Cambridge University college bell removed over slavery link

St Catharine's CollegeImage copyright Geograph/N Chadwick
Image caption The bell was donated to St Catharine’s College by a former student in 1960

A Cambridge University college has removed a historic bell from view amid fears it has links to the slave trade.

The Demerara Bell was donated to St Catharine’s College by a former student who went on to work for a sugar company in British Guiana.

In April, the university announced a two-year investigation into its own historical links with slavery.

A spokesperson for St Catharine’s College said the bell “most likely” came from a slave plantation.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, archived articles from the college magazine, St Catharine’s College Society, state that the 18th Century bell was donated by industrialist Edward Goodland with the inscription “De Catherina 1772” two years after his arrival in British Guiana in 1958.

It was initially hung in a belfry outside the Porter’s lodge but was moved in 1994 to an accommodation block.

Image copyright Georgraph/N Chadwick
Image caption The Demerara bell at St Catharine’s College has been removed from view

The university has appointed an advisory group, chaired by Prof Martin Millett and based in the Centre of African Studies, which will examine the institution’s archives to establish whether it benefitted financially from the slave trade.

“It is only right that Cambridge should look into its own exposure to the profits of coerced labour,” said vice-chancellor Stephen Toope.

A spokesperson for the college said: “As part of the ongoing reflection taking place about the links between universities and slavery, we are aware that a bell currently located at the College most likely came from a slave plantation.

“A more detailed investigation is underway into the bell’s provenance as part of a wider project researching the College’s historical links to the slave trade.”

Senior tutor Dr Miranda Griffin said: “It is important that the college, along with the rest of the collegiate university, acknowledges historical links to slavery and the slave trade.

“As an academic community, we will continue to conduct rigorous research into all aspects of our past and to reflect on our commitment to diversity, inclusion and asking challenging questions.”

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