LuneTube Film in Search of Architectural Remains
In April 2017, a long-running controversy once again made headlines, when the charity which runs Bristol concert venue The Colston Hall, announced its name would change when it re-opens in 2020, after refurbishment.
You may wonder why this would prove so contentious; but it becomes clearer when you realise Edward Colston; the Bristolian from whom the hall takes its name, was a slave trader.
Like many former ports involved in the slave trade, Bristol has long wrestled with its conscience when reconciling history with the present. In Liverpool there has been similar debate over statues and street names which link the city to slavery.
In Lancaster, discussion has been more muted. Maybe because the individuals connected to slavery are less well known?
Who was John Fenton-Cawthorne?
John Fenton-Cawthorne was MP for Lancaster from 1806 and served four terms. This makes him sound a well-liked individual. However, his popularity is puzzling when you consider a less than distinguished military career; which ended with a court-martial. He was convicted on seven counts and ejected from the army as "unworthy of serving His Majesty in any military capacity whatever", having "acted fraudulently and in a scandalous and infamous manner".
Fenton-Cawthorne was also a strong advocate of the slave trade and stood repeatedly against attempts at abolition. In parliamentary debate, Fenton-Cawthorne argued that the damage to merchants outweighed considerations for the slaves and in 1794 he spoke against '"dissenters and enemies to our constitution" who sought reform. His comment that "Methodist preachers and emissaries..." had been "...sent to excite the Negroes to revolt...filling their heads with notions of liberty." was unpalatable to many at the time and is reprehensible today.
All of which leads one to Lancaster and Fenton Street and Cawthorne Street. Maybe it is time for Lancaster to have its own 'Colston moment' and reconsider the honours given by the city in the past?