A large stone arch in Paganhill stands as a celebration of progress, a reminder of a shameful past and a call to action.
The passing of the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 was an event worth commemorating. It took effect on 1 August 1834, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire. To mark this vital milestone, Henry Wyatt, a wealthy local philanthropist and ardent supporter of the abolitionist movement, erected the Anti-Slavery Arch at the entrance to his estate. It is the UK’s oldest monument to the abolition of slavery.
It’s sad to reflect that in 2019, slavery is still a problem. But the Abolition of Slavery Act did mark a momentous positive cultural shift and spelled freedom for 800,000 people across the world. Next time you pass the Arch, stop and pay your respects to those denied their freedom by slavery and to the abolitionists who worked to make slavery illegal. Then take another moment to think what we can all do to take the cause further.
The United Nations International Labour Organization estimates about 25 million people globally are victims of forced labour, many of those making some of the clothing and products that we buy. Visit Anti-Slavery International at www.antislavery.org and stay informed. They warn that completely boycotting brands can make the situation worse and undermine the economy in poor areas. Instead question where cheap fashion and household goods are coming from and pressure the big companies for improvement. And for the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your clothes come from, look for sustainable fashion brands like Stroud’s own Madia & Matilda.