Town councillors voted by a margin of one to reprieve a statue of controversial explorer HM Stanley, for now at least.

Denbigh town councillors had felt the need to discuss the future of the bronze cast of Henry Morton Stanley, who was born in the town, after Black Lives Matters demonstrations across the world forced a re-evaluation of all so-called colonial figures.

Stanley, born John Rowlands, was born fatherless in Denbigh in 1841 and put into the Asaph workhouse in nearby St Asaph.

He fought in the American Civil war, became a journalist and then a noted explorer – finding the source of the Nile, mapping central Africa’s Great Lakes and also the borders of the Congo.

Perhaps the most famous legend was his greeting to Dr David Livingstone, whom he successfully found after the Scottish explorer became lost in central Africa.

“Dr Livingstone, I presume” became synonymous with HM Stanley, but many historians thought this was a typical embellishment by a man born poor but who wanted to impress his rich paymasters.

He was a controversial figure because of links with Belgian King Leopold II, for whom he worked for a time.

The monarch committed acts of appalling inhumanity against the population of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Denbigh’s councillors met to discuss the future of HM Stanley’s statue, made by North Wales artist Nich Elphick, on Wednesday evening.

After a narrow 6-5 vote, which avoided the installation being removed as soon as possible, Mayor Cllr Gaynor Wood-Tickle, said: “This will go to public consultation.

“It’s got to be a democratic vote for the Denbigh people whether we like the outcome or not.

“That will go ahead when it is safe to do so.”

Councillors on both sides of the argument made passionate cases for the statue’s immediate removal or for the public to decide its future.

Representations from historians and authors flooded in from all interested parties, including Congolese historian Norbert Mbu-Mputu, who said Stanley was a “man of his time” and should not be viewed as an evil man.

There had been representations against having the statue sited in the town before it was installed in 2011 but it was nevertheless placed near the town’s library, where visitors and locals alike had pictures taken shaking Stanley’s outstretched hand.

Cllr Rob Parkes told the special meeting: “The legacy and history of Stanley are of a bygone age and one I feel very strongly the statue deserves to be in a museum, to give it the correct context it deserves.

“The decision that we make today will be noted on a global stage. It’s not very often you say that when you’re a lowly town councillor from Denbigh.

“The eyes of the world are watching us today and I think it’s incredibly important we make the right decision.

“I’m all for letting the people of Denbigh have their say.”

Cllr Catherine Jones proposed that members take the decision to remove it now, fearing it could drag on, but her motion was defeated and Stanley earned a reprieve – for now at least.

Earlier in the day St Asaph city councillors decided unanimously to keep an obelisk decorated with images celebrating the exploerer’s life, but to set up a working party to give the monument’s inscription more “historial context”.

It will fall, perhaps fittingly, to the people of Stanley’s home town to decide the fate of his memorial.