A judge has ruled that a 250 year-old church memorial to the former owner of a slave plantation in Jamaica can be removed.

The memorial to Dr John Gordon, who died in 1774 is on a wall close to the entrance of the 15th century Grade 1 listed town centre church of St Peter, Holy Trinity and All Saints in Dorchester.

Despite its removal though it is to be replaced with memorial to Gordon, in dumbed down language.

The vicar and church wardens of the church had asked the Church of England’s Consistory Court to allow them to remove the existing memorial on the basis that the words on it are against the message the church is trying to put over.

The memorial says that Gordon is buried close by and that in 1760 he was instrumental in quelling a “dangerous rebellion” by slaves on the island.

It continues: “A large body of negroes whom his bravery had repulsed finally yielding to their confidence in his humanity.”

In her 10,000 word judgment granting consent for removal of the memorial, Ruth Arlow, Chancellor of the Diocese of Salisbury, in her role as a judge of the Consistory Court, said John Gordon had been a lawyer and plantation owner and had owned 416 slaves and had produced rum, sugar and coffee.

The 1760 uprising, which was known as Tacky’s Revolt after the slave who led it, resulted in the deaths of around 400 slaves. Two ringleaders were said to have been burned alive and two others hanged in metal cages until they starved to death.

In the end the slaves were left with little choice but to surrender and Chancellor Arlow says in her judgment that they sent a delegation to Gordon which resulted in him negotiating for them and them being deported from Jamaica, though still not being granted their freedom.

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In April this year the Government of Jamaica honoured the ringleader of the uprising by declaring 8 April as National Chief Takyi Day.

It had been suggested conservation groups that an explanation should be put up with the memorial to indicate the church view on its wording rather than removing it.

But granting consent for removal of the memorial Chancellor Arlow said: “Even with sensitive contextualization of its history the tone and content of this memorial is so explicitly and fundamentally contrary to the message of inclusion and welcome at the heart of the Mission Action Plan for this church that this option would not adequately address the needs of the petitioners (the vicar and church wardens).”

She said she took the view that the public benefit of removing the memorial would outweigh the harm caused to the church by the removal.