Stroud is a city located on the Cotswold Hills, an area that boasts an exceptional natural charm. This city is known for many things like its independent spirit, café culture, and steep streets. Only 10 miles south of the city of Gloucester, 14 miles from Cheltenham, 13 miles from Cirencester, and 26 miles north from Bristol, Stroud is quite a picturesque city.

Besides the natural wonders that surround Stroud, the town has a clear inclination towards art and culture, being home to the legendary Subscription Rooms.

Something for every taste: cultural and natural attractions

With only 32,000 inhabitants in 2011, Stroud is a charming little town in the county of Gloucester, England. The town is surrounded by impressive landscapes and is cut across by the famous Cotswold Way, a 102-mile pedestrian path. The Cotswold Way has promoted long-distance walks for 50 years and it leads to interesting cultural places. This includes the Neolithic burial chamber, the Sudeley castle, and many beautiful little churches. Stroud also welcomes travellers that walk the Cotswold Way allowing for different routes through Middleyard and King’s Stanley or Selsley Common.

Being a hub for the surrounding villages like Amberley, Bussage, Dursley, and Eastington, a town like Stroud boasts an interesting culture. Many writers have been raised in this area or simply live here. We are talking about children’s stories writers like John Dougherty, Jamila Gavin, and Clive Dale and novelists like Jilly Cooper and Sue Limb.

But two of the most famous figures from this area are Alan Hollinghurst and Laurie Lee, whose novel Cider with Rosie takes place in the valley of Slad, very close to Stroud. Also, many poets have been connected to Stroud whether because they were born and raised here or because they chose it as a place of residency. Here are some of them:

  • Dennis Gould
  • Jeff Cloves
  • Philip Rush
  • Ted Milton
  • Michael Horovitz
  • Frances Horovitz
  • Adam Horovitz

Those who come to these corners of the world will find that Stroud hosts a peculiar competition: the Bardic Chair of Hawkwood. This event is celebrated every year and the winner has the responsibility to promote the bard art in the area.

However, Stroud is known across the country for more than this, specifically, for being home to the Subscription Rooms.

History of the Sub Rooms

The Borough of Stroud was formally created through the reform act of 1832, which granted a significant new status to the initiative, thus being recognized by the gentry. As a result, it was decided that a building was to be erected.

The early plans were formulated by William Henry Hyett who was a member of the parliament. To make the construction possible, Hyett began to gather subscriptions of £50 to raise the necessary funds.

Now we know that the people of Stroud are proud of their Sub Rooms, but apparently, this was so from the very beginning. The reason for such a hypothesis is that most of the subscribers were local people like tradesmen, shopkeepers, and millowners. Given the fact that most of them were local businessmen, it seems that the share collection was not exempt from a local pride drive. Even in our days, citizens care about this space and propose initiatives to upgrade the Subscription Room square, as we can see in the video below.

All in all, the subscribers agreed that Kendrick’s Orchard was the most suitable place for the construction, and so it began. After three years of work and expenses of £2,721 (equivalent to £2,000,000 today), the Subscription Rooms were finally built. Only in the first year, the building held a number of events including a circus and a political dinner party with 520 guests.

The rest is history. The Subscription Rooms soon became the centre of Stroud’s cultural and intellectual life. It was also used for other purposes like the announcement of new members of the parliament and was utilized during the world wars.

In the 1950s, the building needed restauration, especially towards the end of the decade. Nonetheless, the shareholders didn’t have the necessary funds for the enterprise, hence, ownership was transferred for £12,000 to the Stroud Urban District Council.

The Sub Rooms in the 21st century

Nowadays, these building hosts a variety of events from exhibitions to concerts, workshops, theatre plays, pantomimes, art and food festivals, poetry, parties, family, and LGTBQ+ events.

However, not long ago, the Stroud District Council announced that they can’t afford the place anymore as the estimated costs rise up to £400,000 yearly. This generated a stir among the community members, who really wish to maintain the spirit of the Subscription Rooms. Currently, there are three options as to the future of this beloved artistic space: transferring it to a community group, maintaining it under the Council management, or making it available for sale on the open market.

Final thoughts on the Sub Rooms’ history

The Sub rooms have been used throughout history as a centre for the intellectual and cultural identity of a city. No matter what show is on, the essence has always remained the same. From the early parliamentary elections to the modern exhibitions, Stroud’s Subscription rooms have reflected the soul of a community. Now that this legacy is at risk, it’s only natural that the people are trying to protect it.

By Sarah