Council missing controversial Black boy's head after removal from Derbyshire pub sign

The 'racist' sculpture of a black boy's head removed from a Derbyshire pub sign has not been returned to the council as it ‘expected’.

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 2:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th June 2020, 2:56 pm

Protesters removed the wooden artefact, believed to depict the head of a servant who used to visit the town with Sir Walter Raleigh, on Monday.

It had been on display above St John’s Street, Ashbourne, as part of the Green Man pub sign for hundreds of years – gaining legal protection in the 50s.

But it was criticised as ‘racist’ by more than 50,000 petitioners, calling for it to be removed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis in the USA.

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Councillor Barry Lewis, Conservative leader of Derbyshire County Council

Coun Stuart Lees, Derbyshire Dales District Council Conservative member for Ashbourne North, is said to have orchestrated the removal by protesters after about 150 people gathered at the scene.

This was, he says, to avoid it being hacked down.

Coun Lees said it was ‘with a local, in safe keeping’.

He added: “It’s in safe storage, until the people of Ashbourne have had a consultation on it.

“We will consult with the district council what the future will now be for it. Whether it goes back or whether it goes on display.”

Derbyshire Dales District Council, the legal owners, said it ‘did not object’ to the unofficial removal, to avoid confrontation.

However, the authority expected it to be handed back and was making arrangements for its secure storage 'pending further public discussions'.

A spokesman said permanent removal would require consultation with Historic England because it was Grade II*-listed.

Coun Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council leader, had said the head should remain in place.

He said although it is ‘clearly culturally insensitive and racist’ it should not be removed to satisfy the ‘hysteria of a woke but vocal minority’” and that cultural heritage is ‘there to challenge us sometimes, to make us uncomfortable’.

Prof Cecile Wright, an honorary academic at the University of Nottingham, who lives in Derby, said the sculpture portrayed a ‘grotesque’ stereotype.

A petition to retain the sculpture has now gained 6,000 signatures, with signatories saying that it is a part of the town’s history.