May 21st 2016 – May 21st 1839 ‘A lovely day spent on Selsley Common today, remembering this day in 1839 when 5,000 gathered here in support of the People’s Charter. Then a talk about it all in the Bell, and a toast with the commemorative porter. Something quite En read more
The 5 Ws and the H of Chartism It was a political movement – for the ‘People’s Charter’ – (‘Universal Suffrage, No Property Qualification, Annual Parliaments, Equal Representation, Payment of MPs and Vote by Ballot’), With three petitions to parliament in 18 read more
Charles Buckingham: The Great Escaper We all know of Spitalfields’ Jack Sheppard, But what of Cheltenham’s Charles Buckingham? Footpad on the Gloucester-Painswick turnpike, Awaiting trial in Gloucester gaol after his capture in Bristol (He had Bristol connections – when read more
Trivia or the Art of Walking the Streets of London: John Gay Where the Mob gathers, swiftly shoot along, Nor idly mingle in the noisy Throng. Lured by the Silver Hilt, amongst the Swarm, The subtil Artist will thy Side disarm. Nor is thy Flaxen Wigg with Safety worn; Hi read more
Stroud News Report: A group of some forty strolling players and spectators gathered in Coronation Road, Rodborough, on Saturday for a Shakespearian celebration. Scenes from a variety of plays were enacted in the street and in houses and gardens on a sun-splashed spring read more
Allen Davenport – the son of Ewen handloom weavers, who taught himself to read and write near the infant Thames; then Spencean, Owenite, feminist, Chartist, writer and poet – is remembered on the Reformers’ Memorial at Kensal Green. The memorial is dedicated ‘to the memory of men and women who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and … happiness of all classes of society … The old brutal laws of imprisonment for free printing have been swept away and the right of selecting our own law makers has been gained mainly by their efforts. The exercise of these rights will give the people an interest in the laws that govern them and will make them … better citizens.’’
Here are a few of the 70+ names of the reformers, radicals and, yes, revolutionaries:
Robert Owen, Charles Kingsley, Thomas Spence, Allen Davenport, Francis Place,
Harriet Martineau, George Odger, Elizabeth Fry, Arnold Toynbee, Charles Bradlaugh,
William Morris, John Ruskin, Josephine Butler, Joseph Priestley, Thomas Paine,
William Hone, John Stuart Mill, Major Cartwright, Richard Carlile, William Lovett,
Henry Hetherington, John Frost, William Cobbett, Samuel Bamford, Henry Hunt,
Ebenezer Elliott, Richard Cobden, Robert Cooper.
This is august company for Allen Davenport. This is why we are undertaking our pilgrimage along the banks of the Thames – we’ll have to take a memorial for John Frost as well, perhaps. Someone needs to remember his selection as prospective Chartist parliamentary candidate for Stroud, up there on Rodborough Common on Good Friday, 1839.
The column stands next to a memorial to Robert Owen. It’s near the Ladbroke Grove entrance – a ten to fifteen minute walk from the station.
April can be a cruel month:
The magnolia in all its blossoming glory,
The cut of a keen north wind,
The Thames still high and turbid
(Pockmarked by hailstones),
As we (I have Allen Davenport’s ghost as company)
Made our way to Paddington on the GWR,
And thence to Ladbroke Grove and Kensal Green cemetery,
To leave a commemorative stone taken from Ewen,
Alan’s birthplace, etched A.D. in his honour,
At the Reformers’ Memorial in the cemetery;
This son of a handloom weaver is in august company:
Revolutionaries such as Frost and Spence;
Radicals such as Hunt, Cartwright and Cobbett;
Christian Socialists such as Charles Kingsley;
I placed the stone on the column to photograph –
It started to rain in Dickensian buckets.
I took a few quick snaps,
Then made my way back to the canal,
Where my daughter Alice and boyfriend Josh had recently moored,
Hard by E.M. Lander Ltd.,
Monumental Masons and Sculptors,
Coincidentally, and improbably, connected to the mentor of Jim,
And it was Jim, of course, who had etched the stone from Ewen.
The talisman worked its magic in the damp air of the cemetery,
And Allen started to converse with me,
In the shelter of a yew tree:
‘I desperately wanted to come down to Swindon on the new railway back in May 1839, and thence to Cricklade, Cirencester and Stroud by coach. I was intent on appearing at the Selsley Hill Chartist meeting, but bread was costly, wages were scant and times were hard. I had the intent, but not the wherewithal; so I had to stay put. How I would have loved to have glimpsed my old birthplace; dear old Ewen … It would have been forty years… And how I would have loved to have spoken out on those verdant Cotswold hills and to have shared a platform with the delegates from the National Chartist Convention. But we thought of you all at our branch meetings at Clerkenwell, and sent some supporters down. It must have been a fine sight with 5,000 people there with their flags and banners and with the sun sinking down beyond the Severn.’
‘But thank you for thinking of me.’
‘And thank you for the engraved stone. It’s haunting to see such a stone engraved with my initials, gathered from where I learned to read and write, down by the banks of the infant Thames at Ewen. I remember doing such practice myself.
‘Well, my time’s up. Got to get back. But good luck with the film. I barely saw even a photograph in my time. But don’t be surprised if I make it down on the train this time. Be ready for me on Selsley.Goodbye and thanks for coming.’
The next day in Stroud, I mentioned my visit to an acquaintance in the Shambles; she told me that she used to live in the grave digger’s cottage on the Harrow Road, next to the cemetery.
The post below might appear to be about mid-summer rather than mid-winter; but it has a message about 12th Night, wassailing, and medieval mummery. Forget Magna Carta Day, It’s Wat Tyler Day ‘When Adam delved And Eve span Who was then the gentleman?’ (John Ball) June 15 read more
A wheel turns full circle and the present re-appropriates the past, Tonight the heir to the throne sings La Marseilles, The battle hymn of the French Revolution (And the intro to All You Need Is Love), But if and when you sing, Remember when Prime Minister William Pitt read more
Between feeding her six month old baby, my daughter read out the harrowing account from Lesbos of unrelenting rain, desperation on all sides and Syrian children dying. The name Marah is from the book of Exodus – a hard place. Under fireworks, Marah, the Stroud charity h read more