Sweet History landmark (photo)

Memorials - Edward Colston


This monument was erected in central Bristol in 1895 to commemorate the life of Edward Colston.

Edward Colston was a merchant and slave trader who also gave money to many English charities. He was born on 2 November 1636 and died on 11 October 1721.

Colston still has a positive reputation as one of Bristol’s most generous charity donators. Whilst he was alive he gave money to many of Bristol’s schools, almshouses and hospitals and restored a number of churches. However, Colston worked for the Royal African Company who traded in slaves and he was also a wealthy sugar merchant with investments in the Caribbean island of St Kitts.

There are two schools in Bristol which were closely linked with the Society of Merchant Venturers. They are Colston’s School (for boys) - now Colston’s Collegiate - and Colston’s Girls’ School. Colston’s School for boys was started by Edward Colston in 1708.

Edward Colston is also remembered in the city by Colston Avenue, Colston Street and Colston Hall.


  1. Encourage the pupils to find out more about Edward Colston by visiting the Discovering Bristol website or they could visit the memorial in the centre of Bristol (see Sweet History? Trail site 10 for location)
  2. Discuss with the pupils if they think it is right to commemorate the life of a slave trader with a memorial?
  3. Get the pupils to think about the positive and negative aspects of Colston’s life. They could list these in a chart.
  4. Tell the pupils that they have been given the job of planning a new slavery memorial for the City of Bristol to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of slavery. In pairs ask them to respond to these questions:
  • What sensitive issues would you need to think about?
  • Whose opinions would you need to consider?
  • What sensible and sensitive solutions can you think of?
  • Where in the city would your memorial be located and why?
  • Will your memorial be for a specific person?
  • What would your memorial look like? Would it be a sculpture, a plaque, a piece of artwork, a poem, a monument, a theatre/dance performance?

Finally get the pupils to draw/sketch/model/computer illustrate/perform their memorial idea.

This activity can support literacy, art and citizenship curriculum delivery.