Truth-telling the Slave Trade at Bristol Cathedral

16th August 2022

All God’s Children exhibition – how the past should shape the future.

Bristol Cathedral has launched a new exhibition, All God’s Children as part of its work to understand its links with the transatlantic trade of enslaved people and is asking visitors to help them consider how the past should shape their future.

People invited to help shape truth-telling at Bristol Cathedral

Research has discovered that between 1670 and 1900, around 1,000 people were buried or memorialised in Bristol Cathedral and its grounds – and around 200 of them had a close connection to the slavery-based economy.

All God’s Children is a two-part exhibition that explores the cathedral’s connection to slavery and then asks visitors and local people to help them think how the past might inform the future with questions about whether the cathedral should remove its monuments, create a permanent exhibition explaining its links to the slave trade or commission a new monument that remembers those that were trafficked.

The Very Revd Dr Mandy Ford, Dean of Bristol said:

“For too long, the church has ignored, hidden or denied the experience of God’s captured, trafficked and enslaved children. 

“Before we can work together for a better future we need to tell the truth about the past and this exhibition is the beginning of that truth-telling at Bristol Cathedral. 

“It is painful for those who suffer the intergenerational trauma of slavery and racism and painful for those of us who feel shame and guilt for past and present sins. 

“We want to hear many voices in response to this exhibition as we look to a future in which Bristol Cathedral is a safe and hospitable place for All God’s Children,’ she added.

All God’s Children is an exhibition in two parts:

  • Inside the Cathedral, exploring the Cathedral’s connections with the transatlantic trade of enslaved people through its memorials and grave-markers – this will be on display from 23 August to 21 October
  • On College Green, an exhibition will feature portraits by Garfield McKenzie of remarks, comments or questions from Christians in Bristol, some of whom live with the legacy of slavery and experience the reality of racism in their everyday lives – this will be on display from 24 August to 29 September

At the end of the exhibition everyone is invited to comment, reflect and feedback about what they think the Cathedral should do next with questions like: 

  • Should the Cathedral have a permanent exhibition explaining its links to the slave trade?
  • Should the Cathedral remove some or all of its monuments with a connection to the slave trade?
  • Should a monument be commissioned that remembers those who were trafficked, suffered or died as a result of the Transatlantic slave trade?
  • What is the Cathedral’s role in countering racism in the church and our community today

Dean Mandy added:

“We hope that the exhibition will inform a wide-ranging conversation about the stories we tell in the Cathedral, the ways in which we can repair and restore damaged relationships and the ways we can work together for a better future for everyone. “

Visit the Bristol Cathedral website here for the latest updates.

News Date: 16th August 2022.