Sunday, 19 July 2015

Redemption, the Pink Cabbage, Slavery and Stroud

Redemption: a typically Christian conflation of the spiritual, the mundane and the material.  Redeeming: an act of atoning for a sin, mistake or fault; salvation from sin through the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ; the state of being redeemed from evil or error; deliverance from sin, salvation; atonement. Repurchase of something sold; paying off a mortgage, debt, bond or note; recovery of something pledged, pawned; conversion of paper currency into bullion or specie; fulfilling an obligation. Archaism: buying one’s freedom from ransom; rescue. Origin: Middle English, Old French, Latin: redemptio/redimere (to buy back).

'The immediate successor of the Indian, however, was not the Negro but the poor white. These white servants included a variety of types. Some were indentured servants ... Still others, known as "redemptioners", arranged with the captain of the ship to pay for their passage on arrival or within a specified time thereafter; if they did not, they were sold by the captain to the highest bidder.'
Capitalism and Slavery, Eric Williams

Redemption’s Song: ‘Old pirates, yes they rob I, Sold I to the merchant ships’

Stroud Scarlet, Uley Blue and Berkeley Yellow. Watch those explorers canoeing Canada, Trading Stroud Scarlet with the Iroquois, When fair exchange was no robbery
For the Hudson Bay Company, Or for the East India Company too. See that Stroud Scarlet cloth, Stretched out on tenterhooks in our fields, Eventually shipped down to West Africa; Its folds concealing any human cargo. Admire General Wolfe and his red coats, Up there on the steps of Quebec, A few short years after riding down Stroud Scarlet weavers in the streets and fields: “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”

Sunday July 1st, 1739: “Today I heard George Whitefield preach at Minchinhampton. He has inspired me with his breath of the Great Redeemer and I am resolved to provide the funds for the building of a Tabernacle at Rodborough. I am also resolved to do something about the licentiousness and intemperance of the local population of Stroudwater. I am hopeful of making a start with the notorious Pink Cabbage. Redemption could begin with its conversion from an inn to a coffee house.” Thomas Adams

George Whitefield’s views on slavery:
“Though liberty is a sweet thing to such as are born free, yet to those who never knew the sweets of it, slavery perhaps may not be so irksome. However this be, it is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all? Had Mr Henry been in America, I believe he would have seen the lawfulness and necessity of having negroes there. And though it is true, that they are brought in a wrong way from their own country, and it is a trade not to be approved of, yet as it will be carried on whether we will or not; I should think myself highly favoured if I could purchase a good number of them … It rejoiced my soul, to hear that one of my poor negroes in Carolina was made a brother in Christ. “
Colonel Wolfe, The Pink Cabbage, Stroud, October 1756
” The people are so oppressed, so poor and so wretched, that they will, perhaps, hazard a knock on the pate for bread and clothes. I have charge of six companies of foot soldiers, enough to beat the mob of all England. The Gloucester weavers and I have not yet come to blows nor do I believe we shall, but the poor half-starved weavers beg about the country for food. The masters have beat down their wages too low to live upon, and I believe it is a just complaint. But those who are most oppressed have seized the tools and broke the looms of others who would work if they could. The face of this country is different from anything I have seen in England. Numberless little hills, little rivulets running in all the bottoms; the lower parts of the hills are generally grass, the middle corn, and the upper part wood and innumerable little white houses in all the vales, so that there is a vast variety; and every mile changes the scene, and gives you a new and pleasant prospect. It is melancholy to reflect that in the midst of this beauty, the weavers have little likelihood of their redemption.”

Iam a negro and a free man, but close to death. I was born in Guinea in 1760, I have been told, and was sold to a ship’s captain from Bristol. He bought me with red cloth. I know now that cloth came from Stroud. I was taken to Barbados where I excelled at my studies and so became a servant to ------------ -------------------.My artful dissimulation enabled me to play perfectly the role of periwigged, liveried footman. There never was a more attentive peacock. At length, my master decided to return to his estate in England. My master’s estate was in the south of the shire and north of Bristol. After about a year, a coachman ‘of sable hue’ arrived one day with some new materials for my master’s chosen livery: Stroud Scarlet, Uley Blue and Berkeley Yellow. He called me over before the coach departed and whispered in my ear. He told me that my long lost brother was in this country too – and only some 30 miles away - a servant at The Pink Cabbage in Stroud.
The following night I exchanged my livery for fustian brown and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Comforting light for a fleeing slave! 
I concealed my person in the newly planted hedgerows by day and walked by night, keeping the moonlit River Severn on my left and close to sight. My coachman friend had told me that I should go to Arlingham, where there was a chance of obtaining a place on a crew of a vessel heading for Gloucester. My good fortune continued and I duly found a place on the Quadrille, bound for Gloucester. Here I met more men of colour, some from America.
One of these mariners told me the whereabouts of The Pink Cabbage and that he had heard that a negro was in habitation there. This news spurred me as much as my hearty dinner – my brother! The mariner advised me to head back to Framilode, so that I might join a crew on a ship heading for Stroud through the Stroudwater Navigation. When I mentioned the Quadrille, that was sufficient testimony to my prowess, and I took my place on the Sabrina.
I alighted at Wallbridge to take the path up the hill to The Cross. It was with a little trepidation but much expectation that I entered that parish on that autumn day. I sought out the clergyman at the church and explained my quest. I showed him my Bible in my bag; my name in the front’s piece seemed to reassure him of my bona fides. He looked at me solemnly and dropped his gaze. He asked me to follow him and this I did, following in his dolorous wake.
He lifted the parish register and leafed through the pages. After some moments of pensive perusal, he showed me this entry:
1st July, 1778, William Jubiter, ye black, buried.
I buried my head in my hands and cried the salt tears of loneliness. At length, I was led from the church and so made my melancholy descent back to Wallbridge.
 I despaired of human company and recoiled from the thought of contact, such was my sadness. I resolved to make a solitary way along the cut and so reach the River Thames; and thence to London. The beauty of the bosky hills and vales; the serenity of the sylvan shade; the laughter of the waters; the wind in the reeds; the white stone cottages like so many pebbles thrown on the hillsides; the pure green fields – all of these conspired to give me endurance, fortitude and make thanks to God. Two days walking led me to Lechlade where I found a place on the William Butler, bound for Deptford. Here I found friendly mariners and also negroes. They told me that the riversides in London possess a whole reticulation of havens and hidey-holes for escaped slaves and servants. A trudge through a labyrinth of streets, creeks and chimneys led me to my haven, where I presently lie on my bedding.
The death-rattle of my cough echoes the call of the birds of my homeland in Guinea. There is no song of Redemption for me here.

Some entries from Gloucestershire parish records:

Newnham on Severn, Easter 1715: John Price, a black boy lately brought to England, apprenticed to John Trigge, attorney at law.
Nymphsfield June 20th, 1773: Francis London, a servant to the right honourable Lord Ducie, supposed to be 17 years of age- a native of Africa- was baptized.
Stroud February 28th, 1786: Adam John Parker, negro, 32, was buried. Parish Funeral-paupers grave.
Frocester November 4th, 1790: William Frocester, 11 or 12 years of age, born on the island of Barbados, now servant of Edward Bigland Esquire, residing in Jamaica. Baptised.
Stroud May 7th, 1801: William Ellis, son of Qualquay Assedew of Guinea, a negro, aged 12. Baptised.
Bisley July 5th, 1815: Testimonial from Richard Raikes, supporting the application of John Hart, writing master, for the post of master at the Bisley Blue Coats school - unfortunately he is a mulatto, a native of the West Indies.

Henry Wyatt decides to erect an arch on the drive to his Farmhill Estate, Stroud 1834, in an act of symbolic redemption:


But there was also redemption for the owners of slaves: £20 million (about 40% of the British government’s spending that year), nearly £17 billion, using today’s values.

But the tyranny of time can still prevent redemption:

Opposite the Pink Cabbage is the National School where the “Black Boy”, “one of Stroud’s most celebrated symbols”, stands above the clock.  He was fashioned by John Miles of Kendrick Street in 1774. A Stroud Local History Society leaflet goes on to tell us that he first stood outside a watchmaker’s shop in the High Street, before migrating to the Duke of York in Nelson Street.  He ended up at the school in 1844. The leaflet tells us:
“He held a hammer which rang a bell in front of him when the hour struck.”

This is no Song of Redemption for Stroud


  1. Hello, Stuart, thank you for the post. I noticed you included a reference to George Whitefield. The letter you cited seems to be missing some important details. Have you had a chance to read the entire letter of Whitefield penned on March 22, 1751? If so, you would find that he was against slavery and that he thought it impossible to fight the miserable industry. In the letter, you would also have the chance to see that his venture into purchasing slaves was to better their lives. Now don't get me wrong, although slavery has been around since the begining of humanity, (the Bible and historical texts are full of these incidents) and although slavery is still here today, I am not in favor of owning other human beings. I see it as sinful and a violation of God's design for community. Moreover, I am happy that I live in a culture that doesn't approve of slavery. This being said, take a look at Whitefield's comments on the issue. The letter is revealing. One of the most revealing comments in the letter is the following:'And though it is true, that they are brought in a wrong way from their own country, and it is a trade not to be approved of, yet as it will be carried on whether we will or not; I should think myself hightly favoured if I could purchase a good numer of them, in order to make their lives comfortable, and lay a foundation for breeding up their posterity in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.' Now I would not favor slavery as a way to introducing humanity to God, at this time in history, a time when slavery was forced upon many, Whitefield's approach to rescuing these Africans from a certain miserble sentence with un-Godly slave owners, was to rescue as many as he can. Whitefield didn't own a ship, he wasn't importing slaves, he was doing his best to rescue them once they were delivered. Almost like Shindler in the movie Shindler's List, Whitefield saw this as a viable solution to a miserable situation. Again, you and I can see the lunacy of this, because we have the benefit of living in a culture that doesn't approve of slavery. Unfortunately for Whitefield, he lived in a time where this wisdom had not yet arrived. Again, thank you for the post. Let us both rejoice in the fact that slavery of human beings is not longer an issue for most countries in the world. And let's hope that this miserable institution will one day disappear competely!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to add this extra perspective and wider horizon. Much appreciated.