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Peacocks, Kangas and Blockades

Peacocks, Kangas and Blockades

These are exciting times at Quex, as the British Museum has set up a touring exhibition of African design, and as I pass the brilliant display of peacock rugs and woven portraiture, I learn about the printing of traditional cloth, called Kanga, and the colours of South Africa.


In February half-term we met Will Travers of the `Born Free` foundation , at the `Animal Rescue` book launch. This was part of our conservation heroes talks, and we listened to stories and marched with our children around the galleries, chanting and whistling. This was great fun but with a serious purpose.

Returning to my archive desk I found that not only had Vera and Trevor read my blog but provided me with additional information about the `Swing` riots in Kent, in the 1830`s. This also ties in with a forthcoming spring exhibition about Napoleonic times, which Hazel and Chris are currently collating.

After 1815 , post-war blues surfaced in the form of unemployment. The combined effects of enclosures, poor harvests and new threshing machines led to riots and rick burning, the nearest fires being only a mile away at Alland Grange, also known as Cheesemans. Mr. Harrison had received a threatening letter, signed `Swing`, having already had his machines broken.

Charlotte, John Powell Powell`s wife, wrote to her London solicitor, Charles Deare, that Harrison`s problems stemmed from him being a harsh magistrate, and buying most of his goods in London instead of locally. She attributes her tenants `loyalty to the fact that although she sympathised with the farmers who could not pay their `tythes` at Christmas, she also gave `cloathes` to some of the 300 poor at her school, so long as they had been to church, clean and attentive, but not to the Methodist chapel ! John Powell Powell was seen as a fair JP, and as High Sheriff of Kent in 1823, dealt with many problems, including transportation. He paid his labourers a regular wage, and as Charlotte wrote this was probably why they were not threatened. Between 1830 and 1834 over 250 incidents were reported of arson and machine, breaking, with some local groups of around 100 men involved. Interestingly the Blockade runners only seemed to deal with 5 incidents of smuggling, but I suspect this was only the tip of another iceburg!


By June, 1832, Charlotte`s letters dealt with the dry weather, and the crop failures. She wrote that `Beans in Blean were not a foot high`, and `Barley looks very bad indeed`. However, corn was `luxuriant`. Barley was essential for beer and was also a cash crop as we shall see next time. She did not neglect her London properties, remarking that her gardener had neglected her prized dahlias in the frosts. She tells Charles of her meadows where she has `ordered  manure and have reserved a great heap of it to throw on when the cows have gone away`.

I wonder what Charles Deare of Temple, London, thought of this `everyday story of country folk`, who were also revered in their circle of aristocrats, owning much property and land in Fulham.

Next time we will examine the `ladies` of the sea, the `Briton`, `Miranda`, and `Charlotte`.

Eileen Mount.   

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