Providing for the Poor

Not so much in evidence nowadays, poverty was a significant feature of Painswick’s past. At the April meeting of the Society John Loosley explained the effects which the many complex laws concerning the poor had on our ancestors from Tudor times onwards.
Until the Reformation monasteries generally cared for the very poor in society. New laws coincided with an increase in people starting to roam further afield, beggars and vagabonds, described in law as the undeserving poor and hence to be punished. Parishes took on responsibility for providing alms and apprenticeships for the impotent poor and harsh settlement measures were taken to ensure incomers, especially pregnant women, were returned to their original villages.
Painswick had its own poorhouse, approximately where the war memorial now stands, and the poor were generally well treated here. However, all that changed with the building of the Union Workhouses – the local one in Stroud serving 15 parishes and accommodating 500 people – and the new ethos was one of punishment and harsh treatment.
John’s presentation concluded with several examples of Painswick’s reluctance to take responsibility for the poor arriving here but also its willingness to pay for apprenticeships for poor children.


Celtic lady rouses worldwide interest

When Neil Holbrook and his small archaeological team began a dig on a derelict garage site on the outskirts of Cirencester in 2011 they did so without any great expectations. However, just below the surface they discovered the remains of about 70 people – a rewarding find indeed. Despite some problems with petrol leakages and gas levels many sections were well preserved and the indications were that it was a 1st/2nd century cemetery.

However, these were not normal graves as Romans at that time cremated their dead. There was also evidence of status, mainly grave goods such as an enamelled bronze cockerel figurine, one of the best ever found in Britain.

Returning in 2015 before new building started on the site, they found more graves – a final total of about 120. One large stone was initially ignored but once cleaned it began to excite great interest. The BBC came to film the lifting and, despite Neil’s fear that it might be nothing, in fact the underside displayed spectacularly clear lettering naming a woman called Bodicacia, a Celtic name meaning victory. But there was a conundrum – the skeleton underneath was that of a man.

The top of the stone was elaborately carved representing the Roman god Oceanus. Obviously the stone had been moved but why and by whom? Maybe Christians who did not want pagan symbols perhaps. The placing of the stone over the grave was deliberate. This is unusual, but there were many unusual features and consequently many questions over interpretation. It has aroused worldwide interest and Neil’s presentation was certainly outstanding – one which other Painswick groups may like to consider.


Our annual outing is a guided tour of Frampton on Severn

AGM followed by  David Archard (Slide Show - topic a surprise!)