At first, until they found their feet, the new arrivals would meet up regularly, cooking and sharing a meal, drink and their experiences. Circumstances threw them together and encouraged the development of very close friendships that are evident to this day.
Most lived in rented accommodation, which provided board and lodging, with food that they found very difficult to get accustomed to as it was not possible to get the food which they had eaten back home. Pudding rice was the nearest thing. Those lodging at the hostel in Brockworth, enjoyed 'illegal' cook-ups on electric heaters of such delicacies as pig's feet and rice.
The first grocer to stock Caribbean food was Bob Allen in Barton Street, and later the first Black shopkeeper was 'Boysie' Harris, who owned a shop at the junction of Barton Street and Kingsbarton Street. It has been difficult to ascertain dates, but these developments were, most definitely, much later, encouraged by the women of the community.
Local clubs and pubs were not welcoming. Mally Hutchinson remembers being banned from two Gloucester public houses. Christmas 1952, he went to the 'Raglan' public house with an English couple. The landlord told his friends that under no circumstances would he serve him (Mally) in the lounge, they would have to go to bar. They left. Mally's friend did not tell him the reason until later.
The other public house from which he was banned was the 'Beehive,' on the corner of Millbrook Street and Jersey Road. He had just ordered a pint, when the landlord put his hand on his shoulder, ordered him out, and told him that in the future he was to get his drink from the 'Jug and Bottle'. This was a window on the outside of the pub, where people could buy their drinks, by the jug or the bottle, without entering the pub.
'Friendly' pubs, identified by those interviewed, included the 'Wellington' on Tredworth Road, and 'The Marquis of Granby' on Barton Street. The landlord of the latter, whose name was Skipper, also allowed them to watch his television.
They would often go to the cinema. They also took the train and went to 'Rock and Roll' dances in Cheltenham, at the Town Hall and at St. Gregory's Hall. It was here that they became involved in a number of fights, with local 'Teddy Boys' and with white American servicemen, who were stationed at USAF Brize Norton and Fairford. Fights often broke out when they danced with English girls.
Byron Thompson, who came to Gloucester from Jamaica in 1955, states that: “The English girls liked the way we dressed, the way we treated them and liked to dance with us”. The Jamaicans were also often mistaken for black American servicemen. Back at the base, the white servicemen had to get along with the black servicemen but, in Cheltenham at the dances, there was much antagonism. Winston Shaw recalls being told, “You don't have any right to be where the whites are ”, which led to a fight.
The black servicemen became friendly with the Jamaicans, and often travelled to Gloucester after the dances, spending Sunday with them. Byron recalls that after a particularly bad fight where lots of people had been hurt, the dance organisers called a meeting, and the Jamaicans were asked to send a representative. As no one attended, they were banned in their absence.
Arriving as single young men, it was inevitable that many would form relationships with young white girls. Many of their parents, and much of society at large, did not approve. Mally recalls that the girls who dated black men were “treated like the scum of the earth”.
A white girlfriend of Byron Thompson was threatened with the loss of her job, at Moreland Matches Factory in Bristol Road, if she did not stop arriving at work in his car. Despite this opposition, many went on to marry English girls and have successful and happy marriages.
Not having many places where they could socialise in peace, they tended to create their own entertainment at home, having 'house parties'. This however led them into conflict with neighbours and the police.
Winston Shaw, on return from serving in the forces, was well known in
Gloucester, particularly as a cricketer. Respected by the authorities,
he was often asked to the Guildhall to speak on different issues. He
recalls: “The police sometimes, when they had difficulties, ….parties
or whatever, they would come to my home at night……. I would
go with them to some of these parties and ask them to tone it down”.
As Gloucestershire's first Community Relations Officer Winston also sat on a multitude of committees; ran training courses for, among others, police and social workers, giving them the “immigrant perspective”; liaised with the High Commission; represented clients on immigration appeals and talked to pupils in local schools and Colleges. He also found the time to arrange a number of social events, such as coach trips, which brought the communities together.
p61 - A Gloucestershire West Indian Association was formed in 1962, with Philip 'Pedro' Lewis, 'Daddy West' (Austin Westcarr) and Bernard Westcarr, among others, on the committee. Meeting at the Old Custom House in Quay Street, it attempted to draw the community together, and began raising funds for a building. A successful Independence Ball was held in August 1962, inviting the Mayor and other local dignitaries.
On the social front, things began to improve as the wives, sweethearts and children who had been left at home, came to Britain. There were birthdays, weddings and christenings to celebrate.
However, in the mid-1970's, there was a need to form yet another organisation, The West Indian United Action Group (W.I.U.A.G.). The founder members of this group were Cliff Richards, Bernard Westcarr and Englishman, Trevor Knight, also known as 'Skip'.
'Skip' was a scout leader, with many of the young first generation, British-born, African- Caribbean boys in his group. They met at a number of venues over the years; at members' homes, St. Marks School, a Methodist Church building in Belgrave Road, and finally property they purchased, 49a Derby Road.
The formation of this group was in response to a number of issues that arose within the community at this time. There were perceived problems around police harassment. There were concerns about the housing of black people on certain council estates in the city, which was viewed as discrimination and segregation.
Moreover, there were concerns about the education of young black children. A national report at this time had highlighted the underachievement of black children. Many children in Gloucester were being allocated places in secondary schools, and the group monitored the outcomes of allocations and assisted many families in the appeals system.
They were also to set up many subsidiary groups, such as the Saturday School, providing supplementary education and black history, and the Ladies Circle, providing a focus for women in the community, which still exist today.
In the 1980' s, this group merged with another group, the Afro-Caribbean Association, which, among other achievements, had developed a Black Luncheon Club. This organisation now has premises on Barton Street, and represents the interests of the community on many committees in the City.
Their formation can be seen as a direct result of the experiences of prejudice and discrimination within the British church community on arrival. Moreover, with some denominations, the style of worship practised in British churches may have been too inhibited. For many, respect for the sabbath, in terms of work and dress, too lenient. Many of these churches now have white members among their congregation, just as many members of the Black community belong to predominantly white churches.
A number of Black Churches have sprung up within the city which also provide a focus for community life. Relevant authorities approach these, as much as the voluntary groups, when they wish to consult with or involve the African-Caribbean community in ventures. They initiate and are involved in community work, including the setting up of luncheon clubs and appropriate housing for elders in the community.
A large proportion of the community belongs to one of these churches,
many of which are fundamentalist in their beliefs. They are very close-knit,
with members often referring to each other as brothers and sisters, and
all have other branches across the country.
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