Honour restored to forgotten grave of slave trade abolitionist

A forgotten grave of a former Prime Minister who pushed through the law to abolish the slave trade in 1807 was honoured with a piece of artwork on Tuesday.

The grave of The 1st Baron Lord William Wyndham Grenville at St Peter’s Church in Burnham, concreted over erroneously years ago, received a new dedication in the shape of a powerful piece of artwork created by the year six pupils of St Peter’s CE School.

With themes of peace, justice and liberty, the large wooden plaque is now in place, laid by the pupils who hand painted it. It was then blessed by the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson.

Born in 1759 in Wotton, Buckinghamshire, Lord Grenville entered into a political career in 1782, working his way from Speaker of the House of Commons to Home Secretary, then Leader of the House of Commons and Foreign Secretary, before becoming Prime Minister in 1806.

His first job as PM was to criticise members of Parliament for not having abolished slavery before and he proposed a bill – which was passed – to ban the slave trade in the name of ‘justice, humanity and social policy’.

He was a ‘courageous and passionate advocate for human rights and was a great opposer of slavery’, said the children in their presentation.

Lord Grenville passed away, aged 74, in 1834, his final resting place being a crypt inside St Peter’s Church which, over the years, had been mistakenly forgotten about.

When Reverend Janet Minkkinen began working at the church she discovered the error and approached St Peter’s CE School headteacher Tanya Morris to see if the two could work together to ‘do something about it’ and the idea of a memorial plaque was born.

“It’s not hidden anymore,” said Rev Minkkinen of Lord Grenville’s grave. “It’s brought out into the open and the children will take this with them as they grow and hopefully fight against slavery and injustice that is still rife in this world.”

Across the hour-long ceremony of readings, song and prayers, Bishop Wilson addressed the congregation before the newly-handcrafted plaque was laid.

He said: “A church is a time machine. There’s history in these walls, all over these walls.

“Being in this church gives you the chance to go back and learn from people who were here before us and think about their stories.

“William Grenville was known for ‘getting the best out of people’ and he was known for being a likeable person, someone whom others could trust. That’s why he was recommended for Prime Minister by King George. Sometimes you have to do the right thing. And that is what he did.”

Mrs Morris said: “The children felt a great sense of disappointment that the grave had been covered over and wanted to act. Reverend Janet was with us every step of the way and we knew we could do something together to make a change.”

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