A People’s History of Stroudwater 1

A MISCELLLANY OF HISTORY

A TEXTUAL WEAVING OF A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES

A TEXTUAL SAMPLER

The inspiration for this endeavour came from Workshop of the World Raphael Samuel Edited by John Merrick Verso 2024

‘The orthodox account of the industrial revolution concentrates on the rise of steam power and machinery, and the spread of the factory system … But if one looks at the economy as a whole rather than at its most novel and striking features, a less orderly canvas might be drawn – one bearing more resemblance to a Breugel or even a Hieronymus Bosch than to the geometrical regularities of a modern abstract. The industrial landscape would be seen to be full of diggings and pits, as well as tall factory chimneys. Smithies would sprout in the shadows of the furnaces, sweatshops in those of the looms. Agricultural labourers might take up the foreground, armed with sickle or scythe, while behind them troops of women and children would be bent double over the ripening crops in the field, pulling charlock, hoeing nettles, or cleaning the furrows of stones. In the middle distance there might be navvies digging sewers and paviours laying flags. On the building sites there would be a bustle of man-powered activity, with housepainters on ladders, and slaters nailing roofs. Carters would be loading and unloading horses, market women carrying baskets of produce on their heads; dockers balancing weights. The factories would be hot and steamy, with men stripped to the singlet, and juvenile runners in bare feet. At the lead works women would be carrying pots of poisonous metal on their heads, in the bleachers’ shed they would be stitching yards of chlorine cloth, at a shoddy mill sorting rags. Instead of calling his picture ‘machinery’ the artist might prefer to name it ‘toil’.

 

While here in Stroudwater …

 There are hedges and fences and stiles and gates and streams and rivers and hills and valleys and springs and canals and railway lines and sidings and bridges and viaducts and locks and sluices and water wheels and chimneys and mills and farms and smoke and steam and iron and brass and copper and coal and barges and farms and fields and pasture and corn and barns and byres and carts and coaches and cobbles and candles and inns and cottages and mansions and lanes and houses and streets and stone and brick and scaffolding and hustle and bustle and strikes and riots and truck and hustings and turnpikes and tolls and mileposts and church and chapel…

And what individuals do we see in this panorama?

A yoeman, husbandman, shepherd, fuller, dyer, tucker, shearman, scribbler, card-maker, merchant, mercer, chandler, innkeeper, victualler, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, maltster, miller, apothecary, barber, vintner, attorney, surgeon, tanner, carter, shoemaker, glover, skinner, haberdasher, tailor, hatter, staymaker, mason, thatcher, plasterer, glazier, carpenter, cooper, smith, pewterer, grazier, copyholder, herdsman, farm labourer, drover, dairymaid, forester, knocker-up, spinner, weaver, bargee, navvy, rat catcher, mole catcher, tramp, itinerant, vagrant, vicar, curate, constable, overseer, judge, magistrate, doctor, brewer, servant, apothecary, governess …

 And there’s Colonel Wolfe with quill and parchment in 1756:

‘The people are so oppressed, so poor and so wretched, that they will, perhaps, hazard a knock on the pate for bread and clothes. The poor half-starved weavers … beg about the country for food … the masters have beat down their wages too ow to live upon, and I believe it is a just complaint. Those who are most oppressed have seized the tools and broke the looms of others who would work if they could.’ He thought that the main benefit that would accrue from his visit to Stroudwater would be the number of recruits he would garner from the ranks of the young unemployed …

 

And is that Paul Hawkins Fisher in the throng with his pen and diary, scribbling thus …:

‘1770 A stage coach for passengers and mails ran between Stroud and London twice a week. It started from Stroud and vice versa early in the morning and arrived at its destination in the evening of the next day. The route was by way of Oxford, and the rendezvous in London was the Bull and Mouth, Holborn. 1779 A man named PEGLER was branded in the hand at Gloucester for an offence against the law; this is said to be the last case of the kind on record.  1780 A coach, called a “diligence” came from Gloucester to Stroud every Friday. 1781 A stage-coach left Stroud in the evening and arrived in London the following evening, performing the journey in 24 hours.  1784 A narrow stone bridge was erected across the brook at Badbrook. Soon afterwards came a narrow bridge of wood with handrails for foot passengers. Prior to this there was a ford for horses and carriages and carts, and foot passengers crossed on stepping stones. 1786 The last bull fight with dogs in Stroud took place at the Cross.’

 

And here are questions about how this project might develop:

Hello Stuart

Do you want contributors to write in a factual way i.e., describing a scene or a job as it would have happened at a particular time? Or do you want people to imagine they are for example a 19th cloth worker and describe their day? Or do you want them to write about true experiences of themselves or their ancestors?I guess all of these?Your example describes a very detailed industrial scene with lots going on! I think this might be quite challenging for the ordinary person (not an experienced writer). So – are you looking for people who already have a talent for writing, which is fine, or contributions from “ordinary” folk. If you would like the latter then I think it would be helpful to give a couple more examples of possible contributions which might be a bit easier to understand?Apologies if I have not quite understood exactly how this will work. It sounds a great idea.

Best wishes

Vicki  (SHG)

Dear Stuart

I have made a start with my contribution to your Stroud Valleys “word” tapestry.I am seeing it as four pieces of a patchwork quilt – with brief glimpses of weavers and stone-masons from the late 1600s onwards, followed by the development of the beer industry and malt-making and the construction of new roads, turnpikes  and the work of the toll-gate-keepers.

“In the late 1600s my Stroud ancestors were weavers.  

Weaving was then a cottage industry, with the continuous clack of looms filling the air and whole families at work.  While wives were busy washing and drying fleeces, children sat patiently carding the wool into fluffy cocoons ready to be spun into skeins.  Husbands and fathers then set up the warp and worked the weft.  The huge looms, with heddles and shuttles always at the ready, would have filled a whole room in many a cramped honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottage.  

Stroud became famous for its scarlet cloth, used to make coats proudly worn by numerous regiments of soldiers, including the Grenadier Guards.  The surrounding fields would have been full of lengths of red broadcloth hung out on tenter hooks to be dried and stretched to the required width in the fresh air and sun.

By 1830, the town was the centre of the clothing trade, with mills every few hundred yards on every river. In the census of 1821 the parish had 7,097 inhabitants.

I hope this is the kind of think you were thinking of.

It certainly is, Penny, and your completed piece will appear in the next chapter or two of this

MISCELLLANY OF HISTORY’S

TEXTUAL WEAVING OF A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES

Berkeley Walk July 16

Times were hard in the early nineteenth century for country people, with the effects of the war with France, enclosures, the Corn laws, the Game Laws and the high-handed attitude of some landowners. This led to events in our county that resulted in 4 young men losing their lives, others being transported and families left destitute. Join us for a fascinating walk on 16th July as we explore the Berkeley Poaching Affray of 1816, an intriguing and truly tragic rather than romantic tale. We suggest meeting at 10.30am in Berkeley on Marybrook Street which is between the 2 public car parks. We shall take a walk through Berkeley and into open country, exploring the story and its relevance to the present day and approaching the site of the affray itself. On our return we may be treated to tea at Dr Jenner’s House –  he and his nephew both having had some involvement. Bring some lunch, some water, and appropriate footwear. We hope to see you there.

Happy Thursday Evening 2024

Happy Thursday Evening 2024

It must have been 1965,
We were having a lunchtime kick-about.
‘It’s Good News Week’ by Hedgehoppers’ Anonymous
Was playing on someone’s transistor
Just behind the goal nearest the school,
Someone was puffing out on the wing,
And crossed hopefully towards the edge of the box,
Where I had strayed, and where I stood,
Predicting the precise path of the ball.
It came, as anticipated, at waist height:
I leapt from the ground before the ball’s arrival,
Levitating horizontally a metre up in the air,
To meet the ball on the volley,
And send it hurtling into the top left hand corner.
I landed on the ground, elated,
It was the best goal I had ever scored,
A perfect harmony of prediction, execution and ambience,
And it was all so perfect that I didn’t even celebrate,
I just stood there in a Zen state of bliss,
Knowing that such an immaculate conception
Only happens once in A Good News Week Lifetime.

But tonight, nearly sixty years later,

At walking football at Stratford Park,

The ball came to me twenty yards from goal;

I hit it with the outside of my boot,

Creating a perfectly accurate curve,

That saw the ball travel towards Selsley Common,

And then arc through the midsummer sunlight,

In the direction of Cashes Green’s chip shop.

The goalkeeper, as they say, quite rightly,

Stood rooted to the spot, caught unawares.

No one could have predicted this parabola.

I raised my right arm in quiet triumph.

Team mates and opposition alike

Praised the perfection of the execution

With shouts that rose to the very skies.

It was, once more, a moment of Zen bliss.

‘I can still do it,’ I said, ‘on occasions.’

Nick replied: ‘It’s never gone away.’

As T.S. Eliot might have commented,

If he’d been playing last night:

‘We shall not cease from exploring.

And the end of all our scoring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.’

Stone Carving Workshops

Stone carving workshops

In the sanctuary at the Long Table

 Tuesday mornings throughout July

[no charge, except a request for charity sponsorship]

https://ride.myeloma.org.uk/james-pentney

 

Carving stone has been fundamental to human communication throughout history. One becomes engrossed in the work as we express ourselves with mallet and chisel. Creative on many levels, yet the tools needed are simple and portable, every part of a hand carved stone is the result of a ‘direct human process rooted in language, design and making’. This workshop is to initiate, support people and develop the skills by carving a lost haiku.

 

 

The wildlife illustrator and haiku poet, Paul Russell Miller, once asked the leading stone carver Tom Perkins what he would do if he did not have to work on commissions.

“Haiku,” Tom replied.

… Twentieth century haiku comes in many shapes and sizes… Its traditional form consists of a single seventeen-syllable line when written in Japanese or three lines of five, seven and five syllables for its English equivalent. Most of these minuscule poems were once inspired by moments of insight into the natural world, but increased urbanisation, selfie culture and virtual reality of various kinds are causing this focus to shift.

Haiku originated in Japan, where its roots can be traced back over a thousand years through the structure and content of earlier verse types as well as in the world views of Shinto and Buddhism. It’s ‘modern’ era began with the work of Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694), a revered figure whose literary status in his home country is comparable to that of Shakespeare over here.

Following the opening-up of Japan in the late nineteenth century, writers from several countries discovered then started to translate or experiment with haiku, but the very particular climate of post-war 1950s America eventually proved the most conducive for its growth and spread. Today, haiku is a truly international poetic genre.

Written in an ever increasing number of countries and different languages and represented online and off by a wide variety of groups, events and publications.  (PRM)

Our first haiku on the canal appeared on an upright sleeper beside the towpath between Bow Bridge and Griffin Mill.

    

 

What joy to receive

                    from each towpath dragonfly

                 it’s dismissive glance

 

For Paul a haiku must contain a reference to nature.

“Haiku can change the world,” he once said. Steady-on Paul I thought. What he meant was if we all had haiku awareness and respect for nature it would totally change the way the world is treated.

‘The heron’s lung’ was left twice on the Daneway, and twice disappeared!

 

Among evening reeds

                  the young heron’s lunge again

             brings gentle nodding

 

Walk the Wall July 20

Stroud District Palestine Solidarity Campaign Walk the Wall
Saturday 20th July 2024 10am

5.2km walk from Wallbridge, over Rodborough Common ending at Brimscombe

Return is either by Bus 67 from Brimscombe Corner or return to Wallbridge along the canal.

Refreshments are available from The Long Table, The Ship Inn or The Felt Inn Insights about effects of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian

land shared along the way.

Moderately challenging: Walkers need to be fit for a climb onto the Common – dress appropriately Contact pscstroud@protonmail.com with any enquiries. https://tinyurl.com/2btzdkfr to book a place

A People’s History: Desacralisation of the Landscape

Ye 17th Century Prologue

The Reformation and Desacralisation of the Landscape

 ‘This book, Inhabiting the Landscape, Place, Custom and Memory (Chapter 2, Religious Topographies) by Nicola Whyte is the only source that I have come across that deals with this in any depth, and while it’s expensive unless you’re lucky, it seems that Google will let you read the relevant chapter. World of Books produced a really cheap copy, but only after having it on a list for many months. Nicola Whyte is now at Exeter University, and it’s worth looking her profile up, as her area of interest is so “right on”.

But perhaps I should summarise…

Following the accession of Edward VI in 1547, Protestant reformers turned their attention to the superstitious beliefs and practices of ordinary people by attacking and destroying the visual imagery and ritualistic culture of parish communities across the country, which continued under Elizabeth and later the Puritans. There’s an argument that Catholic rites became transposed into folk rituals that were tolerated and,  as such, eased the transition from a Catholic to a Protestant society. The changes were not just to churches and the way they were used, but also to a very wide range of holy sites. Between 1530 and 1550 the infrastructure of the late medieval landscape was drastically altered, especially by the suppression of monastic institutions and the closure of pilgrimage centres. In a religious society, many areas of practical, mundane existence were infused with sacred connotations, so, as people worked in the fields, their lived environment was a context for beliefs, far beyond the confines of church and churchyard. In the late medieval period individuals and communities were engaged in ostentatious displays of their religiosity, which led to parishes with more than one church, sometimes adjacent, and outlying chapels too. The nature of faith meant the accumulation of wealth was not prominent, and charitable works as well as legacies that might lessen the time spent in purgatory was a significant thing to do. Popular belief in the intercessionary role of the saints helped to sustain a dense network of sacred sites and produced a landscape defined by ritual movement, linking pilgrimage and monastic sites with a host of minor sites, such as holy wells, parish, monastic and private manorial chapels, hermitages and local churches. Chantry chapels were built on or adjacent to churchyards or were found within the church, where a priest would pray to reduce a person’s time in purgatory, if they had been suitably endowed. The less wealthy might do this by belonging to a guild or fraternity. There were a number of poor monastic houses, nunneries, chapels, hospitals (for pilgrims) hermitages and cells in the landscape. Bridges were a distinctive feature of Christian theology, representing the role of Christ, bishops and popes as intermediaries of God. As a result there were many chapels and hermitages on bridges. Donations were both to the priest, for prayer, but also served the important function of upkeep for the bridge: the benefit to the community being a benefit to one’s own spiritual life (as in time spent in purgatory): “All contributions to the comfort of one’s neighbours were understood as a dimension of the promotion of charity, the divine life of the community.” Pilgrimage routes were inscribed with monuments and buildings, chapels and crosses, which deepened the experience of the journey itself, and villages on thee routes sought to promote their own shrines and holy wells. Stone and wooden crosses were the most ubiquitous elements in this medieval religious landscape, but largely overlooked by modern historians, in church yards, and vast numbers besides roads. Mnemonic devices to remind the living of their duty to pray for the souls of the dead, and relieve them of the traumas of purgatory, too. Then those often placed at road junctions, which had  magical or malevolent qualities, and used in Rogation tide beating of the bounds.  The proliferation of crosses, chapels ,holy wells, hermitages and other holy places and landmarks ensured religious imagery was encountered in a wide range of everyday contexts, well away from the parochial core of the church: a landscape rich in religious meaning and symbolism shaped peoples’ lives. Later…Puritans dismissed the concept of a holy place as idolatrous. Victorian church restorations sometimes uncovered items that had been hidden at these times, presumably in the hope that the old religion would prevail again. Following Henry’s death in 1547, the government ordered the destruction of all shrines, paintings and sculptures purporting to have superstitious use, and all endowments of chantries, religious guilds to be relinquished on the grounds that Purgatory was a fabrication. As a result many buildings fell into disuse and decay. (And, of course, churches now had to display royal arms.) Churchyard crosses were targeted because of their role in the (now banned) churchyard processions. Many prominent road side ones were partly destroyed, but still had a function in defining parish bounds, the parish becoming more important as an administrative unit in Tudor England.

That’s it in summary, Bill’

Addendum

‘And that shift represented a change from religious observance being an external business ( symbols, saints, confession, secret language of Latin) to it being an internal one: me, my conscience,  a direct relationship with God, interpreting through reading an English Bible.’

 

Radical Randwick Ramble

https://www.stroudvalleysproject.org/events/a-ramble-in-radical-randwick

A Ramble in Radical Randwick

Sunday, 23 June 2024 11:00 – 13:30

What makes the history of Randwick unique? How come this unassuming village in the hills of Stroud appears in a survey of British utopian experiments? What’s the background of Randwick Wap? Why was the village so notorious?

Answer these questions and perhaps more on an illuminating historical walk with Stuart Butler of Radical Stroud.

The route will be through rural areas with some uneven ground and some hills, so a basic level of fitness is required. Finish time is approximate. No dogs, please.

Log on to the Stroud Valleys Project link at the top to book a place. I think the suggested donation is £3 plus.

Slimbridge Diggers Walk July 2

The Diggers were a group of 17th century religious and political dissidents in England, seeking to establish agrarian socialism. The famous Digger settlement in 1649 at St George’s Hill,  Surrey is well known and celebrated, but our local area also saw a Digger experiment. Radical Stroud plan to go in search of the elusive Digger settlement at Slimbridge.  The exact location has been lost so may be an exploratory expedition. If you are interested then please join us  on Tuesday July 2, at St John the Evangelist, Slimbridge at 10.30. Not sure how long the walk will be. Join us for as long as you wish. There will be readings, context and a song or two too.
Bring some food and refreshments. The walk will take place mostly over meadows and fields. Some stiles to be climbed. Likely to be muddy in places.
Any queries please contact Stuart Butler stfc12@hotmail.com

Jim Pentney, Stroud and Myeloma Fund-Raising

CYCLING FROM THE SEVERN TO THE SEINE

Myeloma UK is a national charity working on awareness and research into the ‘hidden blood cancer’ of which 24,000 people are treated across the country. Jim Pentney was diagnosed two years ago. Since then, he has had a stem cell transplant and last year took part in the charity’s Challenge 24, organised to cover some 24 miles in any interesting way. He went from the Severn at Framilode to the Thames at Lechlade by bike, canoe and van (see photos).

The challenge is more ambitious now, to cycle with a large group from London to Paris in September. James Beecher is kindly providing Jim with an electric bike, the target being for each rider to raise £2000 for the charity.

Here’s Jim’s fundraising link

https://ride.myeloma.org.uk/james-pentney

Here are photos of Jim’s previous Severn escapade:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/MygrtY3Lcf8cxvEi6

 

https://ride.myeloma.org.uk/dashboard

Dashboard • London Paris Ride

London Paris Ride: Make a donation today to support London Paris Ride

ride.myeloma.org.uk

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire Riots

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire Riots

 

Written after reading

In Contempt of All Authority

Rural Artisans and Riot in the West of England,

1586-1660

Buchanan Sharp

 

When I walk the banks of the River Severn,

Those turbid waters seem a barrier:

Something liminal and divisive:

It all looks so different on the other side,

Whether you stand on the east or the west:

Dense forest one way, Cotswold hills the other.

 

But rethink the river, land and skyscape,

Forget the turnpike roads and railways,

Slip back half a millennium of time,

And the river becomes a corridor,

Not just down and upstream, but also across:

With a nascent rural proletariat,

In the mining, charcoaled Forest of Dean,

Linked with the broadcloth east bank weavers,

And the fields and farms of Gloucestershire.

 

The spring of 1586 was a season

Of high food prices and unemployment –

This led to attacks on ‘barks’ with their cargoes

Of malt at Framilode by around

Five hundred of ‘the commone sorte of people’.

This action was followed by congregations

On both sides of the river to stop vessels

Taking cargoes downstream towards Bristol:

so great was their necessitye as that dyvers of them justifye they were dryvers to feede their children with oattes dogges* and rootes of nettles …’ (* dog-grass).

 

Resistance remained firm and steadfast

Despite the readings of the Riot Act,

And when two ringleaders faced possible charges,

The summoned forces of law and order,

Were intimidated by some hundreds

Of the local Gloucestershire populace

Who ‘lay in awayte in the woodes and other secret places.’

 

This riverine and littoral action

Was repeated again in 1622;

Individual and familial begging,

Tramping, pilfering and petitioning

Eventually led to collective riot

As a response to high food prices,

And also unemployment in the cloth trade,

And so, the indigent workless,

through want doe already steale

and are like to starve or doe worse’;

Numbers were so vast that good hearted charity,

And politic efforts to assist

‘by raising of public stockes for their imployment in worke’

Were doomed to inevitable failure:

JPs could not compel clothiers

To give work when they had no markets –

And so, the judges of assize then thought

That they should write to the privy council:

‘Craveinge pardon for our bouldnes,

wee humbly leave this greate and weighty cause

to your grave and juditious consideration’.

Gloucestershire Justices of the Peace

Were of similarly bleak outlook

Later in the year of 1622:

‘the complaints of the weavers and other poore workefolkes depending upon the trade of clothinge …

doe daylie increase in that their worke

and meanes of reliefe doe more and more decay.’

In consequence, it was impossible

‘to releeve the infinite number of poore people residing within the same drawne hither by meanes of clothing.’

 

What of over on the river’s other bank,

In the charcoal-burning free-mining

Forest of Dean?

Enclosure (‘privatisation of land’)

In the Forest of Dean was met in 1631

By some five hundred inhabitants who

‘did with two drummes, two coulers and one fife in a warlike and outrageous manner assemble themselves together armed with gunnes, pykes, halberds and other weapons.’

They tore down enclosures in the Snead,

And also, in Mailescott Woods, where they also

Fired muskets, threatened to destroy the house

Of an agent of Lady Villiers,

Threw cut timber of oak into the Wye,

And filled up three iron ore pits,

Together with an effigy of loathed

Sir Giles Mompesson, aka

‘The odious projector’.

Just a fortnight later, some 3,000

Gathered with the steady beating of drums

And the flying of pennants and banners,

To destroy enclosures and burn houses.

 

By the early summer, the Dean enclosures

Had been pretty well removed, although some

Residual rioting took place up at Cannop Chase,

Where enclosures held by the secretary

to the Lord Treasurer, no less,

Were once more destroyed in January 1632,

While further rejections of authority

Took place when enclosures were partially restored

By the rich, as at Mailescott Woods

In July 1633, due to

‘loose and disorderly persons in the night tyme.’

 

These were the revolts of the poor and those who are

‘Condemned to the enormous condescension of posterity’,

 

But who can, or might be, identified,

From these nocturnal depredations?

 

John Williams aka ‘Skimington’,

A labourer/miner from English Bicknor,

Was identified as a ringleader;

A target for arrest in 1631,

Over 120 men advanced,

Under the orders of the undersheriff,

‘before the breake of the day towards the house of one John Williams called by the name of Skymington thinking to have caught him in his bed’

Prior warning led to his escape,

And bribes for information from the poor

Proved to be as ineffective as the force

Of horse and sword and musket.

Star Chamber then became involved

With Williams in 1632,

For this Skymington had ‘threatened and used

some violence to the agents for the King,

that he would serve them as he did others

that intrenched upon his liberties

in the forest of Deane.’

Williams was, however, captured,

And then moved from Gloucester Castle to Newgate

(Where he spent five years).

The response in the Forest of Dean to this?

William Cowse, who arrested Williams,

Was attacked at Newland parish church

By ‘the under sort of people.’

 

No one was convicted but local JPs

Were ordered to provide armed guards for Cowse,

And his assistants when they were in the Forest

Pursuing the business of King Charles 1st.

 

The Skimmington tradition and its rough music

Reflected the tradition of a moral economy

And a moral society based upon justice

And a living commonality,

So, it is no surprise to see the Skimmington symbol

Reappear on the eastern bank of the Severn

Between Frampton and Slimbridge in 1631 –

Enclosures had been torn down twenty years before,

But after restoration, peace returned,

Until June 1631, when it was said that:

‘Skymingtones leiuetenaunts and some five more of his company were come to Frampton-upon-Seaverne in the County of Gloucester with an intent to throw in the inclosures of the new groundes.’

This was all hot air, but is an indication

Of the nervousness of the local ruling class

(With some good reason) –

While rumours further circulated that

‘money and victualls’ would be given

To any who would tear down the enclosures.

 

The Privy Council was more than irritated

With the impotent local authorities,

Especially in the Forest of Dean:

‘We hold this for an extreame neglect of your duties’;

‘Hereof yee must not faile as yee tender his Majesties

heavy displeasure.’

Annoyance continued with the inability

Of the county authorities to stop riots

and arrest rioters, ‘when we

consider what expresse and carefull directions have been from tyme to tyme given by this board as well for the suppressing and preventing of the outrageous assemblies within the Forest of Deane as for the discoverie and apprehending of the offenders and proceeding with them in an exemplarie way.’

But a poorly trained and weak local militia …

The potential size of a riotous assembly

(3,000 determined souls!) …

The way in which potential witnesses

Disappeared into the Welsh Marches …

The indicted hiding within the vast forests,

Valleys, hills and hidden hamlets

Of the Dean, Herefordshire,

Monmouthshire, the Marches …

The ‘base disorderly persons’

Who confronted official ‘search parties,

All accentuated the perception of official impotence;

Sir Ralph Dutton, the sheriff of Gloucester,

Blamed the topography:

‘in regard of the Seaverne on the one side and the River of Wye, the other two shires on the other side, and the woods, hills, myne pitts and colepitts where they dwell, the apprehending of them becomes very difficult and must be effected only by policy never by strength.’

This policy included overt and covert bribery.

The result?

The grand total of just three arrests.

 

The solidarity between labourers, free miners,

And assorted artisans in the Dean,

In the face of enclosure and

Other intrusions such as ironworks

And privately owned blast furnaces,

Was, of course, as important as topography,

In the battle against authority.

Rights of common were vital to the health

And well-being of individuals,

Families and the whole community:

 

Such common rights included pasture

For sheep and cattle; pannage for pigs,

And rights of estover: For example:

Collecting deadwood for winter warmth,

Wood for fencing, housing and outbuildings;

 

This solidarity had stood the test of time:

When the Earl of Pembroke, in 1612,

Started an ironworks – ‘the King’s ironworks’

With blast furnaces, forges, and enclosure,

‘Robin Hoods’ promptly, consequentially,

Burned the wood all cut ready and waiting

For the ironworks – ‘the King’s ironworks’;

This tradition of direct action

Stretched way back, for example,

Back in 1594, 15 tons of wood

Earmarked for royal use was rendered useless

By the simple but lengthy expedient

Of being cut into uselessly tiny pieces;

In 1605, riots occurred

When timber cut for Sir Edward Winter’s

Supplies of charcoal and his iron works

Caused outrage that estover rights

Were being appropriated.

 

Court decisions reached compromises

Between the rights of property and estover,

But free born miners continued to defy

These court decisions in the Forest

In what was ‘royal demesne’,

By defying authority and selling iron ore

Wherever and to whomever they wished.

In effect, one could argue that

the said mynors whose educacion

had bene onely in labour of this kind’

and who desired that they

‘might be permitted to utter their overplus

or remayne of their said oare or myne

to the relief of their wives and children

to any others who will buye the same’

Had defied – successfully -the monarchy,

And all its attendant forces and structures

Of local and national law and order.

 

The staccato ‘guerrilla warfare’

Continued, as we have seen and read,

Beyond the reign of King James and into

The reign of King Charles 1,

Culminating, in 1641,

In the destruction of fully 12 miles

Of enclosures around ‘privatised’ forest areas.

The Civil War, starting in 1642,

And the Siege of Gloucester in the following year,

Brought new perspectives on ‘disafforestation’,

A sort of ‘cease-fire’, as it were,

In the battle between privatisation,

Enclosure and monopoly on the one side,

And rights of estover and free born miners,

On the subaltern other.

But ‘In 1645 the ironworks and the right to cordwood … were leased anew to Colonel Edward Massey by authority of a parliamentary ordinance. From this point until 1659, the …policy of the Stuarts – the exploitation of the forest as a source of timber, cordwood, and iron ore – was reintroduced. With this inheritance went all the problems that Stuart governments had to face … Complaints about the activities of the poor grew more frequent … Thus, forest officers lamented in 1647 that:

‘There is still a great spoyle done in the forrest in cutting downe very many of the best oake and beech trees by the Cabbiners and others poore and beggerly persons wee are not able to suppresse them; they resist us and have often beaten and abused most of us …if there be not some speedy course of action taken for the pulling down of these cabins and for the punishing of these beggerly persons that are common spoylers of the timber there wilbe every day more and more spoyles made and committed.’

Two years later, the year of Charles’ execution,

A commission observed that these ‘cabbiners’

‘Chiefly poor vagabonds and strangers who had crept into the forest’ sustained themselves and their families ‘by cutting, cording, burning’ any tree they fancied. Others who ‘spoyled the forest’ included those who made tools, barrels and cardboard.

 

How did Cromwell and the Commonwealth respond?

The republic responded with partial generosity;

Only one third of the Forest of Dean

Was allocated for enclosure in 1657,

With commons legal rights given to locals

For the other two thirds of the forest,

For sustenance, work, income, living and pleasure.

Even so, enclosures in the privatised third

Were torn down and destroyed in 1659.

 

How did the government of Charles the Second respond?

‘The post-Restoration of Dean is beyond the scope of this work, but we should note that it was one of the few forests in which disafforestation was permanently reversed … in 1688 Dean was reafforested by Act of Parliament … This meant returning the forest to an open commons to be exploited by the inhabitants … During the next 150 years, however, the inhabitants frequently rioted against attempts to erect enclosures or to impose regulations on their right to common.’

But that’s another story: Warren James.

We shall eventually research and put on a walk about Warren, after reading Ralph Anstis’ book, but for the moment, for those who are interested, it’s https://www.forestofdeanhistory.org.uk/learn-about-the-forest/green-plaque-warren-james-1792-1841/