Leader Denies Borough Coat of Arms Has Slavery Links

Claims in the Sun newspaper dismissed as nonsense

London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham's coat of arms
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham's coat of arms

Reports that Hammersmith and Fulham Council is investigating whether its coat of arms has links to the slave trade have been labelled “nonsense” by its leader.

The Sun published a story on February 15 suggesting the council had “ordered a probe” into the historical meaning of its crest, which includes an image of a ship atop a knight’s helmet.

The newspaper also suggested the council might even change the historic image if the ship was found to symbolise a slave vessel.

The story quoted an unnamed source as saying, “If they [the council] find something offensive, which absolutely no one noticed, they’ll have to spend public money changing the crest wherever it appears.”

However it is believed that the ship pictured in the crest simply commemorates the arrival of Viking ships in the borough in 879AD.

The issue was raised by Conservative group leader Andrew Brown at a Full Council meeting on 26 February.

Councillor Stephen Cowan, Labour, denied there was any investigation and said, “We’ve not done anything on the crest. It’s nonsense, absolute nonsense.

“We had national newspapers ringing us up and asking about the crest, presumably because someone in the Conservative party suggested we do it.”

He went on to say that a hammer and horse shoe depicted on the coat of arms were “a pun” on the borough’s name.

Mr Cowan also accused Conservatives of trying to stoke a “cultural war” following the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year.

Tory MPs have recently been attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan for promising to set up an independent commission that will look at the suitability of statues and historic street names around the capital that could cause offence.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

March 1, 2021