The name of a slave owner has been removed from entrance signs to a Hackney park in the first action of Hackney Council’s review into the naming of landmarks and public spaces.
The removal of the Cassland Road Gardens signs, which took place on Saturday, was the first recommendation by a community steering group made up of local cultural historians, community leaders, young people and other residents, following the launch of the review earlier this year.
The Council will start a process with local residents in January to consider a new name for the park.
Cassland Road Gardens was named after Sir John Cass – a politician and director of the Royal African Company making substantial profits from the enslavement of African people in the 16th and 17th centuries. Documents show that he was on the ‘committee of correspondence’ who dealt directly with slaving agents and made decisions on the life and death of slaves.
The removal of the signs was in the presence of Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville, Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, and members of the Community Steering Group set up by the Council to oversee the review.
Mayor Glanville and Cllr Williams said: “This is a historic and powerful moment for Hackney and demonstrates our commitment to inclusivity in our borough. We are not erasing our history, but now truly reckoning with our past. Taking this action in the present means that we can now look to the future, and thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Steering Group, residents and Council staff, we can look forward to naming our public spaces after people that better reflect our pride in our diversity.”
Jermain Jackman, Co-chair of Hackney Young Futures Commission, said: “I think I can speak for most Hackney residents when I say we no longer want signs named after slave traders or people who have created crimes against humanity. We want to create place names where people can feel comfortable and proud. As a descendant of a slave, I did not feel comfortable in Cassland Road Gardens and I want to thank the community for helping us make this significant step.”
Residents are now invited to suggest names via the new Hackney Naming Hub – an online platform to collect names of hidden histories within Hackney. The Hub seeks to address underrepresentation in the public realm and positively acknowledge all our diverse and migrant communities, women, LGBTQI+ communities, disabled people and the working classes.