UK School Renamed As Colston Airbrushed Out Of History

By Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.
April 26, 2022 Updated: April 27, 2022

The governors of one of Bristol’s most famous schools have chosen to rename it, dropping any reference to merchant and slave trader Edward Colston.

Colston’s School, a private institution that was set up more than 300 years ago, will now be known as Collegiate.

According to Bristol City Council’s museum website Colston, a 17th-century merchant and philanthropist, profited from his shares in the Royal African Company (RAC), in which members traded gold, ivory, and enslaved Africans. He had also been an active member of RAC’s governing body for 11 years.

The governors of the £15,000- ($18,000)-per-year school, which was founded in 1710, announced in December 2021 they intended to change its name.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Bristol, a key port in the west of England, became one of the main centres of the British Empire’s slave trade. But while many of those involved have been forgotten, Colston’s name lived on because he became a philanthropist.

As well as the famous statue of Colston—which was pulled down and thrown into the harbour by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in June 2020—the city was also home to Colston Hall, a popular music venue.

In September 2020 it was rechristened the Bristol Beacon, three years after the famous Bristol band Massive Attack refused to perform there until it was renamed.

The governors said the new name, Collegiate School, Bristol, was one of hundreds suggested by students, parents, staff, and alumni and would come into use in September.

The chair of the school’s board Nick Baker said: “We believe it is important that students attending the school continue to be taught about the school’s history, specifically, Edward Colston’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. In order to assist with this, some historical aspects of the school, for example the crest and motto, will be retained and explained, rather than removed.”

A survey about the what the school’s name should be garnered 2,500 responses and 81 percent of the members of the public who took part said it should retain the name of Colston.

In January four people involved in toppling the statue of Edward Colston—Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, Sage Willoughby, 21, and Rhian Graham, 29—were acquitted of causing criminal damage by a jury, despite having acknowledged their involvement.

The Court of Appeal has been asked by the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, to clarify the law following the verdicts.

PA Media contributed to this article. 

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.