A memorial of Rustat "dominates the wall as you enter" the College chapelRobert Edwards

Jesus College has proposed relocating Tobias Rustat’s memorial from the College chapel into an “educational, exhibition space.”

The move, proposed by Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), was accepted in a College council meeting on 2nd November.

Rustat was one of Jesus’s largest benefactors before the twentieth century. His donations to the College came while he was receiving dividends from the Royal African Company. The Royal African Company, according to historian William Pettigrew, “shipped more enslaved African women, men and children to the Americas than any other single institution during the entire period of the transatlantic slave trade.”

His memorial, which has been in its current location since 1922, “dominates the wall as you enter” the College chapel.

Although there are many links to Rustat around the College, the memorial was deemed to be celebratory rather than descriptive. For that reason the memorial will be moved while his name will remain on the donors wall and his coat of arms on a chapel window.

Chair of the LSWP, Dr Véronique Mottier, said in a statement on the College website: “Our aim is not to erase Rustat from our history. We have taken a nuanced approach, considering where he is explicitly celebrated versus where he is mentioned in a factual manner. The LSWP will now support the work needed to carry out these decisions.”

While the College have accepted the proposals of Jesus College’s LSWP, any change to the College chapel, as a Grade I listed building, must be accepted by the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules operated by the Church of England.

However, Jesus,following the council’s vote, stated on their website that “the church is very supportive of our considerations and will make a decision about our proposals over the next few months.”

Geoffrey Hunter, Head of Church Buildings and Pastoral, Diocese of Ely, said: “This is a live issue for churches and chapels across the country. The College has been both swift and very thorough in its approach to dealing with Rustat’s legacy, and sets a very helpful example for other places of worship.”

This particular proposal is only the latest in a series regarding Rustat’s position within the College.

Previously , in January 2020, the Rustat Feast in Easter term was renamed the Summer Feast and the Rustat Conferences were renamed the Jesus College Conferences.


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Furthermore, Rustat’s portrait was removed from the Senior Common Room by the Works of Arts Committee to a temporary location. The portrait may now be relocated to the same exhibition space as the memorial will be moved to with appropropriate contextualisation.

Jesus’s LSWP announced plans to return the Okukor, a Benin Bronze, in November 2019.

The College is also funding an internship programme for eight undergraduate and postgraduate students from Jesus College. The programme, planned for Spring 2021, will involve the interns collaborating with LSWP academics on the second stage of their research into the College archives and Old Library.