Neighbours’ fury over call to rename Maryland ward over slavery ‘link’
- Credit: Archant
Neighbours have reacted angrily to a call to rename their new ward over its possible historic links to slavery.
The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, described the naming of Maryland ward as “a disservice to the diversity of the borough” in remarks made following publication of new electoral arrangements.
The plan from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England includes six extra councillors and the formation of a new ward – Maryland.
Ms Fiaz said: “I am pleased the commission has accepted the case for an increased number of councillors in Newham.
“I also welcome the fact that most new wards will remain similar to current wards.”
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But the mayor described feeling “particularly concerned” by Maryland ward, saying the name originates from a family of slave owners - the Lee family – who alongside ownership of the Maryland Point estate, ran a plantation in Virginia.
She said the name will be “the source of great disappointment” to Afro-Caribbean people in Newham and urged the commission to reconsider, recommending Newtown as more appropriate.
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However, people in Maryland said a name change would undermine their sense of identity.
Nick Monopoli, founder of the Maryland Community Group, said: “We’re a small community sandwiched between Stratford and Forest Gate. We’ve really tried to get ourselves a presence. To have that taken away would be a slap in the face.”
He said the move was an attempt to jump on a political awareness bandwagon.
In a straw poll of its members, 180 voted to keep the name – 46 of whom are black, Asian or ethnic minority – while 13 people wanted to change and 15 weren’t fussed, Nick said.
On the Newtown suggestion, he said it meant “absolutely nothing”.
The commission’s final report itself describes the matter as “sensitive”, noting Newham intends to ask TfL to consider renaming Maryland station. It adds that even Newham “acknowledges there is uncertainty about the matter”.
Benedict Matthews said: “The name is the historic name used for hundreds of years and it is commonly referred to as Maryland by the local people. I see the name as part of our East End heritage.”
Helen Thompson, suggested the Lee connection to Maryland was “tenuous at best”, citing an article by Professor Ged Martin.
Helen urged Newham to review all names in the borough and evaluate their historical links based on “proven evidence”.
Resident, Julie Walker, added: “Take away Maryland and you take away the heart of what we stand for.”