Armstrong monument removed from list of ‘problematic’ statues

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A statue of the 19th-century industrialist outside the Great North Museum: Hancock has featured on a map of “problematic” UK memorials that anti-racist campaigners want removed.

Initially added because of Armstrong’s involvement in the arms industry and his connections to the American civically war, the statue was later removed.

Grey’s Monument was also temporarily listed on the map, but was later removed.

Lord William Armstrong, born in 1810, was a wealthy Tyneside industrialist, engineer and inventor. As an owner of armament factories he sold guns to both the Union army and the pro-slavery Confederate army during the US civil war, and became regarded as the inventor of modern artillery. Armstrong was knighted in 1859 after giving his gun patents to the government.

The statue was, however, later removed from the map after his role in arming both the north and the south was further explained to the creators of the map.

Discussing the morality of the industry Armstrong once said: “If I thought that war would be fomented, or the interests of humanity suffer, by what I have done, I would greatly regret it. I have no such apprehension.” On another occasion he said: “It is our province, as engineers to make the forces of matter obedient to the will of man; those who use the means we supply must be responsible for their legitimate application.”

The statue was listed on Topple the Racists’ map of over 70 statues and memorials across the UK that “celebrate slavery and racism” following the removal of Bristol’s Edward Colston statue. The project aims to examine “the complicity and history of Empire and slavery” and how the wealth obtained through imperialism and the slave trade continues to influence the physical features in UK cities.

The website, created by the Stop Trump Coalition, argues: “Monuments can find a new home in museums, or through art, and some might simply be removed. It is not our job to decide what happens. Glorifying colonialists and slavers has no place in a country serious about dismantling systemic racism and oppression, but education does.”

Despite the statue featuring on the list, Yunus Bakhsh, of North East Against Racism, has however argued that Black Lives Matter groups in the city have no plans to forcibly remove any of the statues.

Newcastle City Council announced it was reviewing all of its monuments and would welcome public views on whether any should be removed, but argued that “compared to other cities we have very few historic statues in Newcastle which are controversial”.

Last modified: 16th June 2020

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