Bristol

Bristol university Wills Memorial Building keeps 'slave trade' name

Bristol University
Image caption The University of Bristol has announced it will not be changing the name of any of its buildings

The Wills Memorial Building will not be renamed despite campaigners claiming it is named after a slave trader, the University of Bristol has announced.

Henry Overton Wills III became the university's first chancellor after gifting it £100,000 in the 1870s.

Campaigners claim it was "slave-profited money" and the Wills Building name should be revised.

But a university spokesman, said it was not "appropriate" to rename it "or any other university buildings".

The Wills family founded WD and HO Wills in 1786, shipping tobacco from the New World into Bristol.

When the university was struggling, Henry Overton Wills stepped in with a gift that would now be worth almost £10.5m.

Image copyright Google
Image caption A petition had demanded that the Wills Memorial Building should be renamed

Despite the family investing "heavily in the institution", campaigners say it was "slave-profited money" and the funding does "not justify the means of slavery".

They claim the university should not be glorifying someone who "profited so greatly from such an immoral practice".

But a university spokesman said without major contributions from the city's "commercial families" the institution "would not have flourished".

"In our view, it is important to retain these names as a reflection of our history," he said.

"We cannot alter the past but we can enable reflection upon it and add to knowledge about slavery past and present."

Bristol's Colston Hall announced in April that it would be ditching the "toxic" name it shares with 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston.

Bristol Cathedral was also considering removing a large stained-glass window dedicated to the merchant, following criticism from anti-racism campaigners.

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