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Schoolchildren mark the grave of abolitionist PM

24 June 2022


The plaque in situ

The plaque in situ

THE unmarked grave of the Prime Minister responsible for outlawing slavery in the British Empire now has a dedicated plaque, thanks to a primary school project.

Lord William Grenville piloted the Slave Trade Abolition Bill through Parliament in 1807, but his tomb inside St Peter’s, Burnham, in Bucks, was hidden under a layer of concrete during construction work in the 20th century.

Then, when Year Six pupils at St Peter’s C of E Primary School studying the principle of courageous advocacy learned about Grenville’s achievement, they decided to create a new memorial in his honour. Last week, the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, led a service at the church, where he blessed a wooden plaque designed and painted by the children to be laid on the grave site.

“It’s not hidden any more,” the Vicar of St Peter’s, the Revd Janet Minkkinen, said. “It’s brought out into the open, and the children will take this with them as they grow and hopefully fight against slavery and injustice that is still rife in this world.

“When I came here, three years ago, I had no idea that a Prime Minister was buried in the north transept. There is a plaque on the wall which has his family’s names, but no details of who he was or what he did. There is also a sign in the village saying he is buried in the church, but it is hidden by a notice board. The village didn’t really know about him.”

Grenville’s country retreat, Dropmore House, just outside Burnham, is now luxury apartments.

By chance, last autumn, she saw the pupils in the churchyard looking for his grave. “When I pointed to where he was, they could not believe there was no memorial. It is just bare concrete,” she said. “They asked if they could do something to remind people of him, and I suggested a piece of artwork.”

They also produced a booklet and a display about Grenville, including letters to their MP, Joy Morrisey, and to the Prime Minister. The school head, Tanya Morris, said: “The children felt a great sense of disappointment that the grave had been covered over, and wanted to act. We knew we could do something together to make a change.”

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