History

Worker’s Memorial Day Walk Remembering Allen Davenport

Remembering Allen Davenport

‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage where I was born … I was never in any school … I had to get the very alphabet by catching a letter at a time as best I could from other children, who had learnt them at school … The next grand object I had in view was to acquire the art of penmanship …’

‘If there were no parks or pleasure grounds, the whole face of the country would present to the eye cornfields, meadows, gardens, plantations of all kinds of fruit trees etc., all to the highest state of cultivation.’

A government spy’s report of Allen’s words after Peterloo: ‘The Yoemanry had murdered our fellow Countrymen but had we in our own Defence shot even one or two of them it would have been called Murder and Rebellion, but [we] will put up with it no longer … we may loose a few lives in the onset yet what is the army compared to the Mass of the Country who are laboring under the yoke of Despotism … these Yoemanry are but few compared with us and it only wants the People to make up their minds as one Man for it is better to Die fighting in the cause of Liberty and freedom than be starved by our Oppressors.’

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A Prehistory Trip to Stroud Museum

‘Museums make you more aware:
Give You
Sense
Sensibility
Knowledge
A foothold in time
Make you feel a part of it all’

It’s a right regular education
When you visit Stroud Museum,
To process through the rooms,
On a trek to a prehistoric age:

For here’s a cabinet of curiosities:
Twenty-four exhibits, including
The tooth from an ancient Minchinhampton crocodile,
A coral from Newmarket, Nailsworth,
A Nautilus from Rodborough …
The Paris Situationists’ slogan
‘Underneath the pavements, the beach!’
Is displaced by this vista of the vastness of Time:
‘Over our heads as we walk the Stroudwater valleys,
The limitless ancient ocean!’

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A Wiltshire Town and Peterloo

I travelled on the GWR,
Built not long after the Orator’s death,
Passing through a mill-scape valley
Known well by quondam colleague, William Cobbett,
On past antique ridge and furrow fields,
To Swindon, a town that I am sure
Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt would have admired,
A new industrial work-town,
Full of mechanics and artisans and questioning,
Thence by the 49 bus across the windswept Downs,
Through a leafless Captain Swing landscape
On a Captain Swing late November rain-swept day,
To take my leisure at the Bear in the town square,
Where – against every grain – Henry Hunt took his wife:
‘How this betrothing came about I must now inform my readers, I had often
heard my father speak in very high terms of Miss Halcomb, the daughter of his
old acquaintance, Mr. Wm. Halcomb, who kept the Bear Inn at Devizes, well
known to be one of the very best inns between London and Bath.’

I travelled on the GWR,
Built not long after the Orator’s death,
Passing through a mill-scape valley
Known well by quondam colleague, William Cobbett,
On past antique ridge and furrow fields,
To Swindon, a town that I am sure
Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt would have admired,
A new industrial work-town,
Full of mechanics and artisans and questioning,
Thence by the 49 bus across the windswept Downs,
Through a leafless Captain Swing landscape
On a Captain Swing late November rain-swept day,
To take my leisure at the Bear in the town square,
Where – against every grain – Henry Hunt took his wife:
‘How this betrothing came about I must now inform my readers, I had often
heard my father speak in very high terms of Miss Halcomb, the daughter of his
old acquaintance, Mr. Wm. Halcomb, who kept the Bear Inn at Devizes, well
known to be one of the very best inns between London and Bath.’

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Swinish Multitude

Edmund Burke‘s Statue, Bristol, December 2018

Edmund Burke on the lower orders – ‘ a swinish multitude’

‘Along with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude … ‘

Reflections on the Revolution in France 1790

Edmund Burke ‘s Statue

Paid for by a Bristol tobacco baron,
We look on your works and despair:
You stand there, commanding Bristol’s heights,
Your ancien regime condescension
Masked by this deceptive commemoration:
“I wish to be a member of parliament to have my share
of doing good and resisting evil.”
Far more truthful if the plinth were etched
With this memorialization:
‘I regard all you common people,
Passing me by on your trivial tasks
As nothing more than a swinish multitude.’

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The Kings and Kingdoms

The hollow roll of dates
chronicling the tired litany of monarchs.
Their dusty bones never sleeping
gasping their phantom moans to every generation:
To keep on fighting for the kingdom.
To never forget king and kingdom comes first.
You are its living instrument
that the dead summon to serve and die buried under the hollow drum roll of dates and kings.
Piling their bloody victories, plundered wealth and the crotch grasping posture of destruction over the thousands of corpses that had to die.
To die like an insignificant fly for the dusty bones and stones cut with the deeds of one homicidal dynasty after another.
Oh but the blood must run, it must run!
The young have to die.
The women will birth our soldiers.
For I can hear the dry bones of old kings and their old wars
drumming in today’s march into oblivion.

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Captain Swing in Gloucestershire

‘And lo and behold! Here I am!’

It was a perfect autumn day for a bike ride,
Mournful golds and russets and crimsons,
Sun dappled and splashed as I climbed the wolds,
To leave the pastoral valleys behind,
And so reach the wide, open, brown-ploughed fields,
Up above Avening, on the high, back lanes
Around Chavenage and Cherington and Beverstone,
On my cyclo-geographical trip to the Troubled House inn;

Back in the winter of 1830,
These lanes were thronged with anxious farm hands:
Families were hungry with bread prices high,
With wages low, and winter indigence
Threatened by these new threshing machines;
And so the Captain Swing riots had made their way
From Wiltshire to Gloucestershire –
Smashing threshing machines, burning hay ricks,
Penning threatening letters to farmers, signed by
The half-mythologised gentleman on a white horse,
The impossibly ubiquitous Captain Swing:
“this is to inform you what you have to undergo gentelemen if providing you Don’t pull down your meshenes and rise the poor mens wages the married men give tow and sixpence a day the single tow shillings or we will burn down your barns and you in them this is the last notis
From Swing”

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The Burial Chamber

It stands at the end of a street
(Bungalows, cars, caravans, camper vans,
Children playing in the road and on the driveways),
There, behind a gate and beyond the signposts.

A six thousand year old burial chamber,
One giant stone forty-five degrees athwart
Another four, in a suburban enclosure,
Precarious yet adamantine-firm;

Cremated bones were found here.

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