Hereford’s radical history: ‘The Archenfield Review was as scurrilous as it dared to be’

Archenfield ReviewOne night in the 1980s, animal rights demonstrators attacked the cattle market café, breaking windows and spray painting ‘Murderers’ across the face of the building.

It was a shock to quiet, conservative Herefordshire, the loyal home of the clandestine Special Air Services and the kind of place where rumours of roughings-up down at the nick were taken as a matter of course.

There had been some early radical rumblings: the co-founder of International Times, Jeff Nuttall, had lectured at the art college and played jazz trumpet down at The Booth. A travellers support group had been formed in the late 1970s (Gypsies bore the brunt of local racism) and a Ross CND shortly after.

As Margaret Thatcher became the century’s longest serving prime minister and the West Mercia drug squad played cat and mouse with local dope heads, frustrated libertarians founded a welfare rights drop-in (they met at The Red Door in Maylord Street), a branch of the National Council for Civil Liberties and a gay rights group. There was even a small, sympathetic team of lawyers on hand giving free legal advice.

Coverage by the local media was dire and so the Archenfield Review arrived in the early 1980s. The title (Archenfield was the pre-Norman Herefordshire district) reflected founding editor David Adams’ interests – he had previously set up Herefordshire County Life, devoted to the county’s quirky past and present.

AR, broadly modelled on the alternative West Highland Free Press, was communally run and as scurrilous as it dared to be. Editorially to the left, its Private Eye-style news featured leaked information (such as the frequency of Bulmers’ courtesy drinks van to the incumbent mayor’s office), gossip on locals like ‘Slippery Sam’, a solicitor with a penchant for property deals, councillor ‘Basilballs’ Baldwin and the machinations of ‘Liberal boy wonder’ (then councillor) Paul Keetch. There was a what’s on (‘the Mosquitos – a legend in their own drinking time’), poems, agitprop (‘Give Peace a Dance organised by the Legs Against the Arms Race’) and adverts for Gaffers, Fodder and the Hereford Council for Voluntary Services which eventually became the AR base.

Early issues featured hand-written pages by Geof Newsom and that inky workhorse of the parish press, the Gestetner duplicating machine involving long nights of cut and past layouts, wayward stencil sheets and direct printing on sheets of A3 – collation was a nightmare.

Later editions such as ‘No 6, Nov/Dec 1984 involving M. Pavey, S. Isles, P. Miles, Alison Maclean, Judith Dixon, P. Baines, J. Sant, D. Freeman, Toni Hastings, J. Munro & Phil Miles’ were professional printed in Kingstone and delivered for sale everywhere from local newsagents to the Fountain Inn at Orcop (although on one occasion, the police confiscated the Fountain’s entire delivery).

AR eventually ran out of volunteer steam, but its demise was not in vain. “Our campaigning for the arts led to the council appointing its first arts officer,” recalled one contributor, relishing the memory of apprehensive councillors nipping across from the town hall to WHSmith to grab their copy as soon as it arrived.

Bill Laws

1914: Teachers strike for better pay

This year is the centenary of the 1914 Herefordshire teacher’s strike.

Teachers first walked out on Monday 2 February in a fight for higher wages, with the Daily Telegraph at the time reporting 69 schools closed by the Tuesday.

Many pupils refused to go to school and be taught by scabs, with significant disturbances happening around the county.

These photos (taken from that week’s Hereford Times) show some of the mischief pupils created in support of their teachers.

Ledbury school strikeLedbury: “Miss Creasy, the new mistress, surrounded by girls who prevent her entering the school.”

Ashperton school strikeAshperton: “Group of Ashperton children who refused to go to school because their master (Mr Bolton) was on strike, and a new man (Mr Dry) was taking his place.”

Hereford radical history Part 2: Hereford’s Counter Culture

Growing up in Hereford in the 70s I was surrounded by alternative radical influences. Hereford had a thriving music scene that grew out of the hippie era–and Hereford was well known for its hippies! There were gigs at the Flamingo, at the art college and various venues. A place for meeting up and hanging around was Buzz Music in Widemarsh Street (now a car park; how unsurprising!) This brightly painted music shop was a candle to us young impressionable moths. You could go in and listen to records all day, drink coffee, smoke and smoke, and still not buy anything. There were real rock stars coming and going and as Buzz Music expanded into PA hire for major rock tours there was a real feeling of being at the centre of the counter culture. Once Buzz closed down there were all sorts of rumours that the PA hire was more to do with smuggling for a certain Mr H Marks (nice!).

There were several pubs that took on the role of centre of counter culture too. The Saracen’s Head was famous for its cheap cider and hash dealers, as were a few others in the town. There was a real feeling in the air as the 70s progressed, that the ‘straights’ were losing the argument … and then punk happened! All of a sudden, instead of a few long haired hippies noodling on guitars representing our counter culture, we had aggressive loud youths shouting about it and how anarchy was going tear down the state! Youths were getting political. The punk movement faded into the mainstream but from it came a new kind of political awareness, namely that the ruling classes are corrupt and full of self serving rich crooks getting richer! This was a radical view in ’77, but today it’s what most people think.


Article first published in Hereford Heckler 13

Hereford radical history: the Whitson riot

At 5 O’clock in the morning on the Tuesday of Whitson week 1605 the vicar of Allensmore, Richard Heyns, was woken by a commotion in his church yard. What he saw from the window of the vicarage was forty to fifty heavily armed people carrying out an illegal funeral ceremony. The deceased was Alice Wellington, who, being a Catholic, had been excommunicated from the church and denied a burial.

England at this time was rife with anti-Catholic feeling due to the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation involved the replacement of the corrupt leadership of the Vatican with equally dodgy people closer to home. Herefordshire had become something of a safe haven for Catholics, particularly along the border with Monmouthshire and the edge of the Black Mountains. Life for the vast majority of people living in this part of the county was extremely hard. Protestants and Papists alike, living outside the fruit growing area, survived by spinning flax and hemp, begging and scrumping. This was a world away from the decadent lives of the privileged land owners and religious leaders.

Reverend Heyns, being part of the privileged ruling class, rushed off to Hereford to tell the Bishop what he’d seen. In those days the authority in Herefordshire rested with the church, the head of which was Richard Bennett, the Bishop. Bennett’s reaction to the commotion in Allensmore was to send the High Constable, and his aides, to arrest those that had taken part in the illegal burial.

After a struggle in which some of the constables were injured, Leonard Marsh was arrested in Hungerstone and lead back to Hereford for questioning. As the group passed Belmont they were ambushed by forty armed men. Due to being threatened with more than just a bloody good hiding, the constables released Leonard Marsh.

When news of these disturbances reached London, the King demanded that an example should be made of the ‘Herefordshire-men’, even if that meant spilling blood. This news emboldened the ‘rebels’, but worried the Bishop and his magistrates who feared provoking a wider uprising. And so followed ‘a state of lawlessness’ that lasted for six weeks, in which a game of cat and mouse was played between the Bishop’s men and the locals. The constables often rode into deserted villages while looking for the supposed ringleaders. The communication network that existed in order to evacuate these villages is an example of the high level of organisation that prevailed during the ‘disturbances’.

It eventually became clear that the Bishop of Hereford was unable to reassert his power over the people, so the Earl of Worcester was given the task. Being a Catholic gave the Earl the influence he needed to convince the people to get back in line, and with minimal effort the rebels of south-west Herefordshire were subdued. As with most uprisings, a suitable scapegoat had to be found. That person was William Morgan of Kilpeck who was sent to the Tower of London for supposedly organising, what is now called, ‘The Whitson Riot’.

This article referenced Whitsun Riot by Roland Mathias (1963) Bowes & Bowes London

Article first published in Hereford Heckler #12

Herefordshire workers join biggest walkout for decades

Workers from many industries took strike action on Wednesday to defend attacks on their pensions from the Tory government.

Teachers, paramedics, nurses, local government staff and others from across Herefordshire downed tools and took part in the strike.

Picket lines were in place outside many offices and schools and over 200 people attended the midday rally in High Town, where speeches were heard from a number of union officials.

Unison organiser, Steve Akers, called on workers to “debate and win the arguments surrounding the pensions and cuts in your communities, workplaces, pubs and clubs”. “Go back to work and organise,” he said.

Herefordshire Unison are continuing to organise around the pensions issue and have called another strike committee meeting for next Tuesday 6thDecember. Taking place at 12.30 at the Town or Shire Hall (TBC), the meeting is currently open to officials from local union branches only.

Yet the Heckler believes that these meetings should be open to all peopleaffected by the pensions issue, including workers, families, service users and all involved in the struggle against government cuts.

Strike action around the region also received great support. Six hundred people took part in a march in Worcester, after speeches and a rally at Tramps Nightclub. Unions have said over 75% of Worcestershire teachers were on strike. In Gloucester 2,000 people joined the mass rally at Gloucester Park, after marching from Shire Hall.

Nationally, the picture is much the same. Large rallies and thousands of pickets taking place across the country, with over 2 million public sector workers taking part in the action and more supporting them in rallies, on picket lines and in solidarity actions. A national demonstration was held in Birmingham, with tens of thousands also marching in LondonBristol and Manchester.Almost 70% of schools were closed, over 42% of the London Ambulance Service was on strike, along with a third of local council workers and a quarter of civil servants.

Students have acted in solidarity with striking lecturers and other public sector workers, showing that the  pensions struggle is linked with tuition fees issue and other government ‘austerity measures.’ A series of occupations has taken place at universities across the country in the run-up to November 30th, and on the day itself. So far, students have taken part in occupations at Aberdeen, the University of West England, Goldsmiths, Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh, the University of East Anglia, Liverpool, Essex and Royal Holloway. Many also joined picket lines and demonstrations on the day.

Others, including anti-capitalist/anarchist protesters, electricians and UK Uncut also took action. A group of activists affiliated to the Occupy London group spent the day touring London, supporting pickets, joining protests and linking up with other demonstrators. In the evening they broke off and entered a building on Haymarket, occupying the office of Mick Davies, CEO of mining company, Xstrata, a ‘leading light of the FTSE 100’ and one of the highest paid. Activists unfurled a banner saying ‘All power to the 99%’ on the roof, as police kettled supporters below and moved in to make over 20 arrests.

Meanwhile in London, a group of striking workers were kettled by police outside a library in Hackney in a move that shows the increasingly anti-democratic direction that policing in the capital is taking. Forty-one strikers were arrested for a breach of the peace.

Electricians, who are currently involved in a campaign of early morning pickets and occupations to defend their working contracts, also supported the striking public sector workers.

Anti-cuts group, UK Uncut held what they called a day of ‘SolidariTea.’ They attended picket lines with tea and food for cold strikers.

We cannot doubt the significance of the action. The sheer number of people taking part is something that hasn’t been seen in years. Workers from different industries are showing solidarity with each other and breaking down the government’s public vs. private sector propaganda. Strikers are joining together with students and anti-cuts activists. The struggle is being broadened, with tactics diversifying.

We need to ensure that the links made are cemented and the momentum is kept up. One-day strikes alone will not defeat the government’s programme of cuts and attacks on the workers of this country. More occupations, blockades, go-slows, pickets and protests against government targets, banks and the super-rich are needed. We have many weapons in our arsenal – let’s use them!

Hereford strike committee meeting, 12.30pm Tuesday 6th December, Town or Shire Hall (TBC).