Review, Rename, Reclaim
Finding a new name for Cassland Road Gardens
You may have noticed that the name of Cassland Road Gardens was taken down in December 2020 and replaced with a welcome sign. This was the first action taken by the Review, Rename, Reclaim project.
649 people (77.5% Hackney residents) participated in the consultation to rename the gardens. The new name will be officially adopted at the full council meeting on 21 July 2021.
Review, Rename, Reclaim is a collaboration between the Council, community leaders, cultural experts, historians, teachers and young people that share one thing in common; a passion to make Hackney’s public spaces more representative of the communities that live here.
In June 2020, the Council launched a naming review to listen to the views of residents, partners and others about how to tackle the issue of public spaces named after people who profited from the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans.
The naming review complements the Council’s Black Lives Matter motion and builds upon a long history of fighting racism in the borough. Read Mayor Philip Glanville’s statement on the structural racism faced by black communities.
The Review, Rename, Reclaim project gives us an opportunity to reassess the names of the spaces where we live, learn, work and play to ensure they appropriately reflect the diversity of our residents and inclusive, anti-racist values that we can all be proud of.
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The memorialisation of those that profited in the trafficking or ownership of enslaved African people in our public spaces does not make sense in an anti-racist borough.
Using an open, inclusive and democratic approach, we will rename our public spaces with names we can be proud of for years to come. We will increase access to the local history that is relevant to our local communities through a collaborative renaming process – inviting residents’ contributions every step of the way.
The Review, Rename and Reclaim process involves close engagement and consultation with residents and businesses situated on roads and spaces identified by the review.
The Council will work collaboratively with the community steering group. Through regular meetings their collective expertise will be shared to shape recommendations for the naming review.
Together we will identify the names and symbols that represent contested histories of the transatlantic trade (trafficking) of enslaved Africans, ownership of enslaved people, and the inequities of British colonialism.
Through active community engagement, public consultation and learning, we’ll achieve the process of renaming these contentious sites.
Alternative names will be crowdsourced with residents to ensure new names are representative of African and African-Caribbean heritage, are locally relevant and chosen through a final public vote.
Sir John Cass (1661-1718) was a major figure at the Royal African Company. This English organisation once held a monopoly on trade with West Africa including the buying, selling, forced transportation and frequently, murder of enslaved Africans. Cass retained shares in the Royal African Company up until his death.
The wealth generated from the inhumane activities of the Royal African Company enabled Cass to leave a significant legacy in the City and East London, having no children of his own.
It is not surprising that as the barbaric truth behind the source of Cass’ wealth becomes more widely understood, that the institutions that still benefit from this wealth are removing his name from their titles.
Cassland Road Gardens will no longer celebrate a symbol of brutal enslavement. This reclaiming and renaming is a powerful gesture of unity and anti-racism compatible with Hackney’s values today.
Francis Tyssen was a Dutch merchant that settled in London in the 1640s. He owned a plantation in Antigua, although he lived in London.
The Tyssen family also held shares in the Royal African Company from 1678. Francis Tyssen (the elder) was an active member in the East India and Royal African Companies. For a time, the Royal African Company held a monopoly on trade with West Africa – including the buying, selling, forced transportation and frequently, murder of enslaved Africans.
In 1694 Tyssen was implicated in a national scandal in his attempt, with others, to bribe MPs and notable figures. In his will Francis Tyssen left two, five pound pieces of Guinea gold, from West Africa, to his wife.
His British and Dutch land and Antiguan plantation (including enslaved Africans) were inherited by his sons. Tyssen (The elder) had purchased the three manors of Hackney, with his son taking the title ‘Lord of the Manor’. This made the Tyssen family the largest landowner in the area. This family’s land assets in Hackney lasted until the 1990s.
The title of ‘Lord of the Mayor’ remains active and is currently held by the 5th Baron Amherst of Hackney.
The Rhodes name is strongly linked to the injustices of colonialism due to the actions of Cecil John Rhodes whose will provides evidence of his direct connection to land in Dalston.
He believed that ‘Anglo-Saxon’ people were ‘the first race in the world’, and were superior to people of African heritage.
Rhodes actively encouraged the sometimes violent displacement of African people from their own land to ‘stimulate them to labour’. He exploited the natural mineral wealth of southern Africa to benefit Britain, rather than Africa or Africans, becoming very rich himself.
Rhodes also co-founded De Beers, a diamond mining company which still exists today, and benefited financially from it.
Rhodes influential positions in Africa helped create systems that privileged European settlers over indigenous Africans, laying the foundations for Apartheid – a system of racial segregation that favoured the white citizens of southern Africa. The negative effects of this period in history are still present socially and economically in southern Africa today.
Sir Robert Geffrye was an eminent East India merchant, and investor in the notorious Royal African Company.
By his will, 14 almshouses were built to support retired ironmongers (or their widows). Constructed in 1715 in Shoreditch, now in the London Borough of Hackney.
The almshouses, a grade I listed building, now houses The Museum Of The Home (formerly known as the Geffrye Museum).
Historian William Pettigrew has stated The Royal African Company “shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade”, and that investors in the company were fully aware of its activities and intended to profit from this exploitation.
Whilst we can’t change the past, nor want to rewrite history, we do want to better understand and help others to recognise how the past can remain present in our contemporary lives.
This project provides opportunities to promote public history learning as well as support a more representative and relevant heritage in Hackney that we can be united in celebrating.
Cassland Road Gardens will be renamed by local residents as one of the first actions from the Council’s Review, Rename, Reclaim project. This consultation took place between February and April 2021.
The new name is expected to be approved by Full Council 21 July 2021 to be Kit Crowley Gardens.
A long list of locally relevant names that represented African and African-Caribbean heritage in the local area was researched, based on suggestions by residents and heritage team. This list was whittled down to four by the Community Steering Group, local councillors. Participants of the consultation voted for their preferred name.
649 people participated in the consultation, 77.5% of which were Hackney residents. 2000 paper surveys including a history leaflet on Cass were distributed to local homes, with an online survey and virtual engagement events (due to covid restrictions).
Renaming nearby roads, also named after Sir John Cass, was not part of this first action.
The symbol of Tyssen was identified as contentious following the audit of our borough-wide Review, Rename and Reclaim programme.
Tyssen Community School and Children Centre decided to change the name of their school and started a process of engagement in 2020. The school engaged pupils, staff and parents to identify and agree a new name.
In March 2021, the new name was agreed, Oldhill School and Children’s Centre. The school will start the 2021/22 academic year with its new name, logo and uniforms.
The consultation into the changing of street names where Tyssen is present is still to be scheduled into the project plan, as we continue to listen to and engage with residents.
The Council supported the museum to deliver a consultation with local residents in June 2020. The outcome of this was an overwhelming support to see the statue removed.
Despite this on 29 July 2020 the Museum’s board of Trustees announced its decision to retain the statue. Read Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville’s response to this decision.
The Museum of the home is managed by an independent charity and supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Hackney Council has no power in the governance of this museum.