Shrewsbury's Clive of India statue to be debated at council

Campaigners are going to present their case to councillors for removing one of Shropshire’s most famous statues.

The Robert Clive statue in Shrewsbury
The Robert Clive statue in Shrewsbury

David Parton, who created a petition calling on Shropshire Council to remove a statue of Clive of India from Shrewsbury’s Square, is being given the chance to speak on the issue at the authority’s performance management scrutiny committee next week.

A total of 13,946 people have signed Mr Parton’s online petition to date, although Shropshire Council did vote to reject the suggestion that the statue should be removed.

Under the council’s policy, because a petition of more than 200 signatures has been received, the person responsible is allowed to make a five-minute presentation to the committee, after which there will be a 15-minute debate from councillors.

The issue was sparked earlier this year when, as part of Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd in the United States, protestors in Bristol pulled down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

Protestors in Shropshire argued Robert Clive’s statue should be removed due to his role in establishing British power in India with the East India Company.

In July Shropshire Council voted against removing the statue.

Speaking at the time Mr Parton said: “We are disappointed by Shropshire Council’s tone-deaf decision to retain the statue of the mass-murderer Robert Clive in The Square, Shrewsbury.

“It is vital we learn from our past, but we should not have to live in it.

"Despite more than 20,000 people calling for this statue to be moved to a museum, council members chose to ignore the concerns of minority communities and revel in Clive’s murderous legacy.

Consensus

“This vote was just the start of the movement to remove Clive’s statue.

"Like with Colston and Rhodes, Clive will fall. Today’s decision has simply delayed the inevitable.”

A rival petition calling for the statue to remain has attracted just shy of 10,000 signatures.

Shropshire Council’s leader Peter Nutting has also been clear that he is not in favour of removing the statue.

Speaking in June he said: “As the leader of Shropshire Council and following careful consideration of arguments for and against its removal, I now believe that the statue of Robert Clive in The Square in Shrewsbury should remain in place.

“Over the last few days I have listened carefully to the arguments for and against its removal and I am well aware of the strength of feeling on both sides of the argument.

“I have also had a large amount of letters and calls from members of the public which mostly support the retention of this important part of our local history.

“In any council debate I will of course listen to all sides of the matter, but at this moment, and having considered all viewpoints and discussed this with colleagues, I do believe the general consensus is that the statue of Clive should remain in place.”

The issue will be discussed at the performance management scrutiny committee at 2pm on Wednesday.

In brief: Who was Robert Clive?

Robert Clive

Clive was born on the Styche Hall estate, near Market Drayton, in 1725 and went to school in London before travelling to India with the East India Company in 1743.

After two years in Britain, in 1755 Clive returned to India and two years later retook Calcutta (now Kolkata) for the company at the Battle of Plassey, a key moment on Britain's path to controlling Bengal and then India for almost two centuries.

Corruption and looting saw Clive amass a huge amount of wealth and he returned to Britain in 1760, aged 34.

He was made Baron Clive of Passey, knighted and became Shrewsbury's MP, a position he held until his death.

He went back to India in 1765 for two years before returning to Britain where the activities of Clive and the East India Company in India came under sustained attack.

The famine of Bengal that lasted between 1769 and 1773 and killed around a third of the region's population was said to have largely been caused by the company's policies.

Clive defended himself in Parliament, saying "I stand astonished at my own moderation," and in 1773 Parliament declared that he did “render great and meritorious services to his country.”

He died at home in London aged 49 and is believed to have killed himself.

All the petitions can be found by searching ‘Clive of India’ on change.org.

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