Category Archives: 1700’s

The Poetry of the Clearances by Sorley Maclean

I was just slipping down an internet wormhole on Scottish land rights poetry and song, and came across this juicy nugget:

…the impact of Sorley MacLean’s paper on ‘The Poetry of the Clearances’ – the most powerful piece of socio-political and literary criticism I have ever read

from https://meekwrite.blogspot.com/2013/03/nineteenth-century-studies-third.html

Sounds great, hey? He was a acclaimed Scottish poet, but this paper is not about his poetry but those who came before him and who wrote in Gaelic. I haven’t had a chance to read it in full yet but did a quick flick through after finding a pdf of it here. If this link goes dead then you can also find it hosted here on our website too.

Just parking this all here so I can find it when time comes to do more research on Scottish shazzle and you never know, someone else might find this useful too!

The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes

I was doing a little updating of this site recently and realised that I hadn’t posted about Nick’s remarkable book yet. Nick is a dear friend and I had the joy of arguing with him on the finer details of an early manuscript as well as accompanying him on one of the book’s trespasses. Well that is not quite true, I was on the train with him and then decided not to go along as his description of the landowner freaked me out too much to want to risk it.

If you are on this website, you’ve probably already read it, but if not, please acquire it at your soonest convenience and pause your life until you’ve had the change to drink it down.

This book is basically the spiritual companion to our show.

Folk Song In England by A.L. Lloyd

The wonderful singer and promoter Sophie Bostock was waxing lyrical about this book to me and I’m so glad that I bought it as soon as she recommended it to me. It is a gem. I learnt so much from this including songs such as The Cutty Wren, The Bitter Withy, and The Death of Bill Brown.

A.L. Lloyd is very thorough and includes lyrics, music and background to all manner of songs from around England and beyond going back as far as he dare go and then some.

(1769) The Death of Bill Brown

A.L. Lloyd includes this song about poaching as resistance to enclosure in his book Folk Song in England where he noted that it was “obtained by Frank Kidson from a singer in Goole, Yorkshire” and comments:

There are two distinct broadsheet songs which tell of the unhappy death of Bill Brown, a poacher shot by the gamekeeper at the village of Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769. That a version of one of them might still be collected from tradition as late as the beginning of this century should be attributed to the extraordinary vitality which many of the broadside ballads had in the minds and hearts of the commons of England. Certainly the character of Bill Brown and the desire to avenge his death was sufficient to raise the necessary sympathetic bond between street singers and their audiences.

A.L. Lloyd further commented in the sleeve notes of Roy Harris’s 1972 record The Bitter and the Sweet:

When the practice of enclosing common-land for the benefit of lofty landlords was stepped up in the 18th century, it caused hardship and fierce resentment over the broad acres. For some reason, resistance to this injustice was specially fierce in the triangle roughly bounded by Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham, and within this area for more than half a century there was virtual guerrilla was between poacher and keeper. The sullen bloodshot ballad of Bill Brown, who was shot dead at Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769, is characteristic of the poacher broadsides that moved the disaffected villagers of the time (and for long after). The tune was noted in Lincolnshire by Frank Kidson’s devoted informant, Mr Lolley, about eighty years ago.

You gentlemen, both great and small,
Gamekeepers, poachers, sportsmen all,
Come listen to me simple clown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown.

One stormy night, as you shall hear,
‘Twas in the season of the year.
We went to the woods to catch a buck,
But in that night we had bad luck,
Bill Brown was shot and his dog was stuck.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

I dressed myself next night in time,
I got to the wood as the clock struck nine;
The reason was, and I’ll tell you why,
To find that gamekeeper I did go try,
Who shot my friend, and he shall die.

I ranged the woods all over, and then
I looked at my watch and it was just ten.
I heard a footstep on the green,
I hid myself for fear of being seen,
For I plainly saw it was Tom Green.

I took my gun all in my hand,
Resolved to fire if Tom should stand;
Tom heard a noise and turned him round.
I fired and brought him to the ground,
My hand gave him his deep death wound.

Now revenge, you see, my hopes has crowned.
I’ve shot the mam that shot Bill Brown.
Poor Bill no more these eyes will see;
Farewell, dear friend, farewell to ye,
I’ve crowned your hopes and your memory.

(1400s) The Bitter Withy

The Bitter Withy was a popular carol carried in the oral tradition for many generations, believed to date back to the 15th century. In it some haughty young lords are drowned by a young Jesus after they mock him for being poor:

As it fell out on a bright holiday
Small hail from the sky did fall;
Our Saviour asked his mother dear
If he might go and play at ball.

“At ball? At ball? My own dear son?
It’s time that you were gone;
Don’t let me hear of any complaints
At night when you come home.”

So up the hill and down the hill
Our sweet young Saviour ran
Until he met three rich lords’,
“Good morning to each one.”

“Good morn, good morn, good morn,” said they,
“Good morning,” then said he,
“And which of you three rich young lords
Will play at ball with me?”

“We are all lords’ and ladies’ sons
Born in a bower and hall,
And you are nothing but a poor maid’s child
Born in an ox’s stall.”

Sweet Jesus turned him round about,
He did neither laugh nor smile,
But the tears came trickling from his eyes
Like water from the sky.

“If you’re all lords’ and ladies’ sons
Born in your bower and hall,
I’ll make you believe in your latter end
I’m an angel above you all”

So he made him a bridge of the beams of the sun
And over the water ran he;
The rich young lords chased after him
And drowned they were all three.

So up the hill and down the hill
Three rich young mothers ran
Saying, “Mary mild, fetch home your child
For ours he’s drowned each one.”

“Oh I’ve been down in yonder town
Far as the holy well,
I took away three sinful souls
And dipped them deep in hell.”

Then Mary mild, she took her child
And laid him across her knee
And with a handful of withy twigs
She gave him slashes three.

“Oh bitter withy, oh bitter withy
You’ve caused me to smart.
And the withy shall be the very first tree
To perish at the heart.”


(1300s) The Cutty Wren

This song is traditionally thought to date back to the 1300s and have been sung by participants of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Worth noting that wikipedia and academia are both are keen to point out that there is no evidence of this, but people in the trad folk tradition are equally quick to point out in return that academics historically often have little idea about the oral tradition.

In A.L.Lloyd’s excellent Folk Song In England he states:

(The song) is often thought of as an amiable nursery piece yet when it was recorded from an old shepherd of Adderbury West, near Banbury, he banged the floor with his stick on the accented notes and stamped violently at the end of the verses, saying that to stamp was the right way and reminded of old times.

What memories of ancient defiance are preserved in this kind of performance it would be hard to say , but we do know that the wren-hunting song was attached to pagan midwinter ritual of the kind that the Church and authority fulminated vainly against- particularly in the rebellious perdio at the end of the Middle Ages when adherence to the forms of the Old Religion was taken to be evidence of subversion, and its partisans were violently persectuted in consequence.

In the sleeve notes of an Ian Campbell Folk Group record, A.L. Lloyd had this further explanation:

Some of the most ancient, most enduring and at the same time most mysterious English folk songs are those concerned with the attributes and sacrifice of monstrous animals. At the end of the 14th century, when peasant rebellion was in the air, the old magical song of the gigantically powerful bird (presented by a kind of folklore irony as a tiny wren) took on a tinge of new meaning. For here was the story of a great fowl so hard to seize, so difficult to dismember but so apt for sharing among the poor; and what did that suggest but a symbol of seignorial property?

Lyrics

“O where are you going?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“We’re off to the woods,” said John the Red Nose

“What will you do there?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“We’ll hunt the Cutty Wren,” said John the Red Nose

“How will you shoot her?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“With bows and with arrows,” said John the Red Nose

“That will not do then,” said Milder to Maulder
“O what will do then?” said Festle to Foes
“Big guns and big cannons,” said John the Red Nose

“How will you bring her home?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“On four strong men’s shoulders,” said John the Red Nose

“That will not do then,” said Milder to Maulder
“O what will do then?” said Festle to Foes
“Big carts and big waggons,” said John the Red Nose

“How will you cut her up?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“With knives and with forks,” said John the Red Nose

“That will not do then,” said Milder to Maulder
“O what will do then?” said Festle to Foes
“Big hatches and cleavers,” said John the Red Nose

“Who’ll get the spare ribs?” said Milder to Maulder
“O we may not tell you,” said Festle to Foes
“We’ll give them all to the poor,” said John the Red Nose

The Island by Francis Brett Young

To think what England once had been,
When such poor folk, by right of birth,
Claimed an inalienable share
And tenure of their native earth;
When even the least enjoyed the yield
Of labour in the common field,
And kept his pig, and grazed his cow,
And gathered firewood on the waste
To warm his bones in Winter. Now
The hirelings of a heartless caste,
Owners of factories and mills,
Puffed with undigested pride,
And flushed by the tax-eater’s greed,
Have stolen half the countryside
With their accursed Enclosure Bills;
While humble folk who’ve earned the meed
Of painful husbandry, despoiled
Of their scant share of paradise,
See high park-walls and paling rise
About the land where once they toiled.
Now the mantrap’s iron teeth
Lurk in the woods and on the heath,
And never a rabbit or a hare
Sweetens the labourer’s skimpy fare-
Though men with hunger-hollowed eyes
Hear the grai-fed pheasant’s cries
Taunting their stomachs as they gaze
Disheartened on the dwindling blaze
That lights their cheerless chimney-side,
And shiver.

Francis Brett Young (29 June 1884 – 28 March 1954) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, composer, doctor and soldier – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Brett_Young – he wrote The Island in 1944.

An Atlas of Rural Protest in Britain 1548-1900 by Andrew Charlesworth

We get sent, given and recommended a lot of books by people who’ve seen the show. They are nearly always very useful and often even get read. Every so often one comes along that wins. This is such a book. What a title! And full of lovely maps and considered prose too. Copies come up 2nd hand for about the £20 mark fairly often, well worth it.

Needless to say this book is a glorious source of academically thorough research into peasant struggles against the greed and tyranny of the aristocracy.

How Profits From Slavery Changed the Landscape of the Scottish Highlands

Money earned through enslavement played a key role in the eviction of Highlanders in the 18th and 19th centuries, study finds

Between roughly 1750 and 1860, wealthy landowners forcibly evicted thousands of Scottish Highlanders in order to create large-scale sheep farms. Known today as the Highland Clearances, this era of drastic depopulation sparked the collapse of the traditional clan system and the mass migration of Scotland’s northernmost residents to other parts of the world.

As Alison Campsie reports for the Scotsman, new research argues that this pivotal period in Scottish history had close ties to the enslavement of people in British colonies, with a cadre of individuals enriched by slavery evicting at least 5,000 people from their property and buying up more than one million acres of land relinquished during the clearances.

Read full article via https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-research-investigates-how-enslavement-profits-changed-landscape-scottish-highlands-180976311/

Natives by Akala

Race and class in the ruins of empire

We are major Akala fans here in the herd and regularly send his various short youtube videos over to folks for homework.

I’m not going to write about this book here because The Guardian’s book review does all really good job of inspiring you to read it.

After you’ve read this, The Many Headed Hydra is a great companion book to dive deeper.

Cotters and Squatters by Colin Ward

This book is magnificent and tragically out of press with second hand copies going for silly money. I’ve tried to persuade the publisher to re-issue it or to make it available digitally but to no avail yet. Succint, throughly readable and utterly compelling, I hope your local library can sort you out with a copy.

Squatters were the original householders, and this book explores the story of squatter settlements in England and Wales, from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the squeezing out of cottagers in the enclosure of the commons.

There is a widespread folk belief that if a house could be erected between sundown and sunset the occupants had the right to tenure and could not be evicted. Often enquiry into the manorial court rolls shows this to be the case. Unofficial roadside settlements or encroachments onto the ‘wastes’ between parishes provided space for the new miners, furnacemen and artisans who made the industrial revolution, while cultivating a patch of ground and keeping a pig and some chickens. Colin Ward’s book, full of local anecdote and glimpses of surviving evidence, links the hidden history of unofficial settlements with the issues raised by 20th century squatters and the 21st century claims that ‘The Land is Ours’.

Colin presents a wealth of fascinating anecdote, analysis and polemic highlighting the sheer variety of ways individuals have created sustainable homes and livelihoods in nooks and crannies at the margins of society.” Regeneration and Renewal

“Rural squatters are now only a footnote in social history. Their families built themselves a house on some unregarded patch of land… For years, the environmental humanist Colin Ward has tried to rescue such people from the mythology of heritage museums, the indulgences of romantic novelists and the dust of local archives; and to draw lessons from them for today. Cotters and Squatters is the latest vivid instalment of his campaign.” The Independent

“Ward is not averse to a little squalor, or at least untidiness.The modern countryside is altogether too neatly packaged and sewn-up for the benefits of the well-off, he feels. Overzealous planning laws, and what he calls “the suffocating nimbyism of the countryside lobby, with its Range Rover culture,” are dismissed as an affront to rural history. His new book is an exploration of the long struggle of the rural poor to acquire and keep a roof over their heads.” The Guardian

A lovely succint history overview (England and Forest of Dean)

Well this short history overview (taken from http://cabiners.wum.land/Wum-Land-Development_intro_to_LID.pdf) is really rather good and covers much of the same stations as the show plus a few more that didn’t quite make the cut, due to lack of time rather than historical badassness. There is another excellent piece more specific to the Forest of Dean here https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

450 to 1066 – Anglo-Saxon Charters grant land to ‘lay people’ (commoners), set-up the administrative areas that correspond closely to our modern parish boundaries. The earliest surviving charter of King Hlothhere of Kent was drawn up in AD 670.

1066-7 Norman invasion displaces Anglo-Saxon commons/ land ownership model. William the Bastard declares that all land, animals and people in the country belong to him personally. This was as alien to the Isle’s customs as the colonial land-grabs were to the First Nations of America. Still today, the monarch’s land monopoly remains, in theory and practise, a legal reality. Land is parcelled up and given as payment to Williams forces. We go from a country in which >90% of people owned land, to a country of landless serfs, themselves owned by foreign lords.

1066-70 The ‘Greenmen’ resist the Norman invasion. Wearing camouflage, they run guerilla warfare campaigns against the invaders who called them the ‘silvatici’ (the men of the woods).

1069–70 the ‘Harrying of the North’, William burnt down every building between York and Durham, and killed by starvation or sword over one hundred thousand people. Many of the largest land owners in this country still today proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were involved in this bloodbath.

1135 – 1154 Civil war during the reign of Stephen saw the strength of the regional lords/ barons rise relative to the Crown as they established political and judicial arenas other than those defined by the Crown- creating a degree of regionalisation. England’s population more than doubled during 12th and 13th centuries stressing the economically inefficient land monopolies.

1215 Barons forced King John to limit his own power by signing Magna Carta which restated certain ancient, customary rights. Some of which were pre-Norman, and likely echoed back to our ancient oral traditions, existing long before the Roman invasion.

1217 Charter of the Forest re-established rights for Freemen to access and make use of the Royal Forests without persecution.

1235 – Statute of Merton encouraged landowners to convert arable land into pasture, as demand for British wool increased. Displacing traditional peasant agriculturalists and farmers. Commons Act 1236 allowed lords to enclose common land. Wool was the backbone and driving force of the medieval English economy between the late thirteenth century and late fifteenth century the trade (a primary driver of enclosure) was called “the jewel in the realm” or ‘half the wealth of the kingdom’. Statutes of Westminster 1275/ 85/ 90- restrict subtenure/ sale of parcels of land (a threat to state land monopoly) other than to the direct heirs of the landlord. It was prompted by certain lords who were dissatisfied with increasing amount of subtenures. These restrictions gave rise to ‘livery and maintenance’ or ‘bastard feudalism’, i.e. the retention and control by the nobility of land, money, soldiers and servants via salaries, land sales and rent. In-effect, this was the start of modern wage-slavery, and still works today, to ensure the regions remain economically dependent on the core, via state subsidised and enforced land monopoly to restrict regional economic and thus political power.

Rising European merchant class capitalised on mass production of wool being facilitated by displacing agrarian communities.

British wool became very sought after in Europe. Increasing demand for British wool, led to more mass displacement of peasants–generating an landless ‘class’ of urban dependents.

Great Famine 1315 and the Black Death 1348 killed >1/3 of the population, forcing the landed classes to value the productive members of their society (the peasants) who grew all the food.

1337-1453, Hundred Year War vs France, financed by merchant capital to gain control of the Flemish wool industry and weavers.

1340-1380 purchasing power of rural labourers increased 40%.

1351/ 49 The Labourers Acts were the nobilities reaction to the rising bargaining power of peasants, they fixed wages to ‘preplague levels’, restricted free movement and price-fixed foods.

1377 John of Gaunt imposed a new tax, the Poll (head) Tax.

1381 Peasants Revolt : Kentish rebels joined by many townsfolk, entered London. They destroy gaols, burned down Savoy Palace (Gaunts home), plundered Lambeth Palace, burnt books and buildings in the Temple, killed anyone associated with the royal government. The following day, Richard met the rebels at Mile End and acceded their demands, including the abolition of serfdom & poll tax (the only promise not reneged soon after)

1400-1409 Owain Glynd r last native Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru) viewed as a de facto King, led the ‘Welsh Revolt’ rapidly gaining control of large areas of Wales. Eventually his forces were overrun by the English, but despite the large rewards offered, Glynd r was never betrayed. His death was recorded by his kinsman in the year 1415, it is said he joined the ranks of King Arthur, and awaits the call to return and liberate his people.

1450 – Jack Cade led an army of Kentish peasants (described by ‘Shakespeare’ as “the filth and scum of Kent”) the rebels persuaded first army dispatched to pack up & go home, skilfully evaded a second of 15,000 men led by Henry VI, defeated third army in battle, killing two of the king’s generals in the process.

1450–1451 John and William Merfold’s Uprising centred around Sussex, mostly comprised of artisans pillaging and killing local gentry and clergy. “[The rebels wished] as lollards and heretics, to hold everything in common.” – the King’s Indictment, 1451

1489 Depopulation Act ‘agaynst pullying doun of Tounes’, Kings introduce anti-enclosure acts, due to widespread clearances, and the depopulation of entire villages. There were to be 11 similar Acts & eight commissions of enquiry over next 150 years. Henry VIII legislates against early cloth factories & enclosures, a primary source of wealth for the emerging ‘middle class’ of land owners, but lacked the strength to fully implement his changes.

1515 Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable in an attempt to reign in fortunes being made by the merchants.

1536 to 1541 – Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII privatising church lands (then 1/5th of the land), generating even more landless people, wholly dependent on urban wage-slavery.

1549 Kett’s anti-enclosure rebels 16,000 strong, took Norwich. Kett was 57 years old and one of the areas wealthier farmers. Erection of Cottages Act 1588 “against erecting and maintaining of Cottages” by people with less than four acres of freehold land. Prevent people building homes, farming remaining common land There is a surprising amount of continuity, in ‘open field systems’ from the fourth millennium BC up until the Norman invasion. Communal land management originated centuries, perhaps millennia before the Anglo-Saxon era. In Anglo-Saxon land law or ‘folkland’, as it was called, land was held in allodial title by the group, individual ownership did occur but it was limited to ensure the needs of the group were met.

1607 the agrarian changes (depopulation, enclosure) in the Midlands had produced mass armed revolts of the peasantry.

1607 to 1636, Government pursued an active anti-enclosure policy. Charles I, the ‘Commoners’ King’ was ‘re-commoning’ lands enclosed by lords and merchants, just before Civil War.

1620 Sir Edward Coke ‘greatest of English judges’, and a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation against the laws of the realm ‘the encloser who kept a shepherd and dog in place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.’ Ethnically cleansing ‘peasants’ is a clear violation of our ancient Common Law of Tort which is ‘cause no injury, harm or loss’

1626–1632 The Western Rising was a series of riots in the Dean and other Forests against disafforestation of royal forests

“In 1633-4 we find a proposal that all inclosures made since James I. should be thrown back into arable on pain of forfeiture” Enclosers still prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639.

1638 in the Forest of Dean “The deer were to be disposed of, as demoralizing the inhabitants and injuring the young wood; the commissioners recommended ejecting the cottagers who had established themselves in the Forest, as often before, in defiance of authority, and who numbered upwards of 2,000, occupying 589 cottages, besides 1,798 small enclosures containing 1,385 acres. As to defraying the cost of executing the above works, the commissioners recommended the sale of about 440 acres of detached Crown land adjoining the Forest” Charles I gave a short break in enclosures, he’s then beheaded. Post civil war enclosures accelerated by a largely landowning Parliament, blighting our entire population to this present day.

1642-1651 English Civil War, old feudal v.s. merchant powers.

1649 mass-redistribution, Cromwell sells 1,677 Royalist Estates

1649 Gerrard Winstanley with a peasant army, called the ‘True Levellers’ (later diggers) declaim the Earth a Common Treasury. The Diggers print radical protestant literature, aimed at reforming the social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on the creation of small egalitarian, self-sufficient rural communities, an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth.”

1659, Forest riots ‘probably excited by the efforts which the Government had recently made for the re-afforesting of 18,000 acres; to effect which 400 cabins of poor people, living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down.’ English nationalist discourse in the mid-17th century spoke of throwing off the ‘Norman yoke’ – i.e. feudalism, land monopoly.

1671 Game Act made it illegal to hunt wild animals, considered a common right since time immemorial. Also illegal for farmers to protect crops from rabbits, other animals. Starvation or crime. Around now modern banking arrived in England from Holland leading to a century of boom and bust bubbles, expensive wars in which banking families made huge profits funding both sides.

1680 in the FOD “there were remaining about 30 cabins, in several parts of the Forest, inhabited by about 100 poor people, (The Crown) had taken care to demolish the said cabins, and the enclosures about them.” These were not the Forest “free miners”, although “they had been born in it, and never lived elsewhere,” but as “cabiners,” who had to work seven years in the pits before they could become “free.” Freedom=Slavery. Glorious Revolution of 1688 leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.

1700-1850 Parliamentary Enclosures, no longer held back by sections of the Church, nor the power of Monarchs- enclosures increase exponentially in speed and size, urban slums grow too.

By 1700 half all arable lands enclosed, by 1815 nearly all farm land was enclosed, hunting, grazing, gleaning rights all but lost.

From 1750 to 1820 desperate poachers were ‘hanged en-mass’

1790-1830 a third of rural population migrates to urban slums. Where they are put to work in factories, workhouses called by Blake the “Satanic Mills” of modernity, i.e. ‘Industrial Revolution’.

1788 Mr. Miles Hartland, assistant-deputy-surveyor stated to the Dean Forest Commissioners, “cottages and encroachments in the Forest have nearly doubled within the last forty years.”

1811 – 1816 Concerned that machines would replace their highskill labour, the Luddites smash machinery, threaten industrialist. Luddites were not anti technology, they were pro-workers rights. Early 1800’s Industrialist Robert Owen talks of a ‘moral rebirth’ and sets about improving the living conditions of his workers.

1800-1850 Highland Clearances led to the displacement of up to 500,000 Highland peasants and crofters, tens of thousands of which died in the early-mid the 19th century, to be replaced by sheep. A member of the British Aristocracy noted ‘It is time to make way for the grand-improvement of mutton over man.’

1808 Dean Forest Timber Act 1814-1816 11,000 acres enclosed

1831, Warren James with 100 Foresters, demolished enclosures at Park Hill, between Parkend and Bream. 50 unarmed Crown Officers were powerless to intervene. Soon a party of 50 soldiers arrived from Monmouth, but by now the number of Foresters had grown to around 2000 and the soldiers returned to barracks. squadron of heavily armed soldiers arrived from Doncaster and the day after, another 180 infantrymen from Plymouth James was sentenced to death, later transportation to Tasmania.

1845 – 1852 Irish Potato ‘Famine’, as British troops seized foods, to be exported at gun-point leaving the Irish population to starve.

1845 and 1849: 616 major landlords owned 95% of the British Isles and rented marginal lands to land-workers (peasants).

1849 Forest of Dean ‘a general feeling prevailed against the deer, on the ground of their demoralising influence as an inducement to poaching, and all were ordered to be destroyed, there being perhaps 150 bucks, 300 does. “if once men begin to poach, we can never reckon upon their working afterwards.” Mr. Nicholson’s statement before Lord Duncan’s Committee

1872 the British Government published ‘The Return of the Owners of Land’, only the second audit of land to have taken place in British history, the other being the Domesday book. After 2 years of gathering all the information the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. 10 Dukes owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres, 1/50th of the entire country. Return of Owners of Land, confirmed that 0.6 per cent of the population owned 98.5% of the land. Half of Britain was owned by 0.06% of the population. Findings still well hidden till this day.

Late 1800 industrialists build villages for workers, in anticipation of higher productivity. Strict, religious ‘rules’ concerning drinking, dancing, singing or fraternising with opposite sex were common.

Late 1800s – early 1900s land reforms start making headway, allotment acts, numerous attempts to introduce a land value tax- to return tax burden to large land owners. Landowners fear land may soon become a liability, so they sell >1/2million acres in a short space of time- though mostly to other large landowners.

1899 Commons Act permits district councils, national park authorities to manage commons for ‘exercise and recreation’.

1900-1946 ¼ of a billion Europeans die from war, famine or as a result of war. Enables land-grabbing on an unprecedented scale.

1920-47 Plotlands were the first chance for workers to own land and build dwellings on it – they lead to the invention of Planning Laws to prevent poor people building houses in the countryside.

1925 Law of Property Act s.193 gave the right of the public to “air and exercise” on Metropolitan commons, but not rural commons.

1925 Land registry begins, to-date about 50% of land registered.

1930’s ‘Green Revolution’, a euphemism for the petrochemical based agriculture of the (post-)war period, has succeeded only in finding and expanding new ‘markets’ for the petrochemical corporations who became incredibly wealthy and politically influential by selling fuel & chemical weapons during the wars. In fact, many of the insecticides and herbicides sprayed on our foods today are modified or sometimes even just ‘rebranded’ chemicals originally designed as weapons of war. Of course, the exact same chemical corporations also manufacture and sell pharmaceutical drugs, which make additional revenue ‘treating’ the ‘diseases of civilisation’ which so often result from exposure to these chemical. As the head of I.G. Farben infamously said… “we intend to make the human-body, our market place.” Currently more than 70 per cent of UK land is owned by fewer than two per cent of the population. Much of which is directly traceable to Guillaume (William) the Bastard/ Conqueror whose 22nd great-granddaughter sits upon the ‘English’ throne still today. Meanwhile, Britain’s 16.8 million homeowners account for barely 4 per cent of the land, about the same as that owned by the Forestry Commission. Today, Britain has the second most unequal distribution of land ownership on Earth, after Brazil.

1962 start of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), largest political bribery structure ever conceived by man.

1981, The Foresters won an exemption from Forestry Act’s land sales. Then MP Paul Marland quickly changed his mind about supporting the sale saying… “Today’s Forester is of the same independent mind and rugged character as were his forefathers. It is our duty to preserve his ancient rights and traditions”. Take note!

1986 Inheritance taxes finish off remaining Anglo-Norman landed gentry, well, those not already in-bed with ‘globalist’ financiers.

1996, 500 ‘The Land is Ours’ activists occupied 13 acres of derelict land on the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth.

In 1999, the British activist group ‘The Land is Ours’ celebrated the Digger movement’s 350th anniversary with a march and reoccupation of Saint George’s Hill, site of the first Digger colony. CROW Act 2000 recognised ‘freedom to roam’ on common land.

2008, first low-impact development granted planning permission to Tony Wrench & ‘that round-house’, after attempted eviction failed.

2009, nearly a hundred activists converged on a piece of derelict land at Kew Bridge in south west London to create an ‘eco-village’.

2010 HOOF successfully fought nationwide forest sell-off from public bodies bill, leading to the government backing down and setting up the Independent Panel of Forestry, which concluded that, “

2012 Wilderness Centre reopened in Spring, Yorkley Court’s ‘disorderly settlement’ begins in the Autumn of that year.

2012 “Runnymede Eco-Village started by ‘the Diggers 2012’ who are modelled after Gerald Winstanley’ Diggers of 1649. Successes of Low-impact development planning policy in Wales, under the ‘One Planet Development’ scheme -the flagship project is Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire. Oxford University produces a DNA map of Britian which reveals that “most people in Great Britian still live in the tribal teritories which existed over 1000 years ago.” Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: “What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.

https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html

Politics, performance and pageant in the 1930s

The lovely Peter Beader (AKA Pete The Temp) has been doing a tonne of research recently for his new book ‘Stage Invasion: Poetry & The Spoken Word Renaissance‘ and his new show ‘Homer to Hip Hop: a History of Spoken Word‘.

He came across an essay about a political pageant from the 1930s which has an interesting overlap with the structure of our show. The published essay is behind an academic paywall here but the author Mick Wallis has kindly provided his private copy of the essay which you can download from here if you don’t have an academic login to download from the link above.

Taken from the essay, here is the structure of a pageant performed to thousands of people in a stadium in the late 1930s:

Music and the People

Introduction

1. Feudal England. A canon from 1350; songs ‘that have lived in the peasant tradition for centuries, only lately collected because they were beginning to be forgotten’; a primitive fertility ritual dance; a Hebridean spinning song. (No dramatic action.)

2. The Massacre of the Innocents. Parts of two pageant-plays are performed, as if to the villagers: after the famous complaint from the Second Shepherds’ Play, Herod and the Innocents – ‘no doubt much of its popularity owed much to the memory of the massacres of their own people after the rising of 1381’; the song King Herod and the Cock in which ‘the invincible spirit’ wins against the oppressor; a choir of early Christians, following an introductory verse by Paul Robeson; and, since ‘the play’s not finished yet’
(i.e., of history) the Basque Lullaby.

3. Peasants in Revolt. A return to 1381: John Ball addresses the crowd; a signal arrives from him; the march on London, singing The Cutty Wren; Tyler’s meeting with Richard II, and murder (‘All words spoken in this scene, except for the commentary of the Speaker, are taken from authentic records’); all the men of the Mass Chorus (nine choirs) sing The German Peasants’ Song.

Interlude. ‘The ancient ritual carried on / And the forbidden message spoke’: members of the Woodcraft Folk ‘come on in small numbers, like conspirators, and perform the Stag-Dance’, part of the cult which was ‘the bond of unity between the harassed peasants’.

4. Soldiers of Freedom. Two Announcers briefly set the scene for 1649 (the episode is not concerned with celebrating Cromwell). ‘One king may be dead, but who still owns the land? Six Levellers and the actor-singer Parry Jones sit at tavern tables and sing; an Announcer recounts their talk as they remain in tableau; a group of dancers; some Diggers brought on in ropes by soldiers; an Announcer hails them in verse while the soldiers
order drinks; the Diggers sing Stand up Now.

5. Village Green to Concert Hall. Announcer’s verse reports the break-up of rural communities and the appropriation of their culture by bourgeois institutions; ‘A group of dancers enters and performs to the tunes from which The Beggar’s Opera was concocted. At the end of their dance, a proscenium arch appears over the platform, and a scene from the play is performed to the dancers as audience.

Interval

6. Changing Europe. 1792. French revolution, singing the Carmagnole, verses 1 and 2, dressed as French peasants of 1790

7. Prisoners. ‘Ludwig van Beethoven descends from rostrum’; ‘But who are these / In modern clothes appearing / Their haggard eyes / The brand of torture like a web of scorpions wearing?’; prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps enter and sing the Peat-Bog Soldiers’ Song.

8. Slaves. ‘Following this train of thought’, John Payne and his Negro Choir enter as slaves, singing a chain-gang song, a cotton-picking song, and some ‘songs of freedom, led by one of the foremost champions of freedom’, Paul Robeson’.

9. The People Advance. As Robeson’s Kneelin’ Low ends, the Mass Chorus sings the Chartist We’re Low and the Speaker takes up a prose narrative to take us forward to trade unionism – ‘To every trade its club, to every club its song’ – and ‘the Trades Unionists sit round a table and sing their song’ (unspecified), ‘the verse sung solo’; ‘the tide rose apace’, and in a few sentences taking in the Co-operative Movement, the Speaker takes us to the late 1880s – a crowd headed by William Morris enters, singing People of England; the Speaker relates the killing by the police of the demonstrator in Trafalgar Square in 1880, and William Morris gives his famous ‘Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay’; the Chorus marches off to the Russian 1905 Funeral March, ‘that now commemorates all those who have fallen in the fight for freedom’.

The Speaker makes a summation in verse of the Pageant, and reflects on its meanings for us now:

And having present struggles and despairs
Sharp in our minds, remember too
The past whose urgent influence prepares
The issues of today, and know that you
By today’s action map the future’s road….
Never so needed was that single will
That unity of the people, to fulfil
The claim for freedom, and to ensure our peace…
It is time we answered, as they answer now
In Spain, in China, in every tortured land….
Let our song rise whose simple power
Can flood the boundaries that divide us still
And make our common hope, our single will.

Then a procession of groups: Christian Hymn; Levellers’ Song; Marseillaise; People of England; ‘Bandera Rossa’ ; German Solidarity Song; Chinese Student Song; Spanish National Anthem; (and now not representations but actual) veterans of the International Brigade led by Fred Copeman; the Negro Choir. Paul Robeson sings The Land of Freedom, ‘the great song of liberated Soviet humanity’, with the Acting Chorus (twelve choirs); Tom Mann, the Dean of Canterbury, and Fred Copeman speak briefly on the theme ‘Music and the People’ . Finally, all (audience included) sing the American Men Awake! the Day is Dawnin

(1780) Die Gedanken Sind Frei

This is a lovely old Germany song which may be super old, but as ever, no one really knows… Here is what wikipedia has to say, and below is Pete Seeger’s adaptation into English. Note that these words are slightly different to the version embedded above. You can hear another version here but for some reason it will not embed outside of YouTube.

Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts freely flower
Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts give me power
No scholar can map them, no hunter can trap them
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei

I think as I please and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this right I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator
No man can deny – die gedanken sind frei

Tyrants can take me and throw me in prison
My thoughts will burst forth like blossoms in season
Foundations may crumble and structures may tumble
But free men shall cry – die gedanken sind frei

Original German lyrics (with translation below)

Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
Sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger sie schießen
Mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
Doch alles in der Still’, und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
Es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
Das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
Und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen
Und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
Und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
Sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich sitz nicht alleine bei meinem Glas Weine,
Mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No person can know them, no hunter can shoot them
With powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,
Still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
And so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
All these are futile works,
Because my thoughts tear all gates
And walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
And never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
And think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I’m not alone with my glass of wine,
My girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

(1770) The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith

The Deserted Village is a poem by Oliver Goldsmith published in 1770. It is a work of social commentary, and condemns rural depopulation and the pursuit of excessive wealth.

The location of the poem’s deserted village is unknown, but the description may have been influenced by Goldsmith’s memory of his childhood in rural Ireland, and his travels around England. The poem is written in heroic couplets, and describes the decline of a village and the emigration of many of its residents to America. In the poem, Goldsmith criticises rural depopulation, the moral corruption found in towns, consumerism, enclosure, landscape gardening, avarice, and the pursuit of wealth from international trade.

Wikipedia

The full poem is much much longer – I have selected my favourite parts below which might be useful to read in a show sometime:

The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith 1770

Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheared the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer’s lingering blooms delayed.

Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loitered o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!

Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green:

One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain;
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;

The man of wealth and pride
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds:
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,
Has robbed the neighbouring fields of half their growth;
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green:

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England’s griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man;
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more:
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are altered; trade’s unfeeling train
Usurp the land and dispossess the swain;

Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening’s close,
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;
There, as I past with careless steps and slow,
The mingling notes came soften’d from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
The sober herd that lowed to meet their young,
The noisy geese that gabbled o’er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school,

The watch-dog’s voice that bayed the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind,
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And filled each pause the nightingale had made.

But now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.

All but yon widowed, solitary thing
That feebly bends beside the plashy spring;
She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn;
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.

Traditional Ballad index at California State University

Someone shared this on social media yesterday and I just want to bookmark it here quickly as it looks like a gold mine.

http://fresnostate.edu/folklore/BalladIndexArticles.html

I’m not sure yet how relevant it is to the current show but if we end up working with our Scottish and Irish friends, this looks like a good place to start exploring due to the way it is indexed.

The parent part of the site also has lots of interesting stuff on it. What I love about this so much is that it is still in super old HTML style which means it is so much easier to navigate and search than all this fancy, flashing, fancy pants and usually pointless web design which is currently the fashion!

http://fresnostate.edu/folklore/

 

East Yorkshire Historical Society booklets on enclosure and the open field system

I’ve just finished reading these three excellent booklets about enclosure and the open field system in East Yorkshire… Two were written in late 1950s and the third in the mid eighties. All were thoroughly researched, succinct and insightful.

Continue reading

Slavery and the foundations of modern day economics

The evolution of capitalism in England and resulting land grabs both here and abroad can be arguably simplified to sheep, slavery and fossil fuels…

I found this (long read) article an excellent overview of the abominable role slavery took in the founding of modern day economics.

https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-original-laissez-faire-economists-loved-slavery

(1809) Petition of the Pigs in Kent

More info at a folk song a week blog – https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/week-103-petition-of-the-pigs-in-kent/

Original text in 1809 magazine can be found here

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will be pleas’d to recall your decree,
Which tells us that acorns no longer are free.

In Sussex and Surrey and Middlesex too,
Pigs may ramble at large without such ado;
And why, then, in Kent should pretences be found,
To drive us like culprits and thieves to the pound,

Since we, and our fathers, and others before ‘em,
Have rang’d in your woods, with all proper decorum?
No poachers are we, for no game we annoy
No hares we entrap, and no pheasants decoy;

Contented are we, if an acorn we find,
Nor wish for a feast of a daintier kind.
Besides, we are told (and perhaps not mistaken)
That you and your friends love a slice of good bacon;

But if of good bacon you all love a slice,
If pigs are to starve, how can bacon be nice?
For these and for other wise reasons of state,
We again our petition most humbly repeat,

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will repeal this severest of laws,
So your woods shall resound to our grunting applause.