Planning permission granted for information boards by Thomas Picton monument
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Three new information boards are to be placed by a monument to Sir Thomas Picton in Carmarthen, after planning permission was granted.
The illustrated boards by the Picton Monument will give a fuller picture of the Pembrokeshire-born war solider whose actions, including his links to slavery, while governor of Trinidad, in the Caribbean, have come under renewed scrutiny.
Carmarthenshire Council now has planning permission for the boards on a grass verge opposite the grade two-listed memorial.
It is understood the authority is finalising what the boards will say.
The council decided last year to re-evaluate monuments and street names in Carmarthenshire which made clear its abhorrence of racism, prejudice and discrimination – past and present.
A task and finish group was set up to take the work forward, and the views of the public were sought.
Nearly 2,500 people responded on the question of the Picton Monument, with 1,613 saying no steps needed to be taken while 744 said they should. But some respondents who answered “yes” or “no” contained references to placing information boards near the structure.
The task and finish group strongly agreed that, when interpreting the history of Sir Thomas, consideration should be give his tenure as the governor of Trinidad and his links with slavery, as well as his military career.
Heritage officers at the council who assessed the application for the new boards said in a report: “It could be argued that the actions of Sir Thomas Picton may not be widely known by all who appreciate the monument as part of their local landscape, and the monument is part of the cherished and familiar local scene, but who would not appreciate the actions of the man.”
Carmarthen town mayor Gareth John told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had sought the views of a wide cross-section of people and groups in the town, and that their views chimed with those given in the consultation.
Cllr John, who represents Carmarthen Town South as a county councillor, also addressed the task and finish group.
He said he had been assured that the information boards would offer a fair picture of Sir Thomas.
“I’m looking forward to actually seeing them, and other people’s reaction to them,” he said.
Speaking in 2020, Swansea University associate history professor Dr Leighton James said Sir Thomas Picton was the highest ranking British officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815.
But he said his reputation had been tarnished while governor of Trinidad, where he authorised torture to obtain a confession from a 14-year-old mixed-race girl accused of stealing.
Dr James said Sir Thomas had a mixed-race mistress in Trinidad, to whom he gave considerable influence. She ended up with a number of business ventures, he said, and invested in slavery.
Britain abolished the importation of slaves to its colonies in 1807, and abolished slavery as an institution in the 1830s.
Dr James said Sir Thomas died launching a bayonet attack at advancing French troops at Waterloo.