Why are we renaming Cecil Rhodes House?

Camden is home to a vibrant community with a long history of championing equality and diversity. As a borough, we want to honour this history by celebrating the people who have made a positive contribution to the place we call home.

Last year, the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted that we can do more to address racism and inequality. As part of this work, the Council is reassessing the individuals memorialised in Camden - this includes Cecil Rhodes.

How will a new name be chosen?

We are holding a ballot for Cecil Rhodes House residents to choose the new name for their block. The ballot opens on Wednesday 10 February and closes on Sunday 28 February. Residents will receive a voting pack including backgrounds on the shortlisted names and instructions on how to vote.

The shortlist of names:

Name 1: Inayat Court

In celebration of Noor Inayat Khan, 1914 – 1944

Courageous and trailblazing, Noor Inayat Khan was the first woman spy to be dropped behind enemy lines in France during the Second World War.

Born to an Indian Muslim father and American mother, Noor and her family were living in Bloomsbury when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained as a radio operator at the start of the Second World War. In 1942, the Special Operations Executive recruited her as a radio operator and spy.

That June, she became the first woman to be dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France. Although Noor escaped capture and continued to send secret messages back to London for months under the codename Madeleine, she was eventually arrested by German forces and after 10 months in prison, was sent to Dachau concentration camp and executed in September 1944, aged just 30.

After her death, she was awarded both the Croix de Guerre by France and the George Cross by Great Britain – the highest civilian honour for heroism and bravery.

Learn more about Noor Inayat Khan 

Name 2: Bill Richmond House

In celebration of Bill Richmond, 1763 – 1829

Famous bare-knuckle prizefighter Bill Richmond was the ‘world’s first Black sports superstar’.

Born into slavery in 1763, Bill was spotted fighting soldiers as a teenager in New York and brought to the UK by Earl Percy, a general fighting with British forces in the American War of Independence. Once in the UK, Bill was educated, trained as a carpenter and met his wife Mary in Yorkshire before moving to London in 1795.

He became a boxer aged 41 and was one of London’s best known sportsmen – winning 17 out of his 19 fights and eventually running a boxing academy where he trained other boxers including poet Lord Byron. He was also one of 18 bare knuckle boxers who were ushers at the coronation of King George IV in 1821.

Bill is buried in St James’ burial ground (near Euston station).

Learn more about Bill Richmond 

Name 3: Fleetside Court

The River Fleet is the largest of London’s underground rivers. Starting its journey from Hampstead Ponds, the river runs through Kentish Town, Camden Town and past St Pancras
Old Church before flowing down to the River Thames.

From the time of the Romans, the River Fleet was used to transport goods. But as the city’s population increased, local residents and businesses used the river to dump waste and so it was used less and less as a transport route.

Eventually the Fleet was covered in the 17th century and in the 1850s, the well-known engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated it into the underground sewer system that runs below London today. Thanks to Bazalgette, the Fleet now plays a vital role moving sewage away from the local area, protecting you and other Londoners from diseases.

Name 4: Park View House

Home to a medieval history and famous landmarks, St Pancras Gardens is the park view opposite Cecil Rhodes House.

In the 17th century, the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church and the land surrounding it were used as burial grounds. In 1863, new railway lines were laid on the land which sparked controversy as graves were dug up to make space. Once the railway station on Euston Road had been built, the gardens were opened to the public in 1877 and were later restored in 2000 by Camden Council, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The gardens are home to famous landmarks including the Hardy Tree and the mausoleum - the mausoleum influenced the design of the iconic red telephone box.

Who was Cecil Rhodes? (1853-1902)

Cecil Rhodes was a central figure in the growth of the British Empire. He was prime minister of the Cape Colony, which is now South Africa, where he brought in new laws that allowed land to be forcibly taken from Black Africans and reduced the voting rights of non-whites.

These laws eventually led to apartheid in South Africa, which was a political system of racism, discrimination and segregation that didn’t end until 1991. The effects of apartheid can still be felt today.

Watch our educational webinar

On Monday 14 September, we hosted a webinar with Goldington Estate residents to help start conversations about the renaming of Cecil Rhodes House. A recording of the session is available online at here

The session includes presentations on why Cecil Rhodes should no longer be memorialised in Camden, the history of Somers Town and St Pancras, and also a number of possible suggestions for the block's new name.