Edward Colston and the slave trade – a shameful part of Bristol’s history


Bristol’s role in the transatlantic trafficking and enslavement of African people is a shameful part of the city’s history.  The Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) is deeply sorry for its historic part in the suffering of every man, woman and child resulting from this abhorrent trade in human lives.

Once a trade association for Bristol’s maritime merchants, SMV is now a social purpose organisation whose members share a determination for Bristol to become a place of equality and inclusion. Our activities today are focused on helping communities across Greater Bristol to thrive.

More than 300 years ago, SMV accepted the request of Edward Colston to be the trustee of funds to provide for the young, old and disadvantaged people of the city. SMV continues to support the schools and almshouse that were established with this funding, a responsibility that we undertake in the pursuit of equality and inclusion, not to perpetuate the memory of a man so closely involved in the slave trade.

We are currently part-way through the formal legal process to have the name Colston removed from trusts, institutions and buildings for which we are responsible and all artefacts relating to Edward Colston have been removed from Merchants’ Hall.

Alongside accelerating other changes within SMV, we are committed to diversifying our membership and increasing the transparency of our activities. We are also determined to find meaningful ways to support the Bristol communities most impacted by the legacy of the transatlantic trafficking and enslavement of African people.