The first meeting of the Stroud Radical Reading Group took place in the aptly named Ale House in Stroud, hard by Union Street. Union Streets very often came into named existence after the passing of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act – parishes were grouped into Unions, with a central workhouse: NO OUTDOOR RELIEF. Individual parishes lost their workhouses with their possibly more lenient atmosphere and allowance of outdoor relief. Henceforth, conditions inside the workhouse were to be made worse than if you had the worst paid job outside (called ‘lesser eligibility’).
In effect, POVERTY WAS CRIMINALISED.
How excellent then, to sit near the plaque in the Ale House, with its Mr. Bumble praise:
IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THE BENEVOLENCE INTEGRITY AND PERSEVERANCE WITH WHICH THE LATE EDWARD PALLING CARUTHERS ASSISTED FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS OF HIS LIFE AS CHAIRMAN OF THIS BOARD IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE AFFAIRS OF THE POOR. THIS TABLET IS INSCRIBED BY THE UNANIMOUS WISH OF THE GUARDIANS NOVR 1842.
Jump down to the end of this piece for a piece on Stroud Workhouse, but for now, here’s a few lines on the meeting on Wednesday January 13th 2016: ‘This month we will be reading ‘Reform or Revolution?’ by Rosa Luxemburg. We will be discussing this short pamphlet and the important ideas which arise from it. It’s our first meeting so feel free to come along, even if you have not read the book! The reading is free online at www.tinyurl.com/srrg01 For more details get in touch: Search ‘Stroud Radical Reading Group’ StroudRRG@gmail.com
“Are there no workhouses?” asked Mr Scrooge,
(In a manner of speaking)
“Well, yes there are”, she politely replied,
(In a manor of speaking)
“Do you know Stone Manor on Bisley Road,
Near Stroud Cemetery’s Pauper’s Path?”
(Rattle his bones over the stones,
He’s only a pauper who nobody owns)
Here comes the creaking wheelbarrow,
With the open hinged, burnished coffin,
The shrouded corpse ready for the open pit,
An abrupt incarceration on the hard rock,
Without ceremony or by your leave,
Anonymous resting place for the restless dead,
Feeling gravity’s pull down the steep scarp,
And the noxious effects of the acid soil;
But with soil so thin, rock so hard, pits so shallow,
Cotswold storms raining in from the sea
Would disinter corpses, the slipping dead,
Strange meandering memento mori,
Gewgaws, bones, trinkets, keepsakes,
Grave work for Old Father Time in his sou-wester,
Leaching the dead down rain-washed rivulets,
Down to the Frome, thence the Severn and the sea,
While forget me nots waved goodbye in the wind.