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Plaque commemorating an 18th-century slave-owner to be removed from church

02 October 2020

John Gordon, a plantation owner in Jamaica, is buried in the church grounds

St Peter’s, Dorchester

The plaque in memory of John Gordon, and the cover, to which a statement is affixed, in St Peter’s, Dorchester

The plaque in memory of John Gordon, and the cover, to which a statement is affixed, in St Peter’s, Dorchester

THE PCC of St Peter’s, Dorchester, voted last week to remove a plaque commemorating an 18th-century slave-owner who is buried in the church grounds, saying that its “unacceptable” use of language, as well as the actions that it commemorates, mean that it is no longer appropriate in the church.

The inscription, on the north interior wall of the church, pays tribute to John Gordon, a plantation owner in Jamaica who is buried in the church grounds. It celebrates his suppression of an uprising in 1760 known as “Tacky’s Revolt”, which led to the deaths of 500 slaves, and the inscription calls it a sign of his “bravery” and “humanity”. He died in Dorchester in 1744, aged 56.

The church put up a sign in July condemning the inscription, and said that it would consider removing the stone after its presence was highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement (News, 17 July).

The PCC, which met on Wednesday of last week and was chaired by the Archdeacon of Sherborne, the Ven. Penny Sayer, said that it would like the stone to be placed in a museum and used for educational purposes. The planning process for the permanent removal of the stone would take several months, however; in the mean time, a temporary cover has been placed over the monument.

One of the churchwardens of St Peter’s, Val Potter, said: “The temporary cover was put in position on Tuesday. We found a way to do it without any fixings or attachment to the fabric of the church, so we could do it without further permissions. The name and details of John Gordon remain visible but the rest is concealed.

“The notice on the cover states: ‘The rest of this memorial has been covered as it commemorates actions and uses language which are totally unacceptable to us today. Following consultation within the church and the wider community, the Parochial Church Council has agreed to apply for its removal and to offer it to a museum.’”

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