Statue of Sir Robert Geffrye on museum

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Museum of the Home

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The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye is on the almshouses which make up the Museum of the Home

A London museum is to retain a statue of merchant Sir Robert Geffrye despite a consultation finding that most people wanted it removed.

The statue of Sir Robert, who made part of his wealth from slavery, is on the buildings of The Museum of the Home.

In a statement, the museum’s board said it would “respond to the issues raised by this debate” and “reinterpret and contextualise the statue where it is”.

Campaigners called the decision a “kick in the teeth”.

Sir Robert Geffrye was an English merchant who lived between 1613 and 1704.

According to the museum, he was involved in the East India Company and Royal African Company, invested in the forced labour and the trading of enslaved Africans, and part-owned a slave ship called the China Merchant.

His money was used to build the almshouses in Hoxton in which the museum is based.

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Getty Images

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The museum, which was previously called The Geffrye Museum, opened to the public in 1914

The museum started the consultation into the future of the statue following anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US.

Announcing the result, the museum’s board of trustees said that while most respondents had been in favour of its removal, the statue will remain in place.

In a statement they said feedback had shown it was a “complex debate” but “on balance the board has taken the view that the important issues raised should be addressed through ongoing structural and cultural change”.

They said the museum would therefore “reinterpret and contextualise the statue where it is” while also making its own workforce and programming “more representative and inclusive”.

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Reuters

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A statue of slave trader Robert Milligan was removed from outside a museum in London’s Docklands in June

Community educator Toyin Agbetu, who is part of a steering group reviewing the names of public spaces in Hackney, accused the museum’s board of “missing the point” and called for people to boycott the institution.

“The statue of Geffrye is on private property, but it is in the public realm and it is causing offence,” he said.

Local resident Robin Priestley, who started a petition calling for the statue to be taken down, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it was “a kick in the teeth for everyone in Hackney”.

The borough’s Mayor Philip Glanville said he was “very disappointed” by the plan which had left many local people feeling “very uncomfortable”.

“We believe that taking meaningful, community-led action is the best way to ensure our shared spaces are welcoming to all and reflect our diverse communities,” he said.

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