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Remembering Stroud’s Conscientious Objectors from WW1

‘How do you prove you have a conscience?’

You came to me via a pdf,
Out of the blue,
Via a Facebook message,
On a hot afternoon in late July,
With names, occupations, addresses and ages –
A bit like a census, in a strange way:
Official, bald, and bureaucratic
In your modernity,
No telegrams today.

Eighteen conscientious objectors
Whose courage, principles and politics,
Whose ethics, morals and steadfastness
Enabled them to stand up against the crowd,
In those heated days before and after July 1916,
And before and after November 1918.

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Harvest Festivals and Changing Times

Times change don’t they?

“Are there no prisons?”
“Are there no workhouses?”
Asked Mr. Scrooge back in the decade
Known as ‘The Hungry Forties”,
When asked to assist with charity,
A charity that was mostly Christian rather than secular.

Times change don’t they?
‘’We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
And it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand’…
I grew up singing that as a schoolboy,
Not knowing then, that it was a hymnal retort
To Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species
Times change don’t they?

And when I sang that as a schoolboy,
We collected and distributed the fruits of the harvest
To senior citizens in the area,
Many, I suspect, widowed in the Great War,
And our posh head-teacher would not allow
Anything as common as tinned food
To sully the cornucopia in the hall,
Times change don’t they?

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Walking from Scottsquar Hill to Painswick and to Stroud

Prologue:

Stuart
I want to visit this spring in Painswick tomorrow. Have you ever been there? 10. St Tabitha’s Well (SO 867 097).  Issues from the roadside halfway down Tibbywell Lane which leads to the mill in the valley bottom. A simple stone spout pours water into a small pool which then drains away under some stone slabs. The street name is an intriguing derivative of the well’s name! And here is a bit about st Tab. Also known as Dorcas!

Commemorated on October 25
St. Tabitha was a virtuous and kindly woman who belonged to the Christian community in Joppa. She was known for her good deeds and almsgiving. Having become grievously ill, she suddenly died. At that time, the Apostle Peter was preaching at Lydda, not far from Joppa. Messengers were sent to him with an urgent request for help. When the Apostle arrived at Joppa, Tabitha was already dead. On bended knee, St. Peter made a fervent prayer to the Lord. Then he went to the bed and called out, “Tabitha, get up!” She arose, completely healed (Acts 9:36). St. Tabitha is considered the patron saint of tailors and seamstresses, since she was known for sewing coats and other garments (Acts 9:39).

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Oral History and Walking

ONE: DISCOVERY

An invitation to participate in a seminar held by the Oral History Society in September 2017, based on some work from thirteen or so years before, got me thinking about oral history and differing walking practices. Obviously, many people record their walks – but I wanted to seek examples of projects and ideas beyond that admittedly admirable practice.

So I joined the Walking Artists Network and introduced myself with a question: I wondered if any walking artists carried out oral history projects as part of their approach. Some examples follow, but first I thought I might outline my experiences and ideas.

The work which was so well regarded was for www.irespect.net – the website seems a bit creaky now, but my perspective was that the lives of ordinary people were as necessary to any transmission of ‘Heritage’ as the lives of the powerful: a form of ‘Counter-Heritage’, in a way. I also put together a whole series of worksheets and lesson plans for schools. What I/we haven’t done is to walk the streets of Gloucester, using those testimonies and questions for walking and discussion: the great thing about devising questions with testimonies is that it stops those oral testimonies becoming inert. The questions promote engagement – that is especially so, of course, with young people.

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Springs: from Research to Blake to Oral History

Richardson: Wells and Springs of Gloucestershire, HMSO,1930 Introduction:

  1. Between Dursley and Dudbridge few springs issue; some of the more reliable are used for the supply of Coaley and King’s Stanley…”

  2. In the Nailsworth, Horsley and Avening Valleys…copious springs break out, such as at Gig Mill, Millbottom, the Coldwell Spring, those at the Midland Fishery in the Horsley Valley, in the grounds of “Pensile”, and in the vicinity of Longfords Mills up the Avening Valley.”

  3. Up the Frome Valley, above Stroud, is the powerful Clerk’s Flour Mill Spring…the springs at Bliss Mills, the “Black Gutter,” etc., and the considerable store of water in the Cotteswold Sands which furnished the original supply (by means of wells) of the Stroud Water Company.”

  4. If it had not been for the presence of the Fullers’ Earth, the greater part of the Cotteswold upland would have been void of villages, isolated farms and cottages…Kingscote, Nymphsfield, Avening, Minchinhampton, Sapperton, Edgeworth, Chalford, Bisley…”; the juxtaposition of Fullers’ Earth and the Great Oolite has been a fundamental determinant of settlement patterns.

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Bristol: Clichéd Football; Radical History

Temple Meads via Swindon, 14 quid?
Temple Meads via Gloucester, only 7?
Well, that meant a ride through the warehouse edgelands,
And the buddleia rusting railway lines to Gloucester
(‘YES MATE’, as it said under the bridge),
But there was time enough for a trip down football’s memory lane
With a Swindon fan at Stroud:
‘No football at Ebley, now, look.
Nothin’.
Nothin’ at Ebley anymore’
I said I was off to watch Derby at Bristol City,
And he recalled
Swindon beating Derby one nil,
November 5th 1968:
‘Best Bonfire Night I ever had.’
We talked of FGR:
‘You be careful at Forest Green on Friday.
I know about 200 Swindon fans will be at the FGR end.’
‘I know mate. I’ll be one of them. With my red and white scarf.’
He looked at me with new and slightly befuddled admiration.
He slapped me on the back:
‘Fair play on ya, mate. Fair play.’

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Bristol Doors Open Days

Bristol Doors Open Days
The Merchants’ Hall
indocilis pauperiem pati
‘One who cannot learn to bear poverty’

What did I learn about our ‘Island Story’
On a squally September rain-swept day,
At the Merchants’ Hall, and Redcliffe Caves?
Well, we formed an orderly queue at the Hall,
Bantering with the pinstriped beadle,
Before our guide escorted us to the hall,
Where our talk began.

It was informative, in a manner of speaking:
The chandeliers are cleaned every two years!
Sixty-eight people can sit at this table!
When a speaker addresses an audience here,
The chairs are moved to face the front!
Princess Anne likes the Merchant Venturers!
Here are pictures of the docks in the 18th century!
(No mention yet…)
Royal Charters galore!
Portraits galore!
One day there will be a woman on the wall!
And a female ‘Master’ of the Society,
And she shalt have the title of ‘Master’!
The voice went on about the Society’s charitable enterprises,
I glanced at a couple of their annual reports:
‘New Schools’ Trust Offers Diversity’
(Conventional trope of girl in a science lab.),
More stuff on academies, residential care for the elderly,
‘Social business’ (sic), almshouses,
The ownership of Clifton Downs,
‘Although some 460 years old, the Society
is fresh and full of vigour and purpose’;
‘ … The Society and Bristol prospered. Trading patterns changed
over the centuries, with the later years marked
by the appalling period of slave trading in the 18th century.’
It all felt a bit Kafkaesque,
An arcane, shadowy world of ruling class disinformation …
Where philanthropy and charity
Obscures the hierarchy of ruling class control…

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