Listening exercise on future of Sir Robert Geffrye statue
Local people will be able to have their say on the future of the Geffrye Statue that sits on the front facade of Hoxton’s Museum of the Home in the first step of Hackney Council’s review of landmarks and the naming of public spaces.
The statue – of Sir Robert Geffrye, a merchant involved with the slave trade – has been the subject of fierce debate in the last few days, and the Museum is actively considering its future. The Museum, run by an independent charity, renamed as the Museum of the Home in 2019.
Following detailed discussion this week the Museum will now launch an engagement exercise with local people, supported by the Council, about what should happen to the statue, alongside the launch of the borough’s wider review of public spaces named after slave and plantation owners earlier this week.
This detailed and empowered review, which will also explore building, street and park names across the borough, will be established in the coming weeks, and will involve residents, community partners and cultural historians.
The Museum of the Home, in Kingsland Road, is housed in almshouses that were built in 1714 with money from Sir Robert, who made his fortune with the East India Company and the Royal African Company.
As the Museum of the Home we are aware of how surroundings impact both shared identity and a sense of self. Homes should be welcoming places of shelter and security, love and comfort. This is what we want our museum to represent.
We know that for many the statue of Robert Geffrye on the front of our building represents abuse, oppression and the history of thousands of enslaved people torn from their homes and families and forced to work in appalling conditions.
We are partnering with Hackney Council to consult our communities about the future of the statue, how we tell the story of the origins of the Museum’s buildings and what the name Geffrye means to them – especially those who have found home in the streets and estate that bear his name.
The Board of the Museum of the Home is committed to this important public debate and to ensuring the voices of our communities are heard. I welcome this review and partnership with the London Borough of Hackney. Together we can action change.
As many of us are already doing, it’s vital we stop to consider whether our public spaces should be used to commemorate those involved in the trafficking and owning of slaves, plantation owners and associated sources of wealth.
I know many have been demanding change for years, and I am determined to help now see that through. The anger and those urgent calls for action are understandable and right, but it’s also important that we make these decisions together, democratically, so that this moment in history has a legacy of progressive change for our borough.
The Museum of the Home has already made great strides with its more progressive programming and mission to be representative and tell the stories of home life reflecting all the community. I’m delighted that we are working together to listen to residents about the future of this statue.
Further details about how local people and others concerned about this issue can have their say will be announced in the coming days.
A decision on the future of the statue will be taken by the Museum of the Home next month.