…By Larry John for TDPel Media.
A memorial plaque honoring a slave owner and praising his role in suppressing a rebellion has been removed from St Peter’s Church in Dorchester, Dorset, and relocated to a museum.
This marks the first instance of such a relocation.
The plaque in question commemorates John Gordon, a Scottish plantation manager in Jamaica for absentee British owners who also owned some plantations himself.
Despite having no known connections to Dorset, Gordon died in Dorchester in 1774 while on his way to Falmouth to catch a ship back to Jamaica.
Following concerns raised by churchgoers about the plaque’s presence, the Church of England made the decision to move it to the nearby Dorset Museum, where it will be accessible for viewing upon request.
The Diocese of Salisbury’s spokesperson explained that while the memorial is notable for recording an actual rebellion by enslaved people—known as Tacky’s revolt of 1760—it also contains offensive language and praises Gordon for his actions in quelling the rebellion.
Many worshippers and visitors had expressed discomfort with the presence of the monument in a church that seeks to be inclusive and welcoming to all.
Max Hebditch, a historian who attends St Peter’s Church, conducted research on Gordon, and the church formally applied through the Church of England’s planning system to have the monument removed from the church wall and placed in the Dorset Museum.
Ruth Arlow, diocesan chancellor, emphasized that the monument celebrated Gordon’s violent suppression of a rebellion by enslaved individuals, a status now universally recognized as morally repugnant and contrary to Christian doctrine.
She stated that its presence seemed to imply support for or at least tolerance of discrimination and oppression, contradicting the message of God’s love and inclusivity that St Peter’s community aimed to convey.
The decision by the Diocese of Salisbury has received support from Harvard University Professor Vincent Brown, author of “Tacky’s Revolt, The Story Of An Atlantic Slave War,” who commended the church’s commitment to honoring present values without erasing or forgetting the past.
Recognizing enslavers serves as an acknowledgement of their dark legacy on our world rather than a celebration of their actions.
Archdeacon Penny Sayer of Sherborne highlighted the importance of addressing local concerns regarding the appropriateness of the monument’s placement within the church.
She emphasized the significance of sharing the story, particularly the mention of Tacky’s revolt, which represents the voices of those whose stories are often overlooked.
The memorial will be replaced with a simple plaque containing details of Gordon’s life and death.
The replacement plaque has involved consultation with Gordon’s descendants.