Being John Thelwall

I first opened the pages of EP Thompson’s
Making of the English Working Class
On my 21st birthday in 1972:
It seemed to sit quite easily along
With the glass bottomed pewter tankard –
A traditional 21st father-son present back then:
Key of the door and welcome at the local too;
The glass bottom so I could see the King’s shilling,
And escape enlistment in some past imperial war –

The tankard now holds used paint brushes in the shed,
But the book sits on my shelf like a Bible:
But it wasn’t just the text that changed my life,
It was the picture on the cover of the labourer,
Foregrounded in late summer contentment,
Basket of blackberries, billy cock hat,
Puffing Billy, Locomotion, or some such,
Steaming and smoking along behind …

Like any sacred text, it is a product of its time,
But today, in 2019, I return to its pages,
Church bells ringing as I sit in the garden,
Hot on the trail of John Thelwall,
Like some government spy, checking the index,
To find, initially, this strange amalgam
Of Foucaultian-Augustan-Post Modernist-self-reflexive text:
Thelwall’s record of his Privy Council interrogation,
In the presence of no lesser personages
Than Prime Minister William Pitt,
The Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor …

I first opened the pages of EP Thompson’s
Making of the English Working Class
On my 21st birthday in 1972:
It seemed to sit quite easily along
With the glass bottomed pewter tankard -
A traditional 21st father-son present back then:
Key of the door and welcome at the local too;
The glass bottom so I could see the King’s shilling,
And escape enlistment in some past imperial war –

The tankard now holds used paint brushes in the shed,
But the book sits on my shelf like a Bible:
But it wasn’t just the text that changed my life,
It was the picture on the cover of the labourer,
Foregrounded in late summer contentment,
Basket of blackberries, billy cock hat,
Puffing Billy, Locomotion, or some such,
Steaming and smoking along behind …

Like any sacred text, it is a product of its time,
But today, in 2019, I return to its pages,
Church bells ringing as I sit in the garden,
Hot on the trail of John Thelwall,
Like some government spy, checking the index,
To find, initially, this strange amalgam
Of Foucaultian-Augustan-Post Modernist-self-reflexive text:
Thelwall’s record of his Privy Council interrogation,
In the presence of no lesser personages
Than Prime Minister William Pitt,
The Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor …

read more

Peterloo-Wiltshire Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt Walk

Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.

Chalk and Treason

To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.

So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.

To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
equality,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
to remember!
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.

Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.

Chalk and Treason

To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.

So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.

To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
equality,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
to remember!
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.
read more

Oakridge Walk February 23rd 2019

‘When vapours rolling down a valley
Made a lonely scene more lonesome’,
Wrote Wordsworth in The Prelude
Well, we weren’t lonely, a group of ten
Walking through early morning mists and fog,
Discussing enclosure of Oakridge common land,
A death-threatening letter for the squire,
Demeaning shouts of ‘Who stole the donkey’s dinner?’
Loud following him on his daily rounds
Past Lilyhorn Farm and Bournes Green.

A watery sun shone vaporous
As we stopped at a spectral crossroads,
Cogitating upon the Roman villa,
Down in the nearby fields of Bakers Farm,
Then processing Neolithic track-ways,
Past a field of sheep and hidden long barrow,
The sun now silvering the streams that run
Down to the Frome and thence to the Severn.

‘When vapours rolling down a valley
Made a lonely scene more lonesome’,
Wrote Wordsworth in The Prelude
Well, we weren’t lonely, a group of ten
Walking through early morning mists and fog,
Discussing enclosure of Oakridge common land,
A death-threatening letter for the squire,
Demeaning shouts of ‘Who stole the donkey’s dinner?’
Loud following him on his daily rounds
Past Lilyhorn Farm and Bournes Green.

A watery sun shone vaporous
As we stopped at a spectral crossroads,
Cogitating upon the Roman villa,
Down in the nearby fields of Bakers Farm,
Then processing Neolithic track-ways,
Past a field of sheep and hidden long barrow,
The sun now silvering the streams that run
Down to the Frome and thence to the Severn.

read more

No Barriers

No Barriers: In the Wake
A Game of Two Halves

First Half

So much of our language and discourse,
So many of our idioms and metaphors,
Have their provenance in our imperial past,
A maritime, sea faring history
(Slavery and buccaneers too),
The littoral not literal but figurative:
Figurehead, in the wake, becalmed, in the doldrums,
Above board, cut of one’s jib, even keel, foul up,
First rate, go overboard, groundswell, know the ropes,
Keelhauled, not enough room to swing a cat,
Overwhelm, pipe down, taken aback, take the wind out of your sails,
Three sheets to the wind, tide over, toe the line, true colours,
Try a different tack, under the weather,
Warning shot across the bow,
Windfall …

No Barriers: In the Wake
A Game of Two Halves

First Half

So much of our language and discourse,
So many of our idioms and metaphors,
Have their provenance in our imperial past,
A maritime, sea faring history
(Slavery and buccaneers too),
The littoral not literal but figurative:
Figurehead, in the wake, becalmed, in the doldrums,
Above board, cut of one’s jib, even keel, foul up,
First rate, go overboard, groundswell, know the ropes,
Keelhauled, not enough room to swing a cat,
Overwhelm, pipe down, taken aback, take the wind out of your sails,
Three sheets to the wind, tide over, toe the line, true colours,
Try a different tack, under the weather,
Warning shot across the bow,
Windfall …

read more

For the Love of a Chartist

PRESS RELEASE

FOR THE LOVE OF A CHARTIST

STROUD THEATRE FESTIVAL

Chartism was a working class movement of the 1830s and 40s that wanted to establish democracy in the country, at a time when only the aristocracy and middle class men had the vote.
It was based upon 6 points: the secret ballot so there could be no intimidation; payment of MPs so that working people could stand; same-size constituencies to prevent the old rural aristocracy lording it over the new industrial towns; ending the ownership of property rule to become an MP, so that working people could stand; votes for all men over 21 (there were Chartist groups in favour of votes for women even back then, however); annual parliaments so that governments would keep their promises.

All but one of these is now the law, of course, but you could easily end up in prison in Chartist times for supporting these ideas … lose your freedom, your job and home for wanting a democratic government…

It’s time to remember these freedom-fighters, and rescue them from what EP Thompson called, ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’.
And so this show – our counter-heritage rescuing of two special working people from the enormous condescension of posterity: George Shell of Newport and Charlotte-Alice Bingham of Stroud.

PRESS RELEASE

FOR THE LOVE OF A CHARTIST

STROUD THEATRE FESTIVAL

Chartism was a working class movement of the 1830s and 40s that wanted to establish democracy in the country, at a time when only the aristocracy and middle class men had the vote.
It was based upon 6 points: the secret ballot so there could be no intimidation; payment of MPs so that working people could stand; same-size constituencies to prevent the old rural aristocracy lording it over the new industrial towns; ending the ownership of property rule to become an MP, so that working people could stand; votes for all men over 21 (there were Chartist groups in favour of votes for women even back then, however); annual parliaments so that governments would keep their promises.

All but one of these is now the law, of course, but you could easily end up in prison in Chartist times for supporting these ideas ... lose your freedom, your job and home for wanting a democratic government...

It's time to remember these freedom-fighters, and rescue them from what EP Thompson called, 'the enormous condescension of posterity'.
And so this show - our counter-heritage rescuing of two special working people from the enormous condescension of posterity: George Shell of Newport and Charlotte-Alice Bingham of Stroud.

read more

STROUD RADICAL HISTORY: ALTERNATIVE HERITAGE WALK – Friday 18 May 2018

Two years ago an Alien landed in Nailsworth, unnoticed by the Stroud Valleys folk. Since its arrival after fifty years temporarily rooted on Planet Essex, this strange being has immersed itself in the Gloucestershire soil, attempting to make sense of its move here “for a change, and it ticked more boxes than anywhere else”.

See how a creature far from home has struggled with unfamiliar territory; intensively exploring its new homeland on foot, or by bicycle, guided by its ‘Ordnance Survey Explorer 168’, Gloucestershire ‘Pevsners’, and Wikipedia.

Join a naive explorer for a circular walk, as this being shares with you its Outsider Views on the Stroud Valleys heritage, as it attempts to blend-in with its new people.

Two years ago an Alien landed in Nailsworth, unnoticed by the Stroud Valleys folk. Since its arrival after fifty years temporarily rooted on Planet Essex, this strange being has immersed itself in the Gloucestershire soil, attempting to make sense of its move here “for a change, and it ticked more boxes than anywhere else”.

See how a creature far from home has struggled with unfamiliar territory; intensively exploring its new homeland on foot, or by bicycle, guided by its ‘Ordnance Survey Explorer 168’, Gloucestershire ‘Pevsners’, and Wikipedia.

Join a naive explorer for a circular walk, as this being shares with you its Outsider Views on the Stroud Valleys heritage, as it attempts to blend-in with its new people. read more

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?

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?

read more

Stroud Fringe Walk: Place, Space and Time

Beneath the pavement, the beach! For here we have a line of houses called Streamside, And up there, beyond the Fountain pub, Lies Springfield Road and a plethora Of constant, subterranean springs, Springs! The genius loci of Stroud …

We walked down Lansdowne, To cross the Slad Brook, at Mill House, In search of the edgelands, Puddles, brooks and panel beaters, Car dealers, buddleia, car parks and cinemas, Past the Dickensian Omar L. Cottle, Monumental mason, The nominative determinism of a park, Named after a Park, Past strange continuities in the street: The chemist’s on the corner, Where in 1872, A chemist by the name of Joseph Banks Campaigned for a farm workers’ trade union, And no more payment in truck: ‘In sterling money, not fat bacon …or a couple of swedes’,

Then to Badbrook and weavers’ riots, ‘We had been working ever longer time for ever cankered pennies all the year. Something needed doing. So we laid our shuttles and looms to rest and joined the Stroud Valleys Weavers Union. This is my true and faithful account. I cannot dissemble. The Good Book tells us that we should get our bread by the sweat of our brow. We had the sweat but no bread. What could we do?’

Beneath the pavement, the beach! For here we have a line of houses called Streamside, And up there, beyond the Fountain pub, Lies Springfield Road and a plethora Of constant, subterranean springs, Springs! The genius loci of Stroud …

We walked down Lansdowne, To cross the Slad Brook, at Mill House, In search of the edgelands, Puddles, brooks and panel beaters, Car dealers, buddleia, car parks and cinemas, Past the Dickensian Omar L. Cottle, Monumental mason, The nominative determinism of a park, Named after a Park, Past strange continuities in the street: The chemist’s on the corner, Where in 1872, A chemist by the name of Joseph Banks Campaigned for a farm workers’ trade union, And no more payment in truck: ‘In sterling money, not fat bacon …or a couple of swedes’,

Then to Badbrook and weavers’ riots, ‘We had been working ever longer time for ever cankered pennies all the year. Something needed doing. So we laid our shuttles and looms to rest and joined the Stroud Valleys Weavers Union. This is my true and faithful account. I cannot dissemble. The Good Book tells us that we should get our bread by the sweat of our brow. We had the sweat but no bread. What could we do?’

read more

Not Bad for a Village Team

Tranmere –
The name suggests a crossing of the waters,
A ferry across the Mersey,
A crossing of the River Rubicon,
Or for us, the River Thames –
On the 9.55 Football Poets Special,
Speeding through the Golden Valley,
Past Swindon’s railway works,
The Vale of the White Horse,
Then on through Sonning Cutting,
Sequestered Berkshire,
Suburban Middlesex,
Old Oak Common,
To Paddington.

Tranmere –
The name suggests a crossing of the waters,
A ferry across the Mersey,
A crossing of the River Rubicon,
Or for us, the River Thames –
On the 9.55 Football Poets Special,
Speeding through the Golden Valley,
Past Swindon’s railway works,
The Vale of the White Horse,
Then on through Sonning Cutting,
Sequestered Berkshire,
Suburban Middlesex,
Old Oak Common,
To Paddington.

read more

The Voyage of the Orestes to NSW, 1839 Spreadsheet

Voyage of the Orestes to NSW Stroudwater Assisted Emigrants.

With thanks to John Loosley for providing the information and Noah Griffiths for his work in providing these spreadsheets for further research.

Voyage of the Orestes to NSW Stroudwater Assisted Emigrants.

With thanks to John Loosley for providing the information and Noah Griffiths for his work in providing these spreadsheets for further research. read more