1. Stroud’s ‘exponential growth in the 17th century’ was due to the thriving ‘cloth industry’ which was ‘notorious for the exploitation of slaves.’
2. Samuel Baker of Lypiatt Park was paid compensation for freed slaves equivalent to around £40 million in today’s money, which is a legacy from which ‘we still benefit today.’
Neither of these assertions stands up to scrutiny.
The use of the phrase ‘cloth industry’ allows Ms Foster to link Stroud with the cotton trade which did indeed exploit slaves and enriched some areas of Britain such as Bristol and Liverpool. However, as she is probably aware, Stroud had been a centre for the wool industry for centuries before the establishment of the Atlantic slave trade, and didn’t (as far as I know) contain any cotton mills at all. The wool industry in Stroud had no connection to slavery.
According to UCL’s slave ownership database, Samuel Baker was paid a total of £7,990 19s 6d in slave compensation. In today’s money that works out at approximately £482,791 (National Archives online currency converter) – or about 1.2% of the figure quoted by Ms Foster.
Baker’s connection to Stroud is that in January 1841 he purchased Lypiatt Park, which he then owned for just 5 years. It is not even clear that he lived in the house as during that time he occupied Thorngrove House in Worcestershire, where he lived from 1834 until his death in 1862. Baker did not fund any buildings or infrastructure in Stroud and there is no evidence that the town and its people benefited in any way from his slavery compensation.
Does Ms Foster think that her inaccurate, provocative article will help or hinder race relations in Stroud? As the large photograph accompanying her piece shows, she is a young white woman. Stroud currently has few problems with racism, and people of different ethnicities get along very well here. If that changes for the worse will it be Ms Foster who suffers, or others less privileged than herself?