Little treasures: #1 Equiano


Besides a bed of African plants in Telegraph Hill's lower park, sits a bust of 18th Century writer and abolitionist, Equiano.


The plinth was created this year by children from Edmund Waller School, with the help of a grant from Lewisham Library.


81 comments:

Tressillian James said...

Thanks for the link - fascinating life - @ Nick - do you know the link to Telegraph Hill? I'd be really interested to know

Transpontine said...

There isn't, as far as I know, a specific link between Equiano and Telegraph Hill. He was however linked with Deptford - in his narrative he refers to being forced into slavery on a boat at Deptford.

creepylesbo said...

I saw that this weekend and wondered what on earth it was. It needs an explaination plaque or something.

Bea said...

A part of his life was recently portrayed in the film, Amazing Grace, based on the life of William Wilberforce. Olaudah Equiano is played by Youssou N'Dour.

The Cat Man said...

No Link with Telegraph Hill? Wouldn't this be better in Deptford, surely?

The hill used to be a beacon point between the Crown in Westminster and the Admiralty in Greenwich. Surely it deserves some sort of Royal/Armed forces plinth.

Anonymous said...

Predictable. I nearly posted a pre-emptive missive earlier to day predicting an inevitable Cat Man objection to this statue. I wonder why I knew he would object?

Headhunter said...

Got to say though, not to belittle this man's fight against slavery, his struggle to learn to read, navigate ships and eventual marriage against all odds to a white woman and decision to live in Britain, I agree with the Cat Man, why is this on Telegraph Hill rather than in Deptford? Deptford has far stronger links to the slave trade. Why not celebrate Telegraph Hill's success as a beacon and a site linked to vast improvements in telecommunications which it is known for?

Headhunter said...

Got to say though, not to belittle this man's fight against slavery, his struggle to learn to read, navigate ships and eventual marriage against all odds to a white woman and decision to live in Britain, I agree with the Cat Man, why is this on Telegraph Hill rather than in Deptford? Deptford has far stronger links to the slave trade. Why not celebrate Telegraph Hill's success as a beacon and a site linked to vast improvements in telecommunications which it is known for?

Brockley Nick said...

Because it's a school project, not nelson's column! Not that there should need to be a bloody reason, but because he's an important figure in the abolitionist struggle and lewisham has both a connection with slavery and a large black population.

Anonymous said...

move on kids.... don't feed the Troll, I think we all know the reasons behind his post. Look on his blog if you want to engage him.

Brockley Nick said...

And by the way, th's heritage is marked in a number of ways. Hillaballoo is supposed to be a celebration of its role in shaping communication,

Anonymous said...

....well OK, this one comment from me.

Surley we should be celbrating black role models? Give kids something to look up to. That one reason for having memorials is it not?

Anonymous said...

"The ever-so left wing Brockley Central."

I've never laughed so hard....

Tressillian James said...

It's great as a piece of local school art. It has made me aware of a man and his unique life - a history I was not aware of - so it has definately done its job in opening my eyes. Agree with Creepy about an explanation plaque - would make it even more worthwhile

lb said...

Equiano (you're probably more likely to have heard of him under the name Gustavus Vassa) is a surprisingly entertaining writer; his book's available online as an e-text for anyone who's that interested.

There's been some debate as to whether he was actually born in Africa and as to whether a lot of his book is a genuine account (in the sense that what it describes actually happened to him - there's evidence he was really born in America). Either way, it was an effective anti-slavery piece.

I agree it would make more sense to have the monument in Deptford, just for a bit of context, but then again it's hardly in a public square so I suppose it doesn't matter that much.

Brockley Nick said...

What's stopping someone doing something similar in deptford? Nothing.

This is some nice art done by some local kids, learning about an interesting guy. And it benefits us all, because it's a nice little surprise as we walk through the park.

Monkeyboy said...

Honestly does it matter where it is? Samuel Pepys mentions Deptford extensivly. Pepys road is not in Deptford - who cares?

YOu would have thought an anti slavery campaingner would be a farirly un-controversial subject and a represents a cause that has more than just a local interest.

lb said...

I assume the main thing against siting any piece of public art (by schoolchildren or otherwise) in Deptford is probably the fact that it'd be graffitied into oblivion within five minutes - also, there's not really anywhere to put it. The park's probably the most sensible place for it, I'm just pointing out that there's not a great deal of context there.

Headhunter said...

Exactly LB. It's fine where it is, not a biggy, just thought I'd throw my comment into the ring. To me it would make more sense for the kids to have commemorated something which means something locally. But as I said, it's a piece of kids art and as Nick says, a pleasant surprise when walking there and again it is good to point out black role models for the youth in the area.

Hugh said...

It isn't a good likeness. I'd give it a B+.

Headhunter said...

How do you know what he looked like? He died in the late 18th century!

Brockley Nick said...

A b plus from you is worth an a* from anyone else.

Monkeyboy said...

Hugh as always adopting the 'Jimmy Carr' line of humour. Is he crass or is he puncturing our pomposity? A bit of each perhaps.

(in fact is my post a typical pompous affair that needs puncturing? discuss.... not by you Cat walker)

Anonymous said...

I bet the kids would have made a better job of a model of the anti-aircraft batteries that defended this part of London from bombing by the Luftwaffe in WWII.

Anonymous said...

its a shame they never got to try

Do dah said...

I think it's rather good, darn sight better than 'Stratford' cake. It's lovely that the children of the area can see their work displayed in the community.

I hadn't known of Equiano prior to this, so I have learnt something and I am grateful.

The War Memorial on Lewisham Way says a lot about what this area suffered during WWII.

History and its physical manifestation- memorials and statues shouldn't be a single narrative.

Transpontine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Transpontine said...

In response to Headhunters incredulity about anyone knowing what Equiano looked like - they may not have had photography in the 18th century but they did have painting and drawing - and there are at least two well known pictures of Equiano. Just search for his name under Google images.

I agree with Nick that people are bringing too much (dubious) baggage to what is just a small children's art project in the park. Predictably a statue of a black person brings forth the kneejerk 'I'm not racist but... why haven't they got a statue of Vera Lynn' nonsense. As for whether Deptford would be a better place - in Equiano's time Telegraph Hill would have been seen as part of Deptford, just like the Deptford Town Hall in New Cross Road. I've never heard anybody suggest that the maritime statues on that building (Nelson etc) should be moved near to the river for the sake of historical accuracy.

Headhunter said...

Yes but paintings from that time were hardly known to be accurate, they were usually romantic depictions to flatter the sitter more than anything...

brockley mutha said...

HH - I was about to say something similar. I wouldn't even consider identifying someone on the basis of an 18th Century portrait (nor even a 20th century one come to that)

Anonymous said...

That makes no sense, its like saying we shouldnt pay lewisham council tax as Brockley used to be part of kent.

Transpontine said...

Well in that case we might as well as well say we don't know what Henry VIII or Elizabeth I looked like either - which in a sense we don't, given the limits of portraiture already desbribed - but we can say whether an image looks like the commonly perceived image of a historical person. Of course the question of whether you could identify an 18th century person from their portrait doesn't really apply, as you're not likely to bump into one - all you can do is compare one image with another.

Transpontine said...

There is a danger of some specious ultra-parochialism here - the children at Edmund Waller (where my daughter goes) were exploring the history of slavery in their local area. Deptford, Brockley and New Cross are all very close with a common history, and part of the old borough of Deptford. It's not as if they were doing a project, and putting up a statue of some random guy from Gloucester. I would have thought that any public space within that local area would be a suitable place, whether or not Equiano actually walked over the exact spot.

another anon said...

The petty moaning we've seen in this thread is perhaps why the council and other bodies keep the public at arms length in even minor planning decisions such a the appearance of recycling bins.

The Cat Man said...

I would be interested to hear if your daughter was able to express herself with other local achievements such as what HH described earlier.

I don't think its a petty comment to want to express ones own history. Thats a shameful comment to make.

Anonymous said...

go away you anoying little man. Can i suggest that anyone who wants to engage andy in his crass, bitter little arguments, go and visit his blog.

brockley mutha said...

@ transpontine - just to be clear. the discussion about likeness is not a serious one.

Transpontine said...

Fair enough B.Mutha - I was perhaps guilty of underestimating the intelligence of posters at B.Central! Not sure I can be bothered to get in discussion with cat fellah, but yes the children at Waller do spend lots of time studying the Second World War which is part of their history and yours - as is slavery.

The Cat Man said...

Thats good to know Transpontine and totally agree - we should recognise both, I was worried it was some sort of 'loony left' lewisham thing. Still not sure that it is the right location though but if its temporary I guess it doesn't really matter.

max said...

Why would ever any 'loony leftist' want to deny teaching of the Second World War and all the lessons about fascism and racism and xenophobia that it can teach?

The Cat Man said...

Thats why they are loony

Anonymous said...

Max & Transpontine.... don't waste oxygen arguing with him. He really cannot see in himself what to everyone else is as plain as day.

max said...

True, I fear he'll have a breakdown and start goosewalking down Brockley rad dressed as a ballerina or an aviator or something.

Brockley Kate said...

As ever, good posts Transpontine!

Headhunter said...

Back to painting likenesses, death masks were not uncommon at this time (ie taking a cast of the face of the deceased), which may give some idea of the true facial features of an individual from the 18th century, although I don't think one was ever take on Equiano.

As I said previously, my agreement with the Cat Man as to whether kids should study something more relevant to Telegraph Hill was just a throw away comment/thought. It wasn't meant to start a liberal knee jerk reaction complete with comments about Vera Lynn and goose stepping down Brockley Rd.... It was just a thought, nothing serious... Lets put the witch hunt to bed...

Tressilliana said...

Sounds like an ideal location for any piece of artwork made by the school nearest the park, regardless of subject.

For nearly twenty years now the National Curriculum has ensured that children attending English schools (primary and secondary) study the Tudors and WW2 over and over again, at the expense of most other periods/topics. Good to hear of the occasional break-out from that straitjacket.

Tamsin said...

I dunno - my children seemed to be eternally studying the slave trade and the human rights movement in the Southern States.

The Equiano Plinth does come with explanatory notes - and a folder of pictures of the project in the making - in the Rangers Hut if you ask for it. In due course - it's only been up there two weeks - we might have a little notice saying this.

It is in Telegraph Hill Park rather than somewhere in Deptford because it was the active Telegraph Hill Park Users Group (now Friends of Telegraph Hill Park - open AGM in the Park 14th July at 8pm) which identified some funding for a planting project and the scheme just grew from there.

Well done to all concerned, whether or not it is a good likeness and whether or not the aesthetics appeal(and we had a very jolly day at the unveiling too).

The Brockley Telegraph said...

Tamsin, does your children get to study WW2 etc.. too? I thought schools could decide what areas within the school curriculum could be taught (i.e. what historical aspects to focus on).

Tamsin said...

My daughter for her GCSE did Russia and America in the 20th C. A wonderful background to where we are now. You are right - there are choices, but what I always seemed to be hitting in the pre-GCSE years with both of them was "the ragged child" - Victorian society and social ills - and what for want of a better term is "black history".

Pete said...

I just came across this post and thought I would second one of the things that Transpontine has already said: Telegraph Hill would have been considered to be part of Deptford when this chap was alive and in actual fact isn't that far from Deptford now. So for people to come out with some knee jerk betty swollocks now is pretty lame.

Yes we definitely need another memorial for the military. There are hardly any in London...

Tressillian James said...

The subject of memorials is always heated - but I think the more the better - as usually they are keeping alive an important story or event.

I wonder what other memorials we would like to see in the Brockley area?

I would like to see something to the V1 & V2 victims - many many died in Brockley - more than 90 across SE4. Although it has been 60years odd since the end of the war I think it would be good to have more of a rememberance than the empty lots and new buildings where the bombs once fell.

I'd also like to see some blue plaques where some more famous Brocklites lived - starting with Marie Lloyd?

This isnt meant to be a condemnation to the Equiano project, which I really like

Pete said...

It would be good to have a memorial to the V2 deaths that occurred in central Lewisham and in the Woolworths if these don't already exist.

Anonymous said...

What was/were V1 and V2?

Brockley Kate said...

Rockets used by the Germans in WWII. They're the cause of all the little infill sites around the place, now often filled with 50s and 60s blocks.

Tressillian James said...

Doodlebugs aka flying rockets that were used in the WWII to bomb London. The bombs were devastating - with victims from one bomb numbering the hundreds in Lewisham (Town centre) & New Cross (Woolworths)

This last stage of the war also saw many of the homeowners in this area leave and not return

The Brockley Telegraph said...

funnily enough, the lewisham woolworths incident did not result in a high loss of life. The largest single loss of life in se4 actually occured on my road - revelon rd - on the site of meadowgate school. Whole families were killed. Its on my agenda to put some sort of memorial for it to the local councillors, its such a tragic event.

Monkeyboy said...

...and just think Von Braun (V2 designer) was thinking about a multi stage version of the V2 that could have reached new york from mainland europe - scary stuff. Of course that was when he was a Nazi, apparently he was misunderstood and was in fact was a friend of freedom after all so the yanks adopted him after the war.

Anonymous said...

59 died and 124 injured in Lewisham town centre (including the Woolworths) - in New Cross 168 died and 121 injured. A single bomb in both cases

Anonymous said...

Not to be blasé about it then, but surely WW1/2 get enough commemoration?

Monkeyboy said...

oh god! you've done it now! I'm off for a run....ciao

Headhunter said...

There's a brass plaque in the pavement in front of M&S I think commemorating the death of people from a V2 attack on Lewisham Market. You can see that all the buildings there are post war apart from the little clock tower thing and that interesting building which houses Fitness First and Yates's I think which seems to have 1930s art deco murals around the top relating to travel (steamships, trains, cars etc). I always wonder what that building was - some kind of big travel agency perhaps?

Doodlebugs were V1s which basically fell when they ran out of fuel, it was common knowledge at the time that if you could hear the enging "doodling" you were safe, but as soon as the engine spluttered and started to conk out everyone dived for cover.

The V2 was a targetted early missile which as someone pointed out was adopted (along with the Nazi scientists who developed it) by the Americans for the Cold War and latter day nuke technology.

I have even heard that the Nazis weren't far from developing an atom bomb.....

Monkeyboy said...

yes, von braun also invented the electric tooth brush....I think. So he put man on the moon, fought communism and halitosis.

...but yes it's fun to do the old 'what if' game. If they had developed a working bomb and coupled that with a workable intercontinental ballistic missile then the war would have been over and we'd all be eating saur kraut. Still nice uniforms so not all bad.

Monkeyboy said...

... for more A-Bomb related news I suggest 'The Bomb' by Gerard DeGroot. Very interesting, all about the technology and politics of scary nukes. Or watch Dr Strangelove, funny until you realise that it was not so far from the truth....

anyway...really am going for a run now

Anonymous said...

The Cat Man would have been happy...

Anonymous said...

...he does enjoy a bit of strange love

Tressillian James said...

There are a lot of WWI and II memorials - and there are plaques in Lewisham and New Cross - but I don't think there is a lot to commerate the civillians who lost their lives. I was also speciffically thinking about the 90-100 people who ,lived in the same streets as we do now who lost their lives. Something on Hilly Fields would be appropriate.

Headhunter said...

You could also erect a monument to the fight for women's suffrage on Hilly Fields, I think it was a regularly meeting place for the suffragettes early in the 20th century

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a map in the library that shows the landing sites of the V1 and V2s in South East London.

I read the RV Jones book about intelligence in WWII. Apparently the intelligence services knew of German spies operating in London and reporting on where the bombs fell. They were fed false information to suggest the bombs were falling too far to the North. Adjusting them to fall further South led to many falling in Kent and South East London.

It was a sacrifice bourne by the people of South East London. The bombs left an indelible mark on Brockley. This is local History and there are people still around who lived through it.

Sadly this history is of little relevance to the multi-cultural politics that dominates in Inner London.

Doubly so when you consider the architectural monstrosities that were put up on the major bombsites and the dogs dinner of second hand car lots that occupy the remainder.

Monkeyboy said...

blah, blah, blah...it's all the fault of the multicultural society... what a lot of cock.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting us right on that one with your rapier wit Mr Monkeynuts.

Monkeyboy said...

I aim to please. Right, had a hard week, I'm having a take away - Lamb Tika Masala, Nan bread, Aloo Gobi...hope that foreign muck annoys you.

Anonymous said...

I too think Hilly Fields would be a fitting place for a tribute to the sufferagettes. What better to represent the feminist world than an enormous overgrown mound?

Anonymous said...

Dehli belly with extra chillies....

fabhat said...

The Yates building was part of the old Army and Navy store - which only disappeared about 10(?) years ago. there was a smoked brown perspex bridge across the road, linking the lewisham centre and the army and navy - bringing you out at the epicentre of fashion - Miss Selfridge! I spent many a happy teenage year buying cheap jewellery and dresses from there.

max said...

I was told that the Yates' building was originally built for a Union actually.

The Brockley Telegraph said...

I would like to see a monument on hillyfields too! Its quite remarkable that it was only in 1921/1928 that woman had equal right to vote - Not exactly far in the past.

Puts the British to shame really, considering the french revolution rights established alongtime before.

Did you know that the French even decriminalised gay sex in 1791? British was 1967!

Anonymous said...

Personally I'd like to keep the 'Fields tat-free.

fabhat said...

max - was it then taken over by the army and navy stores - or am I mis imagining where the entrance was? I was pretty certain that the main entrance was where Yates is - and that the rest of the building was knocked down for the police station, but it was a long time ago...

max said...

It is quite possible that it was taken over by the Army and Navy after it had a whole life as something else.
I was told exactly what it was, and it wasn't even that long ago, I just can't remember the details, I think that it was some kind of Credit Union and that the bas-relief on top of the building is a clue to who were the beneficiaries of the establishment.

Anonymous said...

The French....maybe Frenchwomen could reliably be expected to vote according to their husbands guidance. Whereas, your Englishwoman is a different sort of proposition altogether.

Anonymous said...

" would like to see a monument on hillyfields too! Its quite remarkable that it was only in 1921/1928 that woman had equal right to vote - Not exactly far in the past.

Puts the British to shame really, considering the french revolution rights established alongtime before."

given that the french didn't grant women the right to vote until 1945, i'm not really sure point you are trying to make here, if your trying to push the idea that the french revolution ushered in some practical democratic utopia then your as misguided as to political history as you are on economics, self awareness, modesty and asylum rights available to slovenian citizens

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