Historic England Stokes Controversy After Nelson’s Column Demolition Tweet

A new initiative by the already controversy-hit government-funded Quango Historic England caused further concern Sunday after they broadcast an image of the historic Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square being demolished with a wrecking ball.

After angry responses to the message on the Twitter platform which begged the question “What should we do with controversial statues and memorials? …what should be done when some of these figures have come to be seen by many people as controversial symbols of oppression and discrimination?”, Historic England decided to amplify the voice of one contributor to the discussion, activist broadcaster Afua Hirsch who last year hit the headlines after calling for Nelson’s column to be knocked down.

Breitbart London spoke to Historic England Monday and they denied their republishing of Hirsch’s comments dismissing the concerns of British heritage fans constituted an endorsement, despite at that time not having given a similar level of prominence to any other replies to their announcement.

Noting that “statues are a matter of public interest and are increasingly the subject of public debate”, the Intelligence Squared debate “in partnership with Historic England” said in their event publicity that the discussion came after the widespread removal of statues in the United States, including those of U.S. Civil War General Robert E. Lee, and the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in the United Kingdom.

Those participating in the planned debate in May will include panel chair and Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, BBC historian David Olusoga who co-presented the recent “messy failure” BBC documentary Civilisations, which was derided by critics as being a “big money” culturally relativist, “tepid” shadow of the original, and Nelson-critic Afua Hirsch herself.

Speaking to Breitbart London, chairman of the Victorian Society Christopher Costelloe — the British civil society organisation concerned with the preservation and status of Victorian buildings and monuments — said of the prominence given by Historic England to Hirsch’s comments: “there is an enormous constituency of support for this memorial to one of Britain’s best known and best loved historical figures, and I’d expect Historic England to give attention to those supporting it as well.”

Hirsch hit out at Britain in 2017 for having failed to enter into the same zeal for iconoclasm as South Africa and the United States out of what she called “inertia, arrogance and intellectual laziness”, and called for a “debate” on removing monuments — the exact debate that she now seems to be getting, somewhat ironically courtesy of the body officially tasked with protecting the historical environment of England.

Horatio Nelson, the British naval hero who was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar as he led the fleet against the tyrannical Napolean Bonaparte was condemned in the article for his typically early 19th century views on slavery. Traditionally regarded as one of the greatest heroes of the British people and an inspired naval tactician, Hirsch dismissed the Admiral as “what you would now call, without hesitation, a white supremacist”.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage replied to the controversy surrounding Hirsch’s article at the time, remarking “shocking that the Guardian are encouraging this. The left really do hate Britain”.

This is not the first recent controversy surrounding Historic England. Breitbart London reported last week after the body announced a number of new training placements which would not be open to white English applicants, stating on their advert that “If you’re interested in gaining skills and experience for a career in heritage and identify as having Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic Heritage or mixed heritage (jump to Background to find out why), please see how to apply below.”

Trafalgar square was laid out beside the Charing Cross, the traditional centre of London in the 1830s, and celebrates the 1805 victory of Lord Nelson over the French at Trafalgar. The column was a later addition, paid for by public subscription.

Historic England defended their record on memorials, pointing out over the past four years they had given protection to many of the country’s war memorials, and are involved in new statues being erected to celebrate women achieving the vote.

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