Heritage and Counter-Heritage: Are They So Very Different?
Two recent visits to ‘historic’ houses and a recent walk have made me question the usual binary opposition of heritage and counter-heritage, and got me thinking that perhaps they lie rather more on a continuum.
A visit to Dennis Severs’ house
A counter-heritage disenchantment walk http://radicalstroud.co.uk/colonial-countryside-disenchantment/,
and a visit to the National Trust cottage of Samuel Taylor Coleridge at Nether Stowey have set me a-thinking.
It struck me at Nether Stowey, that the National Trust quite-right wish for visitor-enchantment, involved counter-heritage practices too … and if the National Trust does that …
The Coleridges’ Cottage: Samuel and Sara
It sits in Lime Street, Nether Stowey,
Just off the old Minehead turnpike road,
Opposite a pub called the Ancient Mariner:
(The inn sign has no picture, just the words:
THE ANCIENT MARINER in upper case,
With a tiny inset top left: Lyrical Ballads)
The cottage of Samuel Taylor Coleridge –
The home and workplace of Sara Coleridge,
Now a National Trust Museum –
Involves an imaginative re-creation
Of how the cottage might have looked in 1797,
In that year of poetic wonderment;
With thanks to Bob Fry for the prologue and Robin Treefellow for his stream of consciousness imagery.
Dusty spikes of blue Bugle
Hemlock Water Dropwort.
Cow Parsley and May Blossom, shining white in the green hedgerows, everywhere.
Early swallows skimming the air above the buttercup meadows (where Robin recited his poems)
The Dream of Nailsworth
The waters’ intonation
washed in Nailsworth.
Before the cloth mills,
before the cars brought their disquiet
the waters sang among alders.
The world was a flicker of a fish
hiding from the heron.
Nailsworth knew nothing of Egypt’s pyramids
or the fall of Carthage.
Softly persisting to go where its water went,
Nailsworth bred dreams and spawned thousands of little worlds in marshy meadows.
The Famous Five and Enoch Powell and Walter Tull
What an extraordinary coincidence,
That on the fiftieth anniversary
Of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,
Our railway stations should be awash
With ‘Five Go on Holiday’ GWR posters;
Four children – well adults really – and a dog,
Escaping to a whitewashed cottage,
In a West Country all white fastness,
Where BBC received pronunciation,
And lower class deference
Keep everyone in their place,
Abetted by kindly constables on the beat,
Who will willingly tell you the time.
STROUD COUNTER-HERITAGE WEEKEND FEBRUARY 3rd-4th
The Centre for Science and Art,
10am Doors open
The following events are timetabled, but there are events running throughout the day. Scroll down until you see the heading
EVENTS RUNNING THROUGHOUT THE DAY
10.30: The People History Forgot to Remember: tour of Stroud cemetery with Angela Findlay, artist & cemetery resident
Using poetry, diary extracts and performance to explore attitudes to death from the 1850s onwards, the hidden symbols used in gravestones, the fate of those deemed ‘paupers’ & workhouse life.
Meeting point: Lower Cemetery Lodge, 114 Bisley Road, GL5 1HG, just inside the gates of the cemetery
Tickets available at location – some parts of the walk are not wheelchair accessible, but many parts are.
PEOPLE’S HERITAGE CARD
Introduction and Explanation
We are all used to blue plaque heritage for the rich and famous, but this is a day for the chip plate ordinary people.
Collect a People’s Heritage Card and complete your People’s Heritage Task. Take pictures! Write up an account in any genre!
PEOPLE’S HERITAGE CARD NUMBER ONE
A suburban home means as much a stately home, so …
Put posters in your window: “EVERY HOME A HERITAGE SITE’,
Invite people around and give them a guided tour –
You could even issue tickets and rope off PRIVATE AREAS.
PEOPLE’S HERITAGE CARD NUMBER TWO
Leave counter-heritage notes in envelopes addressed to HERITAGE: THE TRUTH and insert them in the gaps between official plaques and the surfaces to which the plaques are attached,
the Black Boy clock in Nelson Street needs a different contextualization, one which foregrounds slavery,
rather than a clock.
Heritage and Counter-Heritage in Stroud and the Five Valleys
The text below is what I think is important when considering SDC’s consultation on Stroud’s ‘Heritage’:
‘I think it is important to reflect on the whole notion of counter-heritage, too. By that, I mean a practice that goes beyond the visible and the archived: following the EP Thompson/Raphael Samuel historiographical process of giving a voice to the forgotten, ignored or marginalised, and not just foregrounding the ‘drum and trumpet’ outlook. Any new heritage strategy should consider this – for example: Stroud’s current heritage boards: the one in the Shambles gives a brief mention to food riots, with no contextualisation and explanation, and then we’re away on the ‘Great Man’ view of the past and naval war.
This counter-heritage should not just be about the lower orders – women and men – of Stroud: the spinners and weavers confronting the march of technology rather than just submitting to it; the Chartists; the poachers; Captain Swing and so on; it should also raise questions about the possible involvement of Stroud scarlet in the slave trade. It is vital that Stroud addresses and presents a multicultural history in the 21st century.
The heritage board near Lechlade, by the canal/Thames interchange at Inglesham , implicitly mentions this – nowhere in Stroud does.
A few slave owners in the district received compensation when slavery was abolished in 1834 – and that injection of capital helped fuel the industrial revolution. The Keynsian multiplier effect from the East India Company – opium, tobacco, slaving – also helped transform our landscape. The Bathurst slavery link also contributed to what is called a ‘colonial countryside’.read more
I went searching for the soul of Forest Green,
Wandering intuitively, ad hoc
Inferentially, without any
A priori knowledge or insight:
It was a tabula rasa wander.
Northfields Road smacked of enclosed fields
(‘Its only bondage was the circling sky’),
And Eighteenth century food riots,
With Captain Swing riding over in Horsley,
While dark satanic mills in the valleys
Stood where weavers once combined for justice.
I crossed the threshold of a century,
Past chapel, school, and blacksmith’s workshop,
Through labyrinths of handloom weavers’ paths,
Along a valley far below the flood threat
Of countless springs and teeming brooks and streams,
Along The Rollers, Chestnut Hill, Star Hill,
And so to the Jovial Foresters,
Where the players used to change for the match,
(Victorian post box in its roadside wall),
Past a blue plaque to Private Charles Marmont,
Died of wounds 21st May 1918,
Buried Forest Green Chapel Graveyard,
And so to where Joseph Weight used to work
(A Nailsworth Conscientious Objector),
Before he faced the tribunal’s judgement
On whether he really had a conscience.