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Chatham car park named after slaver Sir John Hawkins to be renamed

Additional reporting by Chris Hunter

Councillors have decided to change the name of a controversial car park.

Members of Medway Council's cabinet approved plans to rename Sir John Hawkins Car Park in Chatham town centre.

The car park in Waterfront Way will now be called St John's Car Park, as it sits next to St John the Divine Church.

Campaigners raised concerns about the name in June during the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.

Sir John Hawkins was a 16th-century naval commander who was also involved in cross-Atlantic slave trading.

In October it was agreed the site would be renamed, after graffiti appeared on signs in car park referencing controversial "lynch mob" comments made about the Black Lives Matter protests by Medway council leader Alan Jarrett.

Prior to that Medway's Labour group had raised the issue after being contacted by a number of residents.

Sir John Hawkins
Sir John Hawkins

A working group of councillors put forward the alternative name following their discussions in which they looked at the names of monuments and memorials throughout the Towns.

The move comes six months after the town in which Sir John Hawkins was born, Plymouth, decided to rename a square which bore his name.

The city council chose to rename it after Jack Leslie, who played for Plymouth Argyle and was the only professional black player in England between 1921 and 1934.

Now a controversial figure, John Hawkins had been celebrated as a pioneering English naval commander and administrator.

Born to a wealthy maritime family in Plymouth in 1532, by the time he was 30, Hawkins was embarking with his own flotilla of three ships - with backing from Queen Elizabeth I - on a mission to intercept Spanish treasure.

But his endeavours as a privateer would also lead to him to become an early promoter of English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.

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