South West Wales

Carmarthen court Thomas Picton portrait removal call

There are calls for a giant portrait of a military hero who has been branded a cruel colonial governor to be removed from a crown court in Carmarthenshire.

The picture of Sir Thomas Picton hangs behind the judge's chair in Carmarthen.

Solicitor Kate Williams says it is inappropriate for the portrait of Picton, one of Wellington's generals, to have such prominence in the court.

But Carmarthenshire Museum, which owns it, says the portrait is in its historic location.

Picton, from Haverfordwest, was the most senior officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

There is also a monument to him in Carmarthen, a comprehensive school named after him in Pembrokeshire and his bust stands alongside that of Owain Glyndwr and other Welsh heroes at City Hall in Cardiff.

Before Waterloo he had been governor of Trinidad where an allegation of torture against him almost derailed his career.

At a high-profile trial in London he was accused of forcing 13-year-old Louisa Calderon to stand on a wooden peg while suspended from a ceiling.

'Person of note'

This form of torture was dubbed "Pictoning" at the trial but he eventually cleared his name on appeal and went on to resume his military career.

The portrait of him in Carmarthen was commissioned when the building was used by the old borough council and before it became a court house.

Ms Williams told BBC Wales: "After hearing that he was alleged to have tortured a slave girl I felt that it was inappropriate to have his picture in a modern court of law where we are supposed to represent the principles of equality and justice for all.

"I accept that he is a person of note from this area but put him in a museum.

"I think people might misread the prominence of the picture as saying he has done something worthwhile to contribute towards justice which really isn't the case."

She says she has the support of others who work in and use the building.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service said it was simply accommodating the artwork on behalf of Carmarthenshire Museum.

"Any request for different works to be displayed would be best directed to Carmarthenshire Museum in the first instance," it added.

'Man of his time'

Ann Dorset from the museum said while not excusing Picton, the portrait had been painted specifically to hang in the building, and that it is where it should remain.

"I think it would be a shame to move it from its original home," she added.

She said it was documented that he was a "cruel and brutal" governor when he ran Trinidad but she said he was "a man of his time".

"He was a very well respected general but on the other hand he was regarded as a rough and tough man and a great disciplinarian.

"He was a great leader of men and these wars were tough.

"It was hand to hand fighting and they were not like the battles of today. He would have been right in the middle of it.

"I think we have to accept Picton warts and all and not judge him by today's standards."

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