Dennis Severs’ House

It’s like History on Acid,
A Raphael Samuel Magical Mystery Tour,
Not Seven Rooms of Gloom,
But ten rooms which haunt and hex:
The dead still alive,
Watching us trip through space and time,
Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard outside,
Peering through the window panes,
Observing us in our candle-lit dream,
Clocks ticking away the century
Until it’s the time for Jacob Marley
To makes his visitation and warning,
Not just to Ebenezer Scrooge,

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The Glade

In The Glade

Anne Creed has transformed the derelict waste land off Nelson Street into a place of beauty, special to many. A broken piece of roofing slate on the corner of the Golden Fleece carved with the word glade in Tom Perkins style marks the entrance and points to the cracked pool table inscribed with ‘Song’ by Ivor Gurney.

Only the wanderer knows England’s graces

Or can anew see clear familiar faces

And who loves joy as he who dwells in shadows

Do not forget me, quite, O Severn meadows

Gurney wrote it on the Western Front in the spring of 1917 before the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) where he was gassed. Broken in two, the slate was dumped in a skip. The break could represent the breakup of Europe in the First World War or the subsequent break down of his mental health.

“No it’s the River Severn,” a friend said.

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River Map

Mapping the River Frome along its course from where it rises near Nettleton, to just before it joins the River Severn, RiverMap uses a simplified, easy to follow, linear form familiar to anyone who has used mass transport in major cities and which was initiated on London’s Underground system.
Whereas most maps indicate places and topography, this map also examines the responses of individuals to the landscape offering subjective evaluations and responses to ‘place’.
The contrast between an essentially ‘urban mapping form’ and a map examining the rural environment was intended to create a new approach to looking at and ‘seeing’ this special landscape.
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Canal Life

Canal Life by Jon Seagrave.

OK, let’s start with the pretty picture. You can imagine it: pale winter sun and a light mist rising from the still water; the air perfumed with the sweet sulphur of coal-smoke, curling in slow wreaths across the frosted towpath. An early morning cyclist creaks through the stillness, past the endless, jumbled line of colourful boats, roofs piled high with flower-pots and bicycles, firewood and coal-sacks. A black flag hangs limply from a cane. Somewhere an ancient Lister engine coughs into life, a slow, erratic chug, as someone gets ready for a pre-breakfast move. It’s like a tiny town, transient and ever-shifting. No grid electricity. No mains water. Just one long street…

There’s lots of mornings just like that. They help you keep going.

So I lived on the canal. This was something that was bound to happen at some point, what with canals being edge places, and- without getting too Will Self about it- I’m deeply attracted to edge places. They’re somehow ingrained in my psyche; a youth spent exiled on the Outer London suburban margins seems to have stained me indelibly, however much I longed to escape it at the time. Adult me just can’t walk through a nice, juicy transitional interzone without getting all worked up. I’m hot for a liminal hotspot, and few places flaunt this status more brazenly than the canal.

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Before The Luddites

Before the Luddites Custom, community and machinery in the English woollen industry, 1776-1809

Adrian Randall CUP

This wonderful book opens with an exploration of the pejorative use of the term ‘Luddites’ – they were right weren’t they? Wages did fall and goods could deteriorate – and how they ‘could little have imagined the linguistic legacy they were to bequeath to posterity.’ Randall points out that a focus upon direct action – rioting and so on – does not ‘accentuate’ the ‘atypical’: ‘riots often provide historians with our only point of access’ into the past values, attitudes and traditions of custom-held rights. And this point of access reveals that ‘Resistance to machinery was multiform … peaceful petitioning, appeals to the courts … negotiations … strike action, intimidation and riot.’ Randall shows how this resistance echoed 18th century Gloucestershire food riots – ‘Just as food riots reveal order, discrimination and a clear moral economy, so do the community-based riots against the jenny and scribbling machine.’

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Save The Sub-Rooms!

‘In short, sir, you have it in a nutshell.
Where would Stroud be without it?’

We live in such divided times that anything that unites us is to be admired,
And just as a nation can be divided, so a town can be divided in so many ways:
Hefts can build up based on social class, or ethnicity, or politics, or education,
Or for so many whatever varied reasons,
As people find and accentuate commonality,
And whilst Stroud and the Five Valleys is not exactly ‘Town and Gown’,
It can feel a bit like Disraeli’s Two Nations at times:

‘Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets.’

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‘For the rain it raineth every day’:

Floods in the Slad Road when it raineth every day,

Springs and streams racing down five valleys

When the rain it raineth every day.

But drought can bring its own problems too:

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