Cecil Rhodes Plaque
Historic England is responsible for assessing buildings, monuments and structures and making recommendations to DCMS on what should be added to the National Heritage List for England (the List).
We received a request to assess a plaque of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford in late 2015 for listing. As an organisation we at no stage decided that the plaque should be listed. It’s not uncommon for us to debate different opinions internally before reaching a decision. Our decisions are not based on the views of any individual member of staff; we have a robust process of internal and external consideration and consultation. We take some cases to our external advisory boards for a further independent expert look, as we did in this case. Both the Historic England Advisory Committee, and our Commission formally discussed the case and agreed it should not be listed. All listings are assessed for their special architectural or historic interest against published criteria. We did not think that the plaque met the criteria, we recommended it should not be listed and DCMS agreed.
We are committed to ensuring that the List reflects the diversity of England's heritage and that we include a wide range of buildings and monuments from across the country. Over the past few years we have taken small steps to address the lack of diversity on the List. In addition to considering individual sites, we have undertaken various thematic listing projects to help improve our understanding and recognition of England's diverse heritage, tackling the under-representation of some communities in building and shaping the country we live in today, including LGBTQ, black and minority ethnic communities, disabled people and women.
One example was when we partnered with the BBC Black and British season in November 2016 to announce three new listings including the bust of Nelson Mandela on the South Bank and the sculpture ‘Platforms Piece’ in Brixton.
The historic environment is extensive so this does take time, but we are working on it - and there is much more work for us to do. There are still many buildings, monuments and structures worthy of listing that we need to turn our attention to and the heritage sector has a long way to go to be able to document untold or uncomfortable stories. We are committed to playing a full part in driving forward the positive change that must happen in this area. We are also committed to diversity and representation in all of our work, not just the List.