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Edward Colston was a merchant who amassed a vast fortune by trafficking people from West Africa to the Americas as part of the transatlantic slave trade. A bronze statue of Colston had stood on a pedestal in central Bristol since 1895, depicting him in middle age, leaning pensively on a stick. On 7th June 2020 the statue was toppled, defaced, and thrown into Bristol Harbour by protesters at an anti-racism, Black Lives Matter demonstration. It became the focal point of a wider discussion in the media about civic statues and who is celebrated in public sculpture. Bristol City Council retrieved the statue from the water four days later. Museum conservators stabilised the condition and preserved the graffiti. The statue formed part of a display at M Shed in Bristol from June 2021 to January 2022, to start a city-wide conversation about its future.
The rectangular, moulded, Portland stone plinth remains in place. It features buttressed corners to a moulded pedestal and above this there are consoles to an octagonal base which supported the statue. To each corner of the pedestal is a bronze dolphin (dolphins feature on the Colston family crest), and on each face, a bronze plaque with Art Nouveau-style relief. On the west face, Colston dispenses charity to poor children; on the north he is shown at the harbour and on the east is a scene with marine horses, mermaids, and anchors.
Edward Colston (1636–1721)
H 260 x W 80 x D (?) cm
proposed by James Arrowsmith, president of the Anchor Society
Bristol City Council
Bristol City Council
Grade II (England and Wales)
at all times
signature, base below left foot: John Cassidy; below the right foot: Coalbrookdale
inscription in metal letters applied to the front of the pedestal: EDWARD / COLSTON / BORN 1636 / DIED: 1721 —: BRONZE PANEL – ERECTED : BY : / CITIZENS OF BRISTOL / AS A MEMORIAL / OF ONE OF THE MOST / VIRTUOUS : AND / WISE : SONS OF / THEIR : CITY / A.D. 1895 / JOHN CASSIDY / FECIT