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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number

Chalford and the East India Company

Updated: Jul 7

Chalford has such a labyrinth of weavers’ walks and footpaths –
And on a mid-winter’s day, with plumes of smoke rising from Chalford Bottom
Mistletoe in the trees, light folded in envelopes of cloud,
It’s hard to imagine that this picturesque Cotswold village
Was once hand in glove with the East India Company,
As at Sevill’s Upper Mill,
Now a select residential development,
With the stream, now private and sequestered,
Between houses and a car park.

This landscape was once a fretwork of
‘Scarlet, Crimson, Blue and a variety of other delightful colours’,
A fretwork of profits and prices and exports and wages
And strikes and patterns of trade slumps and booms,
Linking the Thames and Severn Canal and the River Frome –
With the Ganges Valley, Bengal, Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Canton,
And with Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, the Marquess Wellesley,
And with muskets, cannon, Stroud Scarlet, slavery, opium, cotton, coffee and tea:
‘Gloucestershire seems to have had
almost the sole custom of the East India Company’.

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number 5

Stroud and strouds and the Atlantic Archipelago

Updated: Jul 5

From Stroud to Strouds:
The Hidden History of a British Fur Trade Textile
Cory Wilmott
Textile History Journal November 2005
These rough notes are derived from this article and this section of the article is derived from Samuel Rudder, 1779.
Stroud scarlet’s ‘inland trade’ also included cloth sold to merchants who sold the cloth to ‘our colonies and other foreign markets’.
These merchants included those in London and Bristol.
Cloth also clad the British army and was also sold to the East India Company.
Questions derived from reading this article:
1. The article focusses upon the fur trade. But if we go beyond the confines of this article and think. Cloth went to ‘our colonies’. London and Bristol were the chief slaving ports involved in the triangular trade in southern England.
2. It would be counter-intuitive to think Stroud cloth wasn’t involved with the slave trade.
3. Turnpike to Bristol? Colin Maggs in The Nailsworth and Stroud Branch: ‘…cloth manufacturers found their trade hampered by the high cost of road transport to ships at Gloucester and Bristol. It is recorded that in 1763 Daniel Ballard ran stage waggons to both these ports’.
4. Stroudwater Navigation to the Severn and thence to Bristol? Thames & Severn Canal and then the Thames to London?
5. We need empirically minded historians with the time to research the unique archive of the Stroudwater Navigation. See the prose-poem below:

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number Four

Decolonising Gloucestershire’s Landscape

Gloucester Docks:
Revealing a hidden Colonial Landscape and Waterscape

It was pouring February rain,
When I visited Gloucester Docks:
The Severn was swollen and turbid,
But the bell of the Atlas was silent
In the strengthening Severn wind;
The Atlas, a voyager to China and India –
For the East India Company,
The plaque told us on the warehouse wall –
But no mention of slavery, war or opium
(Standard East India Company practice),
Or the Stroudwater-East India Company nexus;

The Maritime Walk, as it is termed,
Takes you on past Phillpott’s Warehouse,
And the unmentioned Thomas Phillpotts:
Owner of some seven hundred enslaved people,
Nearly three hundred of whom were shared ‘investments’
With Samuel Baker of Bakers Quay fame;
Samuel Baker of Lypiatt Park, near Stroud,
Paid £7,990 compensation
For 410 slaves in Jamaica.

The compensation paid to slave owners in 1834,
Is close to £17 billion in today’s values,
Fully forty per cent of the national budget back then,
The interest on which we have only just ceased paying –
This gives a hint to the bounty paid to Baker and Phillpotts,
A bounty that led to the development
of Baker’s Quay, and High Orchard,
The locus of Gloucester’s industrial revolution;

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number 1

A comparison of Island Man and Limbo with a formal piece of writing as an assessment, if wanted. There then follows a piece about Rodborough. Obviously, this guide is written for a very mixed audience. Please adapt to suit. You are all very different!

Firstly, download a copy of Island Man by Grace Nicholls and Limbo by Edward Kamau Brathwaite. (There are copies below, if required, after all the questions.)

Read Island Man three times. The first time without making any notes. Just get the gist. After the second reading, try to write a two or three sentence summary of the meaning of the poem. After the third reading, make some annotations on your poem or notes on another page, with responses to the prompts below. Or if you feel confident, then just think these questions through or discuss them.

  • What happens in lines 1-10?
  • What happens in lines 11-19?
  • How do the descriptions vary between London and the Caribbean?
  • How is the language a bit dreamlike?
  • How is the poem irregular in structure? Why do you think this is?
  • What emotions and outlooks on life do you find in the poem?
  • NOW WRITE DOWN TWO OR THREE WORDS OR PHRASES FROM THE POEM. Explain why you have chosen these.
  • What do you read into the title?
  • What is interesting about the first line?
  • Can you find a metaphor?
  • Which senses feature in the poem?
  • What do you read into the last line?
  • Find out about the poet, Grace Nichols, with a quick internet search. GCSE Bitesize might still have this poem up in the English (Literature) area.
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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #7

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust

In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

Oxford to Abingdon 11 miles

A swollen, turbid, fast flowing river; blackthorn blossom; osiers, rushes and willows half-drowned; many trees down with the recent storms. Flooded mediaeval water meadows; rain at twilight.

I had companions today, including a food bank volunteer for Stroud. Here are some observations from a weekly commitment:

‘Stroud Foodbank has two outlets in Stroud town and a few others in the District. I help run the Nailsworth one. We don’t have much demand, so we don’t have weekly drop-in sessions in a centre. But, of course, there are some individuals in our little town who can benefit from what the Foodbank offers. They can contact the Foodbank office and obtain a voucher through the usual channels, and we arrange a Foodbank delivery to their home.’

‘I volunteer at Stroud Foodbank on Fridays, usually this is the busiest session of the week. We never know who might turn up on the day. We have a wide range of customers. A few we see every now and then who have longer term issues, others are just one-offs, caught out by temporary problems – job losses, benefit delays, health issues, work with unreliable hours etc.’

‘Although we are there mainly to help them with food parcels, we try to engage with our clients on other matters. Our experience is that the local agencies work well together, but we check that our clients haven’t slipped through the net regarding other help that could be out there for them.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #6

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Newbridge to Oxford 14 miles
The Windrush joins the Thames at Newbridge,
Flowing beneath the elegant Taynton stone bridge,
Once a port of call for honeyed Burford quarried stone
On its way to Oxford and London,
As well as a defeat for the Parliamentarians …
Yet today,
So many swans gliding on the waters,
So close to King Charles’ Oxford,
With their mute depiction of feudal hierarchy:
These birds are for monarchs old and new, not
‘Yoemen and husbandmen and other persons of little reputation’;
A heron interrupted the flow of my thoughts downstream
To Hart’s Weir footbridge – more English quaintness:
The weir has gone, but a right of way remains to Erewhon;
Then Northmoor Lock, before reaching literary Bablock Hythe:
Matthew Arnold’s scholar-gypsy,
‘Oft was met crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt’s rope chops round’;
None of that now at the Ferryman Inn and its chalet purlieus,
Instead a meander inland before returning to the waters
At Pinkhill Weir, before another short roadside detour,
And a boatyard and chandlers and a stride to Swinford Bridge
(Swine-ford),
Where feudalism and modernity meet:
A toll bridge, built at the behest of the Earl of Abingdon in 1777,
Where a company still charges drivers today
(But not pedestrians!),
Then on to the now invisible Anglo-Saxon cultural importance
Of Eynsham, and Eynsham Lock,
Evenlode Stream and King’s Lock
(King denoting kine),
Underneath the Ox-ford by-pass
(You’ve heard its constant roar for over an hour),
To Godstow: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’;
‘The use of detectors is strictly forbidden’;

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