Radical Stroud Revolutionary Walks Programme

1. TBC: May 26th In May 1839, revolution was in the air around Stroud and 5,000 people met on Selsley Common to air support for the Chartist demands for democracy. Radical Stroud will lead a performative walk to remember those times with a walk up to Selsley Hill. Meet at the Kitsch café opposite Ebley Mill on the canal on Saturday May 26th. A stiff walk follows up to the common. Allow yourselves three hours maximum for up and talk and discuss and back down again. Free but numbers limited to 30. Book via Stuart Butler at stfc12@hotmail.comThis event dovetails with the premiere of Day of Hope by John Bassett and the Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company.

2. TBC: May 1st: train to Kemble (9.08); walk to Ewen; talk about the Chartist, Spencean, feminist etc. Allen Davenport in Ewen; then walk back to the source of the Thames and thence to Stroud. Allow six hours for the walk. The Thames rises near Ewen, about fifteen miles from Stroud. And it was Ewen which saw the birth of Allen Davenport in 1775. Allen was the son of a handloom weaver. He taught himself to read and write. He became a Spencean; a biographer of Thomas Spence; an Owenite; a feminist, and a Chartist writer and poet, who is memorialised on the Reformers’ Memorial in Kensal Green. This was thrilling stuff for me to find out about whilst walking along the banks of the infant river … We have a commemorative walk planned from Stroud along the Thames and Seven Canal and the river to Ewen on May 1st: Allen Davenport’s birthdate, btw. We shall bring this radical back to life in his home village, down in this sequestered Tory shire. Free but numbers limited to 30. Book via Stuart Butler at stfc12@hotmail.com

1. TBC: May 26th In May 1839, revolution was in the air around Stroud and 5,000 people met on Selsley Common to air support for the Chartist demands for democracy. Radical Stroud will lead a performative walk to remember those times with a walk up to Selsley Hill. Meet at the Kitsch café opposite Ebley Mill on the canal on Saturday May 26th. A stiff walk follows up to the common. Allow yourselves three hours maximum for up and talk and discuss and back down again. Free but numbers limited to 30. Book via Stuart Butler at stfc12@hotmail.comThis event dovetails with the premiere of Day of Hope by John Bassett and the Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company.

2. TBC: May 1st: train to Kemble (9.08); walk to Ewen; talk about the Chartist, Spencean, feminist etc. Allen Davenport in Ewen; then walk back to the source of the Thames and thence to Stroud. Allow six hours for the walk. The Thames rises near Ewen, about fifteen miles from Stroud. And it was Ewen which saw the birth of Allen Davenport in 1775. Allen was the son of a handloom weaver. He taught himself to read and write. He became a Spencean; a biographer of Thomas Spence; an Owenite; a feminist, and a Chartist writer and poet, who is memorialised on the Reformers’ Memorial in Kensal Green. This was thrilling stuff for me to find out about whilst walking along the banks of the infant river … We have a commemorative walk planned from Stroud along the Thames and Seven Canal and the river to Ewen on May 1st: Allen Davenport’s birthdate, btw. We shall bring this radical back to life in his home village, down in this sequestered Tory shire. Free but numbers limited to 30. Book via Stuart Butler at stfc12@hotmail.com

3. TBC: June 21st: Thomas Spence’s birthday. Early train to London and then a walk to commemorate Thomas’ birthday around Clerkenwell, High Holborn, Fleet Street. 9.08 to London; come back after 7. Free but numbers limited to 30. Book via Stuart Butler at stfc12@hotmail.com

4. TBC: August 16th: Peterloo Remembered

On the 16th of August 2019,
The bi-centenary of Peterloo,
A Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt performative walk:
Meet at the church in Enford at 10.45:
The walk will end at Upavon after about three hours,
A bit up and down and one bit by the main road;
Park at Enford and get the bus back from Upavon,
Or get the bus from Swindon to Enford and back from Upavon
(Train to Swindon)

How Henry Hunt is not memorialized in Wiltshire
And how Captain Swing almost is
Henry Hunt’s onetime associate,
Rural Rides’ William Cobbett,

Came down this way in late August 1826:

‘The shepherd showed me the way … and a most beautiful sight it was! Villages, hamlets, large farms, towers, steeples, meadows, orchards, and very fine timber trees, scattered all over the valley … downs, very lofty and steep in some places, and sloping miles back in others … From the edge of the downs begin capital arable fields generally of very great dimensions … After the corn-fields come meadows on each side, down to the brook or river … I sat upon my horse and looked over Milton and Easton and Pewsey for half an hour, though I had not breakfasted…’

We travelled by the cherry red
Swindon-Salisbury double-decker,
To alight at Enford to view the church

At 10.45 at the end of February 2019:
‘Above the arch is the COAT OF ARMS of King William 1V dating from 1831. Royal coats of arms were much in vogue in this period to display the parish’s loyalty and to add colour to the church …’
But obvs no mention of Captain Swing
Or the threat of revolution at this time …
But we went left to the crossroads.
For the lane towards Littlecot
And East Chisenbury and the Red Lion,
Thatched cottages and inns,
Flint and red brick and whitewash,
Just as in Cobbett’s and the Orator’s day;
A left hand turn on a footpath followed,
And so to the crossing of the main (turnpike) road,
Where we turned left along the verge to a stile on the right,
Where a footpath sign on a gate showed us our way up the hill;
We walked where Hunt no doubt took his horse,
A parliament of rooks democratically nesting
Below us on our left hand side,
Lichen splashing the track-way hawthorn,
The big sky landscape bare branched etched,
A solitary signpost standing to show our path
Across the lonely windswept downs,
Now resounding with ordnance,
Beyond the red flags down to Salisbury Plain:
An echo of the musket fire from the days of Swing,
Skylarks ascending to sing the spring,
While finches arced their way across the ploughed fields,
Barns with the ghosts of their threshing machines,
Boot-prints once down there in the oozing mud,
Cries of ‘Bread or Blood’ still there in the air,
The ashes of burnt hayricks and letters,
Once scattered across the nearby valley farms and fields,
The sun now gleaming on the puddled track-ways,
And on the white horse hillside to the south;
While, beyond, lay Hampshire and misty Dorset,
Where Captain Swing once rode on his white horse.
We wandered on to skirt a high Iron Age enclosure,
And so descend along a curving lane,
Past the birthplace of Henry Hunt on our right,
Widdington Farm:

‘I was born on the 6th November 1773, in Wiltshire, at Widdington Farm, not within a mile of any other habitation, near Upavon. Widdington Farm lies about a mile from the turnpike road … a lone farm, in a valley upon the downs.’
But no mention of the Orator today,
Instead:

‘WIDDINGTON SHOOT
WILTSHIRE
CLAY SHOOTING GROUND
OUR NEXT COMPETTION IS …’;
And this is how Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt,
And Wiltshire’s radical history is memorialized,
Mute and invisible in the Vale of the Avon,
Unless you use your imagination –
But, wait, in St Timothy’s Church in Upavon,
There is a brief but welcome reference to Captain Swing
On the information board:

‘In the beginning of the nineteenth century agricultural workers in general, and those of Wiltshire in particular, had been reduced to abject misery, and The Vale was a focal point of the agricultural unrest known as the Swing Riots of 1830.’

‘Abject misery’ is daring and arresting …
But the next sentence and paragraph
Guides the reader’s understanding thus:

‘By far the most important development was the Vale’s emergence as a transportation corridor … the Kennet & Avon Canal …’
‘By far the most important development …’
The subliminal suggestion …
Old fashioned Swing …
The modernity/progress transportation trope …
The modernity of ‘corridor’ …
The world of ‘abject misery’ has been left behind …
Mute and invisible,
Like Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt.
We hope to address this mute invisibility
On the 16th of August 2019,
The bi-centenary of Peterloo,
With a Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt performative walk:
Meet at the church in Enford at 10.45:
The walk will end at Upavon after about three hours,
A bit up and down and one bit by the main road;
Park at Enford and get the bus back from Upavon,
Or get the bus from Swindon to Enford and back from Upavon.
TBC

5. Sunday November 23rd TBC: Slad/Stroud walk interweaving the Cider With Rosie tale of the deserter with the centenary of riots and mutinies in the British Army and the government’s fear of revolution in 1919. Meet at the war memorial in Slad and then a walk to the Museum in the Park for the puppet show. Three hours – slow walking, discussion, performance and presentation.