Workshop of the World

Workshop of the World

Raphael Samuel

Edited by John Merrick

Verso 2024

An extract to stimulate similar writing

about Stroud and the Five Valleys

through a cooperative collective endeavour

with people proffering a couple of sentences or more

about trades and jobs and sights to be seen

through the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.


‘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’.’

Rodborough Ridge and Furrow



Just over the road at Rodborough Glebe allotments,

In Rodborough Fields, beyond Kings Road,

Castlemead Road and Arundel Drive,

You can see a clear pattern of ridge and furrow

(‘Like corrugated fields or waves in a land-sea’),

Particularly on frosty midwinter days:

A glimpse of a world before enclosure

Parcelled up and privatised the landscape

With fences and gates and hedgerows.

But there’s nothing in the landscape to tell you

Just what this pattern of ridges and humps

In grassland, sward and pasture implies,

Or connotes: no plaque or information board

To let us know that where we tread

There was a whole different way of carrying on

From what we regard as normality today:

The tyranny of the clock and pursuit of profit;

Instead, there was a community

Based upon sharing and mutuality.

It wasn’t just the sharing out of the strips

Of arable land in the open fields,

Or the gleaning.

The tending to and milking of a cow.

The looking out for rabbits.

The gathering of fruits, berries and nuts.

The being satisfied with that you have.

The exchanging of surplus so as to just get by.

The lending or borrowing of tools.

It wasn’t just the fuel – wood, turf, furze, bracken,

Or the crops, gleaning or grazing that gave sustenance,

It was also the community of reciprocity;

The sharing, the mutuality

That fashioned a community,

And the arranged or happenstance meeting

In field, lane, pathway, holloway, baulk or common,

And the ensuing conversation

And sharing of the time of day

(‘Good morrow, Gossip Joan,

Where have you been a-walking? …’);

And ‘wasting time’ didn’t mean laziness,

It might have been incomprehensible to the elite,

But the lower orders could have an eye for the picturesque too,

You didn’t have to be educated to have an eye for the sublime:

John Clare textualized what many saw and felt:

‘How fond the rustics ear at leisure dwells

On the soft soundings of his village bells

As on a Sunday morning at his ease

He takes his rambles just as fancys please

Down narrow baulks that intersect the fields

Hid in profusion that its produce yields

Long twining peas in faintly misted greens

And wing leafed multitudes of crowding beans

And flighty oatlands of a lighter hue.’

And, in a way, we carry on this tradition

On Rodborough Glebe allotments:

‘Social events, BBQs, plant and seed swaps, surplus food for food banks, educational activities for children, local history events,

compost toilets, a wildflower and wildlife area’


‘As we all know, nature left to itself would take over and so effort is needed from the members to keep the site workable – trimming edges, keeping pathways clear, cutting back brambles and nettles, maintaining the fences to keep badgers and deer out and keep the allotments safe, replacing and servicing gates and padlocks, keeping trees and hedges at manageable sizes, servicing the water supply, restoring neglected plots – the list is almost endless…’

This cooperative community

Is an ideal and a reality:

Everyone needs to chip in;

But when the work is done

And you have a spare moment,

Follow the footpath down to Kwick Fit

Through Rodborough Fields

And glance to your right:

Let your imagination run free

As you pass the ridge and furrow

Frozen in time and space in the pasture;

Walk with the ghosts at their toil

And at their joyful recreation,

Then put in another stint on the allotment,

Both for yourself and the community;

Keep the continuity going

That runs from medievalism to modernity:

For as William Faulkner said:

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Nelson Street

Nelson Street

Even though the eventual hero of Trafalgar owed his life to the ministrations of Cubah Cornwallis, ‘a woman of colour’ (he might well have died in 1780, but for her ), Nelson, in 1805, whilst on board the Victory, declared himself ‘a firm friend’ of the slave owning plantocracy: ‘I was bred … in the good old school and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions, and neither in the field, nor in the Senate, shall their rights be infringed, while I have an arm to fight in their defence, or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cruel doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies’.


I was taught to revere Nelson as a hero; I still have the books. I was brought up to revere Nelson as a hero. It was hard not to. Just look at Trafalgar Square.


But what of Cubah (also spelled Cuba, Couba) Cornwallis, ‘The Queen of Kingston’?


An internet search suggests that she gained her surname and manumission from Captain Cornwallis, in Jamaica. The Wikipedia entry suggests that her freedom from enslavement possibly came about because ‘there are references suggesting that she and Captain Cornwallis were lovers’. I’m not sure how we can check on that euphemism for what was likely to have been non-consensual sex.


But the entry goes on to say that Cubah became Cornwallis’ housekeeper until he left Jamaica. She then settled in Port Royal, treating sailors for ‘various diseases and injuries’ in a ‘small house’ which she bought and ‘converted into a combination of rest home, hotel and hospital’.

That is why Admiral Parker had the emaciated, fever stricken (probably malaria and dysentery) young Horatio Nelson conveyed to Cubah. And her medicines (Obeah? Holistic?) brought him back from death’s door.

Cubah not only treated Nelson; she also restored the future King William the Fourth. She would eventually receive a sumptuous gown from the future queen, which Cubah wore but once: her ‘funerary gown’.

Nelson never forgot the debt he owed Cubah and repeatedly and publicly acknowledged that debt. Not just formally but with warm gratitude. And yet … he was an anti-abolitionist.

King William the Fourth, too.


Rights of Common


Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700-1820

J.M. Neeson

Some gleaning made from this uncommon text,

So as to share knowledge in common:

Timothy Nourse in Campania Felix, or a Discourse of the Benefits and Improvements in Husbandrywrote thus of commoners in 1700:

‘very rough and savage in their Dispositions’ with ‘leveling Principles’ which make them ‘refractory to Government’, ‘insolent and tumultuous’.

Worse than animals, he averred,

commoners had to be chastised

and controlled rather than cultivated.

In 1781, an anonymous observer of squatters and those living on common land in forest, heathland or on ‘waste’ viewed them as ‘more perverse, and more wretched’, living in ‘habitations of squalor, famine and disease’ amounting to ‘most fruitful seminaries of Vice’ where lies ‘sloth the parent of vice and poverty begotten and born of this said right of Common. I saw its progress into the productive fields of lying, swearing, thieving – I saw the seeds of honesty almost eradicated.’

He commented on those living in Hampshire forests on common land; ‘idle, useless and disorderly’, attracted to ‘pilfering and stealing.’ He was similarly minded when in Herefordshire’s Black Mountains:commoners were subject to ‘IDLENESS, the fell ROOT of which VICE always finds it easy to graft her most favourite plants.’

Ah! Protestant self-help thrifty busy virtues,

Where are you when we need you?

You lazy good for nothing commoners.

Go and read Robinson Crusoe,

(Tawney and Weber too for us)

If only you could read.

But don’t follow W.H. Davies:

‘What is this life if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.’

Stop wasting time.

Gathering fuel on the commons indeed.


Tending to and milking a cow.

Looking out for rabbits.

Gathering fruits, berries and nuts.

Being satisfied with that you have.

Or exchanging surplus so as to just get by.

Lending or borrowing tools.

Enough is not as good as a feast, I say.

I call that a fast.

We need more of everything – apart from commons,

And shared open fields, of course.

And commoners and squatters, of course.


More enclosure. More arable. More pasture.

Greater efficiency. Higher yields. Higher rents.

Higher profits.

And more labourers working for a wage.

And those labourers will have more children.

And a greater population is needed for the King,

The army, the Empire, and our endless wars against the French.

Neeson wrote that the ‘argument about the legitimacy of ending common right in the eighteenth century was more than a conflict between the moral economy and the self-interested individualism of agrarian capitalism. Increasingly it was also a debate over how best to serve the national interest. Or, more exactly, and crucially, a debate about what sort of society best served that interest …’

And, ‘best served by the industry, independence and patriotism of a flourishing peasantry’ or ‘served best by a multitudinous, fecund, ever-growing proletariat, no matter how poor …’

‘But behind both views was a fundamental concern

with Britain’s economy and political hegemony.’

A List of Wars from the 18th Century to the end of the Napoleonic Wars

1. War of the Spanish Succession 1701-14

2. Great Northern War 1717-20

3. War of Austrian Succession 1740

4. Carnatic Wars 1744-63

5. Seven Years War 1756-63

6. Anglo-Mysore Wars 1766-99

7. First Anglo-Maratha War 1775-82

8. American Revolutionary War 1775-83

9. French Revolutionary Wars 1792-1802

10. Napoleonic Wars 1802-15

11. Second Anglo-Maratha War 1802-05

12. War against the USA 1812

13. Anglo-Nepalese War 1813-16

Enclosers, of course, weren’t thinking of all these endless wars

as they took over the common fields …

Neeson again: ‘But this does not mean that “good” agriculture triumphed over “bad”, like some conquering hero in a gothic romance. It means that one mode of agricultural production gave way to another. (“Backward” agriculture is itself an astonishingly narrow concept. It assumes that productivity alone defines the many relationships, social as well as economic, that agriculture represents.) In the end, enclosers enclosed for a number of reasons: chief among them the prospect of higher rents, a belief in the efficiency of larger, consolidated holdings, and an emotional and intellectual commitment to a more individualized production, to private enterprise. The conquering hero is more accurately described as an investing landlord or an enterprising freeholder. But neither the higher rents nor the (arguably) more efficient units of enclosed villages, nor the change in the zeitgeist of the agricultural establishment should be taken to mean that before enclosure agriculture was necessarily badly run, or backward. Communal regulation did not mean inadequate regulation. The system may have been less productive if we define productivity in terms of agricultural production, though we should note that the jury on this is still out.’

It wasn’t just the fuel – wood, turf, furze, bracken,

Or the food or the grazing that gave sustenance,

It was also the community of reciprocity;

The sharing, the mutuality

That fashioned a community,

And the arranged or happenstance meeting

In field, lane, pathway, Holloway, baulk or common,

And the ensuing conversation

And sharing of the time of day

(‘Good morrow, Gossip Joan,

Where have you been a-walking? …’);

And ‘wasting time’ didn’t mean laziness,

It might have been incomprehensible to the elite,

But the lower orders could have an eye for the picturesque too,

You didn’t have to be educated to have an eye for the sublime:

John Clare textualized what many saw and felt:

‘How fond the rustics ear at leisure dwells

On the soft soundings of his village bells

As on a Sunday morning at his ease

He takes his rambles just as fancys please

Down narrow baulks that intersect the fields

Hid in profusion that its produce yields

Long twining peas in faintly misted greens

And wing leafed multitudes of crowding beans

And flighty oatlands of a lighter hue.’

But it’s true to say that the Protestant virtues

Of frugality, economy and thrift

Were also fashioning this way of life.

But the critics of commons could only see

A lazy, indolent absence of ambition –

But if needs were few, then there was time

For recreation and ‘Saint Monday’ traditions;

There was no tyranny of the clock,

No outlook that ‘time was money’ …

But energy was there in abundance,

And to use an anachronism,

‘Time-Management’ too, as in this case study

Of enclosure and the Beautiful Game:

The Northampton Mercury contained an ‘advertisement for a football match’ at the end of July 1765 to take place over two days, August 1stand 2nd: ‘This is to give notice to all Gentlemen, Gamesters and Well-Wishers to the cause now in Hand. That there will be a FOOT-BALL play in the Fields of Haddon … for a Prize of considerable value … All Gentlemen Players are desired to appear in any of the Public Houses in Haddon aforesaid each day between the hours of ten and twelve in the Forenoon, where they will be joyfully received and entertained.’

On Monday 4th August 1765, the Northampton Mercury reported thus:

‘We hear from West Haddon in this County, that on Thursday and Friday last a great Number of People being assembled there in order to play a Foot-Ball Match, soon after meeting formed themselves into a Tumultuous Mob, and pulled up and burnt the Fences designed for the Inclosure of that Field, and did other considerable Damage; many of whom are since taken up by a Party of General Mordaunt’s Dragoons sent from this Town.’

Football matches are just one example

Of a whole repertoire of opposition

To the supporters of enclosure:

Grumbling, counter-petitioning,

Refusal to cooperate with surveyors,

Tearing down hedges and fences,

Writing formal letters of opposition,

Leaving threatening letters of opposition,

Refusal to sign enclosure bills,

Refusal to sign sundry legal documents,

Stealing boundary markers,

Removing indicators of field boundaries,

Writing local landscape poems,

Expressing anger in public,

Expressing feelings of violation,

Ensuring those feelings were shared communally

And transmitted through the generations:

Here is an example – a full generation

After enclosure had hit this particular village:

‘To the Gentlemen of Ashill, Norfolk,

This is to inform you that you have by this time brought us under the heaviest burden and into the hardest Yoke we ever knowed; it is too hard for us to bear … You do as you like, you rob the poor of their Commons right, plough the grass up that God send to grow, that a poor man may feed a Cow, Pig, Horse, nor Ass; lay muck and stones in the road to prevent the grass growing. If a poor man is out of work and wants a day or two’s work you will give him 6d. per week … There is 5 or 6 of you have gotten the whole of the land in this parish in your own hands and you would wish to be rich and starve all the other part of the parish …

Gentlemen, these few lines are to inform you that God Almighty have brought our blood to a proper circulation, that have been in a very bad state a long time, and now without alteration of the foresaid, we mean to circulate your blood with the leave of God.’

And here’s John Clare:

‘Inclosure came and trampled on the grave

Of labours rights and left the poor a slave

And memorys pride ere want to wealth did bow

is both the shadow and the substance now …’

And John Clare again:

‘That good old fame the farmers earnd of yore

That made as equals not as slaves the poor

That good old fame did in two sparks expire

A shooting coxcomb and. hunting Squire

And their old mansions that was dignified

With things far better than the pomp of pride …

Where master son and serving man and clown

Without distinction daily sat them down …

These have all vanished like a dream of good …’

And the folklore passed through the generations:

‘The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

But leaves the greater villain loose

Who steals the common off the goose.’

And when we look at the opposition to enclosure,

And the repertoire of dissent,

We must remember that not only

Are the textual records incomplete

(You have to keep secrets, don’t you?),

But that the repertoire of dissent’s

Oral opposition within an oral culture

Is, of course, impossible to recapture:

The hatred, bitterness, sense of violation,

Feelings of robbery, jobbery, misery and theft,

The loss of gleaning rights and rights of estover,

The loss of pasture and right to roam:

All, of course, the intangible history

Of all those villagers and commoners

’Condemned to the enormous condescension of posterity’.

In conclusion, john Clare again:

The Lament of Swordy Well:

In Swordy Well a piece of land

That fell upon the town

Who worked me till I couldn’t stand

&crush me now Im down

There was a time my bit of ground

Made freeman of the slave

The ass no pindard dare to pound

When I his supper gave

The gypseys camp was not afraid

I made his dwelling free

Till vile enclosure came & made

A parish slave of me

Alas dependence thou’rt a brute

Want only understands

His feelings wither branch & root

That falls in parish hands


What of letter writing & formality,

Using the goose and common trope?

A case study:

A letter sent to the Marquess of Anglesey:

‘Where is now the degree of virtue which can withstand interest? …

Should a poor man take one of Your sheep from the common, his life would be forfeited by law. But should You take the common from a hundred poor mens sheep, the law gives no redress. The poor man is liable to be hung from taking from You what would supply You with a meal & You would do nothing illegal by depriving him of his subsistence; nor is Your family supplied for a day by a subtraction which distresses his for life! … Yet the causers of crimes are more guilty than the perpetrators. What must be the inference of the poor? when they see those who should be their patterns defy morality for gain, especially when, if wealth could give contentment, they had enough wherewith to be satisfied. And when the laws ae not accessible to the injured poor and Government gives them no redress.’

The Marquis replied thus:

‘Excepting as the mere fact of the Inclosure, the forming of which no one has a right to contest, All your statements are without foundation & as your language is studiously Offensive I must decline any further communication with you.’

‘The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common

But leaves the greater villain loose

Who steals the common off the goose.

The law demands that we atone

When we take things we do not own

But leaves the lords and ladies fine

Who take things that are yours and mine.’

For anyone for whom John Clare is a new discovery:



The Lonely Tree

With thanks to Bob Fry

Edited letter from Henry Burgh, Justice of the Peace,

to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, M.P. for Stroud:

‘Rodborough, March 29th, 1839, 6p.m.

My Lord I acknowledge receipt of Your Lordship’s Directions this morning.

I have taken measures to have them put into Execution.

Some of the Chartists came to Stroud yesterday Evening,

and today about quarter past two about 500 marched

up Rodborough Hill by my house with 9 Flags

and a strange Band of Musick…

I have stopped the Beer Shops and Publick Houses…

There are several policemen placed…’

‘Did you see any of that, Beech Tree?

Did you hear any of that, Beech Tree?

Did you hear the huzzahs for the Chartists?

And the catcalls for Lord John Russell?

Did you hear the Chartists’ Six Points,

And the declamation of the People’s Charter?

Did you see those famous national Chartist leaders:

The charismatic Henry Vincent

And the Botany Bay bound John Frost,

Up there on the horse drawn wagon,

That served as hustings for the disenfranchised?’

‘I came into this world on March 29th, 1839,

Stirred into life about two o’clock in the afternoon

By that march of hundreds of Chartists

Campaigning for the vote for working people.

It wasn’t just the light that summoned me

From my sheltered subterranean home,

It was curiosity and affinity too.

And here I have stood since then,

Offering shelter and succour and shade

To one and all,

Regardless of birth, origins, status,

Identity, orientation, gender, race or ability;

A tree that stood on a common,

That sprang to life one early Victorian spring,

Called from the earth by the tramp of hundreds,

And a sympathy for their aspirations,

Growing stronger through the centuries,

Springtide sap rising with democracy.

But don’t call me the Lonely Tree.

For just like the sycamore of the Tolpuddle Martyrs,

I am a tree of the commons and the commoners.

I am anything but a Lonely Tree.

Only those without a knowledge of this history

Could call me a Lonely Lonesome Tree.

I am a tree of the People.

I am the tree of the Commons.

I am the Commoners’ Tree.’



            Cast your mind back to the turn of the year:

‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Season’s Greetings’, ‘Happy New Year’ …

And Ben and Bexie in the doorway at Peacock’s

In their sleeping bags with books and a chess set

In the incessant torrents of December;

It was Ben and Bexie who galvanised me

As I faced the welter of Christmas charity appeals;

I didn’t know where to contribute – so many!

And as someone brought up on the adage,

‘Parity not Charity’,

I’ve always felt ambivalent about charity:

Patching up the status quo and all that,

But as William Blake said,

You can see the world in a grain of sand,

So, you can be charitable at the micro level

While keeping your eye on the ball the rich are having …

But I was also brought up in a Christian manner,

So here comes Corinthians 13.13,

The Three Divine Virtues,

Faith, Hope and Charity:

‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity,

these three; but the greatest of these is charity.’

And so here I am and so here we are,

Hoping to offer practical and financial support

To the Blue Lantern Project:

Sustainable, temporary living accommodation

For the homeless …

But, for the moment, let’s go back to Ben and Bexie,

As the personification of homelessness,

With the image of a modern-day Scrooge

Before his agonised redemption,

Looking, perhaps, like Suella Braverman:

‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

So, what did ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘Merry Christmas’

Mean to Ben and Bexie?

To answer this, let’s pursue a few synonyms

On our journey through the streets to redemption:

Homeless: unhoused – houseless – uncared for – displaced – dispossessed – outcast – unsettled – vagrant – vagabond – itinerant –

Notice how the last three shades of meaning

Morph not just into Victorian values of self-help

But, also, contemporary shades of meaning:

Remember that Tory cant about ‘crap parents’,

And as though homelessness were a lifestyle choice …

Vagrant – vagabond – itinerant –

So much of the reality of modernity

Is elided with those three words

As we shall see at the end of this presentation.

Now a few synonyms for wealth:

Riches – fortune – prosperity – affluence – property – substance – possessions

Now a few synonyms for inequality and injustice:

Disparity – unbalance – disproportion – unevenness – irregularity –

Wrong – unfair – disservice – offence – insult – injury – inequity – indignity – affront – unjust

Unhappy New Year!

Sadness – sorrow – grief – gloom – desperation – despondence – forlornness – misery – despair – distress – anguish – pain – mournfulness – dejection – depression – melancholy – hopelessness – pessimism – joylessness – wretchedness – dolefulness – weariness –

The man in the Black Dog film sleeping rough

In the tent beneath the railway bridge

In Gloucester before he was flooded out

Further broadened my horizons with this:

‘When you sleep in the streets, the streets become your home.’

Think of that when you next nestle down

At your real or metaphorical hearth –

Hearth – residence – dwelling – root – roof – shelter –

Security – protection – safeguarded –

Of course, you have none of those when you sleep rough.

Now the Church of England was once nicknamed

‘The Tory Party at prayer’.

And I suppose people with a belief

In self-help, competitive individualism,

A low-tax perception of the State as a Nanny,

And the perception of sleeping in a tent by a floodtide river

As a ‘lifestyle choice’

Might support the Office for National Statistics

In its proposal to drop the publication

Of the deaths of homeless persons

(741 in 2021)

With talk of – and I unironically quote here –

‘an improved and more efficient health and social care landscape’ –

What on earth does that mean, for God’s sake?

Meanwhile, in the real world away from that disingenuousness,

Nearly 75,000 single-parent households

Face the threat of eviction this winter,

According to Shelter’s statistical analysis,

What with falling behind with the rent and/or no-fault evictions:

The lack of ‘genuinely affordable’ social housing

Results in a supply-demand imbalance,

With competition for a roof driving up rents;

A few more stats:

1.5 million properties

Lie vacant at the moment

In England and Wales;

Nearly 275,000 people

Are recorded as homeless in England;

Think back to that long list of synonyms,

And now reflect on the fundamentals of that lexicon:

Wealth, poverty, inequality, injustice,

And reflect upon the hyper-normalisation of homelessness,

Of people sleeping in the streets and shop doorways,

Like some twenty-first century Gustav Dore engraving,

And now let’s try to translate our thoughts into action:

Together we can make a difference

As we see the world in a grain of sand,

Or in a shop doorway at Peacock’s in Stroud.


Randwick 1832 Experiment: Part Two

Early May 1784: ‘a gentleman was riding through Randwick and noticed “a crowd of people assembled around a horsepond”, where he saw ‘a man seated upon a chair.’ He thought this was a ‘ducking … for some transgression of local custom or morality.’ But this was Randwick Wap, ‘held every year on the second Monday after Easter in “Hocktide” – ‘a Whitsun festival, sometimes coinciding with May Day, a form of carnival’ with a “mock-mayoral election.”

Randwick Experiment Part Two

Notes taken from David Rollison’s

The Local origins of Modern Society Gloucestershire 1500-1800


Estimated Population of Gloucestershire 1550-1801

1550 approx. 75,000

1600 approx. 95,000

1712 approx. 128,000

1779 approx. 161,000

1801 Census 210, 267


                   Population of some Stroudwater Parishes 1551-1831

                                   1551        1603      1779      1801    1831

Eastington.                391           401        769        908     1,770

Stonehouse               468            474        759      1,412    2,469

Kings Stanley           234            728      1,257     1,434    2,438

Leonard Stanley.      439            417        512         590       942

Woodchester            200            217        792         870       885

Minchinhampton      835          1,002    4,000     3,419    5,114

Rodborough             401            259       1,481     1,658    2,141

Horsley.                   312            668       2,000      2.971   3,690

Painswick.               601           1,033    3,300.     3,150    4,099

Bisley.                     668           1,503    4,905.     4,227.   5,896

Randwick.              167             372      650.          856    1,031

Pitchcombe               43.            134        90            216       187

Stroud.                    969            1,508     4,000      5,422.   8,607


1756 Stroudwater Riots


‘Industrial rioting did not break out in Stroudwater until 1756 … The population data are remarkably consistent with what we know of the markets for Stroudwater cloth. When the markets collapsed, local populations were double what they had been fifty years earlier; and we may surmise that it was a younger population as a consequence of such rapid growth. James Wolfe’s comments in a letter from Stroudwater in 1756, that he expected to leave with many recruits from the unemployed young of the district, complements this impression of an extraordinary spurt of growth, followed by depression, followed by riots, followed by a renewal of overseas war.’


Randwick 1832 Revisited: Introduction


There are two chapters in this book about Randwick with interesting implications for the 1832 Randwick experiment as we shall see later…. But for the moment, a brief introduction:


Eric Wolf in Europe and the People without History wrote thus of Stroudwater: ‘one of the first areas in which English weavers lost their autonomy and became hired factory hands’ with ‘the onset of the industrial revolution in the valley of the Stroud’, while as regards Randwick, in particular, Rollison also pointed out how enclosure came relatively late to the village: ‘it retained arable strips and commons up to the early 19th century.’ So, we already note two reasons (one, industrial, and one, agricultural) for the notable levels of poverty in Randwick – and the consequent appearance of the Randwick experiment (as outlined in Utopia Britannica). There is a third reason to add here: the population peaked in Randwick in 1831 …

The World Turned Upside Down?

It’s interesting to see how Rollison, at times, as it were, appears to personify Randwick: ‘Randwick was a living symbol of the depths of unrespectability. It challenged pretension and it challenged prejudice. It looked at the respectable folk and found them wanting and it had an ingrained scepticism as to the legitimacy of cherished social conventions. It nurtured tricks and stratagems for bringing the mighty and would-be mighty down to earth … It included (and gave birth to) the radical side of contemporary popular culture voiced most commonly as a humorous scepticism towards all pretensions based on prescribed hierarchy, genealogy and tradition or wealth … It belongs to a universal type, authentic (as against appropriated and contrived) carnivalesque humour.’


The passage above can be readily placed alongside the Wikipedia entry describing Randwick Wap:

The Wap is an annual series of events during spring which culminates in a traditional procession and festival dating back to the Middle Ages. Various theories exist on how it began, although most villagers believe it was a celebration that followed the completion of building Randwick’s parish church.

The Wap was traditionally held on Low Sunday and Monday, the first Sunday and Monday after Easter. On the Sunday, the bells of the village church would be rung, a special service was held and a collection taken. On the Mon evening, a ‘Mayor’ was elected and he would be carried by chair to an ancient pool where he was immersed. Hordes would gather from far and wide including fiddle-playing and fortune-telling gipsies.[3] By the late 19th century, however, the Wap was becoming better known for its drunken revelry rather than as an ancient spectacle and it was evident that something had to be done.[4] In 1892, the church officials refused to ring the bells or hold a special collection to mark ‘Wap Sunday’ and although a mayor was elected, the Wap in its then form had run its course.[5]

The Randwick Wap was eventually revived in 1971 by the vicar Rev Niall Morrison (son of William Morrison, 1st Viscount Dunrossil) and now the festivities take place in the month of May.[6]


  1. ^“Parish population 2011”. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  2. ^“Randwick,Whiteshill and Randwick ward 2011”. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  3. ^“A Respected Randwickian Writes”. Stroud News & Gloucestershire Advertiser. 11 April 1890. p. 4.
  4. ^“Wap”. Stroud News & Gloucestershire Advertiser. 2 May 1868. p. 2.
  5. ^“Randwick”. Stroud News & Gloucestershire Advertiser. 29 April 1892. p. 6.
  6. ^“It’s Roll Out the Cheeses”. Western Daily Press. 5 May 1975. p. 1.


Back to Rollison: he says that he ‘shall … show that Randwick was generally regarded as the poorest village in Gloucestershire, and that this perception was accurate’. He also looks at sexual behaviour in the village via ‘The case of the indiscreet landlord’ with the ‘depositions associated with a bawdy-court case in 1713 to explore and evoke the quality of social relations in this notoriously poverty-stricken clothworking village’; it is the only archival ‘clue’ he finds ‘to the kind of social irregularity associated with Randwick’s poverty’ but says this clue can be ‘confirmed as representative by similar cases in other Stroudwater parishes.’

The author then tells us about “The Lord Mayors of Randwick” – ‘a curious, calendrical festival or “revel”’ held ‘in the second week after Easter … a carnivalesque occasion …  usually seen as “reversal” of class and gender relations.’ Rollison suggests, ‘in the light of the material in the case of the indiscreet landlord, that what went on was probably more in the line of a celebration of the sorts of things that went on at Randwick all the time. It “turned the world upside down” in the sense that the celebration was insistent and public, claimed as a rightful custom against the desire of the magistrates, who tried to suppress it. But in truth it advertised only what was normal.

The next section ‘analyses “The Lord Mayor of Randwick’s Story”, which, according to a detailed account of the revels published in 1784, was used every year to usher in a week of “misrule”. Rollison comments: ‘I show that this song unmistakably embodied an historico-mythical explanation of Randwick’s poverty and expressed an ideal of egalitarian communitas – the reason for misrule and this provides us with insight into the collective political consciousness of a community … a moment … that lay on the border between older, preliterate … labour conditions and the directions taken by these traditions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’

What evidence, you are thinking, does the author provide to justify his assertion about Randwick’s notable poverty? Well, here we go:

‘Randwick was the poorest village in the region. In 1671-2 exceptions from the Hearth Tax averaged 40 per cent in the Stroudwater valleys. At Randwick, with a population of about 450, the figure was nearer 70 per cent. In 1677 the parish was said to be unable to maintain its poor and a rate was ordered to be levied on other parishes in the Hundred to which it was attached. In 1712, Sir Robert Atkyns wrote that Randwick was “the highest charged to the Poor Rate of any parish” in Gloucestershire and ‘He also noted that more people were buried there each year than were baptised.’

By the end of the 18th century 110 families out of 206 in Randwick were dependent on weekly parish relief (the Stroudwater average was 40%; Randwick’s was 55%). ‘The Minister for Randwick reported that “The Working Classes in his parish [were] generally depressed for scarcity of employment, low wages, and payment in truck”’ … in consequence, he regretted the existence of “some insubordinate feelings fostered with association at the beershops, and by reading of inflammatory publications.”’


Rollison comments: ‘The archives don’t generally provide much information on the social consequences of Randwick’s exemplary poverty, but glimpses are provided by a scandal which erupted in 1713.’ Mary Bennett and Lizzie Robbins of that parish visited Edward Field, ‘a magistrate near Stroud’, to inform him of a shocking event they had witnessed “on the day after Candlemas.”

They told Field that the chamber of their house “adjoyneth to a house belonging to Stephen Mills” and that Robbins saw Mills “beckon with his hand to Martha Thomas who went with him into his house.” Robbins was able to see through “the mudd wall” because of “a slitt or chink” but “turned from the said chink” for obvious reasons. Bennett took over and heard Mills command Thomas to “Lye down”. “I will not.” “Thou shalt.” More detail followed and ‘On this evidence Field considered that there was a case to answer …’ Rollison goes on to say that there was nothing unusual in this case with its ‘sexual irregularity, slander and gossipy defamation’ – this was the stuff of bawdy-courts – but what made this case unusual and exceptional was not just that it divided the village (‘high versus low’: the three women were all tenants of Mills), but also ‘ that the court officials clearly found it impossible to find a single unambiguously respectable witness … The poorest village in Gloucestershire was also its most “immoral” village.’ The author adds, ‘Randwick people almost certainly knew of their reputation with outsiders, and every year at Hocktide they celebrated their infamy.’


Early May 1784: ‘a gentleman was riding through Randwick and noticed “a crowd of people assembled around a horsepond”, where he saw ‘a man seated upon a chair.’ He thought this was a ‘ducking … for some transgression of local custom or morality.’ But this was Randwick Wap, ‘held every year on the second Monday after Easter in “Hocktide” – ‘a Whitsun festival, sometimes coinciding with May Day, a form of carnival’ with a “mock-mayoral election.”

‘The gentleman described proceedings thus in the Gentleman’s Magazine: “One of the parish is, it seems … elected mock-mayor. He is carried with great state, colours flying, drums beating, men, women and children shouting, to a particular horse-pond, in which his worship is placed, seated in an armchair; a song is then given out line-by-line by the clerk and sung with great gravity by the surrounding crowd … the instant it is finished, the mayor breaks the peace by throwing water in the faces of his attendants. Upon which, much confusion ensues; his worship’s person is, however, considered as sacred, and he is generally the only man who escapes being thoroughly souced.”

“The rest of the day, and often the week is devoted to riot and drunkenness.”

When did this ceremony of turning ‘the world upside down’ commence? The earliest textual reference is 1703; but Samuel Rudder made these observations in his magisterial A New History of Gloucestershire in 1779: “At this place an annual revel is kept on the Monday after Low Sunday, probably the wake of the church, attended with much irregularity and intemperance, with many ridiculous circumstances in the choice of a Mayor, who is yearly elected on that day, from amongst the meanest of the people. They plead the prescriptive right of antient custom for the licence of the day, and the authority of the magistrate is not able to suppress it.

The whole parish is not estimated at more than 500l. per ann. but is very populous, chiefly inhabited by poor people employ’d in the woollen manufacture …”

Rollison points out that the 1703 reference ‘assumed’ that the ‘calendrical festival’ had medieval origins. He says that although this is ‘conjectural’, the assumption ‘is supported by’ festivals elsewhere defined by Easter’s date, and subsequent May Day, Hock Monday and Hock Tuesday revelries. Rollison goes on to say that ‘The context at Randwick, an industrial village in one of the districts where we have documentary evidence of early trade union activity, also established a plausible link between medieval carnivalesque festivals and a date that was to become the great annual festival of the Labour Movement.’

But now we move from class to gender: Hock Monday asserted patriarchy but Hock Tuesday saw gender relations turned upside down, and Rollison adds that this “survived to be the more enduring of the customs. According to the locality, it was customary for the wives – as a group – to bind or weave into the air those husbands who could be caught, and to release them only on payment of a ransom … Criticism of marital mistreatment or impropriety were formally and noisily expressed.”

So, it seems that Randwick was a transgressive sort of place … and as Rollison concluded, ‘Carnival was always in part “political”, and as such contained an implicit threat to the status quo. To take this further we shall now consider the Lord Mayor of Randwick’s Song, or “psalm”.’



When Archelus began to spin,

And ‘Pollo wrought upon a loom,

Our Trade to flourish did begin,

Tho’ conscience went to selling broom.

When princes’ sons kept sheep in field,

And queens made cakes with oaten flour,

And men to lucre did not yield,

Which brought good cheer to ev’ry bower.

But when the giants, huge and high,

Did fight with spears like weavers’ beams,

And men in iron beds did lie,

Which brought the poor to hard extremes.

When cedar trees were grown so rife,

And pretty birds did sing on high,

Then weavers liv’d more void of strife,

Than princes of great dignity.

Then David with his sling and stone,

Not fearing great Goliath’s strength,

He pierc’d his brains, and broke his bones,

Tho’ he was nine feet and a span in length.


Let love and friendship still agree

To hold the bonds of amity.


The gentleman wrote it down, btw.



Now, gentle reader, for all I know, you may think Rollison has over egged the Randwick Wap pudding. But here’s a description of his book:


‘Through a series of sharply focused studies spanning three centuries, David Rollison explores the rise of capitalist manufacturing in the English countryside and the revolution in consciousness that accompanied it. Combining the empiricism of English historiography with the rationalism of Annales, and drawing on ideas from a wide range of disciplines, he argues that the explosive implications of the rise of rural industry created new social formations and altered the communal, cultural and social contexts of peoples’ lives. Using localized case studies of families and individuals the book starts with significant detail and moves out to build up a subtle and innovative view of English cultural identities in the early modern period.’


Here is a link to the book for anyone who wishes to research further:

Blue Lantern Pilot Project for the Homeless

Having lived and advocated in the homeless environments in the City of Gloucester, the ambition is to produce a safe and warm environment and to live without fear within our own home. For all those that are not experiencing a home, young or old, able bodied or not, right minded or not, this will be a home welcoming to all.

I personally believe we have to start somewhere and the Pilot Project is exactly that: a start with a goal to produce a temporary, transportable self-sustainable home with the wrap-around services of a community; welcoming to the homeless with the benefit of such a home and also contributing to the community where it sits.

It can then be replaced in time by a sustainable permanent structure to suit the needs of the individual and the community.

The unit exists on paper and similar units are in production now and used in various forms for the homeless.

The other moving parts to create the sustainable aspects exist today, I’m not proposing inventing the wheel, the spokes just need to be put together to create the wheel.

Steve Gower

BENEFIT GIG up The Prince Albert Saturday March 2nd 7.30

Donation details on The Prince Albert website


Walking with Charles Dickens

Stickin’ with Dickens by Katie McCue: No Deviations

Stickin’ with Dickens-

In happy anticipation I stepped on to the platform at Paddington station with my two companions.
I was ready and more than willing to put myself in the very capable hands of Stuart Butler to be led on a Dickensian adventure for the day.

What a day! Stuart led us down streets and lanes I didn’t know existed or had paid very little attention to in the past. Fact and fiction blurred beautifully  as we gazed up at the windows of a house Dickens lived in before the Thames was tamed, when its banks were but a stones throw from the house. The river where Gaffer Hexham and his daughter Lizzie rowed in their boat searching out floating corpses to rob in Our Mutual Friend.  That same river where Martha in David Copperfield thought to drown herself.

As we talked and walked on, in my own mind’s eye, I was transforming people into Dickensian folk. It wasn’t hard to do. London’s noise and bustle; workers and walkers, dandies and down-and-outs were everywhere. As my companion said he was always telling people how relevant Dickens is for today. Right on cue, just as Stuart was telling us how Dickens would take the plunge at the Roman Baths we stood before, there huddled in front if its very gate were three homeless people. A Dickensian and sadly 21st century scene before us. One of the men called out to Stuart “Thank you Boss,” as we exchanged greetings. The young woman called out as we headed off “I was only at school for 5 minutes and now I’ve had an education. …….Dickens….I heard all  that” .

As we took to The Strand the pleasing sight of St.Mary’s was ahead of us. I could positively feel Dickens senior newly wed leaving the church when Charles was yet a twinkle in their eye.

Fact and fiction continued to blur gloriously as we stood in front of the lodgings where Pip and the pale young gentleman Herbert Pocket seem to look down at us.
The Old Curiosity shop stood empty…..but was that Little Dorrit hurrying around the corner?

Stuart led us on to Lincoln’s Inn and we spent time remembering Bleak House in which the hearings about the inheritance were held. We remembered too the reality of the undercroft at the chapel next door where babies were left in the hope of being looked after. Stuart told my companion and me how those lucky babies who survived their abandonment were all given the surname Lincoln.

…..but I’m ahead of myself. What fun it was to enter the darkness of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street. The dark wood of the interior enfolded us as we stepped into the bar. I sat where I decided Charles Dickens would have chosen. A settle in the corner almost behind the door facing the roaring fire with heaps of old ash spilling out of the grate. A seat from which to watch those who entered whilst being unobserved myself. A place to consider the potential of each customer as a possible character….yes…surely Dickens would have done this as he drank ale or wine or porter in this very seat.

My account is in no way complete but these are my own “Sketches” of the day. It was wonderful and I can’t resist by ending with a favourite saying of Joe Gargery in Great Expectations: “ Pip old chap…….you and me was ever friends and when you’re well enough to go out for a ride what larks!”

I encourage you all to enjoy a day in Dickens’ London with Stuart Butler for larks of your own.


James has just messaged to say that his son, who is in San Francisco, has just messaged him, describing the homelessness there as Dickensian.