Radical Road Trip

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:

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.

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Stroud and Abolition Aftermath

Stroud and Abolition after 1834
(Derived from a reading of Slave Empire
How Slavery Built Modern Britain
Padraic X. Scanlon)

I’m sure you know the arch near Archway School in Stroud:


Four year later, as the author tells us:
‘On 1 August 1838, more than 800,000 people were finally free.
But their freedom was circumscribed’.

Apprenticeship not Freedom

Traineeship Training Period Studentship Novitiate Initiate
Probationary Period Trial Period Indentureship
Direction Discipline Guidance Lesson Preparation
Teaching Training Coaching Drilling Tutelage

Apprenticeship not Freedom

So perhaps I should say,
On 1 August 1838, more than 800,000 people were finally ‘free’.

British hypocrisy does not stop there, of course;
I’m not talking about cups of tea
Constantly sweetened with sugar from
Slaveholding Brazil, Cuba, and Louisiana,
Although we could;
But something more fundamental
In the growth of British economic power:
The global dominance of ‘King Cotton’,
The nineteenth century dominance
Of Manchester and Lancashire –
That could not have happened, of course, without
Slavery in the cotton growing southern states of the USA.

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Stroud Valley Emigration

Emigration from Stroudwater in the 1830s and 40s
(‘Documentary Fiction’)
My emigrant’s passage started in Bisley
Along a snowdropped Sunday footpath to the church;
The service had just ended –
I sauntered in through the open door,
And there to my surprise, in a glass case,
Lay a nineteenth century list of parish accounts,
With an italicised card:
‘cost to the Parish of Bisley of ‘emigrating’ 68 persons from the parish’,
Together with a bible open to the fronts-piece:
‘The Bible which was presented by the Reverend Thomas Keble who was the Vicar of Bisley when they and 66 others emigrated to Sydney, Australia in August 1837 [The Bible has been rebound].
Two other information cards lay partially hidden beneath the bible, I could pick out a few words, however:
‘hoped they might have a more prosperous life. They were equipped with clothes, transport and food to Bristol and Thomas Keble also presented each family with a Bible and a Prayer Book.’

Prologue the First: Mr Ricardo



Price One Penny each, or Five Shillings per Hundred.

The distress of the Poor at all times forms a strong claim upon our sympathy and compassion – and though in some cases it may be brought on by their own idleness and improvidence, and therefore require the application of strong measures to check its growth … like a parent who chastises his child … But in the present condition of the Poor in this Neighbourhood … we have to encounter all the difficulties of a failing trade, and our inability to substitute any other means of independent labour … their patience and resignation is urging on their more influential neighbours to make efforts to assist them.

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A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

Bartolome De Las Casas

I came across this book again after a gap of a fifty years after reading The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. She recommended three books in The Guardian, one of which was A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome De Las Casas. She described the book thus:

The book that changed my mind
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas. ‘If you want to know anything about the Caribbean, start here. It’s written by a Spanish priest who sought to spread Christianity to the natives. This is an account of the hideous crimes and barbarism he witnessed perpetrated by the Spanish on the indigenous Taino people. A horrifying account and yes, a game changer; witness testimony of how a region was Christianised. Should be compulsory reading.’

Here are a few horrifying selections chosen by me.
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
Bartolome De Las Casas
(Priestly Eye Witness Accounts)

‘ … atrocities which go under the name of “conquests”: excesses which, if no move is made to stop them, will be committed time and again, and which (given that the indigenous peoples of the region are naturally so docile) are of themselves iniquitous, tyrannical, contrary to natural, canon, and civil law, and are deemed wicked and are condemned and proscribed by all such legal codes. I therefore concluded that it would be a criminal neglect of my duty to remain silent about the enormous loss of life as well as the infinite number of human souls despatched to Hell in the course of such “conquests”, and so resolved to publish an account of a few such outrages (and they can only be a few out of the countless number of such incidents that I could relate) …’

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Punish the Poor

Punishing the Poor:
It’s for Their Own Good
Don’t’ You Know?
That’s Levelling Up.
Punishing the Poor.

So here I am in September 2021,
In the year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,
In the year of our Lord of Bet Fred,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Credit,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,
In the year of our Lord of Cutting twenty Pounds,
Pragmatically doing my bit
For the Trussell Trust,
Which, I think, also feels ambivalent
About its work – as its website says:
‘94% of people at food banks
Are in destitution. This isn’t right.’

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Jesse James and Kings Stanley

At first glance, any connection between Kings Stanley,
Near the Cotswold mill town of Stroud,
And Jesse James of Wild West infamy,
Would seem improbable, to say the least;
But I was told by Ade Blair
(with comments from Otto Didakt),
That Jesse James’ great-grandfather,
William James, was born in Kings Stanley in 1754,
‘And is buried in St George’s churchyard’,
Dying in 1805, the year of Trafalgar.

Seems improbable, it’s true,
For here we are in landlocked locked down Stroud,
A long way from the Atlantic Ocean,
And the ‘Wild Missouri’,
And yet …
Charles Mason of the Mason-Dixon Line,
Was born just down the River Frome in Sapperton;
An American historian believes that Edward Thache,
Aka ‘Blackbeard’, the notorious pirate,
Was born in Stonehouse;
The eighteenth century was an age
Of martial and maritime and slaving expansion,
Press gangs and ships’ crews,
And a busy River Severn just down the River Frome …
Stroud Scarlet cloth went all over the world,
The East India Company,
Traded with the Iroquois,
‘Strouds’ were traded deep within First Nation lands,
Way out west beyond the Missouri river;
Redcoats were out there, of course,
before and during the American Revolution
(Or American War of Independence as we were taught);
Bristol, the eighteenth century foremost slaving port,
Was just down the road and river;
The Atlantic Archipelago
Saw many migrants go west and saw some return –
So, it seemed quite conceivable, initially,
That William James went to America,
Only to return to die in Kings Stanley in 1805,
Having left a family way out west …

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Reimagining how the Railway Lies: Slavery Compensation

Reimagining how the Railway Lies

I live in Stroud,
Home of the arch commemorating the abolition of slavery,
An arch from 1834,
Standing near a comprehensive school,
By a busy main road to Gloucester;

We are rightly and justly proud of this in Stroud –
But, of course, quite a few owners of enslaved peoples
Lived around this town,
Not to mention Gloucester, Cheltenham,
Bath, Bristol and the rural south-west.

Slave owners received the equivalent in today’s values,
Of £17 billion;
Fully forty per cent of GDP in 1834;
Taxpayers only stopped paying the interest on this
In David Cameron’s premiership in 2015
(His family benefitted btw);

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