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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

“AREA EIGHT”
IN THE WAR AGAINST HITLERISM
BEING AN ACCOUNT
OF THE CIVIL DEFENCE SEVICES AND A.R.P.
IN STROUD AND NAILSWORTH
By
P.R. SYMONDS
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
place.”
H.M. THE KING
PUBLISHED BY
THE STROUD (Urban and Rural) AND NAILSWORTH (Urban)
DEFENCE COMMITTEE
R.D.C. Chambers, John Street, Stroud
1945

WAR

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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Stroud Scarlet and the Iroquois

We all know of the cloth stretched out on tenterhooks
Around Stroud and the five valleys:
Stroud Scarlet, Uley Blue, Berkeley Yellow,
Out there in the newly enclosed fields;
Gate and fence and hedge and notice board,
Where once the land was walked by custom
And ‘Its only bondage was the circling sky’;
Where the high walls of dark satanic mills
Enclose handloom weavers and spinners
In a new bondage of the ticking clock,
As the scarlet and yellow broadcloth
Crosses the Atlantic archipelago,
To reach the Iroquois in their circling sky,
In the so-called Age of Reason
When rationality was equated with private property,
And racial hierarchy with Enlightenment.

Here are two texts to illustrate this linkage
Between Stroud, its valleys, and the Iroquois:
The first from the Iroquois leader, Joseph Brant,
Where he contrasts his homelands with England:

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The Gladstones at Gloucester

William Ewart Gladstone,
Late nineteenth century Liberal,
Principled opponent of imperialism,
According to some history books;
Serial chancellor of the exchequer,
Serial prime minister,
Son of John Gladstone
(MP for New Woodstock, Oxfordshire,
Courtesy of the Duke of Marlborough),
Found his father looking well, but tired,
When he visited his father in Gloucester.

John Gladstone’s pseudonym was ‘Mercator’.

William Ewart Gladstone’s maiden speech in parliament,
Would be a defence of the owners of enslaved peoples.

John Gladstone arrived in Gloucester in 1825,
Gradgrind wealthy,
Counting his profits:
Shipping interests in Liverpool,
Sugar plantations in the West Indies;
Counting his enslaved people:
2,508 men, women and children
in Jamaica and Demerara;
Rejoicing that revolt against enslavement
(On his plantations)
Had been viciously suppressed by the Stroud Scarlet army.

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Virtual Walking for Foodbanks

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #9-#13
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Wallingford to Cholsey
Sunday March the 15th

Beware the Ides of March – but I’m a long way from the tidal reach of the Thames – Wallingford Castle – High Street – Thames Street – St Leonards – a glimpse of the Chilterns in the distance – Littlestoke Ferry – the Papist Way – Ferry Lane – Cholsey – 5 miles.

Springtime on the Thames

When is spring not a spring?

When Edward Thomas went in pursuit of spring,
When spring’s advance was slower,
Compared with today’s two miles an hour,
In that so-called Golden Age before the Great War,
He hadn’t endured biblical floods,
And a seeming apocalyptic pandemic,
A pandemic that has arrived in this country
After a forty-year post-Thatcherite zeitgeist,
A zeitgeist that foregrounds charity,
And emphasizes individualism,
Rather than welfare state collectivism.

And the consequence of this zeitgeist?
Panic buying, hoarding, selfishness,
And a consequent diminution
In charitable donations,
Thereby indicating the fragile
Efficacy of charity …

The Guardian 11th March, Robert Booth, Social affairs correspondent:

‘Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.’

Patrick Butler, Social policy editor:

‘Mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who were reliant on welfare benefits.’ There has been ’69 cases of suicide linked to benefit issues in the last six years’.

How will Universal Credit/Universal Cruelty,
And the five-week wait help in this crisis?
When the Department for Work and Pensions
Reply to criticisms
Highlighted by the death of Errol Graham,
Who starved to death,
Has this sentence within:
‘We always seek to learn lessons where we can’.
‘Where we can’ …

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