Neave Crescent, Harold Hill, Romford

People don’t think about street names: Farringdon Avenue, Gascoyne Close and Neave Crescent are much of a muchness. That is unless you know Neave Crescent is named after slave-owners and slave traders. They owned much of Harold Hill. Their historic status meant a school, now closed, was named after them as well as Neave Crescent. So what?

The Neave family became rich from slavery. In 1833 they owned 1200+ slaves which were bought from them, after abolition, by the government for about £22,000.* 187 years later why does it matter? On one level it doesn’t matter at all. No-one living in Neave Crescent endorses slavery.

Yet it does matter. In the 1930s, in Germany, many streets were named after Hitler: they’ve all gone. But surely it’s over-egging the pudding equating a slave-owner with Hitler? It is but they’re in the same territory. Odious, brutal, inhuman behaviour shouldn’t be celebrated in any shape or form.

Neave Crescent celebrates a slave-owner. Slavery is a blot on British history. It isn’t rewriting history to delete this street name. It’s an important statement of British values. Perhaps it should be renamed Wilberforce Crescent?

* A servant in their house, Dagnam Park, would have been paid about £10 a year in 1833

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