October is Black History month and this year we are celebrating the stories of people from Gloucester’s Caribbean community – in particular, the reflections of a few folk who arrived from Jamaica in the late 1950s and early 1960s to live in Barton and Tredworth. They saw moving to the UK as an attractive option as they believed there were greater opportunities for financial advancement and they would enjoy quality housing. But there were drawbacks too – in this pre-Concorde period the BOAC flight from Jamaica took a long time.
Initially, they tell of their experiences on arriving in England. Those who landed in winter noted the difference in temperature straight away. One gentleman who arrived in summer was disappointed not to see snow immediately! And a lady remembers arriving in the middle of a day when it was sleeting and thinking how dark it was. She saw snow for the first time after it had fallen and frozen overnight. She also recalls how cold it felt generally and how she quickly learnt that sunny days are not always warm. Another memory notices the difference between Christmas Eve in Jamaica and Christmas Eve in the UK. In Jamaica people celebrated at a dance and in the UK everyone sat round a fire to keep warm.
They go on to reveal that they soon discovered a gap between their expectations and reality. One of them recalls how Jamaicans who were able to afford a house shared this with as many of their country-people as they could. As many as four people could share one room, despite not previously knowing each other. Apparently, everyone would often congregate around a paraffin lamp because that was the only source of heat and light they could afford. At mealtimes, one person would often cook for a group. They initially saw English food as a bit bland and eating fish and chips was alien to them. But they soon got used to the idea of a fish supper and, for some, it became a favourite meal.
They remember members of the Jamaican community getting on well with each other in shared houses. At the same time, they held on to their ambition to become more financially secure. Many focussed on affording their own homes and cars and by the time they could afford to return (for one gentleman it was13 years later) they had settled into life in Britain. They all agree that they made the right choices in coming to and remaining in Gloucester.
Today, the Barton and Tredworth area of Gloucester is home to the second largest Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community in south west England. Our Barton and Tredworth Community Heritage partnership website celebrates this diversity. Amongst other things, you can find recorded memories of a range of residents, including some who moved to the area from Jamaica, Gujarat, India and Pakistan.
Of course, everyone’s story is different and we are keen to reflect this online and in our collections. So we are currently supporting a heritage project led by St James’ church in Tredworth. This is being funded by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund and includes further reminiscence gathering and publishing.
If you live or work in Barton or Tredworth, or have done so in the past, and would like to share your memories please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also keen to gather stories from people with a Black or Minority Ethnic origin who are living or working in Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire, or have done so previously.