HM Stanley stays STANDING: Statue of Victorian explorer in home town of Denbigh will not be toppled

A community has voted for a statue of controversial adventurer HM Stanley to stay in place in his home town.

A public vote was held at Denbigh, North Wales, about whether the statue of Henry Morton Stanley should remain.

The bronze statue of Stanley – best known for the famous line: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ – has stood for a decade in his Welsh home town.

Town clerk Jenny Barlow announced last night there had been 592 votes, a turnout of 8.8 per cent, with 6,725 eligible Denbigh residents. The vote was 471 in favour of the statue staying with 121 for its removal.

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Councillor Dyfrig Berry suggested further information should be added about the history of HM Stanley.

Stanley became famous after finding missionary Dr David Livingstone in Tanzania in 1871. But his reputation has been tarnished by claims of violence on explorations, and his role in the Congo.

After a debate was sparked by the Black Lives Matters movement over Stanley’s links with European imperialism, exploitation and colonialism, the town council decided the decision about whether the statue of H M Stanley remained or be removed, should lie with the residents of Denbigh.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, pictured, worked for Belgian King Leopold II who was notorious for the barbarous acts he committed on the population of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo

The statue, pictured, immortalising the moment where he found a missing Scottish explorer in central Africa with the words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume', having tracked him down to the shores of Lake Tanganyika

The statue, pictured, immortalising the moment where he found a missing Scottish explorer in central Africa with the words ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’, having tracked him down to the shores of Lake Tanganyika

Dr James Davies, Conservative MP for the Vale of Clwyd, said an emphatic 80 per cent wanted the statue to stay and ‘on balance I think this is the right decision.’

He added : ‘Having been born at HM Stanley Hospital, I perhaps inevitably have sympathy for this prominent local figure, but even so, my general view is that we need to retain historical reminders to allow us to reflect and to inform future generations.

‘HM Stanley was one of the 19th Century’s greatest explorers. I do not believe we should attempt to airbrush him from our past. In any event, it is clear that many of the negative assumptions made about him are not supported by a number of historical accounts.’

Pictured: Dr James Davies, Conservative MP for the Vale of Clwyd, said an emphatic 80% wanted the statue to stay

Pictured: Dr James Davies, Conservative MP for the Vale of Clwyd, said an emphatic 80% wanted the statue to stay

‘We should not lose sight of the fact that our ancestors lived in very different times, when there were different perspectives on what was right and wrong.

‘Grievous faults can doubtless be found in most historical figures, but we should try to understand their lives, as we hope those who come after us will try to understand our motivations, in the context of the world today.

‘The statue is a prominent expression of artistic skill and culture, and I know that those behind its installation several years ago will be relieved at the news.’

The town of Denbigh, North Wales, commissioned an artist to create the bronze of journalist and politician Stanley to mark his exploration of central Africa.

But protests over his role working for the infamous Belgian royal family, led to a public consultation to decide whether it should be moved from public view.

Sculptor Nick Elphick spent two years crafting the tribute to Sir Henry Morton Stanley but said he received non-stop abuse when calls for it to be torn down began.

It came amid growing tensions about Britain’s colonial past, sparked by global outcry following the death of George Floyd in the US.

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.

Sir Thomas Picton

Sir Thomas Picton statue being boarded up in Cardiff

Last year, a statue (right) of slave trader Sir Thomas Picton (left) was removed from Cardiff City Hall after protestors pointed to his links to the slave trade and crimes as governor of Trinidad

 Since then, statues across the UK have been removed or had plaques added to highlight their role in Britain’s imperialist past.

One example includes the removal of a statue of slave owner Thomas Picton from Cardiff City Hall.

Picton was known to have committed abhorrent crimes while governor of Trinidad when it was a British colony.

A statue of him had been at the city hall since 1916 but in July last year, 57 councillors voted for its removal, with five objections and nine abstentions. 

Stanley is a controversial figure because of his links with Belgian King Leopold II.

The monarch committed acts of appalling inhumanity against the population of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His supporters say Stanley was not working for the Belgian despot when the atrocities took place and he has been unfairly tainted.

Stanley was immortalised for his famous words ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’ after finding the Scottish explorer on the shores of Lake Tanganyika where he had been lost in central Africa.

But Stanley was born John Rowlands and started life fatherless in Denbigh in 1841 where he was put into the workhouse before emigrating to the United States as a teenager.

He then fought in the American Civil War before becoming a journalist and explorer, finding the source of the Nile, mapping central Africa’s Great Lakes and the borders of the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stanley, who was a journalist, politician and explorer, wrote about the encounter in his book

Stanley, who was a journalist, politician and explorer, wrote about the encounter in his book

He was knighted in 1897 before dying at the age of 65. 

Speaking ahead of the vote, Denbigh town councillor Glen Swingler said: ‘I think the feeling in town is very mixed. I’ve noticed on social media over the last couple of days that those coming out against it, they’ve got a bit more vociferous.

‘It’s not getting nasty. I wouldn’t like to guess which way any sort of vote would go, but then again, I don’t know how many people are actually going to go out and vote.’

He added: ‘I will vote, yes. I’ve got my own opinions, but I will vote as it is my right.’

The statue has been criticised since it was first announced, when a group of writers and campaigners including the poet Benjamin Zephaniah called for the plan to be abandoned. Last year, a petition to remove it gathered 7,000 signatures.

The Bishop of St Asaph called last summer for its removal, saying that the explorer had ‘little respect for the natives of Africa’.

Even his contemporaries accused Stanley of cruelty, with Sir Richard Francis Burton, another explorer, once remarking that ‘Stanley shoots Africans as if they were monkeys’. 

The journalist and explorer who discovered the Nile’s source and helped King Leopold II of Belgium create the Congo Free State

Born John Rowlands on January 28, 1841 in Denbigh, Wales, Henry Morton Stanley, migrated to New Orleans in 1859. 

Shortly after docking at New Orleans, Sir Henry took the name of the wealthy local cotton merchant Henry Stanley and claimed to be his adopted son. 

He went on to serve in the American Civil War and also worked as a sailor, before reinventing himself as a special correspondent for the New York Herald in 1867.

The paper sent Sir Henry in search of the missionary David Livingstone, who had not been seen since 1866 when he had set off to search for the source of the Nile.

Sir Henry went in search of the missionary David Livingstone, who  had set off to search for the source of the Nile

King Leopold II of Belgium, supported Sir Henry in his plans to develop the Congo in 1879

The 19th century explorer (left) had roads, outposts and even a railroads built in the Congo with the support of King Leopold II of Belgium (right)

In November 1971, Sir Henry finally found a sick Dr Livingstone at his last known port of cal on Lake Tanganyika and greeted him with the famous words: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ 

Following Dr Livingstone’s death in 1873, Sir Henry decided to continue exploring the region and travelled down the length of the Lualaba and Congo Rivers.

In 1874 Sir Henry went on to complete the work of Dr Livingstone and chart the great central African lakes.  

His travels, which took three years, included identifying the source of the Nile which he proved was not the Lualaba as previously thought. 

He went to Asante in 1873, which is now part of Ghana, as a war correspondent for the New York Herald and in 1874 published ‘Coomassie and Magdala: The Story of Two British Campaigns in Africa’. 

In 1879, after failing to enlist British interests, Sir Henry gained the support of King Leopold II of Belgium in his quest to develop the Congo. 

Leopold was able to gain control of the country which was at the time under the control of Portugal.

From August 1879 to June 1884, Sir Henry led an expedition though the Congo basin for the King and set up roads, outposts and even railroads.

He soon earned the nickname ‘Bula Matari’ or ‘Breaker of Rocks’ and paved the way for the creation of the Congo Free State.

However under the power of Leopold, the Congolese people were subjected to forced labour and were killed or seriously injured while working on his rubber plantations.

Locals who failed to produce enough rubber would also have their hands chopped off. 

American writer Adam Hochschild claimed in his 1998 book King Leopold’s Ghost that the death toll from Leopold’s policies was as high as 10million Congolese.  

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