Jesse James and Kings Stanley

At first glance, any connection between Kings Stanley,
Near the Cotswold mill town of Stroud,
And Jesse James of Wild West infamy,
Would seem improbable, to say the least;
But I was told by Ade Blair
(with comments from Otto Didakt),
That Jesse James’ great-grandfather,
William James, was born in Kings Stanley in 1754,
‘And is buried in St George’s churchyard’,
Dying in 1805, the year of Trafalgar.

Seems improbable, it’s true,
For here we are in landlocked locked down Stroud,
A long way from the Atlantic Ocean,
And the ‘Wild Missouri’,
And yet …
Charles Mason of the Mason-Dixon Line,
Was born just down the River Frome in Sapperton;
An American historian believes that Edward Thache,
Aka ‘Blackbeard’, the notorious pirate,
Was born in Stonehouse;
The eighteenth century was an age
Of martial and maritime and slaving expansion,
Press gangs and ships’ crews,
And a busy River Severn just down the River Frome …
Stroud Scarlet cloth went all over the world,
The East India Company,
Traded with the Iroquois,
‘Strouds’ were traded deep within First Nation lands,
Way out west beyond the Missouri river;
Redcoats were out there, of course,
before and during the American Revolution
(Or American War of Independence as we were taught);
Bristol, the eighteenth century foremost slaving port,
Was just down the road and river;
The Atlantic Archipelago
Saw many migrants go west and saw some return –
So, it seemed quite conceivable, initially,
That William James went to America,
Only to return to die in Kings Stanley in 1805,
Having left a family way out west …

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Reimagining how the Railway Lies: Slavery Compensation

Reimagining how the Railway Lies

I live in Stroud,
Home of the arch commemorating the abolition of slavery,
An arch from 1834,
Standing near a comprehensive school,
By a busy main road to Gloucester;

We are rightly and justly proud of this in Stroud –
But, of course, quite a few owners of enslaved peoples
Lived around this town,
Not to mention Gloucester, Cheltenham,
Bath, Bristol and the rural south-west.

Slave owners received the equivalent in today’s values,
Of £17 billion;
Fully forty per cent of GDP in 1834;
Taxpayers only stopped paying the interest on this
In David Cameron’s premiership in 2015
(His family benefitted btw);

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Saul Junction Stream of Consciousness and a Hidden Colonial Landscape


The waters that run past Saul Junction,
And the Stroudwater Navigation,
On the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal,
Flow past Phillpott’s Warehouse and Bakers Quay,
And on past Gloucester Quays and High Orchard,
Above a submerged heart of darkness.

For down there in the muddied depths,
Lie the hidden profits of Thomas Phillpotts,
The plantation owner and slave owner,
And the hidden profits of Samuel Baker,
Merchant and slave owner,
Down there with the shackles and manacles.

Down there in the submerged heart of darkness,
Sits their slavery compensation treasure chest,
The bounty that paid for Bakers Quay,
And the development of High Orchard.

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Rodborough and Jamaica 1840

Rodborough and Jamaica, 1840:
Reimagining Peter Hawker

There are several strands and a good few facts
In this tale of Peter Hawker and Caroline Stephenson
Of this parish of Rodborough near Stroud.
But how did this tale come about?

Well, I thought I had compiled an accurate list
Of Stroud area residents who gained
So much ‘cankered coin’ from the abolition
Of slavery in the colonies;
I had carefully examined my alma mater
UCL database and thought I had bagged the lot.

But a few years later I came across:
AWARDEE Peter Hawker
Jamaica St Andrew 111 (Liberty Hall Pen) £699 17s 8d [26 enslaved]]
Absentee slave-owner by virtue
of his marriage to Caroline Stephenson
In Rodborough, Gloucestershire, 26/05/1823.
She was heiress of George Stephenson
of Liberty Hall, St Andrew, Jamaica.

I wonder what life was like for George Stephenson?
Well, in the footsteps of W.G. Sebald
And his ‘documentary fiction’,
I let the past speak for itself,
Courtesy of the pages of Jack P. Greene’s erudite tome,
Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism
in Eighteenth-Century Britain …

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Stroud and WW2

With a Preface by General Sir Hugh Elles, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.’
K.C.V.O.’ D.S.O.,
A Foreword by Bramwell Hudson, Esq., J.P.
And 34 Illustrations

“Your path of duty has been the way to glory
and amidst the glorious records of the war
the story of Civil Defense will take a high
THE STROUD (Urban and Rural) AND NAILSWORTH (Urban)
R.D.C. Chambers, John Street, Stroud


The first week of the war saw the arrival of 1,200 evacuees from Birmingham, the opening of public air raid shelters, the sandbagging of selected public buildings, the closure of cinemas, and the black-out, while ‘most people carried respirators, and there was a general air of expectancy.’

‘On Friday, November 10th, the first Preliminary Air Raid Warning, known as the “Yellow Warning,” was received at 11.20 a.m. Yellow Warnings were confidential warnings for A.R.P. Control, and were not for issue to the public, so that no sirens were sounded. On this occasion the warning message was passed up to a meeting of the R.D.C. Committee, that happened to be sitting, as several of the members were engaged in A.R.P. A year later, when the number of “Yellows” received amounted to an average of three a day, nobody would have even troubled to inform the Committee, but on this occasion (the first for this Area) the members picked up their respirators and left. (It is reported that the staff spent the rest of the morning gazing through windows at the sky watching for the approach of a German armada!)’

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A Pandemic Peripatetic

A Pandemic Peripatetic April 2021
Well, I am alone, self-isolating,
And here I must remain,
This kitchen window my prism,
Reflecting and refracting the sunlight,
But also, the past, present and future,
In a virtual peripatetic.

I start my imaginary journey
In Old yet New Corruption London,
Walking the words of Citizen John:
‘Thou, Commerce, too, monopolizing fiend!’,
Filling ‘The public streets with want’s afflictive plaint’,
Making my way to the Tower and the Old Bailey,
Picturing John Thelwall with his quill in Newgate:
‘Within the Dungeon’s noxious gloom
The Patriot still, with dauntless breast,in conscious virtue
The cheerful aspect can assume –
And smile – in conscious virtue blest!’

But, now ‘Let’s all go down the Strand!’,
To catch the words of Citizen John
(Study a poem and hear a Thomas Spence song, too),

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Fake Views

Trigonometry Points or Trickonometry Points?
The clue is in the name of course:
Ordnance Survey: Ordnance: artillery;
Survey: examine and record an area of land;

The clue is in the time as well as space:
The 18th and 19th centuries:
The formation of the United Kingdom,
When English and Hanoverian imperialism
Mapped the new Union Jack with redcoat ruler,
And with muskets and new names and mathematics,
With charts and furlongs and charters,
Enclosing common and custom
With a new and ruthless toponymy.

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