpture at St Paul’s Cathedral’, is a three-year scheme with £801,637 of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to explore the sculptures in St Paul’s from 1795 to 1914.
It sates the project has been encouraged by the debates stimulated by the Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall movements.
On the UK Research and Innovation website, it states: “The sculptural pantheons have become the subject of significant media & popular interest over the last 5 years in Britain and its former colonies, & across the contemporary US, thanks to debates generated by Black Lives Matter, the Rhodes Must Fall & All Monuments Must Fall movements, & in the wake of the Brexit decision & Trump presidency.
“These far-reaching debates encourage us to think anew about the single most significant long-C19 British sculptural pantheon, at St Paul’s Cathedral.
“Including more than 500 monuments by many of the most important artists working in the period, the pantheon depicts some of Regency, Victorian, & Edwardian Britain’s most significant people, & addresses some of the UK & former empire’s most pressing questions, including the status & treatment of slaves, prisoners of war, & native peoples.”
Despite dying in the battle, Sir Thomas made his fortune in the slave trade.
He was also responsible for a brutal regime during his time as governor to Trinidad and sanctioned the torture of a 14-year-old girl.
Despite having the blessing of the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend David Ison, it is unclear if any of the statues will be removed.
Sir Thomas’ statue in Cardiff was boarded up and taken from from the civic centre following a vote to remove it during the summer.
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She claimed, if the pantheon is broken up, it is in part destroying a piece of art.
She said: “The pantheon is an ensemble of people thought worthy to be commemorated.
“If you break up the pantheon you are in effect destroying an ensemble which is itself a work of art.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, also called for statues in churches to placed into context.
He added: “Some will have to come down, some names will have to change.
“The Church, goodness me, you just go round Canterbury Cathedral and there are monuments everywhere or Westminster Abbey. We are looking at all that and some will have to come down.”