Friday, 29 January 2016

Hidden History at the Rose and Crown: Captain Swing

When you stay at a posh gastro-pub like the Red Lion,
Just by the River Avon at East Chisenbury, near Pewsey,
With a prehistoric, Saxon, medieval and tranquil landscape all around,
It’s hard to remember that you are deep in Captain Swing land:
‘ In taking my leave of this beautiful vale I have to express my deep shame, as an Englishman, at beholding the general extreme poverty of those that cause this vale to produce such quantities of food and rainment. This is, I verily believe it, the worst used labouring people upon the face of the earth. Dogs and hogs and horses are treated with more civility; and as to food and lodging, how gladly would the labourers change with them!”
Sunday November 21st 1830, is when it all kicked off,
With 200 labourers demanding higher wages
And an end ‘To them damned threshing machines’;
Sir Edward Poore met the labourers at Manningham:
“I am satisfied that your wages ought to be raised and I will do my utmost to obtain for you a more adequate compensation for your labour”,
And he tossed them a sovereign and believed order had been restored.
But a sense that the old moral economy would prevail over new and base capitalism,
Encouraged the rioters, and in a long chat with Augustus Hare, the rector of Alton Barnes,
They said that a magistrate had informed them that they would be breaking no laws
If they were to smash the threshing machines with their hammers and iron bars.
So they marched from the wharf at Honey Street,
 Allington, All Cannings, Patney, Maningham Abbots and Woodborough,
Until some 250 men met at the Rose and Crown at Little Woodborough,
Had their customary bread, cheese and beer,
Then smashed machinery (threshing, chaff-cutting and haymaking machines)
At farms in Woodborough, demanding money from farmers
(John Clift at Church Farm offered two half-crowns –
It needed another ten shillings before they dispersed),
They then traversed the bridge over the canal at Honey Street,
And so to Alton Barnes and Manor Farm, next to the church.
The tenant (Robert Pile) had been to Marlborough, with the yeomanry,
Putting down riots at Rockley,
But returned to use pistol and shotgun against the labourers as they tried to wreck machinery;
He was attacked, in turn: “God damn your blood, you tried to shoot me, and now I’ll do for you”.
The rioters dispersed after attacking the house and receiving a ten pound note;
They moved on to Stanton St. Bernard, then back to the Rose & Crown,
Where the yeomanry captured 28, before taking them to prison in Devizes
(En route an attempt was made to rescue the prisoners at Chirton),
Two sentences of death (Charles Davis and Laban Stone) were handed out,
Commuted to transportation;
The yeomanry remained on alert,
But the new poor law would soon do its work,
And the labourers were rendered docile for a generation,
Until ‘Hodge’ listened to Joseph Arch
And a trade union was born.

 November 24th 1830 -- About two o’clock we were summoned by two half drunken men who professed to be „sent on‟. They came to the door and asked for money, “any trifle‟, announcing that two hundred were coming at their heels. After failing of their errand, they went down to Pile’s House opposite, whither I followed them. He was gone to Marlborough, and there was none but the women in the house. As the only chance, I had the church bells rung, but none of the labourers came; perhaps they were too far off, and did not hear. About ten minutes after the troop arrived. The machine had been taken to pieces, but that did not satisfy them; they must break it. And breaking it they were, when Pile dashed in on horseback, and fired … they dragged him down, and have nearly killed him. Then they burst into the house and broke everything to pieces, and for sometime I expected they would serve us in the same way; so irritated were they, and so mad with drink. Indeed they talked of coming back tonight and burning down all his ricks and barns … The Yeomanry were here by six and I have just heard that they have surprised several of the rioters in the public house at Woodborough. (Letter of Augustus Hare)
 November 25th 1830 -- We have had no further alarm beyond the many reports, of which, if we believed one half, one could not have much rest…… Troops are at Devizes and Marlborough. We have our own special constables, patrols and fire engines and I trust are in a better state of preparation than we were. Poor Mr. Pile is not out of danger, I fear, though I hope he will do well. A large fireball was found in his field the morning after the attack. We hear of five great fires over the hills towards Calne, and at Salisbury dreadful work is going on. Our ring leaders are chiefly taken and we had the pleasure of seeing some of them go past with the cavalry yesterday morning. All the villages round about us seemed to have contributed their fair share of men, and I fear there are some very bad ones amongst them. Our village had not one, and only two were from Great Alton (Alton Priors), but of course they all rejoice secretly at what is being done to bring them greater wages. At the same time some of them are frightened to death, and the wives come crying about their husbands, they are sure they will get their heads broken. At all hours people are coming - farmers to consult about what should be done, and with fresh stories. In short, we live in a strange nervous state; and if we do not make an example, and that speedily, of some of the worst, there will be no end to these outrages …
The greater part of our rioters are men who earn from twelve to twenty shillings a week at the wharf and spend it all in the beer shops.  (Letter of Maria Hare)
November 26th 1830 -- The activity of the magistrates and yeomanry have struck a panic which will, I trust, spare us any further alarm. Yesterday a Bow Street Officer came to get information. He came out of Kent and says his own impression is certainly that the fires proceed from the people of the country. He hoped to have got a good clue to one of our incendiaries.  The chiefs of our ring leaders are in custody and Augustus went this morning with Mr. Miller to identify some of the prisoners. He was doubtful about one, till the man put an end to his hesitation by saying, “You, Sir, can witness I was not breaking the machine, for I was talking to you.” I have written so confusedly before that I think you will have no clear idea of my share of the day, so I will tell you what I saw. On the approach of the troop, as they came over the bridge, Augustus said to me “Go home and keep in the house” and so amid the cook’s entreaties that “master would come home too”, which I knew was in vain, we betook ourselves to the house, locked and bolted the doors and windows, and had just retreated upstairs when a thundering knock came at the front door. Finding my plan of concealment would not do, I presented myself at the drawing room window and held a parley with them. “They wanted to do no harm”. “What have you got those clubs and hammers for, then?” I refused money and went away, but the continued knocking, and threats of breaking doors and windows, soon made me pull out some shillings and throw to them, with which they went away content. Meanwhile I saw in the churchyard all the women and children collected; leaning over the wall of Mr. Pile’s yard I could distinguish Augustus and one or two others; and in the farm yard and all round it were a mob, with shouts, hammering the machines to pieces. I suppose this had gone on for about twenty minutes or half an hour when we (the cook and myself, for the other servants were all gone nearer the scene of the action) heard a tremendous gallop, and in an instant saw Mr. Pile riding furiously amongst the mob, who gave way directly, and had he kept his ground there, all had been well. There was a confusion, and all I could distinguish was that the farmyard was cleared; a report of a gun came from the ricks behind the barns, there was a great scream set up, loud shouts, and to my horror I saw Augustus and those with his rush into the field amongst them. However, the alarm for him was not long; after a few minutes I distinguished him leaving the crowd, and making his way to the house, and never did my legs carry me more willingly than as I flew down the stairs to open him the door. When I again got to my station the mob were all come round and advancing upon the Pile’s house, and the noise was terrible of breaking their windows and doors. As they had vowed vengeance against Augustus for having brought the gun out of the house, he kept out of sight, whilst I sent away the few who came for money, and who were easily contented. After they had completed their destruction at Mr. Pile’s, which was not till the poor mangled victim was brought downstairs again, and had given them £10, we had the satisfaction of seeing them file away across the fields to Great Alton. In about half an hour they returned to break the Crowe’s machine which we had put in the field, and then we saw no more of them; but as they went off to Stanton, declaring of their intention of returning at night, it was an amazing relief when Mr. G. and some other men arrived, who said they had just left Devizes, and heard the troops ordered “on Alton‟.  And so ended our siege, which it must be owned was as little resisted as ever enemy was; but the best labourers were all at a distance, and those near, far too frightened to give any help. (Maria Hare)
December 10th 1830 -- The odd thing about the riots is, that this is not a year of scarcity. There has been no hard winter and no uncommon pressure of any sort to raise this outcry. And when one sees half of the discontented, are men who spend their money at the beer shops, and who might get ample if they chose, it hardens one against sympathy with their distress, and inclines one to think the lenity and indulgence granted in return for their proceedings, not the best judged.  (Maria Hare)

Monday, 25 January 2016

Names for the Chartist Beer and Chartist Film Progress Report

 Two updates:
1.      The beer – a message from Greg at Stroud Brewery: ‘We have the John Frost artwork, and putting it together on a bottle label. Chartist whisky aged organic smoked porter to be bottled Sept/October. So beer will be ready for sipping in November.’ We are now deliberating on the accompanying text - now sorted (July). Thinking about beer mats too, now. Discussions in September.
2.      Film news from John:
Dear all,
Firstly I must apologise for the delay in getting in touch. I had hoped that we would have started filming by now but other things have unfortunately got in the way – most noticeably the theatre festival which will take place in Stroud from 9th to 11th September ( – apologies for the little advertisement!
I am looking to start as soon as possible with filming and would like to know people’s availability through August and September (as these look like the best times to film) in a bit more detail so that we can cast and begin filming scenes.
I have spoken to the Museum in the Park and it will be possible to use there for some filming. The Sub Rooms is being painted at the moment but again we can use the space for filming when this is done. The big common scene which sparked the whole film off I will know more about later this week when I have had the chance to discuss wildlife issues further with the Stroud District Council green spaces person.
I have sent this to as wide a circulation as possible and some of you may not have attended any of the meetings we have had so far. We need people! To inhabit crowd scenes for meetings in pubs, outdoors and churches. When I have a clearer idea of availability I will be able to say when we need people. Sorry I realise this is a bit vague but I have ideas as to who will be cast in some of the roles and it is really when I know all the availabilities that I will be able to move things further on.
If you know of any musicians who want to write songs from the chartist songbook the link is
If you know of anyone else who should be involved in the project please also let me know.
Thanks for your patience and apologies again for the delay.

All the best

John Bassett
Director – Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company

Ten new faces among the committed group of people who read through the script on Monday - good to see some young people present too. We have a potential troupe now of some thirty people. John and Andy will start filming very soon. We have asked SVA if we can show the film at the Brunel Goods Shed on November 4th.

This was posted on Facebook to advertise the June event :

Good People of Stroud and Ye Five Valleys,
Hear Ye, Hear Ye:
We are having a meeting on Monday June 13th to read through the latest version of the script and start casting and sorting dates for filming on the Chartist film project. This will be at the Sub Rooms at 7.30 in the George Room. If you have not been on John Basset's email list, then please let John or myself know if you wish to attend so that we can link you to a draft script.
In addition, if you are a musician or know any musicians who might want to write music for songs we found in the Chartist songbook please pass on our details and we will send a copy of the words for people to peruse and hopefully write songs for. We are looking for all genres, not just the folk idiom.
The Republic of Ireland's game will be over by 7.30, so no worries on that score.
Thank You, Good People of Stroud and Ye Five Valleys

Read through of script and casting at the Subscription Rooms in the George Room on Monday June 13th at 7.30. John (Bassett) of Spaniel in the Works will email scripts.

In addition if you are a musician or know any musicians who might want  
to write music for songs we found in the chartist songbook please pass  
on my email details and I will send a copy of the words for people to  
peruse and hopefully write songs for.

All the best

John Bassett
Director - Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company

Calling all Stroud musicians! You may know about a film we are making about the Chartists. As part of the research for this we found a "Chartist Hymnbook" - the word hymn is very loose by the way. We are looking for musicians from all backgrounds, styles and genres to put some of the verse from these to music. If you are interested please message John Bassett. Thanks.

1.     Andy Wasyliw and John Bassett will shortly lead the next read through of the completed script. They have agreed a schedule for the filming of the interior scenes. This filming will take place quite shortly. John will then speak with SDC about when filming could take place on Selsley Common. Please contact John at for anything to do with the filming (I deal with the walks and spoken word events).

2.     I had a pleasant time on Selsley Common on the anniversary date of May 21st, taking pictures of the footpaths that would have been used on May 21st 1839, as well as the hawthorn in all its may blossomed splendor. A talk followed at the Bell about Chartism in general, and the Selsley meeting in particular. The porter was tasted, praised and self-referentially toasted.

3.     Jim Pentney has sent through this review (partly in haiku) of the Stroud Radical Reading Group’s Chartist spoken word event at the Golden Fleece on May 18th.

Review in haiku.
Back room radical reading
of the Northern Star

Radical reading
'When Adam delved and Eve span’
Chartist poetry

Full Marx Arts and Crafts
that shoulder giants still stand
in the Chartist rhymes

Wednesday 18th May, Golden Fleece back room.

It was, I think, the jolliest Radical Reading evening, partly because the Northern Star verses are so accessible and direct and not trying to be clever. They deserve to be sung – probably were in just this sort of setting. Part of an essay was read and it was said, although stifled and suppressed, Chartism was the most significant political movement of the nineteenth century laying fertile ground. I put a word in for Alan Davenport.

A potted history of Chartism and a contextualization of the 1839 Selsley Hill meeting can be found at

1.      Tom Brown has finished the art work for the bottled beer: a splendid depiction of John Frost.
2.      Stroud Radical Reading Group members have earmarked their next meeting on May 18th 7.30 pm for an evening’s discussion on Chartist poetry. This is at the Ale House in Stroud.
3.      I hope that two further, future events might develop from this meeting: (a.) a spoken word event, (b.) written/other media responses as though participants were Chartists from 1839, visiting our times in 2016. (What's good and what's disappointing sort of thing.)
4.      In addition, I envisage 3 walks with performance and readings in the landscape etc.: 1. From Stroud Brewery to the Bell at Selsley. 2. One from the Ale House to the workhouse and Stroud cemetery. 3. One involving Allen Davenport - nationally famous Chartist born at Ewen by the source of the Thames.
5.      John Bassett (Spaniel in the Works) has finished our third version of the script - we have been absolutely and patiently pains-taking in ensuring that we have a perfect piece that we run with. We have listened carefully to the suggestions offered at the last meeting when we collectively read through the script: gender balance and family viewpoints.
6.      Initial filming (thanks to Stroud Festival) gets closer. John will shortly be contacting Andy Wasyliw about the schedule; storyboarding etc. We are still hopeful of being ready for November 4th. The other events listed above will definitely be happening before that date.
7.      The photocopying bill for the last read through was nearly £50 – we need to email the script in future. Please let John know your email address etc., if necessary (see email address on the Spaniel in the Works website).

The Chartist commemorative beer has been brewed at Stroud Brewery - likely name 'Chartist' on the basis that 'A pint of Chartist, please' rolls off the tongue quite easily. The beer is a good old fashioned porter - just the ticket. The label is quite possibly going to feature an image of John Frost who was the leader of the Newport Rising in 1839, but was also selected as prospective Chartist parliamentary candidate for Stroud on Rodborough Common on Good Friday, 1839.

We’d like to thank people for putting us right about the necessity to avoid May through to late July as a date for filming our take on the 1839 Chartist rally on Selsley Common. The last thing we want to do is harm any wildlife. And we’d also like to put peoples’ minds at ease about how we create the illusion of 5,000 people present: it will be an illusion.
It is also important to point out that “Day of Hope” is a small community based production with limited funds made for and by Stroud people. This is not a massive production with lots of vehicles and a massive crew invading the common.
The well documented May 21st Selsley Common Chartist meeting was an important moment in Stroud history and a part of the introduction to true democracy for the whole of the country. Using the actual location is important to us but it is also important not to offend people or indeed disturb wildlife.
We are currently in communication with Stroud District Council about when and how we film outside on Selsley after late July.
We will be able to meet our deadline for the film’s finish, however, as we shall now film the inside scenes first.
With thanks again,

Day of Hope production

John Frost - who had earlier been provisionally selected to oppose Lord John Russell as MP for Stroud - was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered for his involvement in the Rising. The sentence was commuted to transportation.
Newport has recently held a whole day of official commemoration of the Rising and we are in close contact with Newport - we hope to link up.


I thought it a good idea to have a central place to review progress towards the Chartist film; the associated events such as 2 or 3 Chartist walks, the Chartist spoken word event, the Chartist writing workshop, and of course the NAME OF THE BEER.

This is the link/place and I’ll update through the winter, spring, summer and autumn. Twenty people met for the first read through of the script at the Sub. Rooms on February 23rd; it was a most encouraging start and John is now working on the next draft, pondering on the date for the next meeting, and even having some preliminary thoughts about casting.
Filming can then start: inside scenes as and when; Selsley in the late summer; editing in the early autumn.

At the moment, we are envisaging a walk or two for the Stroud Fringe and Stroud Festival in the late summer; a workshop, spoken word event and film in Stroud (SVA and/or Brunel Goods Shed).
I think it would be great to have an event at the Stroud Brewery, too.

Hi Stuart,

I would love to support the project, and sure we can have a beer aptly named for the occasion. It is still a bit far ahead to work out how exactly we will pull it off. Our seasonal calendar is fairly set but we have a few options including re-branding any of the bottling brews we are doing at the time. We are also looking at a porter aged in oak casks, which if we get on with it soon, could be ready for autumn and we could dedicate this to the Chartists of Stroud, past, present and future...

Some suggestions for names would help and any images you have will get us thinking.


Friday, 22 January 2016

Tory Philosophy and History: a Satire

I have to be honest, 
I do know Tories, 
And they can be quite personable - 
We all make sense of the world in different ways and all that; 
But as a type, an archetype, a stereotype, 
Then it’s all a bit different for me, 
My prejudices come to the fore, 
And there are a number of reasons why I find it hard to love Tories: 

Because they watch Downton Abbey, War and Peace and Jane Austen on the telly, 
And constitute the most reactionary government since Peterloo in 1819; 

Because they use statements like
 ‘Now let me be quite clear about this’,
And ‘it’s just plain common sense’,
Ignorant of the fact, as Trotsky said, 
That ‘Common sense is the wisdom of the ruling class’. 

Because they like hunting: truly, ‘the unspeakable after the uneatable.’ 
And, talking of Hunt, it’s not just his mealy mouthed sanctimony, 
Nor his hypocritical NHS cant, nor the way he cuddled up to Murdoch -  
Because they all do that - 
No, it’s because of his appalling Pecksniffian smug-lipped face; 
He honestly thinks it makes him look honest in front of the camera: 
Behold the tragedy and the irony of self-delusion - as well as media-training. 

I can’t stand the sight of all those white men in suits braying in the Commons, 
When introducing the bedroom tax or cutting tax credits or cutting Sure Start, 
Or claiming it’s possible to live on £7.50 a day and then claiming forty quid for a breakfast, 
Or tax payers’ money for their horses and their stables, 
Then trousering rent while declaring war on social housing. 

I don’t like their definition of a welfare state, 
Which is essentially bulldozing housing estates and then building affordable homes, 
Which only cost £400,000.  

There’s more … 
I despair when they claim that food banks aren’t necessary 
And then laud these as an example of the Big Society in action. 
Then there is the way they lionise philanthropy and charity, 
And wage war on its negation: parity.

And the way they say the reason why Etonians and Harrovians rise to the top 
Is because the Left has closed down the grammar schools. 

I singularly hate the fact that the top twenty Tory donors are tax dodgers. 

I hate the way they say the word ‘strike’ in such a pejorative way, 
Ditto, ‘nationalisation’ and ‘trade unions’, 

I hate the way the House of Commons’ champagne bill has doubled since the last election, 
And I can’t stand the way they say that they are now ‘the party of working people’, 
And I loathe those brainwashing weasel words, ‘striver’, ‘shirker’, ‘aspirational’; 
Then, again, I might just loath even more the way they use the term ‘Taxpayers’ money’, 
As though the poorest and the richest are bonded together in harmony of interest and commonality, 
It’s all part – conscious for some, instinctual for others – of their divide and rule mentality. 

I don’t like the way they demonise Asian women who can’t speak English, 
And their threat of deportation if such women don’t pass their exams. 

I particularly hate the way they worship ‘modernity’ alongside ‘heritage’ and ‘tradition’, 
But say that trade unions are dinosaurs, alongside socialists, Marxists and communists. 

I hate them because we have the most expensive railways in Europe 
And they don’t seem to care that it’s impossible to travel at Christmas and Easter. 

I hate the way they think and say that we should spend our time 
Moving from one energy supplier to another, just to save a few pence, 
Because this shows the virtues of privatisation, competition and the free market. 

I hate them because of the Bullingdon Club, their fun and games 
Of vomiting, smashing up restaurants and porcine fellatio. 

I hate them because London pollution levels went beyond safe in 2016, 
Yet they talk of cutting out all ‘the green crap’. 

I especially hate the way they claim that they are pragmatists, 
Not ideologues, but just honest people who speak the plain truth, 
When in fact they make Orwellian 1984 Newspeak seem na├»ve, 
Innocent, ingenuous and, as it were, amateur. 

And talking of History and 1984, I loath Gove 
For his little Englander Island Story approach to the curriculum 
And Nicky Morgan for her obedient and dutiful commitment 
To testing, academisation and privatisation of schools, 
As well as her steadfast disregard for any evidence that says that she is wrong. 

There’s more: 
Cameron’s response to the flooding to show he cares? 
Send in the troops. 
Cameron’s thanks to Scotland for staying in the Union? 
English votes for English laws. 

But let’s return to hatred, 
And conclude: 
I hate the way they invoke the spirit of Dunkirk, the Blitz and the Second World War, 
Forgetting that the reward for the long, hard slog to victory 
Was the Beveridge Report, the Welfare State and a promise that 
There would be no return to the Great Depression, austerity and balancing the books; 
Instead, there would be council housing, an NHS, free education, full employment. 
Now, the promises are broken with deceit, delusion, hoodwinking, trickery, 
As they beguile, con and cozen us, as they take us for a ride, 
Take us to the cleaners, and pull a variety of fast ones, 
With their cronies at the Mail, the Telegraph, the Murdoch media, 
The BBC, the freebies, the Daily Express; 
Disinformation, illusion, hogwash, indoctrination, 
And all in the name of a free press. 

But, going back to 1819, the most reactionary Tories ever and Peterloo, 
Let’s remember Shelley: 
We are many, they are few.