The Ealing Council has given notice of its intention to rename Havelock Road – named after Henry Havelock, general in the colonial army involved in suppressing the 1857 Uprising – as Guru Nanak Road, inviting any objections to the move by November 21.
The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha is located on Havelock Road in Southall, which has long had a significant presence of people of Indian origin. The move announced in June elicited majority support for the proposal from residents who responded to the initial consultation.
The plan was announced in the context of the Black Lives Matter campaign, when London mayor Sadiq Khan called for a review of public spaces. The Southall process has now moved to a statutory consultation with the council issuing the notice under the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act, 1939.
The notice says: “Notice is hereby given that it is the intention of the council of the London borough of Ealing to make an order to: Assign the name Guru Nanak Road to that part of the highway between King Street and Merrick Road Southall (currently forming part of the highway known as Havelock Road, Southall)”.
The council said that the final decision will be taken in accordance with the street naming protocol, which confirms that any change proposal should “respect and balance cultural and historical identities, sensitivities, and heritage”.
Local stake-holders such as the Fire Brigade, Royal Mail and businesses directly impacted by the change will also be consulted. The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha was inaugurated by Prince Charles in March 2003.
Labour MP from Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, has welcomed the council’s decision: “I welcome the decision by Ealing Council to finally rename Havelock Road – decolonising our streets. As the MP for Ealing Southall and a councillor for 25 years before that I have often been ashamed the names of empire still pervade our streets”.
“I have long campaigned for schools to teach more about our Imperial past, not just the great strides made but also the shameful thuggery and violence, names like Havelock belong in books, classrooms and museums, not on the streets to be celebrated”.
“The community should come together to decide how we rename this road, but celebrating Guru Nanak Dev Ji in his 551th anniversary, and erasing a white man who killed Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, would be a sign of our multiculturalism and our diversity,” he added.
The consultation document says: “Ealing is home to the largest Sikh population outside of India and sited within Havelock Road, is the largest Sikh Gurdwara in western Europe. This year marks the 551st anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism”.
Julian Bell, leader of the Labour-controlled Ealing council, said while launching the initial consultation: “Our diversity is our strength and we need to make sure that our public realm, our statues, our road names, our buildings, reflect our diversity and do not reflect a frozen past where colonialism, racism and the slave trade were present and celebrated.”
“Havelock Road is where the largest Sikh gurdwara in western Europe is cited and as part of its 550-year celebrations of the birth of Guru Nanak this year, we want to make this name change to Havelock Road to Guru Nanak Road”.
“This will symbolise the huge contribution of our Sikh community in Ealing and also diversity as a borough, and also it will represent our unity as a borough too”.