Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Poaching and the Game Laws in Gloucestershire: Part One of Three

1815 and all that,
 Waterloo and Wellington,
But also indigent Gloucestershire labourers,
Forced to poach, where spring guns lay ready
To kill Tom Till, and leave a wife and two children
In a parish of poverty and sorrow.
Even the castle chaplain thought
'Colonel Berkeley had run the matter of game so hard',
That tit for tat and Tom Till would follow.

So it was, that some twenty Berkeley Vale men
Swore revenge, taking a solemn oath
'Not to peach on each other, so help me God'.

A bloody battle ensued, with death and wounding,
But the cudgel wielding colonel exacted feudal revenge,
For the jury's tearful 'Guilty', meant transportation,
And execution for two poachers:
'Launched into the presence of that
Being whose laws they had so impiously outraged',
As the Gloucester Mercury put it.

Berkeleys Doctor Jenner of smallpox fame saw it differently:
'My intention is to quit this place, rendered dreary by the scene ...
About to be acted on the horrid platform tomorrow.
They certainly did not go out with the intention to commit murder.'
Colonel Berkeley was reviled but obdurate to the end,
He hung a painting of the battle in his breakfast room.

Ah, the Stately Homes of Olde Englande.

Source: The Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain 1760-1914 by Harry Hopkins

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