STEPHEN GLOVER: What Sheffield's decision to keep road names tells us

STEPHEN GLOVER: Welcome to Common Sense Street! What the locals who saved their historic street signs tell us about the gulf between the ruling elite and the rest of us

  • Sheffield residents put their foot down against the renaming of streets and pubs
  • City’s Gladstone Road, Peel Street and pubs named after Nelson will not change
  • Council spokesman confirmed they will also not remove any of the city’s statues 

The good people of Sheffield have had enough. They don’t want streets to be renamed in a woke rewriting of history.

The city council, where Lib Dems, Labour and Greens rule the roost, was nervous about associations between street names and alleged imperial rotters. I stress the word ‘alleged’.

Should Gladstone Street be redesignated? The 19th-century prime minister and Liberal leader was the most determined opponent of slavery imaginable, calling it ‘the foulest crime’. He wasn’t over-keen on the Empire, either.

Nonetheless, his father was a slave owner and the young William Gladstone supported compensation for such people. Last June, students at Liverpool University voted to rename Gladstone Hall after a local anti-racism activist. Would Sheffield follow suit?

What about the city’s Peel Street, named after another 19th-century prime minister, Robert Peel, who had the misfortune to have a father who supported slavery? Should it be rebranded in honour of some local modern Left-wing council hero?

And George Canning, who for most of his political career was in favour of the abolition of slavery? Should Canning Street be airbrushed out of history because some people have got it into their heads that he was a beneficiary of slavery?

No, said the residents of Sheffield. Let’s keep things as they are, and as we know them. According to a somewhat mortified council spokesman: ‘We acknowledge this strong feeling and are not currently intending to change any of the existing street names or remove any statues.’

Sheffield residents insisted streets, including Gladstone Road named after William Gladstone (pictured) should not be renamed as part of the woke movement sweeping the country

Gladstone, the 19th-century prime minister was an opponent of slavery imaginable, yet Liverpool University voted to rename Gladstone Hall. Pictured: Gladstone Road, Sheffield

If the council had its way, it would probably be happy if several pubs in Sheffield named after the naval hero Lord Nelson sailed under different colours, since the victor of Trafalgar at one time had slave-owning friends (though he was never a slaver).

Perhaps new pub signs could be put up named after the late South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, who like Lord Nelson was a great man. People in Sheffield and elsewhere would have to get used to ‘popping down to the Mandela’ for a quick one.

But that raises another question. In these woke times, shouldn’t Mandela himself be assigned another first name? If they wish to be consistent, the iconoclastic erasers of the past should demand that in death Mandela be forced to drop the Nelson bit.

How lunatic this reconstructing of history to suit modern sensibilities has become. It is not a mass movement, though. What we see is the tyranny of the minority.

The desire to rearrange the past is driven by members of the liberal elite, aided and abetted by half-witted protesters whose knowledge of the history of the British Empire is often close to zero.

It all began, of course, when in June 2020 the statue of Edward Colston was toppled into the Bristol docks by a mob.

Pictured: Prime Minister Robert Peel had misfortune to have a father who supported slavery

Councils across the UK have voted to rename streets with alleged links to Britain’s colonial past. Pictured: Liverpool’s Peel Street is named after Robert Peel whose father backed slavery

Councils across the UK have voted to rename streets with alleged links to Britain’s colonial past. Pictured: Sheffield’s Peel Street is named after Robert Peel whose father backed slavery

Whereas Gladstone, Peel and Canning never owned a single slave, Colston owned shares in the Royal African Company, which had a monopoly over the West African slave trade.

After selling his stake in 1689, he became a philanthropist on an epic scale and gave prodigiously to charitable causes such as schools and hospitals in Bristol and London. But this didn’t weigh in the balance with a rabble on the rampage.

Since then, many of our national institutions have sought to cleanse themselves of their supposedly tainted past.

The Church of England has instructed cathedrals and churches across the country to review their monuments for links to slavery and colonialism, and take action if any are found. Some 12,500 parishes and 42 cathedrals have been scouring their grounds and buildings for shameful connections.

Let us imagine a monument to a Sir Henry Craggs that has stood in a side chapel in Little Snodbury church for more than 200 years.

Didn’t he have a half-brother who served in the East India Company? And wasn’t his great-aunt married to a man who owned a slave plantation in Jamaica? Tear it down!

Many of Britain’s national institutions have sought to cleanse themselves of their supposedly tainted past. Pictured: the Lord Nelson Pub in Sheffield City Centre will not be renamed

Over at the National Trust, a report was published in September 2020 about the links between 93 of its properties and historic colonialism and slavery.

These included Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s former home in Kent. His supposed sins included holding office as Secretary of State for the Colonies. Thank goodness, rebellious National Trust members are fighting back against such idiocy.

At the Trust’s recent annual meeting, they nearly defeated the organisation’s trendy bosses, who have wasted so much time and money haring up intellectual blind alleys.

Meanwhile, under minority activist pressure, cities from Glasgow to Liverpool have been pulling down street signs that memorialise people with any links to slavery. Official feathers can sometimes be ruffled by what seems utterly harmless.

A council in Swanage, Dorset, renamed a road called Darkie Lane after a single complaint. It had earned its moniker because of the trees that make it dark and shady.

That is why, in a world in which a sprinkling of energetic campaigners are eager to impose their values on the past, the reaction of the citizens of Sheffield is so cheering. Like most of us, they wish to retain the names of their local streets. They cherish them as part of their lives.

Chartwell House, the former home of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was last year included in a National Trust document which listed properties with supposed links to slavery

Maybe, too, they are aware that the cost of giving streets new names is steep. Residents will have the inconvenience of needing to change address information for bills, banking and insurance cover. Title deeds will have to be amended.

Cash-strapped councils — which means council tax payers — are likely to foot the bill. Haringey Council was told this year that the price of renaming just one street, Black Boy Lane, would be £186,000 if each resident was given £300 in compensation. Unsurprisingly, the project has been put on hold.

Which brings me to Prince Charles, and his speech on Monday at the ‘transition ceremony’ to mark Barbados becoming a republic.

The heir to the throne could hardly be described as a member of the liberal elite. He is in most respects profoundly conservative.

His comments about slavery were, of course, entirely true, and well said. It was an ‘appalling atrocity’ and does ‘forever stain our history’.

But having rightly said what he did, couldn’t the Prince have found time, in an admittedly short address, to say something more positive about Britain’s imperial legacy?

After all, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807 and slavery ended in 1833, which is a long time ago.

Between 1815 and 1860, the Royal Navy freed tens of thousands of slaves being shipped across the Atlantic, with an estimated 20,000 British soldiers dying in the endeavour.

Yes, slavery was an atrocity. But Prince Charles could have mentioned some subsequent benefits of British rule, yet chose not to. Parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and freedom of the Press flourish in Barbados largely as a consequence of its colonial history, however imperfect.

Three cheers for the people of Sheffield for defending their legacy. Two cheers for Prince Charles for travelling to Barbados and talking frankly about the evils of slavery. I just wish he had sounded less like a member of our liberal elite, and that there were limits to his self-flagellation.

Source: Read Full Article