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’.
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.
MY EARLY YEARS
I was born in Liverpool in 1952. It seems strange looking back but Liverpool was still a bombsite as it was only 7 years after the end of the war. We lived 300 yards from the docks and through a child’s eyes everything seemed to be in black and white. I was the second oldest of 5 children. My mother had her children before she was 21 and we lived in 2 rooms in a privately rented house.
My father was pretty useless and he preferred the company of his mates in the pub and I remember him spending time in prison but my mother told us that he was working in Butlins holiday camp during the periods of his absence.
Lines of Green: the hills and vales of the Five Valleys;
Lines of Red: Stroud Scarlet stretched on tenterhooks;
Lines of Black: Denotes strength and clarity of vision
And the slave trade and its abolition
History, topography, politics and football,
All conjoined in the design of the FVR football shirt,
A revolutionary shirt,
In nature, design and intention:
An inclusive shirt,
Not just for Stroud,
But for the Five Valleys too,
And the wide world beyond,
A shirt from the People’s Republic of Stroud:
Art of Clay.
Lawrence, according to Wikipedia, originally came from Valencia in Spain. He was a young deacon in Rome under Pope Sixtus II, before Christianity became the established religion, at the time when the Emperor Valerian launched a persecution against the early church. In 258 Sixtus was beheaded while celebrating the liturgy and Lawrence was ordered to hand over the church’s treasured possessions. He asked for three days to gather them, over which time he distributed the precious things amongst the community before presenting himself with a delegation of marginalised and disabled people.read more
Blake, Bunyan, Wordsworth and Forest Green
And lo, it came to pass that when the Forest Green fans sang
‘Stand up for the Forest Green’,
All fans throughout the ground and stands,
And when the Forest Green fans sang
‘Sit down for the Forest Green’,
All fans throughout the ground and stands,
Public buildings are not just about accounts, ledgers and money,
They are also about what Raphael Samuel called ‘Theatres of Memory’,
Where varying conceptions of ‘Heritage’ can collude, collide, or elide:
If each of us could walk alone through the Subscription Rooms,
Alone in memory, reverie and seasonal darkness,
As the clock, Jacob Marley-like, chimed through the night,
What a miscellany of ghosts of Stroud Subscription Rooms’ past
Would be invoked!
Those concerts, those bands, those exhibitions, those meetings,
Those queues, the café, the bar,
Tickets for shows and the National Express bus …