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Abolition set in stone
Stroud's Memorial Arch is the country's only existing monument to the abolition of the slave trade.
Stroud's Memorial Arch stands against a very everyday backdrop, on the pavement beside a busy Stroud road lined with terraced houses.
But despite this relatively inauspicious setting, it is this country's only existing monument to the end of the trade in humans. The arch was completed in 1834, the first year of freedom for many of those enslaved.
One of Stroud's most steadfast supporters of the campaign against slavery (as of other good causes in the area) was the banker Henry Wyatt.
Wyatt was a supporter of local good works, paying the minister's salary at Ruscombe chapel and for the maintenance of Ruskin school pre-state education.
In 1833 he bought Farmhill Park - an estate consisting of a house and sixty acres of parkland. One of Wyatt's first acts was to lay out a new carriage drive from Farmhill LAne to the house. This was completed in 1834, with the arch and a lodge at its entrance.
ERECTED TO COMMEMORATE THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN THE BRITISH COLONIES THE FIRST OF AUGUST, A.D. MDCCCXXXIV
However, in 1834 only children under six were freed. Older slaves were to serve 'apprenticeships' of six years, during which they would continue to receive food, clothing and medical care. During this time they were subject to a great deal of exploitation.
A comprehensive school was opened on part of the old Farmhill Park in 1962. It is called (for obvious reasons) Archway.
In 2002 the school and a local group known as the Football Poets put on the play Freedom's March, donating proceeds to the UN Fund for Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
This article is based primarily upon Stroud versus Slavery by Philip Walmsley, published in 2003 by the Stroud Local History Society.
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 15:02