Boarding school renames house honouring colonial ruler Clive of India

Boarding school renames house honouring 18th century colonial ruler Clive of India after Black Lives Matter protests

  • Students at Haberdashers’ Adams in Newport raised concerns over Clive House 
  • Boarding school has opted to instead name house after war poet Wilfred Owen
  • Robert Clive was a military officer and official of the East India Trading Company
  • The decision is the latest in a series of backlashes inspired by Black Lives Matter 

Robert Clive, above, was a controversial military officer and an official of the East India Trading Company

A boarding school has renamed a house honouring he 18th century colonial ruler Clive of India after the Black Lives Matter protests.

Clive House at Haberdashers’ Adams in Newport, Shropshire, will bear the name of celebrated war poet Wilfred Owen, who lived nearby in Oswestry, instead.

Past and present members of the school, founded in 1656, raised their concerns about Clive House after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

In a statement, the school, which charges boarders £12,000 a year, said: ‘By renaming Clive House, we believe that we will be contributing, in a small but useful way, to recognising and redressing some of the injustices inflicted on ethnic minority communities and their predecessors.’

Robert Clive, who lived near Market Drayton, was a controversial military officer and an official of the East India Trading Company.

He waged battles in India and established the military and political supremacy of the company in Bengal.

Students argued it was ‘no longer appropriate’ to have a house named after him due to his time as a British military leader.

Phil North, head of Clive House, said: ‘Shropshire-born Wilfred Owen was a compassionate and forward-thinking man who saw the enemy as human beings and was outraged by the suffering of the young men around him.

Past and present members of Haberdashers’ Adams (above), founded in 1656, raised their concerns about Clive House after the death of George Floyd in the United States

‘I’m very happy that the school community has chosen to honour his memory and look forward to leading Owen House from September 2021.’

A consultation had been launched by education chiefs with 830 responding to a questionnaire – with those against keeping the name citing his ill-treatment of Indians.

Arguments in favour of keeping the name of Clive House said his views ‘reflected the times’ and insisted British history should ‘not be selectively erased’ by the school.

Another argued education leaders should be focusing their efforts on improving the behaviour of all members rather than renaming, which would be an ‘act of tokenism’.

A statement from the Senior Leadership Team at the school, during the outcome of the consultation results, said: ‘As a school, we have a particular role to play in fostering and developing the views of successive generations of young people.

‘A name-change offers us an opportunity to educate our pupils about changing values, about how every generation reconsiders the actions of its predecessors, recognising that some have been overlooked and others over-rewarded.

‘By renaming Clive House, we believe that we will be contributing, in a small but useful way, to recognising and redressing some of the injustices inflicted on ethnic minority communities and their predecessors. The strong sense of anger at historical and continuing injustice shown in significant parts of these communities is not something we should choose to ignore.

‘A house renaming is a symbolic act which both illustrates our sympathy for those expressing this anger and shows how we are playing our part in helping to eradicate racist attitudes.’

Posting to Twitter, above, the boarding school announced that Clive House will be renamed to honour the war poet Wilfred Owen, who lived nearby in Oswestry

Other houses at the school include Darwin House, named after Shrewsbury-born Charles Darwin, Talbot House after Earl of Shrewsbury Sir John Talbot and Webb House after Dawley-born Captain Matthew Webb.

Leaders at the school said they would not be ‘erasing’ any of the school’s history – with documentation and references to Clive House being retained as the curriculum is reviewed.

It follows a vote being held by Shropshire Council over whether they should remove a statue of Robert Clive from Shrewsbury town centre – with leaders voting in favour of keeping it.

In June, the Foreign Office’s most senior diplomat privately admitted another Clive of India statue in Whitehall ‘may have to go’.

Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald made the concession in a Zoom call with Whitehall civil servants, The Mail on Sunday revealed.

Shropshire councillors voted in favour of keeping a statue of 18th Century profiteer Robert Clive, also known as Clive of India (pictured in Shrewsbury’s town centre)

In June, the Foreign Office’s most senior diplomat privately admitted another Clive of India statue in Whitehall, pictured above, ‘may have to go’

However, the FCO distanced itself from its own Permanent Secretary’s comments, insisting there were ‘no plans’ to take down the statue and pointing out that responsibility for it lies with English Heritage.

In June, protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

That same month, governors at Oriel College in Oxford voted to remove the statue of imperialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes.

It comes amid growing tensions about Britain’s colonial past, sparked by global outcry following death of unarmed black man Floyd.

Floyd was killed when white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds despite his desperate pleas that he ‘can’t breathe’. He passed out and later died in Minneapolis on May 25.

His death is seen as a symbol of systemic police brutality against African-Americans sparking outrage and largely-peaceful protests first across the US before quickly spreading worldwide.

Protestors pictured throwing a statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in memory of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25

In June, governors at Oriel College in Oxford voted to remove the statue, pictured above, of imperialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes

Meanwhile, a new fifth house at Haberdashers’ Adams has been named in tribute to Dr Alfa Saadu – named Saadu House – in tribute to the NHS worker who died after returning to help fight against the pandemic.

The healthcare worker received the accolade following his commitment to the NHS. He retired in 2017 but returned due to Covid-19 in late March which he died from.

Dr Saadu, who attended the school from 1963 to 1970 as a boarder, went on to study medicine and became medical director at Ealing Hospital and later deputy medical director at the London North West University NHS Trust.

Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the former president of the Nigerian senate, said: ‘Late Dr Saadu provided leadership for our people in the diaspora as he served for many years as chairman of the Kwara State Association of Nigeria (Kwasang UK).

‘Back at home, he was a community leader and traditional office holder as Galadima of Pategi. He will be sorely missed.’

The new house is required as the school is expanding and will be welcoming an additional 30 pupils into Year 7 each year starting in September next year.

The new Year 7 class will be joined by Sixth Form pupils and together they will be the founding members of the new Saadu House.

Headmaster Gary Hickey said: ‘Our school has stood for nearly 400 years and I can’t think of a more fitting way to introduce a new house into 21st century Adams than by honouring one of our own who gave so much in the service of others.

‘He is a worthy role model for our young people, and I know this will be universally applauded by those who knew him from school.’

Clive of India: Triumphant over Nawab of Bengal but dubbed ‘unstable sociopath’ 

Robert Clive, above, was born on the Styche Hall estate, near Market Drayton, in 1725 and went to school in London

To his supporters, Clive of India is the profiteer who secured British rule in the region for two centuries, but his detractors say he was an ‘unstable sociopath’.

Robert 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.’

Clive was never accepted by aristocratic circles and was eventually brought up on corruption charges.

Despite seeing these off, he is believed to have taken his own life at home in London in 1774, aged 49, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

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