Tuesday 15 November 2011

Random statue 12: Robert Milligan

Looking out at West India Docks, Robert Milligan's statue has seen a lot of changes since 1813. However, they are no more extreme than the changes Milligan had overseen here during his lifetime.

Born and brought up in Jamaica, where his family owned sugar plantations, Milligan came to London in 1779. Here, he would become the leading member of a group of businessmen who created the West India Docks. They wanted a safer place to unload cargoes from the Caribbean, which had suffered heavy thefts elsewhere in London's port. The foundation stone was laid in 1800, with the dock itself opening just two years later.

After a move to the dock entrance and a period in storage, Milligan's statue is back in its original position. However, behind him the former warehouses are now the Museum of London Docklands which tells the story not only of the docks he lived among and expanded, but also of the slavery and exploitation which lay behind the wealth of Milligan and his colleagues.

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