Heritage and Counter-Heritage

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’.

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Dennis Severs’ House

It’s like History on Acid,
A Raphael Samuel Magical Mystery Tour,
Not Seven Rooms of Gloom,
But ten rooms which haunt and hex:
The dead still alive,
Watching us trip through space and time,
Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard outside,
Peering through the window panes,
Observing us in our candle-lit dream,
Clocks ticking away the century
Until it’s the time for Jacob Marley
To makes his visitation and warning,
Not just to Ebenezer Scrooge,

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The Glade

In The Glade

Anne Creed has transformed the derelict waste land off Nelson Street into a place of beauty, special to many. A broken piece of roofing slate on the corner of the Golden Fleece carved with the word glade in Tom Perkins style marks the entrance and points to the cracked pool table inscribed with ‘Song’ by Ivor Gurney.

Only the wanderer knows England’s graces

Or can anew see clear familiar faces

And who loves joy as he who dwells in shadows

Do not forget me, quite, O Severn meadows

Gurney wrote it on the Western Front in the spring of 1917 before the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) where he was gassed. Broken in two, the slate was dumped in a skip. The break could represent the breakup of Europe in the First World War or the subsequent break down of his mental health.

“No it’s the River Severn,” a friend said.

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Before The Luddites

Before the Luddites Custom, community and machinery in the English woollen industry, 1776-1809

Adrian Randall CUP

This wonderful book opens with an exploration of the pejorative use of the term ‘Luddites’ – they were right weren’t they? Wages did fall and goods could deteriorate – and how they ‘could little have imagined the linguistic legacy they were to bequeath to posterity.’ Randall points out that a focus upon direct action – rioting and so on – does not ‘accentuate’ the ‘atypical’: ‘riots often provide historians with our only point of access’ into the past values, attitudes and traditions of custom-held rights. And this point of access reveals that ‘Resistance to machinery was multiform … peaceful petitioning, appeals to the courts … negotiations … strike action, intimidation and riot.’ Randall shows how this resistance echoed 18th century Gloucestershire food riots – ‘Just as food riots reveal order, discrimination and a clear moral economy, so do the community-based riots against the jenny and scribbling machine.’

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The View from the Rock

The View From The Rock in NYC The sign said that you could ‘Travel anywhere free in Manhattan for ten dollars’, The best example of Marcusian unification of opposites, Marxian false consciousness, and oxymoronic logic I’ve seen anywhere; But those advertisements help...

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An American in Stroud

So, will this fog be gone by mid-day? No, I wouldn’t think so. Won’t the sun burn the fog off? Not really. No.

Off we go.

Cows, pastures, more cows, and a few sheep later. I’ve enjoyed yet another day of rainy-day walking in the local area. My guests apologize again for the bad weather but I point out that no weather is bad weather when you’re from Boston, and it’s January. Actually I’m from north of Boston. North enough of Boston to think that fog, rain and temperatures above freezing are considered nice weather. I am talking REALLY enjoyable. There’s no ice underfoot and I can feel my face. To me that’s nice weather for January.

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