Radical Antiquarians on Tour
The Antiquarians’ Road Trip
Plus ca change
Look! There’s Mr Jingle and Mr Pickwick in Stamford,
A town astride the Great North Road,
All tortuous turnpikes and honey stone,
Coaching inns and listed buildings:
‘GOOD STABLING AND LOOSE BOXES’;
And beyond Stamford, heading east?
There’s John Clare revenants walking the roadside,
And channels and rivulets and watercourses,
With high embankments above the roads,
And a cloud filled sky that meets the fields
In a cumulonimbus towering clasp
Across a dark shadowed numinous dreamscape;
But there, leaping out of the flat lands’ fastness,
The vaporous tower of Ely cathedral,
And all around, the oozing of the fens:
Tick Fen; Langwood Fen, Great Fen, ChatterisFen,
Ouse Fen, Mildenhall Fen, Burnt Fen …
And all around, the waters of rivers and dykes,
And a boatyard down below the cathedral,
Constant trains rattling across the freight line rails,
As twilight softness gathers around the streets,
And swifts soar high above the Maltings,
And high above the roof of Oliver Cromwell’s house,
Just as their seventeenth century ancestors did,
When Cromwell strode forth with his righteous bible,
Imagining a New Model Army
That would vanquish Charles Stuart’s Royalists,
While swifts screeched and eavesdropped high above,
And a parliament of rooks observed and noted.
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.