Picture of Henry Vincent

Henry Vincent

places mentioned

Mar. 10 to 16: Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Hereford

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SUNDAY, March 10. — Passed the day in Stroud. The population appear to be ripening into ultra- radicalism hourly. Lord John Russell will have a comfortably warm reception should he venture again to meet his constituents. At the meeting on Saturday, when I asked the people how it was they sent such a little pettifogger as Russell to parliament, they exclaimed — "we did not send him — we had no votes — he represents the 'intellectual' constituency" . I announced Mr. Frost's intention of contesting the borough at the next election. The people were highly delighted, and will give him their strenuous support. There are some pleasant walks in the vicinity of Stroud; but the scenery is not remarkable for beauty. The people are very poor — wages are low, and work not over plentiful. The women complain bitterly of their sufferings, and express their determination of aiding the men in any measures that may be adopted, having for their object the entire overthrow of the present system of government . A meeting will be held in Stroud on Good-Friday, at which I shall be present.

MONDAY, March 11. — Mounted coach for the city of Gloucester. The road from Stroud to Gloucester is flat, and the scenery pleasing to the eye. Gloucester is a fine city, and contains a large cathedral, and several well- built churches. The people have long been divided between the two factions of Whig and Tory. We found a small Chartist society in existence, but so small as not to be known by the great bulk of the citizens. A public meeting was convened in the large room of the Upper George Inn, and we were much pleased to find the bills, convening the people together, placed in the windows of numerous respectable shopkeepers. Burns and myself went to the George at seven o'clock. The room was crowded, and numbers were in the street, unable to obtain admission. Mr. Sidaway, an intelligent mechanic, was called to the chair. An adjournment to the New Market was then moved and carried. The multitude walked to the market in a very orderly fashion. [Sidaway, Burns, and Vincent spoke] Numbers of tradesmen were present, who appeared to take a lively interest in the proceedings of the evening. The Charter and Petition were unanimously adopted, and arrangements made for getting signatures to the Petition, and for collecting the National Rent. The Radical women mustered well, and expressed their wish to form a Female Patriotic Association. I would recommend them to contribute as much as possible towards the National Rent, and aid their male friends in its collection. Cheers were given for the Charter, Convention, Messrs. Vincent and Burns, and the Chairman; after which the meeting broke up. I shall visit Gloucester again.

TUESDAY, March 12. — Had a delightful ride to Tewkesbury. The weather fine and warm. Tewkesbury is a clean and neatly-built town. On the right of the Gloucester entrance into Tewkesbury stands a very handsome church. The manufactories are principally hosiery and lace. We called upon Mr. Craig the currier, who received us politely and gave us every information in his house regarding the political opinion of the people. He expressed himself favourable to household suffrage, and said he was not a Chartist, and did not know of any Chartists in the place. We then walked over to the Queen's Arms, a complete palace of an inn, the landlord of which, Mr. Pearse, professed himself a Radical, and immediately let us his large room for a meeting in the evening. Whilst sitting in the parlour two working-men entered, whom we soon found to be readers of the Northern Star . As soon as they learnt whom we were they shook us heartily by the hands, and promised to surround us by a Radical staff in the evening. We sent for the bellman and gave him orders to cry the meeting. He was forbidden to cry it by the town-clerk, who, no doubt, expected some awful calamity would result from our presence in the town. We were thus placed in an awkward dilemma. The landlord, however, lent us a good bell, and we engaged a tall Masaniello-looking fellow — a splendid emblem of moral force — to cry the meeting, which he did much better than the king of the bell would have done. ... About six o'clock sixteen or seventeen friends arrived from Cheltenham, having walked twelve miles. They brought us the cheering news of the accession of sixty-five new members to their society since our meeting of the preceding Friday. [Burns and Vincent spoke.] During my speech an interruption was occasioned by one of the "intelligent" constituency. The "gentleman" was a member of the "legal profession", and was so appropriately drunk that had it not been for several Radicals elbowing him up against the wall, he must have fallen down and broken his nose. His objection to an extension of the suffrage was the drunkenness and immorality of the people; but after muttering a few words he was carried out, and some friends "saw him home". He would just suit the House of Commons. I never beheld a finer subject for a member. At the conclusion of my address the Charter and Petition were unanimously adopted. A society was also formed, called "The Working Men's Association" . Arrangements were made for obtaining signatures to the National Petition, and after giving three cheers for the Vincent and Burns — three for the Convention — and three for their wives, sweethearts, and themselves, the meeting broke up. I recommended the Tewkesbury Radicals to agitate and organize the inhabitants of the small villages around them. I hope they will do this. Retired to bed very fatigued at twelve o'clock.

WEDNESDAY, March 13. — Took coach for Ledbury, in Herefordshire. The scenery along the road is very beautiful. On the right, within four miles of Ledbury, stands Eastnor Castle, the residence of Lord Somers. The castle is a fine building, situate on a piece of rising ground, surrounded by a sheet of water, and bounded on either side by extensive plantations. The entrance into Ledbury is exceedingly pleasing. To the right, amidst a profusion of trees and shrubs, is Ledbury church. We reached Ledbury at ten o'clock, and took lodgings at the Crown, a comfortable house whose inmates are agreeably obliging. We could not find anyone who understood the principles of the Charter, but we found poverty and misery in nearly every house. The name of Joseph Rayner Stevens is idolised by the people, who though they seldom see a newspaper, appear to be thoroughly acquainted with his persecution. They hold him in the highest estimation, and expressed their readiness to fight for him rather than see him injured. Leather glove-making is the principal employment of the female part of the population. We visited one house where two young women were at work. They stated that their wages had considerably declined of late years. One of them said that a few years ago she could earn two shillings and six pence per day BUT NOW SHE HAD TO WORK VERY HARD FOR ONE SHILLING! And yet articles of consumption are much dearer now than they were then. The workers receive the gloves "cut out" from their employers, and are assisted in their sowing [sic.] by an ingenious machine, consisting of the two flat pieces of brass, which, by the aid of a small spring, are made to open and shut, and when shut remain firm together. The upper edges of the brass plates are nicked across, so that a small needle and silk can pass through. The machine is fixed upon a stand, which is placed between the knees of the sewer, and the side of a glove is placed between the brass plates, the edge of the glove being level with the edge of the plates; so that when the needle passes through the plates, it also passes through the glove. The sewing is thus done with the nicest regularity, and with amazing rapidity. We sent round the bellman, calling upon the people to meet us in the Market- place at seven o'clock, and then visited the church, which is a very handsome building. The tower and spire are detached from the body of the church; the interior is exceedingly beautiful; a handsome parsonage-house is built at the east end, in the centre of a flower-garden and shrubbery. The good clergyman has a fine family of daughters, several of whom I had the pleasure of catching a glimpse of in the garden. East of the church is a pleasant walk up to an eminence called by the people "Dog Hill", from which we had a commanding view of Ledbury and the country round for miles. Malvern Hills were visible in the distance. At seven o'clock we walked to the Market- place and found several hundred persons assembled; they drew up together, and Burns mounted the Market steps and addressed them. They listened to him with the most patient attention for above an hour, and assented to his remarks with loud plaudits. I then spoke to the people — simplified and explained to them the subject of government — told them of the Convention — and asked them if they approved of what we said, and if they would join with us — they shouted their assent, and swore they would fight for us if Government attacked us. We had a most determined display of popular enthusiasm. When the meeting concluded the people cheered us to our inn. One intelligent mechanic, named Joseph Welch, of New-street, called upon us and undertook to obtain signatures to the National Petition. He will call a meeting in a few days to form a Working Men's Association. Ledbury must be visited again, and then all will be right.

THURSDAY, March 14th. — Expected to leave Ledbury for Hereford at ten in the morning; but when the mail arrived every place was taken, so we were obliged to remain until one o'clock. I walked out alone, and met with several horrible cases of distress. I saw two girls, one 15 and the other 9 years of age. It was 11 o'clock in the forenoon, and they told me they had not tasted food since nine o'clock on the morning of the preceding day, and then had had but a small piece of dry stale bread. They had two younger sisters at home crying for food, and they had come out to see if they could find any dirty food which had been thrown away. Their father was a carter, his average earnings was 3s. 6d. per week, and he had gone to work that morning without food. I gave them a trifle each, and one of them immediately ran and purchased a threepenny loaf and carried it to her starving father. I met with many other instances of extreme destitution — indeed, I found it no unusual thing for families to be entirely without food for the last two or three days of the week, and to exist entirely upon what they could pick up from dunghills, &. Oh, that I had but the power! — but I will not say what I would do. One thing I am now convinced of, that if we do not have an almost immediate political and social change, A BLOODY REVOLUTION MUST TAKE PLACE. The people will not starve much longer. Let their tyrant rulers beware!

ONE O'CLOCK. — Mounted the coach for the city of Hereford. Reached the city late in the afternoon. Herefordshire may well be called the "county of orchards", for the whole of our ride was through them. Hereford is a dull-looking place, and there seems to be but little life amongst its people. We were not able to get up a meeting this day, in consequence of the shortness of the time. Some of the electors here are a rascally set. All they talk about is the price their votes will fetch at an election. Of course there are honourable exceptions.

FRIDAY, March 15. — Sent the Bellman round and called a meeting of the people, for the market place, at seven o'clock. The meeting is held under the old Town Hall. We went to the place of meeting at seven, and found the market nearly filled with people. We were agreeably surprised at the numbers present. Burns read the petition to the meeting, and delivered an able speech in defence of the principles embodied therein. He was warmly applauded — at one part of his speech, when he spoke of "Lord Melbourne's Queen", (I hope her Majesty will forgive me for writing down the words) a few hisses rose from the outskirts of the meeting, but they were entirely drowned by the loud cheers of the people. I spoke next, and, if I may be allowed, in writing my own life, to speak well of myself, I never made a better speech. A stone was thrown at me, and struck me on the temple — but I was not hurt. My speech produced a great excitement in the meeting, and appeared to produce conviction in the minds of all present. On concluding I was loudly cheered. We had a great proportion of the middle classes of the city present. Three times three cheers, were given for Vincent and Burns, and the meeting adjourned. A large concourse of persons escorted us to our inn, and on leaving us greeted us with three cheers. A Working Men's Association will be formed on Monday night, and signatures immediately obtained to the Petition.

SATURDAY, March 16. — Jumped upon a coach for Monmouth — the morning fine, and sun shining, larks, blackbirds, thrushes, and linnets, were singing merrily. About four miles from Hereford, on the right of the Monmouth road, is a very extensive and fertile valley, bounded in distance by the "black hills". The freshness of the air — the varied tints of the virgin grass, and the gay variety of sweet wild flowers peeping out from under the hedge-rows heralded in the welcome birth of Spring. We passed through the town of Ross. It is a neatly built town. There is a magnificent building at the entrance called the Royal Inn. On the right of the road, two miles from Ross, upon a slight elevation, stands the ruins of Goodridge Castle. It was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell during the struggle with the traitor Charles I. We reached Monmouth at 11 o'clock.

Henry Vincent, 'Life and Rambles', in the Western Vindicator , no.5 (23rd March 1839), p.3

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