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 …

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Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
Abingdon to Wallingford

Abingdon to Wallingford March 12th 2020
Sunrise 6.20 Sunset 18.00
Carbon count: 413.78 Pre-industrial base 280 Safe level 350
14 miles Start 11.20 Arrival 15.25

The day after the budget the day before
(Hedge funds versus food banks),
On a train to Didcot and then a bus to Abingdon,
Past Didcot Power Station edgelands,
Pat business park daffodil roundabouts,
And a stream of greenwashing lorries,
Until I walk beneath the bridge at Abingdon,
Past medieval alms houses
(A Foodbank Pilgrimage),
Splashing through big sky open fields,
Past dovecots and manor houses,
Past bridges and weirs and locks and ferries,
Past thatch and pub and hills and woodland,
Following the line of pill boxes,
With magnolia in bloom in Shillingford,
Blackthorn and hawthorn in blossom too,
Hawk, heron, corvid, swan and skylark,
A rainbow over the church at Dorchester,
Half drowned trees and silvered puddles,
And all the time,
The relentless flow
Of the quickening, wide and turbid Thames,
Past Neolithic, Iron Age and Romano-British remains,
Past Paul Nash’s Wittenham Clumps,
Until I at last reach Saxon Wallingford,
And a bus back to Didcot,
And a train back to Stroud.

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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number

Chalford and the East India Company

Updated: Jul 7

Chalford has such a labyrinth of weavers’ walks and footpaths –
And on a mid-winter’s day, with plumes of smoke rising from Chalford Bottom
Mistletoe in the trees, light folded in envelopes of cloud,
It’s hard to imagine that this picturesque Cotswold village
Was once hand in glove with the East India Company,
As at Sevill’s Upper Mill,
Now a select residential development,
With the stream, now private and sequestered,
Between houses and a car park.

This landscape was once a fretwork of
‘Scarlet, Crimson, Blue and a variety of other delightful colours’,
A fretwork of profits and prices and exports and wages
And strikes and patterns of trade slumps and booms,
Linking the Thames and Severn Canal and the River Frome –
With the Ganges Valley, Bengal, Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Canton,
And with Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, the Marquess Wellesley,
And with muskets, cannon, Stroud Scarlet, slavery, opium, cotton, coffee and tea:
‘Gloucestershire seems to have had
almost the sole custom of the East India Company’.

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number 5

Stroud and strouds and the Atlantic Archipelago

Updated: Jul 5

From Stroud to Strouds:
The Hidden History of a British Fur Trade Textile
Cory Wilmott
Textile History Journal November 2005
These rough notes are derived from this article and this section of the article is derived from Samuel Rudder, 1779.
Stroud scarlet’s ‘inland trade’ also included cloth sold to merchants who sold the cloth to ‘our colonies and other foreign markets’.
These merchants included those in London and Bristol.
Cloth also clad the British army and was also sold to the East India Company.
Questions derived from reading this article:
1. The article focusses upon the fur trade. But if we go beyond the confines of this article and think. Cloth went to ‘our colonies’. London and Bristol were the chief slaving ports involved in the triangular trade in southern England.
2. It would be counter-intuitive to think Stroud cloth wasn’t involved with the slave trade.
3. Turnpike to Bristol? Colin Maggs in The Nailsworth and Stroud Branch: ‘…cloth manufacturers found their trade hampered by the high cost of road transport to ships at Gloucester and Bristol. It is recorded that in 1763 Daniel Ballard ran stage waggons to both these ports’.
4. Stroudwater Navigation to the Severn and thence to Bristol? Thames & Severn Canal and then the Thames to London?
5. We need empirically minded historians with the time to research the unique archive of the Stroudwater Navigation. See the prose-poem below:

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number Four

Decolonising Gloucestershire’s Landscape

Gloucester Docks:
Revealing a hidden Colonial Landscape and Waterscape

It was pouring February rain,
When I visited Gloucester Docks:
The Severn was swollen and turbid,
But the bell of the Atlas was silent
In the strengthening Severn wind;
The Atlas, a voyager to China and India –
For the East India Company,
The plaque told us on the warehouse wall –
But no mention of slavery, war or opium
(Standard East India Company practice),
Or the Stroudwater-East India Company nexus;

The Maritime Walk, as it is termed,
Takes you on past Phillpott’s Warehouse,
And the unmentioned Thomas Phillpotts:
Owner of some seven hundred enslaved people,
Nearly three hundred of whom were shared ‘investments’
With Samuel Baker of Bakers Quay fame;
Samuel Baker of Lypiatt Park, near Stroud,
Paid £7,990 compensation
For 410 slaves in Jamaica.

The compensation paid to slave owners in 1834,
Is close to £17 billion in today’s values,
Fully forty per cent of the national budget back then,
The interest on which we have only just ceased paying –
This gives a hint to the bounty paid to Baker and Phillpotts,
A bounty that led to the development
of Baker’s Quay, and High Orchard,
The locus of Gloucester’s industrial revolution;

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Stroud and a Hidden Colonial Landscape Number 1

A comparison of Island Man and Limbo with a formal piece of writing as an assessment, if wanted. There then follows a piece about Rodborough. Obviously, this guide is written for a very mixed audience. Please adapt to suit. You are all very different!

Firstly, download a copy of Island Man by Grace Nicholls and Limbo by Edward Kamau Brathwaite. (There are copies below, if required, after all the questions.)

Read Island Man three times. The first time without making any notes. Just get the gist. After the second reading, try to write a two or three sentence summary of the meaning of the poem. After the third reading, make some annotations on your poem or notes on another page, with responses to the prompts below. Or if you feel confident, then just think these questions through or discuss them.

  • What happens in lines 1-10?
  • What happens in lines 11-19?
  • How do the descriptions vary between London and the Caribbean?
  • How is the language a bit dreamlike?
  • How is the poem irregular in structure? Why do you think this is?
  • What emotions and outlooks on life do you find in the poem?
  • NOW WRITE DOWN TWO OR THREE WORDS OR PHRASES FROM THE POEM. Explain why you have chosen these.
  • What do you read into the title?
  • What is interesting about the first line?
  • Can you find a metaphor?
  • Which senses feature in the poem?
  • What do you read into the last line?
  • Find out about the poet, Grace Nichols, with a quick internet search. GCSE Bitesize might still have this poem up in the English (Literature) area.
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