May 21st 1839 on Selsley Common

May 21st 2016 – May 21st 1839
‘A lovely day spent on Selsley Common today, remembering this day in 1839 when 5,000 gathered here in support of the People’s Charter. Then a talk about it all in the Bell, and a toast with the commemorative porter. Something quite English about it all – a different heritage though.’

We put on our best blouses, aprons and hats

I’ll never forget last Tuesday, even if I live to seventy.
We all woke up so excited, never eaten porridge so fast.
We put on our best blouses, aprons and hats,
The men shaved their chins, put on their caps,
Moleskin trousers and fustian waistcoats,
And out we strode into the lane.
Such a sight you never did see!
The men and women and children,
All marching in an orderly line past our cottage;
Then when we got to Stroud, we couldn’t believe our eyes:
Serpentine lines climbing up every valley side,
There must have been thousands!
All laughing and cheering, but sore determined,
To get our rights and right our wrongs;
Bread has never been so dear and wages are down,
With long hours for those who do have work;
Then there was the Tolpuddle Martyrs,
Then there was the New Poor Law and the Workhouse.
The Bible tells us to nurture each other in sickness and in health,
But the Workhouse rents us all asunder!
So it was such a joy to see them all,
See them all streaming from Sheepscombe, Steanbridge and Slad,
Stroud, Woodchester, Uley, Wotton,
The Stanleys, Selsley, Cainscross, Minchinhampton, Painswick,
Rodborough, Stonehouse, Randwick, Ruscombe, Bisley,
Nailsworth, Avening and Horsley;
Bands playing, music flowing, banners billowing:
‘Liberty’; ‘Equal Rights and Equal Laws’;
‘For a Nation to be Free it is Sufficient that She wills it’.
Then the banners from the Working Men’s Associations,
And the Radical Women’s Associations,
Then the handbills and placards listing our six points:
Universal Suffrage; Secret Ballot; Payment of MPs;
Abolition of the property qualification for MPs;
Payment of MPs; Annual Parliaments;
Then the speeches up there on top of the common:
‘We must have the 6 points’;
‘Peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must’;
‘Those damnable Poor Law Bastilles are worse than prisons’;
‘May the Almighty inspire the people with vigour and energy’;
Then cheers for our Chartist leaders’ names,
And then the groans for Russell’s;
It was such a day and life will never be the same again:
Russell says we do not understand the laws of capital and wages,
But we do, my Lord.
We do.