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The shadow of slavery hangs over the gilded life of Richard Drax

The hardline Tory Brexiter’s family made a fortune from their Caribbean plantations where thousands died. Now he faces urgent calls for reparations.

by Paul Lashmar and Jonathan Smith

Drive into Dorset on the A31 and you roll past a high brick wall butted up tight to the road that seems to go on for ever. Every so often it doglegs at a monolithic gateway crowned by either a lion or a stag. This is the “great wall of Dorset” that runs for three miles, contains some 2m bricks and shields Charborough Park from the outside world. The wall creates an air of foreboding about what might lie inside. This is home to Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset, who lives in the palatial Grade I-listed Charborough House, hidden from public view within the 283-hectare (700-acre) private grounds.

The park, with its outstanding garden and ancient deer park, is just a part of the 5,600 hectares of Charborough estate that makes Drax and his family the largest individual landowners in Dorset. The mainly 17th-century mansion, with its 36-metre (120ft) folly tower, is the model for Welland House in the Thomas Hardy novel Two on a Tower.

[…] But for all his wealth and power, there is a dark shadow hanging over Richard Drax – his family’s historical links with slavery in the plantations of the West Indies, which are now prompting mounting calls from former Caribbean colonies for reparations.

To continue reading on the Guardian website, December 12, 2020

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