Rodborough and Jamaica 1840

Rodborough and Jamaica, 1840:
Reimagining Peter Hawker

There are several strands and a good few facts
In this tale of Peter Hawker and Caroline Stephenson
Of this parish of Rodborough near Stroud.
But how did this tale come about?

Well, I thought I had compiled an accurate list
Of Stroud area residents who gained
So much ‘cankered coin’ from the abolition
Of slavery in the colonies;
I had carefully examined my alma mater
UCL database and thought I had bagged the lot.

But a few years later I came across:
AWARDEE Peter Hawker
Jamaica St Andrew 111 (Liberty Hall Pen) £699 17s 8d [26 enslaved]]
Absentee slave-owner by virtue
of his marriage to Caroline Stephenson
In Rodborough, Gloucestershire, 26/05/1823.
She was heiress of George Stephenson
of Liberty Hall, St Andrew, Jamaica.

I wonder what life was like for George Stephenson?
Well, in the footsteps of W.G. Sebald
And his ‘documentary fiction’,
I let the past speak for itself,
Courtesy of the pages of Jack P. Greene’s erudite tome,
Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism
in Eighteenth-Century Britain …

Read More

Stroud and WW2

With a Preface by General Sir Hugh Elles, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.’
K.C.V.O.’ D.S.O.,
A Foreword by Bramwell Hudson, Esq., J.P.
And 34 Illustrations

“Your path of duty has been the way to glory
and amidst the glorious records of the war
the story of Civil Defense will take a high
THE STROUD (Urban and Rural) AND NAILSWORTH (Urban)
R.D.C. Chambers, John Street, Stroud


The first week of the war saw the arrival of 1,200 evacuees from Birmingham, the opening of public air raid shelters, the sandbagging of selected public buildings, the closure of cinemas, and the black-out, while ‘most people carried respirators, and there was a general air of expectancy.’

‘On Friday, November 10th, the first Preliminary Air Raid Warning, known as the “Yellow Warning,” was received at 11.20 a.m. Yellow Warnings were confidential warnings for A.R.P. Control, and were not for issue to the public, so that no sirens were sounded. On this occasion the warning message was passed up to a meeting of the R.D.C. Committee, that happened to be sitting, as several of the members were engaged in A.R.P. A year later, when the number of “Yellows” received amounted to an average of three a day, nobody would have even troubled to inform the Committee, but on this occasion (the first for this Area) the members picked up their respirators and left. (It is reported that the staff spent the rest of the morning gazing through windows at the sky watching for the approach of a German armada!)’

read more

Fake Views

Trigonometry Points or Trickonometry Points?
The clue is in the name of course:
Ordnance Survey: Ordnance: artillery;
Survey: examine and record an area of land;

The clue is in the time as well as space:
The 18th and 19th centuries:
The formation of the United Kingdom,
When English and Hanoverian imperialism
Mapped the new Union Jack with redcoat ruler,
And with muskets and new names and mathematics,
With charts and furlongs and charters,
Enclosing common and custom
With a new and ruthless toponymy.

read more

Stroud Scarlet and the Iroquois

We all know of the cloth stretched out on tenterhooks
Around Stroud and the five valleys:
Stroud Scarlet, Uley Blue, Berkeley Yellow,
Out there in the newly enclosed fields;
Gate and fence and hedge and notice board,
Where once the land was walked by custom
And ‘Its only bondage was the circling sky’;
Where the high walls of dark satanic mills
Enclose handloom weavers and spinners
In a new bondage of the ticking clock,
As the scarlet and yellow broadcloth
Crosses the Atlantic archipelago,
To reach the Iroquois in their circling sky,
In the so-called Age of Reason
When rationality was equated with private property,
And racial hierarchy with Enlightenment.

Here are two texts to illustrate this linkage
Between Stroud, its valleys, and the Iroquois:
The first from the Iroquois leader, Joseph Brant,
Where he contrasts his homelands with England:

read more

The Gladstones at Gloucester

William Ewart Gladstone,
Late nineteenth century Liberal,
Principled opponent of imperialism,
According to some history books;
Serial chancellor of the exchequer,
Serial prime minister,
Son of John Gladstone
(MP for New Woodstock, Oxfordshire,
Courtesy of the Duke of Marlborough),
Found his father looking well, but tired,
When he visited his father in Gloucester.

John Gladstone’s pseudonym was ‘Mercator’.

William Ewart Gladstone’s maiden speech in parliament,
Would be a defence of the owners of enslaved peoples.

John Gladstone arrived in Gloucester in 1825,
Gradgrind wealthy,
Counting his profits:
Shipping interests in Liverpool,
Sugar plantations in the West Indies;
Counting his enslaved people:
2,508 men, women and children
in Jamaica and Demerara;
Rejoicing that revolt against enslavement
(On his plantations)
Had been viciously suppressed by the Stroud Scarlet army.

read more

Jack Zipes

Munich, Arsenal and Frankfurt

Twenty years after Neville Chamberlain
Proclaimed ‘Peace for our time’ at Heston,
On his return from the Munich conference,
The ‘Busby Babes’ played their last ever game
In England, against Arsenal, at Highbury:

The Munich Air Crash would take so many lives and minds,
And leave a city and a nation frozen in grief;
It was a long journey from February to the summer.

But the World Cup followed the end of the season –
Pele amazed the world with his precocity –
Before close season training at Highbury,
With eyes upon the coming fixture list;
When Jack Zipes, an American student,
Would leave Coleridge, Wordsworth, Thelwall et al

read more

Medieval Monarchy and a Radical View

Edward the Second

Kings and Queens, Princesses and Princes,
Fairy Stories for children and for grown-ups,
But this is no fairy tale,
This is the story of a reign gone wrong:
King Edward the Second, most foul murdered,
So-say, on our Berkeley Castle doorstep,
Screams, they say, heard for twenty miles,
His cortege stopping at Standish en route
For a regal entombment at Gloucester …
This Gothick tale is not made for the Age of Enlightenment –
Oh, go away, Tom Paine with your Reason:

‘When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary. Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are easily poisoned by importance, and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions’ …

Let’s keep the fairy tale going if we can –
Oh, but how much do you loathe and detest
Tales like The Princess and the Pea and their ilk?
And by all The Rights of Man and Woman,
A simple question to ask of pomp and circumstance:
Why do monarchs wear crowns upon their heads?
Anthropologically speaking,
I suppose head-dresses, wreaths, crowns and the like
Signify ‘otherness’, legitimacy, immortality,
And yet, let’s be honest with ourselves,
People look slightly strange in a crown –
We wear paper hats at Christmas Dinner,
And laugh at ourselves in an echo
Of the World Turned Upside Down,
And the Twelfth Night’s Lord of Misrule,
But we also laugh at ourselves because we look comic:
You look weird in a crown, be it paper
Or heavy with gold and wrought with jewels …

But on to Edward the Second at Gloucester,
And a popular history paperback,
Edward the Second The Unconventional King
(Kathryn Warner) –
The foreword by Ian Mortimer
Offers some interesting observations
About monarchy, but not, perhaps,
In the way that the writer intended,
But what do you make of all of this?

read more