History

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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Woodchester Roman Villa

Boudonus a servant in the Villa Magni Widinis speaks:

‘My family have always been servants to the Great Family whose own ancestors had the villa built in the valley made with stone from the hills around; they were the Great Family before the Dobunni became part of the Roman Empire. My father said as his own father told him that the Roman men were very clever because they left our tribes as they were. In Britain we had our kings, priests and warriors, craftsmen and farmers; we had rich lands feeding our cows, sheep and growing grain. The Roman men left this because they could see it worked and all they had to do was make our noble men willing clients. Only they didn’t like our priests, the druids were too political refusing to acknowledge the divine status of the emperor. You know what happened to them’

‘We gave them tax,- yes that meant our grain-kept the peaceyes kept it because we were too busy scraping up enough grain for ourselves to think of disturbing Roman peace-and our nobility were left alone to enjoy the luxuries of the Roman Empire: lots of wine was the main thing and more skin off our hands working to keep the taxes up. At Villa Magni Widinis the Great Family are the richest here in Dobunnic territory and around them gather all their nobles who live in smaller Roman villas around the vale. My family has always been proud to be servants at Villa Magni Widinis.

It is not just a big house, no the villa is a place where there is industry and where the grain and wool from all the villa estate are sorted and made ready for being sold at the market at Glevum. Through the villa gates you will see there are buildings for pottery, iron working, brewing, baking, carpentry and weaving. They are done by families like mine who live inside the villa walls. It is the shepherds and field labourers who live outside and they are the poorest, but even they have to come to the villa to be paid in grain, beer, salt and wool.

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Take my Hand, I’m a Stranger in Paradise

It’s hard to imagine the orchards of Heathrow,
Abundant as the orchards of Herefordshire,
Down there, by John Betjeman’s hated Slough:
‘Come friendly bombs’;
Hard to imagine windfalls in these
William Blake ‘chartered streets’:
‘One World: One Account’,
‘The future is exciting!
Get ready!’
But I shall be flying over gramp’s
Great War battlefields,
Towards dad’s Chindit warfare,
Via dystopian Dubai airport:
‘Dubai has transformed from a humble fishing village
to one of the most cosmopolitan and innovative cities in the world …
Jump on the metro, catch an amazing view from the world’s tallest building …
shop within The Dubai Mall Metropolis,
take a selfie in front of the famous Dubai Fountain …
All you have to do is get off a plane.’

But what of Kerala?
In the words of Stroud’s Rick Vick:
‘Apparently, a functioning, flourishing and fully communist state’,

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Kindertransport

Remembering

You were a deep mid-winter baby, Harry,
Born in Vienna, the home of art and culture,
Just two years after Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.

But there was nothing to worry about
In those early years before memory,
When your mum and dad held you in their arms,
In mid-winter afternoon twilight –

Until the Wall Street Crash and depression
Meant the resurgence of fascism,
Militarism, the Third Reich,
Lebensraum, and a Greater Germany,
With a visit to Vienna from Hitler
(The city-birth of his fascism),
After Anschluss in 1938;

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What Makes People Love History

What makes People love history?
So that it becomes a passion,
Not a subject, nor hobby, nor interest,
Not a diversion, nor a pastime,
But a consuming passion instead.

I started to read the virtual edition
Of the History Workshop Journal,
A compendium of contributors
And historians, who recounted
The reasons, recollections, emotions,
And afternoon madeleine moments,
That all conspired, to conjure forth
A love of the study of the past:
A Passion for History.

I’ve added my own, too;
I wonder which of these apply to you?

For example …

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On Seeing The Grave of Sir Fabian Ware at Amberley

On the surface, it all seems quite equal,
The Great War cemeteries and gravestones:
Identical – uniform – symbolic –
Equality of sacrifice in death;

But a different story lies beneath:
Officers: seasoned wood for their coffins,
And lids that were carefully screwed down;
Men and other ranks: had unseasoned wood,
And lids that were brusquely nailed and hammered;

1918 saw the vote given to some women –
But not the canary girls and phossie jaws,
They had to wait another ten years –
But also some five and a half million men:
Only 60% of males had the vote
When war broke out for King and Country.

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Harvest Festivals and Changing Times

Times change don’t they?

“Are there no prisons?”
“Are there no workhouses?”
Asked Mr. Scrooge back in the decade
Known as ‘The Hungry Forties”,
When asked to assist with charity,
A charity that was mostly Christian rather than secular.

Times change don’t they?
‘’We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
And it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand’…
I grew up singing that as a schoolboy,
Not knowing then, that it was a hymnal retort
To Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species
Times change don’t they?

And when I sang that as a schoolboy,
We collected and distributed the fruits of the harvest
To senior citizens in the area,
Many, I suspect, widowed in the Great War,
And our posh head-teacher would not allow
Anything as common as tinned food
To sully the cornucopia in the hall,
Times change don’t they?

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