Craig Fees, “Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town: With Special Reference to Tourism, Urbanisation and Immigration-Related Social Change“, PhD., Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies, School of English, University of Leeds, England (1988).
III.1. 1900-1914. Sources.
An Unattested Tradition.
Footnotes (opens in new window)
A. Cumulative Silence
There is no – as far as I am aware – contemporary documentary evidence for mumming in Campden between the turn of the century and the end of the First World War. In 1958, however, Christopher Whitfield published the claim that the Guild of Handicraft, a London group of Arts and Crafts workshops which relocated to Campden in 1902, “revived and reinvigorated” the Christmas mummers play, a claim later echoed by Roy Dommett and accepted with qualification by Peter Harrop(1). This and the following chapters examine this claim.
The director and prime mover of the Guild of Handicraft was Charles Robert Ashbee. The primary source for the history of the Guild in Campden is his Ashbee Journals (hereafter referred to as Journals, as distinct from the local newspaper, the Evesham Journal, which will be referred to as such). The Journals are not identical with the personal journals kept by C.R. Ashbee and his wife. Janet, during their years in Campden: they are an edited account, incorporating letters and other documents with selections from the original journals. In my view, Ashbee constructed the Journals both as an explanation and as an argument for the experiment which the Guild undertook in Campden(2). The Journals cannot, therefore, be regarded either as complete or unbiased; there is evidence of occasional rewriting, and reading them through from the beginning one gets the clear impression that the material has been shaped into a distinct and coherent narrative(3). Ashbee further edited the Journals into the Ashbee Memoirs (hereafter Memoirs), of which there are several typescripts, each with its own pagination. The Memoirs are more accessible, as well as being considerably shorter, than the Journals, and have commentaries written by Ashbee in 1938. but there is evidence that Ashbee rewrote some material in making up the Memoirs(4).
Other primary sources for the Guild include a typescript history of the Guild written by Guildsman Alec Miller in the early 1950s, minutes and other documents of the Guild and School of Handicraft now held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and private papers and photographs in the possession of the Ashbee family.
None of this material, to my knowledge, mentions mummers in Campden.
An independent Guild source, a person who came with the Guild as a child in 1902 and left with his family in 1907, recalled in 1981 that:
If there was any mummers doing a Christmas play in my time I must have been kept in the dark about it for I never heard about it and I didn’t miss much of what was happening(5).
Among the non-Guild sources from which we could expect a reference to a pre-war Campden mummers is the Evesham Journal generally, and within the Evesham Journal, E.A.B. Barnard’s “Notes and Queries” column in particular. We know that the weekly Evesham Journal was widely read in Campden, being the principal local newspaper, and that labourers read, and took in, the materials which appeared there(6). Barnard initiated the “Notes and Queries” column in 1906 with the aim “to try to get into print what has not been in print before”(7). Initially the column concerned itself mainly with unpublished documents on local history. Barnard himself had worked on a regular basis on documents in Campden in 1901 and 1902(8); when the Guild of Handicraft were relocating to Campden in 1902 he took the opportunity to explore some of the old houses of Campden with the Guild’s agent(9), and in August of 1902 he was invited to tutor the Viscount Campden for a month(10). Although he moved from the area to Cambridge in 1923 he maintained a regular connection and correspondence with Campden people until his death in 1953(11). From volume VII of “Notes and Queries” (1907-1908) a new kind of material began to appear: folk rhymes, note of a wart cure in Campden, Morris dancing, and so on, apparently inspired by Cecil Sharp(12). Barnard reports later that under Sharp’s influence he had even tried his hand (unsuccessfully) at ballad-collecting(13). He published a request for information on mummers in 1907, and as early as January, 1909, he noted with gladness the return of Christmas mummers to the streets of Evesham(14). On May 3, 1913, he carried in his columns an appeal for information on the mummers’ dialogue sent by a correspondent from London:
which opens up a matter of so much interest that it is given special prominence here(15).
In subsequent issues he printed a number of texts and fragments of mummers’ plays collected from readers, but none of them from or related to Campden(l6). Nor is there a reference to a Campden mumming in the extensive collection of unpublished notes, correspondence and papers which Mr. Barnard bequeathed to the Evesham Library and the Worcestershire (now Hereford and Worcester) Record Office(17). The Evesham Journal itself carries no reference to Campden mummers in this period.
There are several other sources from this period in which we might expect to find a reference to an extant mumming. Percy Rushen’s History and Antiquities of Chipping Campden, 1899, second edition 1911 – the first extensive history of Campden – mentions a number of ‘old customs’, including Morris dancing, but not mumming, nor does his guide to the town published in 1904(18).
Julius R. Neve, draper/postmaster/local antiquarian (who came to Campden in about 1880; died in 1922(19)), does not refer to mummers in the few of his papers I have seen(20), nor mention the mummers in his contributions to Barnard’s “Notes and Queries” column. Campden subjects about which he did write include football games in the streets of Campden, Club Day practices, and the Cotswold Games and Scuttlebrook Wake(21).
Josephine Griffiths, Campden antiquarian, and another of E.A.B. Barnard’s Campden correspondents, has left us materials on folklore and local history which date from the late 19th century onwards, including two carols with music(22). She leaves no mention of the mummers, as far as her available material is concerned, and a published reference of 1928 indicates that she was not personally aware of a Campden mumming as of that date(23).
Cecil Sharp recorded a fragment of mummer’s dialogue attributed to Campden (precisely when and where he collected it is unfortunately a matter for conjecture, but it was probably in the pre-World War I period); the fragment itself suggests that he did not know of a full play, and on none of his several visits to Campden in 1909-1910 did he record any further information about a mumming (see II.l and Appendix C).
The absence of information (in Rushen, Neve and Griffiths) about a Campden mumming, though very suggestive, must be treated with some care. All three were deeply involved in the life of Campden in the last two decades of the 19th century, but do not refer to the mumming which other sources lead us to believe then existed. Rushen and Griffiths continued to correspond with E.A.B. Barnard throughout the inter-war period without referring to the mummers, at a time when the Campden mummers became very well known locally(24). Barnard printed references to mummers as such, and a text collected in nearby Stanton, Gloucestershire, in 1939(25), but there is no reference in his columns throughout the period to the flourishing Campden mummers.
Inasmuch as even the Ashbee Journals are a selection and not an inert record, their lack of information about a mumming in Campden might not appear, at first glance, to be significant. However, given the Ashbees’ knowledge of the mumming play as such(26): given the nature of the material included in both the Journals and Memoirs – Morris dancing, town band, carolling, May Day, Guy Fawkes and folk singing; and given the importance the Ashbees attached to presenting Campden as a mediaeval/Elizabethan relique (as discussed later), it is very likely that if the Ashbees had known of a Campden mumming we would also know of it.
It is the cumulative absence of information from the Ashbees, the Evesham Journal, private sources, and court, school and church records which is significant. The complete absence of contemporary or subsequent oral or written documentation is unique to this period. It supports mummer Ernie Buckland’s reminiscence about the mumming recorded in 1946:
…first time I heard on it was sat on my old grandmother’s knee [he was baptised in 1903, so taken literally, this would have to refer to the pre-World War I period]…and old Uncle Tom…Uncle Tom Benfleld, he pipes up and he says to me “I used to be in ’em,” and I says “Did you?” and he says “Aye”, and he said “If I lives long enough I shall have me another troupe”…(27)
This statement makes sense literally only if the family were not actively involved with mumming in this pre-war period. There might, of course, have been other mummings, or other explanations for this statement.
B. Solicited Reminiscence:
Oral Evidence for a Mumming?
Despite the complete lack of written evidence. It is nevertheless possible that there was a mumming. It may have been a family or local custom, played or recited solely within the home, to neighbours, or in the farmhouses of specific employers whose records are not yet publicly available. In this case neither Julius Neve (draper/postmaster). Josephine Griffiths (maiden daughter of a Campden solicitor), nor the Ashbees would necessarily have seen or known of it. It may have existed as an individual “turn” at singsongs and recitation sessions, in which case even if seen it may not have occurred to anyone to note it in writing. We must not prejudge in what form the mumming may have continued to exist in the pre-World War I period.
Nor, if we are fortunate enough to collect it, must we misunderstand the information given to us by living informants from personal memory of the period. An informant of 90 years in 1985 would have been 5 at the turn of the century and 19 when the Great War started. An 80 year old would have been only nine in 1914, being born in 1905. A 70 year old person would have been born right outside the pre-Great War period. Also, apart from the question of whether or not an elderly informant would have been old enough or have had occasion to witness mumming as a youth or child, is the problem of subsequent ‘contamination’ of early by later memories. We are fortunate in this respect, that the period under discussion is framed by the death of Queen Victoria and the end of the Boer War at one end, and by the First World War at the other. Personal memory is likely to be fairly accurately framed, if not dated, within these major social markers.
Between the onset of the Great War and an interview in 1985, however, there is seventy years of lived time. An eighty year old in 1985 was in his or her young adult prime when the Campden mummers achieved national attention and local fame in the 1930s. The antiquity of the mummers will have been pressed home to him or her at that time: Information acquired in the 1930s (or later) can conceivably have been referred back into an ‘always’, which is now available for recall in that mode. Asked “was there a mumming in Campden when you were a child?”, the “always” function will call up the answer “Yes”: as a matter of course something that always was must have been then. Difficulties arise when this “yes” is followed by a question asking the informant to access direct, personal memory as evidence. The “yes” at this point can be problematical. Indeed, having entered the record it must be supported, qualified, or denied. Denial as such – a definitive “No, there was no mumming” – is not likely(28). If the person can access no distinct personal recollection, for whatever reason – whether of failure of support from memory or failure of occasion for memory – the “yes” is more likely to be qualified.
There is an additional problem, in that the word “mumming” may not in fact access what, in the event, we now mean by ‘mumming’. An individual might, on the one hand, have a very different notion of what is concerned in the word “mumming”, and be referring perhaps to Morris dancing, carolling, or fancy dress generally. On the other hand, the individual might have experienced “mumming” without accessing it with that particular word. Furthermore, it is quite possible that the academic category “mumming” does not correspond with the indigenous or folk category within which the “mumming” took place, and that we are both creating an inappropriate category, and obscuring the folk category, by asking specifically about “mumming”.
Ideally, recollection of early experience of mumming ought to arise out of unloaded conversations, or conversations directed without naming. One might, for example, present a photograph of mummers and inquire if it means anything, or seems familiar in any way, without naming or otherwise indicating the nature of what is pictured. One might present some stereotyped mummers’ dialogue in the midst of other verse and prose, bringing it non-specifically to the attention of an informant. None of my reports of a pre-war mumming in Campden – save, perhaps, one – have arisen in this or any comparable way. and each is therefore problematical and open to interpretation.
Conversation with Mrs. Norah Howell (15 May 1985; cas 109-110).
Craig Fees: Do you remember it from when you were a child?
Norah Howell: Yeh.
CF: The Mummers and the Morris Dancers?
NH: and the who?
CF: I’m sorry; When you were a child, did they have mummers when you were a child?
NH: Yeh, I can remember when I was a child, yes. I can remember them. But, um…I don’t know that I remember what they were really, then, we knew they were something, doing something to do Christmas
Dorrie Ellis: It was an entertainment.
NH: And they used to come around at Christmas time, you know, different people’s places, and, you know, bigger houses, they’d entertain them with mince pies, and different things at one time, but. And they used to do the carol singing, didn’t they, as well?
CF: Did they? As a, when you were very young, they did the mummers when you were very young.
NH: Well, it might have been the mummers, but I didn’t know, you see, really what it was called. I knew it was some sort, form of amusement, which child would go to see, or find out.
Mrs. Howell lived, as a child, outside the centre of Campden. Her father was a carter, living at a house at Westington and then, for twenty-five years, at Paul’s Pike, a row of cottages about a mile outside of Campden. Mrs. Howell’s early childhood was spent here, and then the family moved closer to Campden, into a bigger house on Aston Road. In the Aston Road, between the wars, they were neighbours to the Benfields (brother of Tom Benfield), and Mrs. Howell has distinct memories of their involvement in the mumming between the wars(29). We know from other sources that the Benfields went mumming.
Accessing her early childhood memories, one gets the sense of rumours and reports of something that was going on elsewhere which was, generally – or, rather, in a general sort of way – understood as a sort of amusement. One is looking at goings-on in Campden, by way of memory, from the outskirts, and it is Impossible to be more direct than Mrs. Howell has been in describing what was known to her at the time.
Norah Taplin, on the other hand (bap. 12.4.1898) lived in the centre of Campden, in Poppet’s Alley in the Lower High Street. She could recall five families living there: her own, the Buckland family (including Ernie Buckland, post-World War II leader of the mummers), the Springs, the Harry Keeleys, and the Bickerstaffs. Furthermore, her experience is distinctly framed: in 1914 she went into service for the Bruce family of Norton Hall, Mickleton, which was then a VAD hospital. She was with the Bruce family in Mickleton, London and Cirencester until 1947, when she returned to Campden to care for her mother and brother(30). She is aware of the inter-war mumming: witness her reference to George Greenall (senior) in the transcript below, and to the big to-do made of the mummers (most appropriately referred to the mummers following the 1934 broadcast – see Part IV). But she distinctly refers, several times, to the pre-war period, and founds the authority for her knowledge in personal experience.
Conversation with Norah Taplin; 21 May 1984; cas 75-76).
Craig Fees: Was he [Harry Keeley] doing the mumming when you were living in Poppet’s Alley?
Norah Taplin: Oh yes, yes. Old George Greenall used to go around with it, didn’t he?
Lionel Ellis: Aye. But old Harry Keeley, old Harry Keeley was the one who was the
NT: Oh was he
LE: generation before George Greenall, and
LE: Because old Harry Keeley, well, his son has just died and he was 96
LE: So you can see how old old Harry Keeley was
CF: Now, would he have done it when you were a child, did he do it when you were a child and living in Poppet’s Alley?
NT: Yes. Yes he did.
CF: Did he
CF: Do you remember that?
NT: I just remember it.
CF: When you were living there in Poppet’s Alley.
NT: And uh, I mean they used to make such a fuss about the mummers coming around, but I couldn’t see anything in it —
Dorrie Ellis: Was Harry Keeley living in Poppet’s Alley?
NT: ‘s Alley, yes, he lived in Poppet’s Alley.
DE: But I suppose they only did it at Christmas.
LE: only Christmas time
CF: But did they bring it around to where you lived, to Poppet’s?
NT: Yes, oh yes, they came all the way around the street —
LE: They went around to the pubs and the big houses
NT: That’s right.
CF: So that was before the, before the war they did
NT: war yes, yes.
LE: Before the First War
LE: Norah, you’d be only a little ‘un then, wouldn’t you?
NT: Yes. but I, I mean old Harry Keeley and old Sue Keeley, they used to come down to our mother, that’s how I know so much about the Keeleys.
A more successful reminiscence, because indirectly solicited, arose in an interview with George Greenall, junior (b.5.10.1909. Conversation 29.12.1981; RR2.):
Craig Fees: So, who brought the play in, if the Bucklands didn’t—
George Greenall: My dear boy, that’s been going for hundreds of years. When I was a little boy there was old Harry Keeley…
We know independently of Harry Keeley as an old mummer due to the 1934 broadcast (see IV:2). The Bucklands were involved in the mummers later, in the 1930s, and again after the Second World War. These last two interviews do suggest, if not an active mumming, then an active mumming tradition before the First World War. Poppet’s Alley, as one of the working class alleys sometimes referred to as slums, and largely torn down since the Second World War, were epi-centric to the concerns of those who have left records of customs and life before the First World War. In short, mumming based in Poppet’s Alley, carried on as a recital tradition, as part of self-entertainment, or as a game for neighbours and employers, will not necessarily have been recorded by the Ashbees and others whose records have been noted(31).
Furthermore, it is from this working class environ and not, for the most part, from those individuals who worked for or got caught up in the widespread influence of the Guild of Handicraft, that mumming re-emerges after the First World War and again after the Second. It is very much the social environ of the 19th century mumming, to the extent that we know anything about it. There is, in short, a perceivable continuity within which the mumming appears to have been carried as a topic of conversation and concern whether or not this conversation and concern always manifested itself in performing. At this level Harrop may be right in suggesting that the mumming existed prior to the First World War. We have seen no evidence, though, and neither Whitfield nor Dommett offer evidence, that the Guild of Handicraft “revived and reinvigorated” the mumming.
Soon after the publication of Whitfield’s history of Campden in 1958, in which he claimed the Guild of Handicraft “revived and reinvigorated” the mummers, a small group of Campden men performed part of a mumming for BBC Midland television, despite the objections of the active Campden mummers. Twenty years later, Harrop recorded the anger over this of the current mummers’ leader, understandably thinking Mr. Tomes was talking about “a recent attempt by another group to perform the play”(32).
In a later section (V.3) I will examine the details of this conflict in greater depth. Its foundations lie in the changing social structure of Chipping Campden, and the recurring question. “Who does this town/ custom belong to?”
Harrop understood Mr. Tomes to be complaining about the attempt by the “Arts Society” to take over the play(33); what he in fact said was “Harts”, and by extension meant the Guild of Handicraft and all those who have come into Campden from outside and effectively taken it over. The question about the mummers and the Guild of Handicraft, therefore, is whether the inheritors of the Guild ethos have a moral right to what the current mummers see as a native, family, custom.
Because the foundations of this particular conflict are rooted in the era of the Guild, and because the written history of Campden since the time of Rushen (who took the landlords’ point of view) has overwhelmingly seen Campden through Guild eyes, the next chapter, in its four sub-chapters, examines the impact of the Guild in some depth. This will also set the scene for developments later in the century.
III.2: The Guild of Handicraft and
The “Revival and Reinvigoration” of Campden.
A. The Metaphor of Revival.
The Brass Band was reinvigorated by new blood and was provided with uniforms. The Morris Dancers and the Christmas Mummers’ play were revived and reinvigorated(1).
Quite simply on the face of it, the arrival in Campden of a community of 150 men, women and children from London must have had a considerable impact on local culture, especially as these 150 people represented a fraction under one tenth of Campden’s total population at the time(2). The nature of this impact is usually represented as the revitalisation of a decayed community. A journalist writing for the Daily News in 1911, for example, said:
The presence of so many skilled town workers has had a revivifying effect on the slumbering mediaeval town which had stagnated into a large, poverty-stricken village(3).
This was, almost certainly, a reflection of the Guild’s own tradition at the time the article was written(4). For example, C.R. Ashbee had written earlier of Campden as a community which the Guild discovered in suspended animation:
[Chipping Campden] the little forgotten Cotswold town of the Age of Arts and Crafts where Industrialism had never touched, where there was an old silk mill and empty cottages ready to hand, left almost as when the Arts and Crafts ended in the 18th century(5).
According to Ashbee, the Guild rescued the town from oblivion and decay:
Incidentally the result of its work has been the revivification of a decaying Gloucestershire village, the building of clean, new houses and workshop, the laying out of gardens and allotments, the employment of a good deal of country labour that would otherwise have drifted into the town, and the establishment of a Higher Education School (the Campden School of Arts and Crafts) under the Gloucestershire County Council for some 300 men, women and children, that has been very largely run by the workpeople of the Guild(6).
This view was ratified at the time, and is certainly current orthodoxy(7). That the metaphor of sleep and decay is valid, however, rests mainly upon the witness of the Guild’s chief publicist, C.R. Ashbee.
The images are essentially those of Sleeping Beauty, as former Guild apprentice H.T. Osborn pointed out in 1984:
Campden itself, I have often thought was like the Sleeping Beauty waiting to be awakened by Prince Charming in the person of Mr. Ashbee.(8)
The thorns and brambles of the Sleeping Beauty story are the accretions of social and economic decay around the pre-Industrial spirit and mediaeval architecture of Campden. As Lord Redesdale described it in a speech in 1905, the sleeping princess is Campden’s backwardness, in urban and economic terms, as framed by the evident richness of her beautiful old buildings:
It was lovely [the Campden he’d known fifty years earlier] it had the perfume of a bygone age, like something that has been laid up in lavender. But – it was fast asleep. Except the rush from the grammar school at play-time, and now and again the eager bustle of market days, there was little stir in the place, nothing which told of active life. Now all is changed. Imagination has touched the dear drowsy old town with its Magician’s Wand, and we stand amazed at the awakening, a guild of arts and crafts, with a depot in London, finds a home here for strenuous work – work beautiful in itself and inspiring in others…everywhere the hum of cheerful industry!..
. And this leads to the farther thought of the debt of gratitude owing to the Magician who has wielded his wand to such good purpose [C.R. Ashbee]…(9)
It is relatively easy to document the use of the image of a “sleepy” Campden. It is less easy to document the extent to which the image corresponds to reality. The Daily News journalist quoted earlier, in the same 1911 article goes on to list some of the Guild’s benefactions to Campden, in the course of which he touches on the backward state of Campden prior to the arrival of the Guild:
Labourers enduring a wretched existence on 12s a week under the heels of large farmers, and who dared not at first be seen talking to the craftsmen (who are mostly advanced politicians), are now beginning to straighten their backs and look the world in the face. Their manhood has been strengthened…a few years ago these men were not allowed even to keep pigs or poultry, lest they might be tempted on their miserably low wages to take from the farmers’ granary corn or meal to feed their fowls or pigs.(10)
The cumulative weight of historical writing since the coming of the Guild supports this general picture of Campden “before the Guild”. It was a place not only “rather moribund”, to use Christopher Whitfield’s phrase(11), but also locked into a repressive and rigidly stratified social system(12). The evidence adduced for this does not tend to tap the full range of available contemporary sources, and is largely anecdotal(13). That this evidence is acceptable is largely due to the pre-eminent authority of Guild tradition. The factual reliability of this tradition therefore determines the credibility of Whitfield’s otherwise unsupported assertion that the Guild “revived and reinvigorated” the Mummers. This leads to the conclusion that the historiography of the Campden Mummers in the 20th century depends, to a great extent, on the reliability of the accuracy of the Guild tradition of Campden history.
For the student of traditional drama, there is a wider issue: like the majority of all references to mummers in the 19th and 20th centuries, Whitfield’s statement is a simple assertion. Unlike the majority of such cases, there is an opportunity to test Whitfield’s assertion for accuracy. If we find that Whitfield’s statement holds up to scrutiny, we may be able to use earlier assertion-based references with more confidence as historical evidence. If, on the other hand, we discover that Whitfield’s assertion is unfounded, the earlier assertion-based references will become more problematic than they already are, and traditional drama studies will need to radically reappraise the whole question of evidence.
The image of Campden as slumbering or in decay, and correspondingly reawakening or reviving, was an established literary metaphor long before the Guild arrived in Campden. It occurs as early as 1883, in a letter in the Evesham Journal. which emphasises that the invigorating impact is due to a new vicar come from outside and not to local initiative:
Campden is awakening after lying dormant for a number of years, she has at length begun to shake off her drowsiness and to open her eyes to a better state of affairs. It is true that once a year she has given a momentary turn over on the occasion of the flower show, but only to resume her nap comfortably when that was over, and beyond that the usual quiet of Campden has scarcely ever been disturbed. But last year she roused herself, or rather she was shaken up – for it was not mainly attributable to a Campdonian…(14)
The image appears in a satirical poem in 1889:
Chipping Campden, a little town,
Once upon a time of some renown,
Had fallen through neglect of late,
Into a fearfully sleepy state.
Not that enterprise was dead
‘Mongst the folk it called its head;
Through force of habit they had taken
Things as they came, and were mis taken.
At length, awakened it would seem
From what we now may call a dream,
It rubbed its eyes and took a look
To see if in some neighbour’s book
The secrets of success were writ,
In hope that it might share a bit;
And, strange to say, on every page,
Appeared the words “Behind the age”.(15)
The Evesham Journal used the metaphor in reporting the second of the three floral fetes of 1895-1897:
Our readers will remember that last Whitsuntide poor quiet little Campden, which for hundreds of years has been slumbering on the top of the Cotswolds, “the world forgetting, by the world forgot” [to anticipate Ashbee’s use of the phrase] astonished the whole countryside by announcing a grand floral procession for the Bank Holiday.(16)
The town doctor, Dr. Dewhurst, used the metaphor in 1906 to refer to the process of modernisation over the past thirty years:
Within the last few years Campden has been gradually waking from its long sleep. For some considerable time we have had gas, both for lighting our streets and our houses, as well as a clean dry pavement for walking upon [both of these pre-Guild improvements], and now, quite recently, we have obtained an excellent water supply. There remains, however, one relic of a barbarous past, which, though picturesque, is an offence against the most elementary laws of sanitation, and source of annoyance to the nostrils of a large majority of the inhabitants of the town. I refer, of course, to the monthly sheep market, which is held in the very centre of the town…(17)
In the second edition of Percy Rushen’s History and Antiquities of Chipping Campden published in 1911, he applied the metaphor to a somewhat shorter historical period, but one still pre-dating the Guild:
The awakening to beauty was long in coming, but in the last twenty years the townsmen seem to have awakened to the artistic value of their town. The constantly recurring appreciation of visitors and the increased power of comparative observation displayed by those who have left the old home to work their way in the cities and have returned for rest have at last had their effect. In quite recent years, too [the Guild of Handicraft]…has done incalculable good to the world of art and craft by raising Campdeners at least towards the ideals of that community.(18)
Rushen also identified in Campden’s comparative “slumber” a quality sought by city tourists: it was a saleable feature, regularly appearing in earlier and subsequent tourist literature:
The unnatural quietude, however, attached to it, indicative of fallen greatness, gives to it an atmospheric calm and contemplative state of the mental qualities so necessary for appreciation of the combined efforts of Nature and Man to beautify this spot.(19)
Her architecture, much of it from pre-Industrial periods of comparative wealth, is the objective witness to Campden’s economic decline. Her social and spiritual decay are another matter. It is the leap from one to the other that is made by the Guild; It is this leap and the resulting claims about Campden which must be queried.
Ashbee’s account of Campden is occasionally at variance with contemporary accounts from non-Guild sources. The Evesham Journal was not by any means biassed against the Guild – the newspaper supported the Guild with publicity and editorial comment in the Guild’s early Campden years (though publishing a balanced correspondence when any contretemps involving the Guild arose(20)), and only in 1905 put the weight of its editorial opinion against the Guild (the matter, involving the School of Arts and Crafts, is discussed in more detail below). In 1908 the Evesham Journal published without comment several passages from Ashbee’s Craftsmanship In Competitive Industry which were critical of Campden(21), but when the article quoted at the beginning of this chapter appeared in the Daily News in 1911, the editor felt a definite – and somewhat acerbic – comment was in order:
No doubt the Campden people were interested and duly edified by the article in Monday’s “Daily News” which described a “new movement, unique and fraught with far-reaching possibilities” [The Guild’s re-organisatlon as a Trust, with smallholdings to help the craftsmen support themselves] which has been quietly started there.
We were especially interested to read about one man who is “trying to win freedom from wage slavery by tilling as little as two acres of land”; – “In a bitter nor’easter I found him one frosty morning digging with grim persistency every foot of his land with a spud.” We think he would be more likely to win freedom from wage slavery if he used a bigger tool; it must take a considerable time to dig two acres with a spud.
We are of course aware that the coming of the craftsmen to Campden has not been without its effect upon the social life of the town, but we seem to have overlooked one or two of the results. The local public will no doubt be grateful to the writer of the article for enlightening us and them on the subject. He says: – “The presence of so many skilled workers has had a revivifying effect upon the slumbering mediaeval atmosphere of Campden – a prosperous town which had stagnated into a large, poverty-stricken village. With the advent of the craftsmen social clubs sprang up, technical Institutes were formed, and a bathing pool dug out in a cup of the hills…” Everybody must rejoice that these poor labourers have, thanks to the coming of these craftsmen, been able to escape from the farmer’s heel and claim their rights as men and citizens.(22)
Writers such as Rushen and Dewhurst, who had known Campden for a number of years prior to the arrival of the Guild, spoke of her awakening not as the work of the Guild, but as an on-going process to which the Guild contributed. So the Evesham Journal will have been aware from within its own pages of the unionisation of agricultural labour in the 1870s, the fact that Campden had been, until recently, a Radical stronghold in the County, and it will have been known that labourers – contrary to the impression made in the Daily News – had been raising pigs and poultry for at least twenty years before the Guild came(23).
A great deal hinges on the degree to which the Guild presentation of Campden can be trusted. In the discussion that follows I have looked to where the Guild is strongest, to projects which the Guild itself and subsequent commentary regard as signal Guild successes. Apart from the Guild itself, these are generally taken to be the creation of the School of Arts and Crafts and the building of the bathing lake, which are generally presented as radical departures, the school in particular flying in the face of entrenched opposition(24). It is the extent to which they were departures, and the nature and extent of their opposition, which will be examined.
B. Ulric Stanley
The School of Arts and Crafts
a. Historical Background: The School of Arts and Crafts.
The Guild developed in the late 1880s from a class on the ideas of John Ruskin conducted by Ashbee at London’s Toynbee Hall. For a number of years thereafter it ran itself as the School and Guild of Handicraft. Ashbee sought financial support for the school from the London County Council in vain, encouraged by hints and promises of support from the Council which were never fulfilled, and in 1894 the school was closed(25). Almost as soon as the Guild was in Campden it reestablished its work as a school, gaining a Gloucestershire County Council grant for technical education. This school, the Campden School of Arts and Crafts, was wound up by the Council in 1916 as an imposed war economy move: the leaders of Campden at that time, to the delight of Ashbee’s ironic sense, fought to save the school(26).
The stated mission of the School of Arts and Crafts was to bring technical training taught by practising craftsmen to unskilled and semi-skilled labourers; to combine this with a liberal arts education in history, music, theatre, and art; and to produce from this schooling a finer workman and a better citizen. Ashbee believed that this would conduce to the revitalisatlon of the countryside and its arts and crafts: it would take unemployed youths off the streets and out of the pubs, give them a place to go and interesting things to do there, practical skills, and a broader outlook on life. By providing the amenities of a higher education normally available only in cities, the school would tend to keep craftsman and other desirable families in Campden. It would tend, in other words, to replace the drift to the cities and the depopulation of the countryside by a revived and reinvigorated rural civilisation, marrying the best of urban and rural life. The countryside would then be as it had once been, the foundation and bulwark of British Civilisation, providing a ready supply of the intelligent, independent and fit young people it needed to build and run its empire(27).
The school was a unique and signal success. According to the Guild tradition, it was “a remarkable achievement”(28) against the opposition of the local, established powers.
As for the farmers, they put their representative on the Technical School Committee established by the Board of Education, with the definite object of blocking education. They did this, not because they wanted to hurt the Guild or its enterprise, but because they considered that anything in the nature of educating the labourer would endanger the local labour market.(29)
The School of Arts and Crafts initially set up shop in Technical School rooms belonging to the Grammar School, but in 1904 moved to premises that Ashbee had bought and refurbished for the purpose behind Elm Tree House in the Lower High Street. In her study of the Guild. Fiona MacCarthy has detailed the early history of this move:
The plans moved on so fast that the ‘bucolic party’, as Ashbee rudely called them, the landowners and farmers, traditionally opposed to education of the masses, were taken by surprise.(30)
She then quotes a letter preserved in the Ashbee Journals from Lord Gainsborough to Ashbee concerning Ashbee’s removal from the Technical School to the Elm Tree House premises:
I did not know you had decided to rebuild or equip the old building you told me you had bought, for the purpose. Though not averse to a great deal of what you have done in the direction of Technical Education, I feel that as Chairman of the Grammar School Governors, I must side with them…(31)
This MacCarthy takes to mean that the Grammar School Governors were opposed to Technical Education, and were opposed in general to the education of the masses. According to MacCarthy:
Ashbee replied, with his usual high-handedness, that the School of Arts and Crafts was now a fait accompli and denied any ill-will, at least on his side. (If the Grammar School faction was a little irritated, this was surely only jealousy at his success!).(32)
From the point of view of the Ashbee Journals, Ashbee Memoirs, and the majority of other published writings, this interpretation is correct.
c. Ulric Stanley.
Ulric Stanley was a prominent member of the Grammar School Board of Governors, and a principal in the subsequent dispute with Ashbee over the School of Arts and Crafts. At Christmas 1903, Ashbee reviewed the man in his Journals:
Then there is old Stanley, the chairman of the parish council, admirable speaker, unsuccessful farmer, theoretical organizer, polite politician…
Farmer Stanley is a splendid type of do-nothing. Honesty, a kind of blue-eyed cheerible, in corduroys and a capacious woven waistcoat. On the days when he is really at work, for one can hardly call public business of Campden, work, he wears a white overall, or as they call it here the milking slop. That is a misnomer, for I’m sure he never milks, and he is much too friendly and gracious with everybody to devote much time to any real occupation. He comes in and sups with us occasionally, and then all the local politics of Campden pass under review; also all the characters of the neighbours, and we are given to understand the many great reforms that would come over Campden if Farmer Stanley had his way. That is because we ourselves are reformers.
Farmer Stanley plays at reform; he likes to pretend he means it; he knows that he does not mean it at all. Much better live in peace and charity with your neighbours, says he; and he goes and sups at the next house and gives another turn to the toast of gossip. Every bete-noire of ours is for the time being old Stanley’s also.
“Ah”, says Martha Dunn to me, “don’t you put too much trust in him – he’s one of them as says… but that again is apocalyptic.(33)
As we saw in an earlier chapter, the Agricultural Depression hit Campden in the late l870s, and local people worked hard and creatively to rebuild the area’s prosperity. In 1882, for example, the Prize Teg Show was initiated, to promote Campden as a centre of regional agriculture. Ulric Stanley was elected secretary and treasurer of the Prize Teg Show Committee, a position he held until his death in 1918.(34)
In 1889 he was among the founders of the North Cotswold Farmers Association, one of the first local Agricultural Combinations of its time. For many years, until his death, he served as its chairman(35). Given Ashbee’s opinion of Stanley’s sincerity as a reformer, it is significant to note that right at its inception Stanley was urging that the organisation be called the North Cotswold Agricultural Association. If it were called a ‘Farmers’ Association’ (he argued correctly), the labourers would not join, and it ought to be an association for the benefit of Agriculture as a whole, in which all those involved in Agriculture – landlords, farmers, and labourers – could meet and discuss the issues affecting them(36).
Furthermore, within a year of its founding, in an unprecedented formal paper to the North Cotswold Farmers Association reprinted at length in the Evesham Journal(37), he was putting forward arguments concerning the rural agricultural industry which, transposed to urban industry, are similar to those that Ashbee was then making in London. The problem, Stanley told his fellow farmers, was that “our labour has gone back in quality”. The reason was the drain of the best men into higher paid jobs in urban industries. The solution was to encourage the best men to stay by improving the standard and quality of the labourer’s life, his education in the skills and traditions of his craft, and to encourage his broader education as well. Much of the problem lay with the employers:
Has the great change that has taken place during the last twenty years in the social position of the agricultural labourer been sufficiently recognised? Has not the extension of the franchise, the Education Act, the allotment movement, been received in too many cases in a grudging and, perhaps, resentful spirit that has tended to alienate rather than conciliate? How many are there in the rural districts (I am not speaking only of farmers) who still think – despite the fact that the labourer has equal electoral powers, and in another generation will be an educated man – he may yet be handled like a one £ note, and treated with as little deference. Again, how many yet entertain the idea that if a labourer is allowed to “get on in the world” he will not work at all…till we can drain our minds of such like prejudices I am afraid the connection between employer and employed will partake more of the nature of an armed truce rather than a lasting understanding.
He then develops his argument about education:
In looking further for a cause of the deterioration in labour, we must blame the Education Act, not for spreading knowledge, but for depriving us of so many of the best of our young men. The process of education finds out all the best and most intelligent lads, and they are at once designed for something better than an agricultural labourer – employment in an office, in a railway, anything rather than work upon a farm. And so we get this very unsatisfactory state of things. Education that should be for our benefit has become the means of drafting all the cream of our rural population, both male and female, into the towns…Village communities must go back if the process of extracting all the best of the rising generation is to continue.
These were precisely Ashbee’s arguments in forwarding the Campden School of Arts and Crafts. Stanley continued:
Agricultural labourers must be put on the same footing as other labourers, and paid according to their abilities…
I think it will be wise if we accept without prejudice anything in the shape of knowledge that we can get, never minding whether it comes from schools or anywhere else, let our care be that we apply that knowledge on our farms in a practical way. But after all these efforts have been made I will venture to say that the education that a man gets in the stable, the cowshed, or the sheepfold, following the plough, laying the fence, or building the ricks, is the education his employer will most appreciate, and will be the most valuable part of the labourer’s capital.
The most appropriate teachers of these labourers were therefore not scientifically trained ‘experts’, but the established practitioners, the old and able shepherds, carters, and ploughmen. Each of these is a man who
is as near the top of the tree in his profession as you will find a man. Now if that man dies without imparting his accumulated knowledge to anyone, I say that the agricultural community has suffered a distinct loss…It is not scientific knowledge, I allow, and this man may have customs that science would condemn, but he has got what we all profess to admire, and that is practical knowledge…
He launched into a criticism of his colleagues over the question of allotments for labourers:
No feeling of selfishness on our part, or fears that we shall in some small degree suffer, can justify us in hindering them in this perfectly legitimate aspiration.
I am much mistaken if improving the capacity and efficiency of our men, and so making them not only more worthy of the wages we shall have to pay, but at the same time more satisfied citizens, we shall have taken a long stride in the right direction.(38)
Having introduced the subject of education and technical education to the North Cotswold Farmers in 1890, Stanley consistently supported it until the time of his death (see IV.1). The point was taken by the North Cotswold Farmers, though in a compromise form which Ashbee would probably have opposed, and in 1891 the Association passed a resolution for the benefit of the County Council in which it
desires respectfully to express the opinion that the sum to be devoted to technical education would be better expended in such objects as would tend to improve the position of the farmer and agricultural labourer than in any so-called artistic or scientific education of persons who cannot profit by it when they enter on the business of life.(39)
We can see in this statement the seeds of dispute with the liberal-education approach to the improvement of labour favoured by Ashbee and which the farmers saw as educating labourers out of agricultural work and into city industry.
d. The Technical School
In 1891, with a grant from the recently formed Gloucestershire County Council, the Grammar School opened a technical school as part of its own curriculum, with evening classes open to the public as specifically required by the Council’s grant. The classes started fairly slowly, in part because purpose-built facilities – in the former King’s Arms pub, next to the Grammar School’s main building – were still in preparation(40). Lectures in the evening classes included “The Digestive Process in Farm Animals”, at which a large number of labourers are said to have attended(4l); demonstration-lectures on dairying; veterinary classes which were “an unqualified success”; lectures on practical vegetable and fruit growing; and classes in cookery(42). By the end of 1893, having moved into their proper premises, the Technical School classes had expanded to include shorthand, joinery, nursing, practical and theoretical chemistry, drawing and wood carving. Cottagers attended for half fees, and the carpentry class in particular is mentioned as being over-subscribed, with students having to be turned away(43).
In 1896 the question of Technical Education again came before the North Cotswold Farmers, and it was U.C. Stanley who again chided the members for their failure to use technical education properly or to give it their whole-hearted support:
…if the system has failed, it is owing to the indifference and prejudice of agriculture itself…
A pound laid out in knowledge is worth many pounds saved in rates…(44)
He then led a committee set up by the Association to formalise plans for classes in agricultural engineering/repair of farm machinery to be taken to the County Council for potential funding.
In 1897 laundry was added to the course offerings of the Technical School, and it was noted that the courses generally were “well attended”(45). Indeed, despite the fact that the courses for the most part did not specifically suit the aims or special needs of the local agricultural industry, they seem to have been well patronised. It was up to the farmers themselves, Stanley argued, to see that classes more relevant to their industry were added.
e. Ulric Stanley as Politician.
Under the Local Government Act of 1894, Chipping Campden elected a parish council in December which sat for the first time in January 1895. The Liberals won a resounding victory which made Campden’s, according to one unhappy correspondent to the Evesham Journal, “an essentially working-men’s council”(46). Under no obligation, the council looked outside its own membership and asked Ulric Stanley to be its chairman(47).
The selection of Stanley as its chairman by a Liberal-dominated council will not have been due to any sense of ambiguity about his politics. He was an outspoken Conservative, a member of the Primrose League(48). Following the parliamentary elections of 1892, in which Campden re-elected the Liberal candidate, a private journal reported:
no rowdyism, but plenty of noise…Ulric Stanley came in for the most hostile demonstration and on leaving the committee room was boohed and groaned at and four policemen attended him home.(49)
He responded in a speech to a Conservative dinner in Cirencester the following month, reportedly calling the Liberal working men of Campden “a detachment of roughs”, and this was followed by a series of letters in the Evesham Journal attacking and supporting Stanley(50). He never made a secret of his views, whether supporting Conservative causes or attacking the attitudes of farmers and landowners to allotments and labourers (as seen above). He was asked to chair the first parish council presumably as a gesture of conciliation and balance(51); he does not seem to have moderated his views on matters of importance to him, social, educational or political(52); and as Ashbee found in the School of Arts and Crafts affair of 1905, he was not an ineffectual political power. The view of Stanley expressed by Ashbee in 1903, following a year in Campden in which Ashbee spent most of his weekdays away (see below, III.3.2) is therefore of questionable value as an objective assessment of Stanley’s character.
f. The Campden School of Arts and Crafts.
When C.R. Ashbee arrived in Campden from London, therefore, there already existed a well established Technical School, under the auspices of the County Council and the Grammar School. On the Board of Governors of the Grammar School was U.C. Stanley, who sincerely believed in Technical Education and had spent a good many years debating with fellow farmers and seeing a series of progressive ideas through into some degree of practice.
There are many areas of agreement between Ashbee’s and Stanley’s concepts of the labour problem. Both observed the degradation in the quality of labour, and the loss of the best workmen to the towns. Both argued that the demoralisation of labour could only be remedied by reconstructing the workshop and improving the living conditions of the workers. Both agreed in higher wages and the provision of allotments for labourers. Both believed in educating the labourers, both agreed that teaching ought to include the practical transmission of the traditions of the crafts from older craftsmen to apprentices. At this point, they diverged.
As far as Stanley was concerned, the traditions of the agricultural industry were embodied in living agricultural labourers, whose qualifications as teachers ought to be formally recognised and utilised. To Ashbee, modern industrial conditions had destroyed the traditions of craftsmanship. Stanley believed in recognising and tapping resources which were at hand; Ashbee believed that workshop culture had to be reconstructed ex nihilo. For Ashbee, traditions of craftsmanship had to be re-created by exposing apprentices to the classics of European literature, great works of art, the best and most radical thinkers of the day, and the finest examples of the craft itself; while Stanley was not so narrow a thinker on education as the resolutions passed by the North Cotswold Farmers Association, he was very much in sympathy with practical education such as the Grammar School’s Technical School provided.
Indeed, one gets the impression from the Grammar School’s side that the Guild’s School of Arts and Crafts, as it was to become, was initially welcomed by the Grammar School Governors. Certainly this is the impression given by a letter from Ulric Stanley to the Evesham Journal, on the occasion of the opening of the technical school facilities behind Elm Tree House under Ashbee’s auspices. The Evesham Journal had reported the Secretary of the Gloucestershire County Council Education Committee as saying at the opening of the new premises that “he deprecated any feeling of rivalry between the Grammar School authorities and the School of Arts and Crafts”(53). “What evidence”, Stanley asked, “has Mr. Household of the existence of any ‘feeling of rivalry’ between the two schools?”:
Let us look at what the Grammar School authorities have done in this matter. For some years the Grammar School had received from the County Council a grant of £100 that was, with the consent of the Council, used in the following way: — £60 was used for Science teaching in the school and the rest of the grant was used for technical classes for the public. The school had the management of the classes, and they were very well filled, and were as successful as such classes usually are in small country places, and were held in the technical rooms belonging to the school. In 1903, after the usual grant had been made to Grammar School authorities, a letter was received from Mr. Household expressing the wish of the County Council that the Governors would allocate some part of the grant used for public technical classes to the Guild of Handicraft. On receipt of the letter from the County Council the Governors called a meeting of their body and invited Mr. C.R. Ashbee to attend. The result of the meeting was that the Governors handed over not only the whole of the money usually applied to public technical instruction, but the entire management of the classes as well to the Guild of Handicraft and to be used at Mr. Ashbee’s discretion. That gentleman appeared very pleased with the arrangement. In addition, the Governors asked Mr. Ashbee how he was off for rooms for holding his classes. He said he did not know at present if he should be able to provide his own rooms in time. He was told in the event of his not being able to provide his own rooms he was to come back to the Governors, and they would do what they could for him. He did come back, and at a good deal of inconvenience to the School the Governors let to Mr. Ashbee the whole of the around floor of their own technical building at the lowest rent they could with safety to their own financial position, and with the proviso that at the end of the session if the Governors found they had made a profit out of the transaction they would revise the rent. Where, then, is the evidence of anything in the shape of rivalry?(54)
In the minutes of the Grammar School Board of Governors, it is noted 6 October 1903, that the whole ground floor of the Grammar School technical rooms had been let for five nights a week at 3/- per night(55). On February 1, 1904, the first hint of difficulties with the new tenant appears: Ashbee had ordered repairs done to the Technical School chimney pots and presented the bill to the Governors, who wished:
that Mr. Ashbee be reminded that orders for repairs in future must be given by the Secretary to the Technical Instruction Committee.(56)
On April 6, 1904,
it was resolved that the attention of the Guild and School of Handicraft be called to the fact of the gas pipe in the small room had been tapped and several jets of gas used without the consent of the Governors.(57)
There also seems to have been difficulty in getting payment for the use of the rooms(58).
George Haines, a farmer who shared the centre of local politics with Stanley, and a member of the Grammar School Board of Governors, wrote to the Evesham Journal on the opening of the School of Arts and Crafts in its Elm Tree House premises:
I note that not one of the classes meets the wants of the neighbourhood, except the class for gardening. The cry is “Back to the Land”, but if you are going to educate every one in Arts and Crafts, I am afraid you will augment the list of unemployment in the towns.(59)
Stanley pursued the matter in the following year, delivering a paper to the North Cotswold Farmers Association entitled “Agriculture and the County Council Technical School at Campden”. The school had been allowed, he said, “to drift into a one man show”, and since it was publicly funded,
it must not be allowed to become an institution for furthering the views of any particular section of the community. That there was a real danger of this was only too apparent, for the whole of the management seemed to be placed unreservedly in the hands of the managing director of the Guild of Handicraft. He had not a word to say against the Guild. As a trading concern it was all right…but when the directors turned themselves into a teaching body, and when the County Council placed the whole of the technical teaching of that district in their power and placed heavy sums of public money at their disposal, he thought it was time someone had the courage to ask what the policy of the school was going to be and what the tendency of its teaching…Strange as it might appear, on this committee for a rural technical school there was not one person that could by the widest stretch of the imagination be called an agriculturist.
Nine were ladies and gentlemen, four of whom were ministers of religion. How were they selected?
All he knew was that whoever selected the present committee took care to officially exclude every person and every public body that had in the past taken any interest in any technical work…(60)
which is to say, the Grammar School, which had carried on the technical classes in the past, and the North Cotswold Farmers Association. He later reported that he had gone to Ashbee twelve months earlier:
I put the case both for agriculture and the Grammar School before him in the strongest light I could. My views were received with absolute contempt.(61)
In February, 1906, the Evesham Journal – which had generally welcomed and supported the Guild from its arrival – put its weight in favour of
the constitution of the committee having the spending of the large grant made by the County Council to Campden put upon a proper footing.(62)
By this time the North Cotswold Farmers Association had petitioned the County Council. The Governors of the Grammar School and the Parish Council – in both of which U.C. Stanley and George Haines played central roles – had also acted(63). The Evesham Journal supported the work of the School of Arts and Crafts, as such:
On principle, however, the spending of public money should be controlled by a publicly elected body.(64)
The reform was made in April, 1906; the School of Arts and Crafts was reorganised, and a representative governing body was appointed(65). Ulric Stanley and George Haines were both appointed to the local Higher Education Committee administering the grant of the School of Arts and Crafts, along with Ashbee and others(66).
thought that it was time that the middle aged students of good means who never intended to put the technical knowledge they had gained at public expense to any practical use — should be discouraged, and that they should use their influence to give Technical Education into a more reasonable channel(67).
In fact, the 1906-1907 season of the School of Arts and Crafts went on very much as it had before, with the addition of classes in agricultural engineering and farriery, and proposals for classes in field carpentry – “in which the hanging and making of gates and repair of fences would be taught”(68) -, all of which could have sprung logically out of Ashbee’s earlier rhetoric. For example, in the Report of the 1904-1905 session of the School of Arts and Crafts (written by Ashbee):
I consider that it should be a prime object of a School of Arts and Crafts in a country district – that it should little by little rehabilitate all such of the crafts as have not been permanently extinguished by machinery…The country crafts I have in mind for revival are thatching, wattling, walling, wheelwrighting, farriery, and a number of others that touched up the training of the old world agriculturalist, and that have latterly grown so scarce and specialised that in many Cotswold districts they are all but extinct.(69)
From the time of the appointment of George Haines and Ulric Stanley to the reorganised 1906-1907 Committee, the agricultural interest does indeed begin to grow and not at the expense of the more rarified side of the school – consistent with Stanley’s very early statement that all learning ought to be taken in, and directed towards practical use. Hopes for hedging, thatching and poultry management classes were expressed in the 1908-1909 Report of the School(70), and the County lecturer on Agriculture spoke of the creation of a Young Farmers’ Class:
It would be a step in the right direction, and in a very few years deep enthusiasm rather than the prejudice towards progression which now prevails, would be noticeable.(71)
The Report for the year 1909-1910 notes:
the steady growth of the Art Work, which is taking more and more the form of encouraging such forms of artistic handiwork as can be carried on by those who have occupation also on the land.(72)
In 1910-1911 various farmers are thanked for putting farm machinery and accommodation at the disposal of the Agricultural class(73), and students in the care of sheep, farm machinery and farriery in the 1911-1912 season judged sheep at the annual Teg show under the auspices of the North Cotswold Farmers Association(74).
In 1905-1906, the last year before the committee was restructured and Ashbee had a more or less free hand, 34 Agriculturalists, 37 Domestics, 88 Schoolteachers and Students, 30 or so Arts and Craftsmen (depending upon one’s designation) and 148 others attended the School(75). In 1912-1913, there were 217 Agriculturalists, 77 Domestics, 42 Schoolteachers and Students, 28 Arts and Craftsmen, and 28 others(76) – a dramatic upturn in the number of Agriculturalists, and although Ashbee might take theoretical credit for this adapting of Arts and Crafts schooling to the rural setting, it was only under pressure from the outside, and particularly from farmers Ulric Stanley and George Haines, that the change took place.
C. The Bathing Lake
Two points can be taken from the case of the School of Arts and Crafts.
It can be argued that the School of Arts and Crafts ultimately realised ideas of technical training for agricultural workers that Ulric Stanley had been urging for over a decade, and that Ashbee was the agent through which the goals of local agricultural reformers were achieved at least cost to themselves. This picture of Ashbee as a tool used by local people to achieve their own ends at little or no cost to themselves can be supported from the history of the swimming bath.
The swimming lake built by the Guild is generally cited, with the School of Arts and Crafts, as one of Ashbee’s major achievements in Campden, again realised against local opposition(77). The question of a public outdoor swimming bath was put before the Parish Meeting as early as 1898 and accepted(78), and within the year a suitable site – probably near Westington Mill, where the Guild bath was eventually built – was agreed in principle. A maximum ceiling of £150 had been set, however, and this proved an insuperable problem(79). In 1901 a less expensive site in the Coneygree was proposed, but the Earl of Gainsborough rejected this as inappropriate and difficult of access(80), and the parish council was returned to square one. Swimming was quite important to Ashbee(8l), and soon after arriving in Campden he undertook, with Robert Martin-Holland (friend and financial backer of the Guild) to lend the money to cover the cost of the baths, which were then built and opened in August 1903(82). That the expense proved considerable is demonstrated by the fact that, despite a number of fund-raising events over the years, at the outbreak of World War I a substantial portion of the loan remained unpaid(83). It can be argued, therefore, that Ashbee’s drive and wealth were exploited by Campden to achieve a bathing lake that Campden could not otherwise easily afford.
The second point is related to the first. The image of Campden given by Ashbee and subsequent commentators is turned inside out by examining events from the point of view of those living in Campden before the Guild came. Far from dead and decaying, the town was industriously working to improve its amenities within straitened circumstances, trying to attract businesses, tourists and residents. By capturing the Guild, the town got not only an industry with a relatively high wage packet, but it got 150-200 new residents, a wide range of new cultural events, and a major tourist attraction. The town’s efforts succeeded to a remarkable degree.
The Guild legend, modelled on the framework of Sleeping Beauty (I am using the word “legend” technically(84)) – is therefore tightly woven over the reality of Campden, using and obscuring it. This is not to say that the Guild had no impact on Campden: quite the contrary, the arguments already advanced make it clear that the Guild of Handicraft acted as a catalyst to local development. The Guild was not, however, Prince Charming awakening a passive Campden from slumber and decay. The image of “revival and reinvigoration” as a general case of Guild influence on Campden is no longer tenable.
This means that it cannot be taken without supporting evidence that the mummers were “revived and reinvigorated” by the Guild. The case for this would have to take into account the arguments of the following sections.
III.3: The Impact on Campden of the Guild of Handicraft
1. The Guild as Folk Community
The Guild of Handicraft is a body of men of different trades, crafts and occupations, united together on such a basis as shall better promote both the goodness of the work produced and the standard of life of the producer…[to accomplish which, it aims to form] a library of such works as may be most helpful to its members, and to promote that other side of life which whether in time of holiday or work, whether in sports, by music, by drama, or any form of Art brings men together and helps them to live in fellowship. -from Rules for the Guidance of Gulldsmen(1)
C.R. Ashbee believed that workshop tradition had been stripped of intimacy and fellowship by the sheer size of the workplace and the way that machinery had been deployed to put men at the service of machines. Buried in the specialised bowels of industrial production, a workman had no sense of personal contribution to the whole. His conversation with fellow workmen stayed within the realms of gossip, sport and politics and had nothing to do with the development of the craft and skills with which he was involved. Younger men were cut off from the accumulated wisdom of older men by the fear of job competition. This impoverishment of tradition was a consequence of the capitalist system of industry, which militated simultaneously against the quality of the industrial product, the lives of the men involved in production, and against the quality of life in Society as a whole. At the centre of the question of the quality and future of British Culture, therefore, was the workshop, and at the centre of the workshop was the question of the machine. The right deployment of the machine, and the right relation of men to the production process, was at the heart of workshop reconstruction, and hence at the heart of the British Empire.
The Guild’s socialism – in which men acquired shares in the company through weekly deductions from their wage packets, as well as electing a labour representative to the Board of Directors and handling questions of workshop etiquette and discipline among themselves – was a contribution to the building and strengthening of the British Empire. For Ashbee it was a civic duty par excellence to help form an Imperial Society, a society with the right – through its greatness of character and achievement – to extend hegemony across the world. The Guild was a fragment, or rather, a colony and emissary of Empire, performing its task within England, but never relinquishing contacts abroad, nor the possibility of establishing colonies of the Guild overseas. This sense of global mission helps to explain the character and development of the Guild in Campden(2).
The Guild was, in the first place, a community of men. Ashbee’s wife, Janet, commented on this in 1901:
The Guild of Handicraft is getting on. After 14 years it has decided to admit Women to its birthday feast. The capital W indicates the importance of the fact…By Women I do not mean the wives of the Men – oh dear no! that step towards rational intercourse is in the future still – but the little mother and myself. She [C. R. Ashbee’s mother] as the symbol of the Guild’s beginning, I suppose, and I as the development. According to custom she provided the cake…(3)
The wives of the men did not, as a rule, take part in any of the communal activities of the Guild, neither the annual plays, nor the annual outing, the watersports, nor the Guild sing-songs, all of which were designed to be educational as well as community-building. Some provision was made for wives and daughters in the formation of a book-bindery once the Guild was in Campden, and a woman binder joined in Guild plays and nearly married a Guildsman. But Ashbee only seems to have discovered wives as an element in working-men’s culture once the Guild experiment was over and he could look back with hindsight on its successes and failures(4). The women who performed in the Guild plays were either employees of the Guild themselves – like the binder, Statia Power, and Hilda Pook, Ashbee’s secretary – or else they were outsiders, not of the Guild, but drawn into its orbit through social and intellectual contact(5). It is significant that the majority of core Guildsmen who were not married prior to the move to Campden did so only after the collapse of the business in 1907-1908(6). We know also, from H.T. Osborn, who came with the Guild as a child from London, that the children of Guildsmen’s families did not know each other before the move to Campden(7). The Guild as organised by Ashbee was predominantly a male-centred society, and neither a mixed nor a family community.
The exception was Janet Ashbee, who is discussed in III.3.3. Significantly, she did not have her first child until the major thrust of the Guild experiment in Campden was well and truly over: her first daughter was born in 1911, just before the Ashbees moved from Campden to the neighbouring village of Broad Campden.
The germ of the Guild as an historical entity was a class on Ruskin led by Ashbee in 1887 at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End. The Guild developed from this and was formally established in 1888 with a roll of five members. By the 1902 move to Campden the Guild had a fifteen year history.
The critical year in this early history was 1898, as recognised by Ashbee himself, whose personal donation of the Journals to King’s College covered the years 1898-1916 (the remainder were given to the college after his death). In 1898 the Guild acquired William Morris’ Kelmscott presses and some of his pressmen; Ashbee married, and the Guild became a limited liability company. 1898 also marks a period of rapid growth and turnover in personnel.
Four of fifteen Guildsmen elected in the first five years of the Guild remained with the Guild through the critical year of 1898 and the move to Campden in 1902, though Ashbee was the only one of the five founding members still with the Guild in 1898. Walter Curtis (cabinet maker), elected in the Guild’s second year, 1889; W.A. White (metal worker), elected in 1890; and cabinet maker W.A. Osborn, elected in 1892, were with the Guild in 1898 and made the move to Campden.
Ten men were elected Guildsmen during the Guild’s second five year period, from 1893-1897: six were still with the Guild in 1898, five of whom moved to Campden and remained with the Guild until its collapse in 1907; two stayed thereafter – one of them Jim Pyment, discussed in III.3.4 below.
In the critical two year period 1898-1899 no fewer than fifteen men were elected into the Guild. Only four of these remained until the end of 1907, two of whom stayed thereafter.
There were thus thirteen Guildsmen in the move to Campden who had been with the Guild for three or more years. Fourteen Guildsmen, on the other hand, quit or died in 1901-1902; another five left in 1903.
There was also a sizeable number of newer men to assimilate at the time of the move: twelve were elected to the Guild in 1901, three in 1902. There were four established apprentices in the move to Campden; but fifteen joined the Guild in 1901-1902. Clearly, 1901-1902 was the period of greatest social and geographical discontinuity, and the period of greatest personnel turnover in the Guild’s history(8). This must necessarily have affected the culture of the community.
Furthermore, the character of the newcomers, according to Janet Ashbee (who expressed some concern over the rising number of new men in 1901(9)) was different: they tended to be older, with established skills, and this effectively altered the tutorial relationship the Ashbees had customarily maintained with their ‘boys’, and necessarily lessened opportunities of personal contact between the Ashbees and the men(10). This appears to have undermined much of the tradition that had been built within the community of inter-connected Guild workshops. This, at any rate, was the opinion of Guildsman Alec Miller who joined the Guild in 1902, and told Ashbee in 1911:
The ‘Guild’ was never a real Guild since it became a company, had you been a man in the shops and known the men who composed the Guild not only as men but as workmen and co-operative partners you would have seen that there was no real Guild, at least since I knew it in 1902…I believe it impossible with the material we have had here since I came and also I believe it quite impossible with so large a body of men as we were in 1902-1905.(11)
H.T. Osborn, looking back on the Campden period, wrote:
His flock were not all that faithful to him or to his ideas; they were just out to earn a living, whether with handicraft in the country or in town with mass production. When better prospects presented themselves or the future began to look dim most were ready to take a better job…the fathers and mothers in his flock…only wished to live in the twentieth century, not with Mr. Ashbee in the sixteenth century.(12)
These reflections are those of persons who only joined the Guild in Campden; and do not take account of the underlying integrity of the Guild nor of Ashbee’s particular perspective. Essentially, whether consciously or unconsciously, Ashbee modelled the Guild from his own experiences as an undergraduate at King’s College, Cambridge, when the world of camaraderie and social purpose had been flung simultaneously open for him.
From its foundation in 1887 the Guild was an educational institution; it only ceased to be the Guild and School of Handicraft when the London County Council refused after a long campaign to give the Guild a technical school grant in 1894. As soon as it relocated to Campden, Ashbee secured the local technical education grant from the Gloucestershire County Council and opened the Campden School of Arts and Crafts. The Guild had followed the logic of its success as a business, expanded, and relocated to an environment in which it was possible to become a dual educational/business institution again.
The Guild structure was similar to that of a university, with Ashbee at its head and with multiple workshop-colleges staffed by teacher-foremen overseeing a mixed group of undergraduate craftsmen, some of whom were committed to the Guild, and some to the pay-packet . Put slightly differently, the Guild was structured with Ashbee (and his wife Janet) at the centre; around him a core who believed in the Guild and its ideals; and beyond them a body of men for whom the Guild was more or less simply the employer(13).
Seen like this, a great deal about the Guild in Campden becomes clear. It was not, strictly speaking, merely or in the first place a business: certainly not for Ashbee, who made educational rather than business decisions, and who expected the running deficit of the institution to be made up by patronage(l4). He did not integrate into Campden as a business leader, but as a don, sensitive to and generating town-gown friction(15). He established the campus in a university town-to-be (or, the industrial equivalent, a garden-city-to-be(l6)), with conveniences impossible in London: the workshops practically across the road from the architect’s office and the School of Arts and Crafts, which were part of the same complex; and Woolstaplers’ Hall, where the Ashbees lived, just up the street from Braithwaite House where a group of the unmarried men lived. This latter
was typical of Ashbee: he saw it as an amalgam of the Cambridge residential college, and, inspired by his recent visit to America, a transatlantic university fraternity house with its endlessly hospitable hail-fellow-well-met atmosphere.(17)
A housemother looked after the boys and Guild guests (which included at times Jack London and John Masefield), cleaned their rooms, and prepared meals. Will Hart, though a young man himself, was in charge; and the house was the social centre of a group of young men – as in an American fraternity house – exploiting the possibilities of the Guild to the fullest: George Hart, George Chettle, Ted Horwood, Alec Miller and Philip Mairet, who all worked in the Guild; F.L. Griggs, the mediaevalist engraver who picked up Ashbee’s conservationist mantle between the wars; and some apprentices from the stained-glass workshop of Paul Woodroffe, sited in Westington(18).
For all of us young men, mostly of some cultural talent or aspiration, who had been brought up in lower-middle-class families, generally in the big built-up areas, this life in Campden was both a liberation and a rich educational experience. It gave us something comparable to the years at an old university which none of us had been privileged to enjoy…perhaps the best and most formative period of our lives.(19)
Alec Miller, coming to Campden and the Guild from apprenticeship in Glasgow, experienced the period in a similar way:
There was presently opened up to me in the Guild an entrancing and wholly new kind of life, in which it is now difficult to separate the various elements – the strange and romantic beauty of the Cotswolds, the absorbing interest of the work, the widening intellectual life into which we of the Guild were introduced, the sense that we were a group enthused by a common aim, and directed by one who though in complete authority over our working days was yet approachable and with whom it was easy to be on friendly and affectionate terms. This sodality was something entirely new in my life, and the sense of it remains as the greatest gift of the Guild, a guild which went beyond Guildsmen and left a permanent impression on a generation.(20)
When the Guild as a business failed in 1907-1908, the centre held: Ashbee and a significant core of Guildsmen remained: the School of Arts and Crafts carried on until 1916. With several exceptions(21) it was essentially the uncommitted outer layer of workmen which was sloughed off. Braithwaite House was given up, but the boys began to marry in any event; and this core had established extensive ties in the life of the community (see III.3.4, below).
The Guild which came to Campden in 1902, although in the midst of rapid turnover and growth, can therefore be seen as a fundamentally stable institution, though centring increasingly on individual shop-foremen and less on Ashbee. It was a male-centred community when it first came; but, though Ashbee himself was slow to recognise it, the wives and children came into the picture to make the young men’s college a workplace-centred domestic community. The customs appropriate to the former gradually fell by the wayside – the men’s last annual beanfeast appears to have been held in 1904; the last river outing with the ‘boys’ was in 1902; and sing-songs in the Ashbee library appear to have become a rarity by 1906(22). Customs involving the Guildsmen (and their families) within the life of the town – fetes, treats, sports and bazaars – appear to have become the norm(23).
After the break-up in 1907-1908, the Guild retained its coherence as an institution, as a work and social group which could be identified as such and act as such(24). With a coherent tradition, and a growing group of relatives, friends, and like-minded admirers settling in Campden (a group I refer to as the extended Guild), the Guild community not only survived the transitions of 1907-1908 and World War I, but matured and grew, both in numbers and in influence. This growing influence is discussed in later sections of the dissertation, as, by implication, it was discussed in the last chapter. In the next three discussions, the influence between III.3.1 p.173 1902 and 1914 as it would possibly relate to the mummers is examined in more detail.
2. C.R. Ashbee
a. Philosophy and Belief
Charles Robert Ashbee came to Campden as the leader of a flock and not simply as a businessman. This flock, or this industrial university, came to Campden not because of a prior connection with the people of Campden, but because Campden offered a cheap, available and attractive site within ready distance of the railway. Ashbee established the group of workshop colleges in their building (an old silk mill in Sheep Street, renamed Essex House after the Guild’s London home), and then set about improving the location’s amenities. He set about it rather in the image of Cecil Rhodes, bringing light into the decayed interior of the British Empire(1).
As early as 1886, on a visit to France, Ashbee laid out the vision of time and place which he carried with him into Chipping Campden:
As for Modern France, it is non-existent to me and I conceive of Heaven at present – the New Jerusalem – as built in the style of the French 13th and 14th century Gothic…(2)
Seeing an annual village fete on a later visit, just before the move to Campden, he summarised the idea of modern country life which he also took with him into Campden:
There was no beauty in the music and the couples were dressed in sombre ugliness, Parisien misfits as it were: the joyous function was gloomy, one felt it had no ‘local colour’, that the peasants’ immediate reflection from experience would be – ‘on fait ca mieux a Paris!’ yet every village and townlet here is instinct with a character and charm of its own – in the past.(3)
Or, as he said later, reflecting on Viscount Campden’s coming of age party in Campden:
I think everybody except perhaps Hodge and I would have been convinced by today’s pageantry. It seemed so very real and everybody was made so happy. (4)
He knew better, and that is the crux of Ashbee in Campden.
The image of C.R. Ashbee as a Headmaster is a useful one, and especially apt in terms of the Guild if we emphasise equally the two components ‘head’ and ‘master’. The life task he discovered at university was to build, through education and practical work, towards the Great City. His characteristic mode of address was the lecture, his favourite genre the historicised parable.
Ashbee’s donnish position was general, and not one he adopted towards the Guild only. When the Guild’s financial position was faltering in 1906, an American supporter reflected to Ashbee’s wife, Janet:
To have made a town – to teach a town to be so much better than it ever had been since the Christ, what greater basis for solid satisfaction – And then to see it done not by a great fisted “Captain” – but by an industrial rebel, without even a Rail Road to help!(5)
When the Guild-backed Land and Home League lost a local election in 1913, Ashbee wrote to the Evesham Journal an open letter about the
Campden Parish Council election, the real meaning of which has not been understood by the majority of electors of Campden…(6)
which he proceeded at length to explain to them.
Ashbee was not an easily defined figure in his own time – a political opponent after the same election said “for eight years I have been trying to discover his political status, but I have failed”(7) – and is no more easily defined, outside his own terms, today.
In Ashbee’s thinking, the divine manifested itself in and through the acts and works of man. By putting machines between the man and his product, and by subjecting the producer to his machine instead of letting a man be the master of his tools, industrial culture had broken the link in the work sphere which Puritanism had broken up beforehand in the sphere of culture and custom; consequently the human spirit was drying and withering. In pre-industrial/pre-capitalist society (capitalism interjects transaction-value between man and things, and between men and men, creating cultures without soul), a man devoted his life to his work and found his fulfillment in it. Because of this, works of the pre-industrial period come down to us still suffused with a devotional quality, and consequently to those who can see, these works set the standard to which a man should aspire. We can not return civilisation to the pre-Industrial state; but through education and celebration and work we can establish the same types of relations between man and objects and reawaken, even within the dead culture of Industrialism, the spark of the divine. It was a question of releasing the spirit of Humanism, the Jack-in-the-Green in Man. Ashbee was earnest to the point of intolerance because even in a parish election or the creation of a bathing lake he was building the foundations of the Kingdom.
The method of reawakening professed by Ashbee was not revival(8) nor even re-creation, but reconstruction: gathering together and unburying those objects and ideas which speak out to the spirit from earlier eras, as a kind of guide and authority; and creating in the daily life of the community the same kind of contact between people and people, and people and things. This dual approach frames the problem inherited from history: the virtual end of a genuinely devotional culture under the crush of Puritanism and Industrialism; and the consequent need to entirely re-construct the spirit of community.
The overturning of the social or class system was not part of Ashbee’s vision. He did not oppose hierarchy or aristocracy as such – these were as much the victims of history as was the culture of craftsmen. Rather, he opposed the unintelligent and alienated hierarchy and aristocracy of the machine era, and the kinds of social barriers which make the gross excesses of poverty and wealth, and both capitalists and industrial trade unionists, a cultural possibility(9).
Alan Crawford has pointed out that to design well, “Ashbee needed the inspiration of a particular kind of setting”(10). His architectural work was at its finest in Chelsea (where there was a wealth of historic, artistic and literary associations to draw upon) and Chipping Campden (where pre-Industrial English history was preserved in the buildings). Given an open countryside, Ashbee’s imagination was constricted, and he could only envision small, tight boxes(11). As he himself said, “our appreciation of the countryside today is self-conscious”(12); there was a sense of effort and imposition about his awareness of the country which he did not feel in the presence of a well-established urban landscape. He felt particularly confident with a site which had been inhabited and built upon in the pre-Industrial Age, precisely because he could lay out for it an historical parable into which he could design.
When designing or building into a site, Ashbee’s method was to construct a parable out of which the building would arise to illustrate the parable and fulfill it. He proceeded by developing an historical story, with a moral, and telling this moral tale in the architecture. Alan Crawford makes this clear in his reading of Ashbee’s design for 37 Cheyne Walk, The Old Magpie and Stump, a London home Ashbee built in 1893-1894 for his mother, sisters and himself(l3). Ashbee makes it clear himself when describing his approach to (for example) a project he undertook on a cottage in Watery Lane, in Campden:
It was purchased by two ladies – Mrs. Gilchrist Thompson and Mrs. H.W. Wrightson – who wisely wished me to preserve it. The drawing will show how all the principal features that make for its character have been preserved. Like so many of the Campden houses, it may originally have been one – possibly the house of some Elizabethan husbandman: his home in the High Street, his yardland holdings in the open fields around. Then when the days of shrinking-in came upon the little Cotswold town, when her fields were enclosed and her small yeomen starved out, it was perhaps cut into two and made two rather miserable hovels for the labourer. I re-cast it; blocked up the poverty-stricken doorway shown at the side of the mullioned window; gave it once more a good houseplace, a parlour and three bed-rooms, with larder, wash-up, outhouses, and garden at the back. In this cottage, again, there is an interesting variation in the thatch line at the eaves, but this is, I think, due to the structural alterations made probably in the late 18th century, when the projecting bow was added.(14)
To guide his alterations, Ashbee placed the two cottages into an historical parable: he, as architect, overcame centuries of social degeneration, misery and poverty, and restored the building to its original one-ness. It is historical parable rather than historical reconstruction not only because of the moral involved, but also because it is not necessary for the “facts” to be historically accurate: Watery Lane is not, and probably has never been considered, the High Street of Campden; indeed, most of the building on it has taken place in the last two centuries, and very little that is there is likely to be as old as the 16th or early 17th centuries(15). In the illustration he refers to there is a distinct break between the fabric of the two halves of the building which belies his image of an original unity.
The parable does not need to be historically accurate, however, to be true in the use to which Ashbee put it: it is a format for reconstruction, its truth consisting of the support it gives to the work of the architect. This work of the architect itself has a storyline. Ashbee outlines this several pages after the parable above:
When we unbury and re-cast such old yeomen’s houses in our days, or the houses of the silk merchants, the woolstaplers, or even the country craftsmen, we are conscious of a kinship in taste with the builders: our life is sympathetic to theirs; we desire to efface ugly things that have come in the intervening time; our humanism touches theirs across the centuries…(16)
and re-establishes the broken continuity between that earlier “forgotten” humanism and the modern world. It is a story of salvation or rescue, in which the things of importance are not the historical details or even their accurate preservation: Ashbee does not try to recreate the Watery Lane cottage as it was or as an archaeological site. His interest is not in the past for its own sake, but for its utility in the present. Indeed, his disregard for age as ‘age’ is expressed in his statement:
A thing should not be saved merely because it is old: the question we have to ask is what does it stand for, and what purpose can it still be made to serve.(17)
Or, put into human terms:
Pity the young are so much more interesting than the old, but one could not be busy with workshop reconstruction were it not so!(18)
The metaphors Ashbee uses to describe his reconstructions are those of the sculptor or metal worker: digging off the accumulated sediment (which might mean, in practice, tearing down a later part of a building), ‘handling’ the structure, melting it down and ‘recasting’ it. The interior is, in any event, remade to modern demands. It is the visible face from which ugly things are torn away: and as he said of another house, in Westington:
We pulled down half the villa…and we drew forth again, as it were, the little yeoman’s house from the background, and let the sun shine into it once more.(19)
In this act the passive and patient bedrock of English culture is scraped clear of the encrusting Industrial Era, and raised again to its rightful position in the sun of the present. Reconstruction is a patriotic act(20).
There are several distinct elements to this two-part narrative. In the pre-Industrial/pre-Capitalist age England had discovered a way of life directly in contact with things and their making, which ennobled everyday life with the unself-conscious revelation of the divine. Puritanism, the social relations of capitalism, and the producer/product relations of machine industrialism then intervened. Isolated survivals of the Age of Arts and Crafts remained, and ought to be cherished, used as a guide, and even reintroduced into everyday life. But in an age which could not and ought not to throw away the machine, this unself-conscious everyday life of revelation must be reconstructed with the machine and capitalism taken into account. It was here that the challenge to the idealist lay; it was in the unexplored area of individual judgments where the architect led the way. It was here that what was good and right from the distant past must be decided, what was wrong thrown away, and what was left recast in the mould of the modern age, in a difficult, educated act of architectural judgment(21).
This is a far cry from simple antiquarianism, preservationism, or revivalism. To the extent that Ashbee slipped into any of these modes, it was an intentional act to bring worthy things of the past back into circulation. It was as if, by cutting out the Industrial Era one could butt the present onto the past, weld them together, and carry on with nothing but a leap in technology to disturb the continuity of culture.
As regards the countryside and the rural community, it too had fallen into decline, ‘forgotten’ by urban industrial culture on the one hand, and sucked dry of its young and sense of community on the other. Traditions being a product of community, and community a manifestation of tradition, the loss of one meant the loss of the other. Both must be re-fostered. Out of a community would come tradition, and out of tradition, community(22).
From this complex of insight and belief will have come any influence Ashbee may have exercised on a Campden mumming. He will have thought, as will the Guildsmen in his immediate intellectual orbit, not in terms of preserving a mumming for its own sake, but for its place in the regeneration of the community. Furthermore, far from thinking in terms of preserving the mumming as found, if found, Ashbee will have recast it(23). If the mummer’s play was the decayed remnant of pre-Industrial drama, as was widely assumed, then Ashbee’s tendency would have been to strip off the garment of decay to reveal the hidden ‘yeoman’ drama, bringing it into the sunshine of today. This, in fact, Ashbee did, drawing (then) obscure plays out of the Elizabethan period (for the most part), making them part of the School of Arts and Crafts curriculum, and re-staging them in January of each year as the Guild’s ‘Christmas play'(24).
This, rather than a strict revival of Christmas mumming as we know it. would have been typical of Ashbee. We can document this not only from his approach to architecture, but from his approach to other sports and customs in Campden. Two particular activities – The Guy Fawkes celebration organised by the Guild, and the annual sports at the swimming bath – will be studied in detail.
b. Ashbee, Sports, and Games
“It is a most suggestive thing”, Ashbee wrote,
to compare in the countryside where the Guild is settled, the great tradition of popular sport known as the Cotswold games, that found its fullest expression in the days of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and that lasted until the enclosure of the Common lands in the middle of the 19th century, with the condition of the popular sports at the end of the century. Riding, hunting, coursing, running, wrestling, leaping, bar spurning, boxing, quarter staff, dancing, singing and music, with innumerable forms of healthy exercise for men and women were practised by all ranks and classes. There was a fellowship, a leisure shown in these sports, craftsmanship, and costume, and colour were a part of them, badges and prizes were distributed, we have records of communal festivals intimately associated with the conditions of communal agriculture, and evidencing a fine solidarity in the life of the countryside; but in a short 50 years the whole of this is swept away and at the close of the century the countryside sports are reduced to a stray cricket club or so in which the casual labourers have no part, and the periodic visitations of gentlemanly shooters and riders who come into the district from God knows where, for the luxury of expensive sport.(25)
We sought when settling in the country to give our fellows a variety of different forms of sport, simple for the most part, but such as would make again for the solidarity of life, and fit in with the different seasons of the year…(26)
Ashbee mentions in this connection the winter play, the summer sports at the bathing lake, the school garden, and mentions that there were
opportunities too for football, hockey, cricket; and the foreman of the Guild woodshop, built up a fine band, recruited from townsmen and countrymen alike, which gives regular recitals, and through the medium of which much genuine music is homing once again in the village.(27)
In this statement there is, as is typical with Ashbee. a description of pre-Industrial conditions, emphasising the genius of place and listing the sports and communal solidarity of the time; a description of subsequent decay, noting the random and communally impoverished, even divisive, nature of the survivals; and concludes with a description of the uplift and reconstruction with the coming of the Guild. Typically, too, when resumed the old sports are not slavishly revived but thoroughly recast: the sports have become highly organised team events, underlain by distinct moral and civic undertones characteristic of the civilised sports movement of the end of the century.
Typically, too, contradicting realities are disregarded by Ashbee. He does not mention that football and the band were already active in Campden, nor does he list the other communal group activities which were independent of the Guild – the church choir, religious groups, bellringers, horse and dog racing, Morris dancers, the Volunteers. He overlooks the North Cotswold Farmers Association, the Reading Room, benefit societies, winter entertainments, bazaars, whist drives, travelling theatres and circuses, as well as typically countryside sports such as fighting, bird nesting, poaching and scrumping.
It might be argued that Ashbee’s parable takes account only of those sports in which all sections of the population could ideally have taken part; that those mentioned above, like the Viscount Campden’s coming of age celebrations from which Hodge was excepted(28), are sectional and sectarian, and celebrations of division rather than community. It might be said that the Guild’s celebrations aimed to embrace the entire community, and an example might be the Guild’s first Guy Fawkes celebration, put together just after the Guild arrived in 1902. But was this the reality?
c. Guy Fawkes, 1902-1905
Guy Fawkes Day does not seem to have been celebrated in the streets of Campden in any concerted way after street bonfires were repressed in the l840s by police gangs(29). On occasion the Vicar distributed pamphlets to the children of the National Schools explaining the meaning of bonfire night(30). and the Grammar School sometimes organised a bonfire with a guy, a notable enough departure to be reported in the Evesham Journal(3l). But the anti-Catholic implications of Guy Fawkes could be interpreted as an attack on the Earl of Gainsborough, Lord of the Manor and a committed Catholic, and a civic festival such as the Guild envisioned could potentially disturb the balance of religious feeling in Campden. This, and the unpredictability of weather in November, might explain why the town did not take the parade into its customary repertoire, when the Guild ceased to organise it.
Several elements in the Evesham Journal’s report of the first parade in 1902 suggest that Ashbee either wrote it himself or heavily influenced its author. The first three paragraphs of the report outline the structure of the parable, typical of Ashbee. of good old days/ decay/ and revival through the Guild:
Except as far as the youngsters are concerned, the observance of the Fifth of November has practically died out in the district, doubtless to the peace of many minds, but certainly to the sorrow of those who like to see old customs maintained, if only from sentimental reasons…
In the good old days every village had its bonfire, with an effigy of Guy Fawkes, and there was general rejoicing and merrymaking, to say nothing of the noise created by the discharge of firearms and cannons. Nowadays generally speaking the celebrations on the Fifth are confined to the surreptitious discharge of sundry crackers and squibs by small boys who generally succeed in dodging the police but are sometimes unfortunate enough to appear before their worships on a charge of breaking by-laws. Thus does the stern hand of matter-of-fact “progress” tear down the few remaining fragments of the veil of picturesque romance which clothes the past.
But at Chipping Campden, the fine old Cotswold town, Guy Fawkes Day was this year celebrated in a right royal manner. The members of the Guild of Handicraft arranged a torchlight procession and carnival, and invited the townspeople to cooperate…
But in the event:
Practically all those taking part were members of the Guild, only a few townspeople assisting…
most of the houses in the town were illuminated with fairy lamps, etc…(32)
The procession was headed by torchbearers and men in fancy dress on cycles, on horseback and on foot. These were followed by the Town Band, and then the decorated carriages: the parade had been arranged to collect money for the Campden Nursing Association (there were collectors walking along with the parade), and the first car was “The Nurses’ Car”, with nurse and child in a cart. After decorated and illuminated bicycles came the Guild woodworkers’ cart, one lad sawing and one planing. A boat-shaped car came representing the ‘life-boat nurse’; then the metal workers’ car, with two men and the tools of their trade. Guildsmen in a nigger minstrel troupe came next, then two footmen, then the blacksmiths’ car. The town fire engine and fire brigade came last.
The procession paraded the town. The spectator’s numbers were limited by rain which had fallen earlier in the day, without which
the function would have been one of the most successful Campden has ever known…(33)
The bonfire was lit in a field off the Aston Road, where fireworks were let off. The article expresses the hope that the celebration will be held again in 1903, with better weather.
Apart from Jim Pyment, who organised the parade (see III.4.4 below), the Guildsmen who took part remain anonymous. In contrast, each of three London workmen helping to install the Guild’s electrical plant is named, his costume described, and Mrs. Gibson of the Red Lion is thanked for arranging their costumes: which can be interpreted as an acknowledgement by Ashbee of persons whose involvement (unlike that of Guildsmen) could not be taken for granted.
The report also concentrates on the Guild as provider of the entertainment, and effectively discounts the effort made by the town. “Most” of the houses were decorated with fairy lights, etc., for example, but the report briefly dismisses these:
the effect was in most cases very artistic, though none call for any special mention.(34)
As is typical with Ashbee, the focus of the article glances off the contribution of the the town and returns to the Guild.
We can see Ashbee’s influence not only in the parable on progress in the introduction and in the article’s focus on the Guild, but also in an unexpectedly erudite reference to a costume “from a design by Inigo Jones” (an elliptical reference to Ashbee himself?).
The Guild carts evoke – almost certainly intentionally – mediaeval guild pageantry. Furthermore, in addition to the patriotic overtones already immanent in Guy Fawkes Day and the demonstration of communal solidarity represented by the parade, the Guild introduced charity-collectors – weaving into the parade a further strand of ‘civic responsibility’, and thereby making the parade more
explicitly than it already was an object lesson in Citizenship. Typically Ashbee, it was not merely a spectacle, not only an advertisement for the Guild, not only a lesson in history, but a civics lesson as well.
d. Swimming sports.
The summer swimming sports share similar features. These were first held in September, 1903, to open the bathing lake built by the Guild. They were initially under the management of the Essex House Sports Club (the Guild’s Sports Club), and were inaugurated on a very high note. Lt. R. Montague Glossop of Hull presented:
a splendid silver challenge cup to be annually competed for (together with the medal to be kept) by residents in Campden and district, and of course the interest of the afternoon lay in the eventual destination of this trophy. The cup, which was on view in Mr. J.R. Neve’s window during last week, was made at the Guild, being designed by Mr. W.A. White, and executed by J. Bailey, assisted by T. Hewson and H. Osborn, the enamel of the Bathing Lake being the work of F.C. Varley.(35)
Guildsman Varley won the cup by achieving the most points in five events, the possible events being a handicap race of one length, diving, a long race of six lengths, high Jump, a beginner’s race, a balaclava race, a tub race, galley fights, greasy pole (winner taking a ham) and tilting the bucket. Also planned, but cancelled due to cold, were the long jump, plunging, and Davy Jones’ Locker race.
For Ashbee. the sports took place within the context of the young Olympic movement. The Evesham Journal printed a letter from Lt. Glossop to Ashbee:
What a great day in the athletic world for England and also for history would be the reviving of the Cotswold Games which have been obsolete for so many years; what a great pride you and we will take in days to come in seeing the seed we have sown spread its roots far around the county of Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties, and may we hope that we shall in days to come be able to develop many champions at swimming and wrestling fit to compete with the world’s greatest athletes. I sincerely hope that I may have many years amongst you, and in future I shall make a point of always being amongst you for them and shall get together all the best wrestlers in London and Paris, so that we shall have quite a unique gathering unequalled before or since!(36)
Included in his suggested inscription for the prize cup is the phrase: “On the revival of the Cotswold Games”(37). Thus the swimming sports were framed as the reconstruction of the celebrated Dover’s Games.
In 1903 the judges of the contests were Col. Lynch-Staunton, III.3.2 p.189 G.F. Loosely, and Ulric Stanley. Lynch-Staunton was a Roman Catholic and a relatively recent addition to the local gentry (his daughter married stained-glass artist Paul Woodroffe in 1907; though not a Guildsman, Woodroffe was a member of the ‘extended’ Guild); Loosely was closely associated with the Guild, and was himself an artist; Ulric Stanley, the Campden farmer and politician, made up the finely crafted balance of representation on the panel of judges. First and second in the beginners’ race were taken by non-Guild locals, a local man won the greasy pole competition, and Lord Gainsborough’s son took a second. This was a respectable beginning for what seems to have become, for a number of years, a fairly successful regular event.
Swimming was important to Ashbee – it had patriotic and moral dimensions underlined by the poor health of many of the men attempting to sign up for the Boer War – and seems to have been one of the few areas, outside the Guild, where he came into regular contact certainly with local children. It was an educational contact: among local men who recall Ashbee today, it is in connection with swimming lessons or the “Ashbee shilling” which he gave when children completed swimming proficiency tests(38). The survival of the swimming sports can be attributed in part to Ashbee’s motivation; but it must be remembered that a movement for a swimming bath in Campden pre-dated Ashbee’s arrival: The Grammar School, for example, made extensive use of the baths throughout the period(39). The comparative success of the bath and the games before the war must be due in large part to this meeting of motives. Having said this, it is important to note that although the Earl of Gainsborough and local tradesmen continued to give prizes, after 1903 the judges were drawn mainly from Guild friends and sympathisers and that there are developments outside of the sports which might be interpreted as signs of hostility – if not to the baths and sports, then to Ashbee and the Guild(40).
To understand Ashbee’s approach to celebration as such, it will be useful to look at some of the elements of the swimming sports as they developed over the years.
In 1904, the second year of the sports, a water polo match was played in Campden for the first time, between Campden and Evesham. As a further elaboration, the Town Band played and tea was served on the grounds(41).
In July 1905, the first in a series of water sports leading up to the September Glossop sports was held. The Glossop Cup itself was won by a local baker(42).
In 1906 the sports were expanded with the addition of a prize competition for ladies. Despite protests, this had to be held separately from the male competition, with judges the only males allowed to be present. The description of the women’s prize – a mace, designed by Ashbee and made by the Guild – underlines again the sense of purpose and reconstruction evident in the creation of the men’s sports:
The design represents a mace of the old fashioned type, made of silver and set upon an ebony staff. On top of the silver is a crown encircled with mother-of-pearl, and the whole upper surface between the cresting of the crown is also of coloured mother-of-pearl with aquatic forms intertwining. In the middle of this and mounted upon four seahorses is a silver representation of the famous Dover’s Castle, the trophy of the great sportsman of the reign of James First, known to all inhabitants of Campden and the Cotswolds. The winner of the mace receives annually a silken smock, this also commemorating one of the gifts of old Robert Dover and his Cotswold games.
hoped in future to see ladies from all parts of the county plunge into Campden lake to win the laurels of fame and take back to their village or domain the mace of honour…(43)
A local tradesman won the 1906 men’s cup, and the only outside lady competitor – a Miss Symington from Stratford-on-Avon – won the mace. Ashbee took a first in diving, which he gracefully declined.
In 1907 Glossop added a shield for girls under 18, and a cup for lifesaving(44).
1908 and 1909 were both poor years for the sports. The first could be attributed in part to the weather, but the Guild had broken up at the end of 1907, Ashbee spent the end of 1908 and the beginning of 1909 in the United States, and much of Ashbee’s attention was focussed in this period outside the Guild and Campden(45). Attendance at the sports was only moderate in 1910, but a “great” water polo match had been organised between a Gloucester and a Cheltenham team:
the play being of a different class to anything previously seen at the lake.(46)
An Australian won the men’s cup, and the daughter of a local tradesman won the women’s mace.
Originally, the Guild’s sports club organised the games, collected funds and maintained the lake. The Guild company collapsing in 1907/1908, by 1911 the lake had fallen into a dilapidated state, requiring extensive repairs. This was brought to the attention of the Parish Council, which – one wonders about the underlying motives – didn’t feel it could afford the repairs. Sports were held, however, and the Bournville Athletic Club from Birmingham gave a display and a polo match, winning both Glossop prizes(47). In the sports for 1912, six Campden boys were pitted against six boys from the Canal-Road School, Hoxton: “The champion elementary school swimmers in the London area”. The Campden children lost(48). The general sports were apparently not held in 1913, but in August Ashbee arranged the handicaps for the Grammar School swimming sports(49). War obviated sports in 1914, and despite attention from local boys and others, the lake again fell into disrepair over the course of the First World War(50).
A direct comparison can be drawn between the swimming sports, the Campden School of Arts and Crafts, and the Guild’s own ‘sing-songs’ (described in III.3.1. footnote 22). Just as visitors at the latter included distinguished authors and artists, so the swimming sports were meant to draw the finest athletes to Campden, and the School of Arts and Crafts to bring the most distinguished authors and thinkers of the day to lecture. The intent was the same, the target community different: but each case is an example of the community-building/educational package that is characteristic of Ashbee and the Guild.
e. Rustic Sympathy
Ashbee’s characteristic mode of reconstruction, illustrated by the Guy Fawkes celebrations and the bathing lake sports, argues with near certainty that Ashbee had no direct influence on the mummers. As pointed out, his projects are marked by a formal and spiritual sophistication and a sense of general civic improvement which do not correspond to the mumming as known.
There is the possibility of a different kind of influence, however: a personal influence directly on the mummers themselves, perhaps as a type of patron. Ashbee has left a picture of himself in leisured and comfortable intercourse with local labourers, as in the anecdote:
an old Gloucestershire labourer once put it to me wisely and shrewdly, – he was a humanist; we were smoking a pipe one night in his cottage. Quietly, in all the dignity of dialect he said “Mr. Ashbee, I like educated people. The trouble is, – they’re so ignorant.(51)
It would be easy to picture him as Fiona MacCarthy has,
an avid collector of reminiscences and records of Gloucestershire May Games, May Queens, Jack-in-the-Greens, Whitsun festivities and Christmas wakes…(52)
discussing old folk customs with local labourers, and thereby inspiring a revival of the mumming. A different picture emerges if Ashbee’s self-projection is set to one side. His sense of country life is displayed in his parable of Cockney lads in Hertfordshire:
There is a story told in a Hertfordshire village, of some London country holiday children, sharp as needles, with white cheeks and sparkling eyes, who were boarded out for a week with the cottagers. The London boys hung over the bridge watching the country lads fish. They had never seen the operation of fishing before, and so for three days they followed the process with intense interest: on the fourth day they showed signs of restlessness: on the fifth they began to mock their Hertfordshire cousins, and at the end of the week were teaching them how to do it better. It is less in the thought of doing it better, than of doing it in some way that shall make the work I want to do possible, – some form of agriculture that shall be contributory to the Arts and Crafts, – that I offer this parable. It has a double edge, for to my thinking the country can teach and help us even more than the town.(53)
Ashbee was not instinctively in sympathy with the pace of life in the countryside: the dominant image from the record is of a man who valued efficiency, a weekender, who could be seen dictating to his secretary even on the way to catch the train to London(54). When he wrote to his wife as late as 1912 extolling the virtues of the folk and rural culture of Suffolk, she replied testily:
The amusing thing is that in Broad Campden, at your door, you have exactly the same local conditions in petto – pure rusticity – 50 wonderful characters, memories, dreams, traditions, for the asking. But do you ever trouble to go and sit for an hour and talk to these people? No – it needs an honourable Tollemache to “take you on his personal calls” “to note how they received him”!!! – as if Suffolk peasants were any more wonderful than Gloucestershire. If I don’t talk and preach at you till I feel a regular Mrs. Candle, all these old people around us would die and vanish, and you would never be a crumb the wiser.(55)
She accused him of using their home “as a weekend cottage”, and concluded, with more than a touch of irony:
But as you say these things cannot be done in a hurry – least of all between Friday night and Tuesday morning.(56)
In May of the next year she wrote in a similar vein:
It amuses me that you have to pick up a London guardsman to make all these discoveries about the instinctive wisdom of country people, when you live half your life in one of the most rural and untouched districts of England simply saturated with country lore to be had at the price of a little leisured inter-course with the peasantry.(57)
It was only in his enforced stay in Campden at the onset of the First World War, for example, and as a member of the local resettlement committee for Belgian refugees, that he discovered how low the local agricultural labourer’s wage was, in real terms(58).
This picture is closer to his own disparaging one of
a gentleman issuing [from his house] in a hurry to catch a train, equipped with handbag, umbrella, and silken hat…(59)
than someone on intimate terms with locals and the locality.
The only thoroughly native custom Ashbee reports in the Journals is the Morris dance, and in this report he has no special role towards it, except to watch and appreciate. There is even less to suggest that he had anything to do with mummers: he has not even left us a poem in their praise.
Ashbee set out to improve Campden on the basis of a prior vision of the decaying countryside, and without first investing himself in the place. A custom like the Morris, which seems to have been very much alive when the Guild arrived, and which did not need or permit improvement, he recast in a literary paean(60); other customs, such as Guy Fawkes and the defunct Cotswold Games, he revived physically and recast spiritually. The mummers neither appear in his praise nor appear by name to have been recast by him.
This was certainly not because he was unaware of the mummers play as such; Ashbee was fully aware of the mummers play as an item of culture. He had seen the Peace Egg play at the Holman Hunt’s Christmas party in London in January 1888, when it was performed by children, and which was of sufficient significance for him to have preserved the programme of the occasion and a comment among his Journals(61). Janet Ashbee collected a copy of the mummers play performed for the Ashbees at Christmas 1901 in Oxfordshire, which Ashbee characteristically parable-ised in his Memoirs:
Here the village children still did their Miracle Play on Christmas morning. A Journal entry tells how they came, like a fairy lot, swept the kitchen floor at dawn, and prepared the stage for their play: “Enter Prologue with a broom”: – not inappropriate for such as were preparing the stage of an old order for a new ‘Morality’.(62)
This image – like the pithy quote of the Gloucestershire labourer – simply does not strike true: as pointed out in the footnote, it is not. There is a later reference to the Oxfordshire mumming in the Journals in a different context(63); and the complete failure to mention the Campden mumming in any of Ashbee’s documents must certainly be due to the fact that he did not know of a Campden mumming.
To repeat, when Ashbee reconstructed “mumming”, it took the characteristic form of the Guild’s Christmas play.
f. Indirect Influences
There remains the question of indirect influence, which is more difficult to assess if only because it can take the form of a reaction against outside interference – as the recent history of the mumming shows. Added to this is the fact that Ashbee’s writing and persona have outlived his personal presence in Campden; and as Headmaster of an educational colony his enthusiasms and learning will have diffused in different ways among the different members of his circle.
In assessing this influence, too much must not be made of his knowledge of folklore; it was not unique, and was a part of the general equipment of the educated Englishman of the day. Antiquarian interests were, however, an integral part of his vision, and his knowledge was an educated one. Laurence Gomme. a founding member of the Folklore Society, was among the circle into which his father introduced Ashbee as a young man(64). As a founder of the Survey of London, Ashbee worked closely with Gomme, and Gomme’s son apprenticed in Ashbee’s architectural office(65). In a letter to F.A. Hyett, a founder of the Record Office collection in Gloucester (and a member of the County Council’s education committee), Ashbee addressed him as “from one antiquary to another”(66). Among Ashbee’s first lectures to Campden in the School of Arts and Crafts was “The Cotswold Games and Their Place in History, Being an Address—On the Old-Time Sports of the Countryside”, which he included in his edition of the old field books of Weston Subedge published under the title The Last Records of a Cotswold Community(67).
Although active, however, his antiquarianism was neither strictly historic nor pedantic. Percy Rushen – author of The History and Antiquities of Chipping Campden – pointed out Ashbee’s mistake in Last Records In calling Campden a village:
alas why make the same slip as a newspaper reporter in the Evesham Jnl. lately. Campden has not been a village for at least 700 years and probably longer. If Westington is referred to I would point out that it is not a village but a hamlet or tithing.(68)
But this, and other slips remarked by Rushen, were beside the point, and Ashbee did not subsequently correct his usage. As we have seen, his was not a legal or historic, but a socio-metaphoric imagination: “village” and “town” were places in a social-psychological landscape, not economic and political facts. It is this, particularly as it was embodied in the Guild legend, that he bequeathed to those around him, and to subsequent generations.
Had Ashbee known of a Campden mumming, and had it been revived or reinvigorated under his direct influence, it would almost certainly have taken a form which we cannot recognise in the 19th century mumming nor that revived after the 1914-18 War.
Given Ashbee’s awareness of the mumming play as an item of culture and his position of authority in the extended Guild there are a number of his idiosyncracies which may have indirectly had an influence on a Campden mumming: his emphasis on male culture and group activities, and the cultivation of communal solidarity through ‘sports’ and entertainments; his enthusiasm for the reconstruction of pre-Industrial items of culture; his general awareness of ‘folk culture’, however non-specialised. All of these were elements in the culture at large; Ashbee’s contribution will have been to embody these in the Guild ideology, and to elevate them in a package of civic regeneration available to later generations as a Guild-centred philosophy of local heritage.
3. Janet Ashbee
a. Philosophy, Customs
Janet Forbes married C.R. Ashbee in 1898 when she was 20 and he was 35, and clearly shared a great many of his ideas and enthusiasms.
Looking back in his Memoirs and assessing Janet’s impact on the Guild, Ashbee wrote:
Her coming into the little world of East London life and labour, – the workshops of Essex House, had a profound effect, especially upon the young; it brought music and song, and a new way of looking at life.(1)
As Alan Crawford put it:
To the apprentices and the Guildsmen of her own age she became an ideal figure, confidante, holiday companion, mother, sister, near and far, not challenging their relationship with her husband, but somehow making it less intense, less one-sided.(2)
She entered into the world of the workshops, writing poems about the men and being written about, going on the Guild’s annual river trips as the headmistress-companion, finding the life of comrade wife to Ashbee’s visionary an exciting one.
It was she who organised the Guild’s sing-songs: “It is striking”, she wrote in 1901,
how much the men enjoy such little gatherings, and yet how unable they are to arrange anything of the kind themselves.(3)
It was in song, and especially folk-song, that she found her metier. She was an accomplished musician, and among a circle of friends which included John Masefield and Laurence Housman she wrote, read, and shared folksongs or songs in the folk song mould(4). She helped with the choral group in the Campden School of Arts and Crafts, as well as lecturing. In the 1905-1906 session she delivered a series of three lectures on the ‘Development of Music'(5). In the first of these Janet dealt with “the music of monks and minstrels”:
Mrs. Ashbee traced the history of music out of mere sounds into its first period of conscious construction, showed how in England it took two forms, that of minstrels and that of the Church, both of whom had borrowed their form and method from classic civilization, both developing in ways of their own, the former into the popular English folk song, the latter into Gregorian chant and plain song. To illustrate this passages were sung from “The Recessional” of King Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt, an early 15th century French notes to words by Ben Jonson, and the children sang as illustrative of folk song a traditional haymakers’ song. “I’ve my one, my men: my two, my men: to mow my hay all day,” and the famous Eton song, “The Twelve Apostles”, which was much appreciated. Continuing her sketch of the development of English music, Mrs. Ashbee brought her description up to the time of the Renaissance, the period at which classic music in England commenced, and showed how rounds and catches were essentially things of English creation. These she had illustrated by singers present with three interesting rounds, of which the last, by the great English composer Purcell, purported to be a homourous rendering of a tavern brawl. The last illustration showing the more complete development of musical form was a madrigal with some twenty voices. “Down in a lowering vale”, early 16th century, excellently rendered from Mr. Matthew’s instruction by the students.(6)
Janet delivered a lecture in 1907 (not reported in the press nor preserved elsewhere, unfortunately) on ‘Our National Folk Song'(7). In the 1909-1910 session of the School of Arts and Crafts there was a series of four lectures on ‘Music and Folk Song’ “illustrated by the students and the schoolchildren” and delivered by Cecil Sharp, the Ashbees. Miss Mattie Kay and Miss Ethel Richardson(8).
Janet collected songs – not only from manuscripts, but to a limited extent from children and adults(9). Christmas 1901, for example, was spent at Drayton St. Leonard, Oxfordshire. On the evening of December 27, some children came to the house carolling. She noted two lines:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel,
and recorded a souling song she sang to herself while fetching the children something to eat. They sang “The Owl and the Pussycat” to her, the words to which she recorded. She then taught them ‘As I sat on a Sunny Bank’, and
I thought of the little Russian Jews in the Bowery and how I had taught them that song a year ago…
and then taught the children a wassailing song(10).
In February 1902 the Ashbees were in Drayton St. Leonard again, and the children offered a shroving song. One boy
recollected one verse of the lovely Oxfordshire May Day Song, which I must teach them all next time. They were keen to do the “mummers’ act”, but were in such a hurry over it that we could hardly hear the words. Other games followed: Old Roger. Round and round the village, the Miller, The Farmyard, Draw a pail of water, etc.(11)
It is difficult to know how much she collected or might have collected from children: her journals may have been heavily edited in making up the Ashbee Journals, in which case a great deal that she wrote will have been lost(12). That she elicited a wealth of childlore is clear from various of the surviving entries in the Journals. In one, for example, she says that several of
the naughtiest boys in school, came and sat with me and told me all the fantastic tales that came into their heads, the ghosts and haunted houses and enchanted trees that materialism has not quite destroyed(13)
She collected from adults as well: a mummers’ play in 1901 from Drayton St. Leonard(l4); some songs in 1910 from Shepherd Hedges (an old man living in the Campden Almshouses and consistently referred to in the Journals as the ‘folk singer'(15); for my reservations, see footnote).
Janet was interested in the collection, use and recirculation of song and folk song, and edited The Essex House Song Book which appeared in 1905. In Alan Crawford’s words, it
was a typical Ashbee production, racy, eclectic, a little self-conscious, practical – if the songs were not sung it lost its point – and traditional in a special sense; the history of English song quarried, not with scholarly detachment, but with an eager sense of its modern value, its idealism. It owed a good deal, both in the selection of songs and in its spirit, to the folk song revival of the time.(16)
The Song Book drew heavily on the published works of Lucy Broadwood and Fuller Maitland, and Baring-Gould and Fleetwood Sheppard. It was largely made up from extant literature, with modern contributions by the Ashbees and their circle which reflected songs sung at the Guild get-togethers: “English in the greater sense of the word”, according to Ashbee, “or as we at Essex House try to understand it”(17). As Alan Crawford has said,
It would require a public educated to his rather special way of enjoying music before the Song Book could reach a wide audience, educated not just to ‘appreciation’, but to singing together and learning from the past, a sense of music as both social and traditional.(18)
Though she collected from adults and was certainly concerned with adult education, Janet’s particular interest lay with children. Soon after arriving in Campden she noted in her journal:
Schools are always fascinating; but here I find something wanting in my day if I have not either been with the children in class time, or had them in to our garden to learn songs or help with the vegetables. They have brought me plants and seeds, made the marrow bed, started the tomatoes, planted sweet Williams, and pansies and overpowered me with nosegays. I have constantly had to refuse gifts of rabbits and kittens. Sometimes we go for rambles to Northwlck Park or Broadway Tower…(19)
Her main interest seems to have been with younger children – she visited the Infants’ School three times in May 1902 after arriving in Campden, twice in June; and though she visited the Girls’ School four times and the Boys’ School four times in the same two months, by the time her school visits petered out at the end of 1903 she had been to the Infants’ School over twice as many times as to either of the upper schools(20). She did not visit the Catholic school(21).
On her second visit to the Infants’, in May, Janet brought them two songs, and in October brought them a new song book(22). Ashbee’s obituary in the Evesham Journal says that Janet
collected the songs in the Essex House Song Book and taught them to scores of young creatures.(23)
Not surprisingly, therefore, Janet’s main contributions to seasonal customs in Campden revolved around children, with Christmas carolling in the Winter and May Day and Whitsun celebrations in the Spring.
b. Spring celebrations.
As far as sources permit such a statement, May Day was not ordinarily celebrated in Campden prior to the coming of the Guild: the Spring fetes and festivities were held during Whitsun. Nor had there been a civic festival involving parades and pageantry since the 1895-1897 Whitsun fetes. It was a marked departure, therefore, when in 1903, a year after the Guild came, a committee of Guild and townspeople put together a festival for May Day on the nearest Saturday, which was May 2nd(24).
Under wet and muddy conditions several hundred children gathered in the Market Square at half-past two on the Saturday, a large proportion of them girls in white dresses. The rain eventually stopped and there was a procession around the town, led by a toy band. The children were decked with flowers. A number of Guildsmen appeared in fancy dress, including one as “Jack in the Green”, and there was a costumed band consisting of Campden men F. Bennett, Benfield, Hathaway and Guildsman Buntin.
In the Square the children sang the Padstow May Song (adapted to Campden), and the Oxfordshire May Song. Mrs. Ashbee was responsible for the singing of the children.
The Guildsmen danced around the Jack-in-the-Green, there was a procession to the Court House Orchard, and there
the pretty maypole dance was gone through under the management of Mrs. W. Haines and Mrs. Ashbee, the music consisting of 17th century songs and dances.(25)
In the orchard there were sports, tea for about 350 children, a comic cricket match. Guild nigger minstrels, prizes for best dressed boys and girls. The celebration was a success, and was repeated on a somewhat smaller scale on May Day in 1904, minus songs in the Market Square. Janet’s mother awarded the prizes for children’s costumes(26). A May Day celebration appears to have been held again in 1905, with the maypole dance in the Market Square. It was not. however, reported in the press, nor recorded in any other source of which I am aware apart from a pair of photographs; it appears to have been the last occasion on which specifically May Day celebrations were held(27).
In 1903, the Guild helped to revive the Whit Monday fete, with Guildsman Jim Pyment chairing the fete committee. His wife (one of the few instances of a Guildsman’s wife – apart from Janet Ashbee – taking part in public events) arranged the first tableau: a walking display, mainly of children, led by a banner proclaiming “Spring”. Behind this, in the midst of a bevy of white-dressed children came two men carrying a little girl on a kind of throne/sedan chair on their shoulders – a type of May Queen. Behind this walked a man pushing a cart in which stood a Maypole, the ribbons of which were held by boys and girls walking alongside.(28).
In the following year, under the direction of Janet Ashbee, the ideas embodied in this tableau were expanded into a full-blown play written especially, and performed in the morning of the Whit Monday fete by children. “A May Day Interlude” was, in the words of Alan Crawford,
a piece of neo-pagan myth-making, celebrating seasonal rebirth, innocent, and compelling to its authors. Five hundred copies were printed at the Essex House Press and distributed throughout the town.(29)
According to the Evesham Journal
The performance took place in the Market Hall, and Mrs. Ashbee had evidently paid the greatest possible attention to the training of the children, all of whom did their work well. They were appropriately dressed, and though but of tender years, spoke their lines and sang their songs in good style.
The Conquest of Winter by Summer is the subject of the interlude, and the Prolocutor introduces it in the following lines:
“Ye folks of Campden, here we bring a scene Set forth in simple form, that may perchance In time long gone, on this same spot, have then Been by your fathers played. By us in sport. By them in serious play, the self-same thing is shadowed forth: now that old Winter grim Gives (slowly dying) place to Summer Kind.”
The Play opens with Winter and his attendants on the scene, dressed in sad coloured clothes, carrying dead branches, dead leaves, dead sticks, and so on. To the spirited air “Pussy’s in the well” they sing a lament at the impending departure of Winter. The burden of their song being:-
“Ah! well a day! Winter must away. Ah! well a day! Winter cannot stay.”
Eventually Winter and his attendants sink to the ground and lie as dead. On then comes the Procession of Summer, boys and girls dressed in white and bearing green branches and flowers. A quartet of girls bear the May Garland hanging from crossed rods resting on their shoulders. The May Garland consists of two crossed hoops, decorated with flowers and ribbons in the centre of which is suspended a doll. The doll has not been hanged for some nursery crime; the figure is called a wax doll to satisfy “impenetrable orthodoxy”; in reality it is “the Spirit of the Earth, the symbol III.3.3 P-207 of the sap of things that rises each year afresh in man and beast and plant, bringing new vigour and strength, bringing with it increase in all things fruitful. While the others in the procession may dance and antic as they please in time to their singing, the four girls who carry the garland walk soberly. (We are quoting from the stage directions.) To those who understand, their burden is the core of the procession”. The May Queen followed the May Garland; behind her walks the Sun Charmer, the Rain Charmer, the Wind Charmer; and last of all Jack-in-the-Green. The procession sings as it marches round. The sleeping figures of Winter and his attendants are discovered; the May Queen touches them with her wand and revives them, after more singing Winter yields to Summer, Jack-in-the-Green sings a song of rejoicing at the fact that Summer has come, the refrain being “High, low! High, low! all the earth is gaily!” After the three Charmers have introduced themselves the children sing the maypole song and dance the maypole dance, which we gather should be danced as wildly and unrestrainedly as possible. The May Queen stills the revel with a wave of her wand, and commands that green is to be hung everywhere. With shouts and acclamations all throw flowers and wreaths at the foot of the May Garland and the procession is reformed and marches away. The Play was a picturesque affair, the dresses and music being very prettily arranged.(30)
I have shown elsewhere(31) that in Ashbee’s iconography the Guild itself was identified with Jack-in-the-Green, the Maypole, and other symbols of youth and renewal, which were in turn interpreted as manifestations of the spirit of Humanism. of pre-Puritan communitas. Enacted as pagan, pre-Industrial items of culture they were symbols of Reconstruction, just as the winter plays were. The Prologue to “A May Day Interlude” was meant in earnest:
In time long gone, on this same spot, have then Been by your fathers played.(32)
The intent was to conflate the past with the present, delivering an illustrated lecture on Humanism and spiritual reconstruction.
The production of “A May Day Interlude” was highly structured and well organised; it was educational and had high production values. It was a modern version of a Tudor May Game, the Spring equivalent of the Christmas mumming play.
Nothing of the type or scale of “A May Day Interlude” was produced again in Campden, nor does Janet appear to have organised subsequent Whitsun celebrations.
The rest of the day was so crowded with events – indeed, a glut(33) – that in the following year a meeting was called to determine whether or not another fete could be managed. The chairman of the meeting, Ulric Stanley
said the fetes had given great enjoyment in previous years, although they had cost a lot of time and labour, but if they could bring off another one without making it too risky he thought it desireable they should do so.(34)
There was no parade; the more usual races, sideshows and town band were supplemented with the six member Marlborough Pierrots hired from Birmingham(35). The day, not organised by the Guild, was not focussed on children.
c. Christmas Carolling.
Janet Ashbee organised Christmas carolling straight off for Christmas 1902, and she apparently maintained it as long as she was in the Campden area(36). Janet’s carolling was characteristically different from the ‘hap-hazard’ night-visiting custom which – as far as sources permit a judgment to be made – was carried on by young men(37) Hap-hazard’ is an Ashbee term, being used here in a technical sense; see III.3.4, below). She described her first years’ carolling in the Journals:
In the evenings we have had carol-singing through the town, 14 little neighbours’ children in red riding hoods and coloured lanterns, and some 1/2 dozen grown ups habited in black gowns or white hoods, to keep the little band together. One night they went to Moorat’s house and sang him his carol ‘The Snow lay on the ground’. He was delighted and came out to his garden gate, in the starlight, joined in with his little chirpy husky voice. The children are very interested in the proceeds of the collecting boxes which are to be devoted to giving them swimming tickets for the bathing lake we are about to make.(38)
The late Harry Osborn, a Guildsman’s son and one of the “little neighbour’s children” recalled the carolling in 1981:
This consisted of about 12 or 14 boys and girls. She had us in her drawing room teaching us a repertoire of carols we had never heard before. She spent many hours at the piano trying to get us to sound more like skylarks than the flock of crows we were. When the time drew nigh for us to go into action she had red cloaks and hoods made for us all, which perhaps made us look better than we sounded. A few nights before Christmas she issued forth with us in marching order out for business. She knew just where to go to perform. Anybody known to be thin of purse, we didn’t waste time on. After the evening’s exertions we marched back to Woolstapler’s Hall where we were regaled with hot cocoa and cakes served by a uniformed white aproned parlour maid. Several nights of this till Christmas. I think this is one of the most treasured memories of Mrs. Ashbee that I have.
What I have just said about not stopping at poor people’s doors was not by any means, other than a desire to refrain from recovering from them what they could not spare.(39)
Campden native Don Ellis, who also went with the carollers, recalled a white cord to which all the children held, to prevent them getting lost in the poorly-lighted streets(40); this cord is featured in a Christmas drawing of the carollers by a visitor to the Guild(4l). The late Bill Payne (Jack-in-the-Green in the “May Day Interlude”, child actor in several plays at the Guild, later in the cast of the BBC radio series “The Archers”) recalled the carolling with fondness in a letter to Mrs. Ashbee in the 1950s; his sister was another of the carollers(42). Don Ellis’ father was H.G. Ellis, fishmonger and owner of the Campden Basket Makers; Bill Payne’s father was a labourer who had left the land and gone to work for better pay and career chances on the railroad(43): Mr. Osborn was the son of a Guildsman, nephew of the then manager of the Guild. They were children, that is, not of agricultural labourers (such as performed in the Campden mummers in the 19th century and after the First World War), but of families rising into or firmly implanted in the artisan and middle classes.
The Ashbee carolling was highly formalised and structured, with full adult supervision over young children. The singing was rehearsed, the children and adults were costumed, and the former were connected by a rope and carried ornamental lanterns. The collection taken could not to be seen either in terms of charity or immediate gratification (in the 1902 carolling the children will have had to wait six months for their tickets to the bathing lake to be valid). The collection was for a good, socially useful, and, as far as the children were concerned, abstract purpose. In the structure, the organisation, the displacement of the reward away from the person into a kind of savings account, the elaboration of costumes, properties and singing, it was a typical Ashbee event, and not unlike the Town Band as organised under Guildsman Jim Pyment (see III.3.4, below).
The carolling in this form did not survive Janet’s personal oversight; it was a person-specific custom, stamped with the recognisable mark of the Ashbee “school”. It came to an end when she let it go.
d. Influence on the Mumming?
Of the two, Ashbee and Janet, direct influence on the mummers is more likely to have been exercised by Janet: she, after all, was more closely involved with local people on a day-to-day basis and is remembered for her warmth and approachability. She was no less aware of her station, however, and although she delighted in shocking Campden in her early days, and challenged Campden’s established order(44), she was deeply conservative in other ways. Visiting Philadelphia in 1900 she wrote in her journal:
Mrs. Dalmas, true to the instinct of her Scotch blood, supported Charley and me in our assertion that the inferior races must go into second place and that our white skins must (as she said) “preserve their privilege of keeping themselves clean”.(45)
She was very aware of her own social duty and became incensed when others in Campden seemed to be failing to do theirs(46); this was the engine of her reforming drive. She was a confidante of persons in trouble; she would call to her home and offer advice to a girl said to be going astray; she sat with at least one dying woman, recording the experience at some length in her journal; took soup to the ill; established a baby clinic to teach mothers how to take care of their new born children: organised a knitting group at the beginning of World War I(47). She wrote to Ashbee in 1913:
Mary and I have just come in from a round of the village in the little cart, seeing various serfs and thralls,(48)
and it was within this sense of station and social structure that she was approachable. Janet’s sense of structure is reflected in the organised nature of her personal customs, with their lessons and elaborations of costume, properties and material; features which are not dissimilar to those of Ashbee’s customs. Given the nature of the Campden mumming as we know it from later sources, when it is distinctly “hap-hazard” in Ashbee’s terms, Janet Ashbee’s direct influence is highly unlikely.
Her indirect influence is a different matter. She was aware of mumming as such, collected a mummers’ play in 1901, and elicited a kind of performance from Oxfordshire children in 1902. Had she known of a mumming in Campden, she will almost certainly have noted this fact, and encouraged it as one of the important facets of Campden’s “inspired mediaevalism”. While it is unlikely that there was an overt mumming in Campden, she might well have talked about “mumming” with children, which, given her prestige among them, may have raised the possibility of a post-war revival by increasing the general awareness and acceptability of ‘mumming’ per se. Mumming needs both an audience and performers; on the basis of the known membership of her carolllngs, compared with the known membership of the post-Great War mummings, she is more likely to have contributed to the potential membership of the audience.
It is unlikely that either Janet or C.R. Ashbee were directly involved in a Campden mumming. The next section looks at the impact an individual Guildsmen had on local customs, and at the question of whether this Guildsman might have been a source of influence on the mumming.
4. The Influence of a Guildsman:
a. Guildsman Pyment
Jim Pyment was foreman of the Guild woodworking shop. He remained in Campden until his death in 1927(1), and throughout his life was closely involved in a number of Campden customs, including two of those Christopher Whitfield claimed the Guild had revived and/or reinvigorated: the Town Band and the Morris dance.
Pyment was among the more mature of the men who came with Ashbee to Campden: he was elected a Guildsman in 1894, was married, and had two young sons at the time of the move. On the collapse of the Guild in 1907, he founded the firm of builders and ecclesiastical woodworkers which still bears his name. When the Guild Trust collapsed he bought the Silk Mill, in which several of the Guild workshops carried on.
Pyment was a man who could lead and organise without being overbearing. Alec Miller was among the ten or twelve cabinet makers who worked under Pyment in the early Campden days, and wrote of him:
his oversight was of the slightest and with him we were quickly on terms of real friendliness…[he] exercised a certain control, issued wood and material as required, discussed problems of construction and watched that CRA’s [C.R. Ashbee’s] designs were faithfully carried out.(2)
Ashbee’s personality alienated local trade(3), but Pyment, according to Ashbee in 1919:
has taken over the Guild workshops and picked up, as an energetic Londoner, most of the local building business.(4)
Mrs. Pyment was the only one of the Guild wives (apart from Mrs. Ashbee) who took an organising role in public events, organising the tableau of ‘Spring’ in the Whit Monday fete of 1903. Ashbee – who was not given to noticing Guild wives in his Journals (and then never in such a positive way) – wrote of Mrs. Pyment in 1914:
His wife has helped him, and helped him nobly. She is an altogether gentle, capable, mothering and stately woman: beautiful too in her way with a fair reserve about her.(5)
It was Jim Pyment who prodded American millionaire Joseph Fels into giving the money which made the Guild of Handicraft Trust possible(6), and it is clear, generally, that he was deeply committed to the “Guild” ideal. When the future of the Guild was being discussed in 1919, with the Ashbees trying to decide whether to leave the area or to stay, Pyment told Ashbee that he thought the Trust had done its work, and reportedly said “Campden wants working up again – but you CRA are right to go.”(7)
It is also significant that of the eight elected Guildsmen who decided to remain in Campden after the Great War (not including Pyment himself), two had worked under him in the old Guild and two more worked for him still(8). He doesn’t obtrude into the Ashbee Journals (as, for example. Will Hart or Alec Miller do), but Pyment was clearly a pivotal member of the III.3.4 P.215 Guild. In my view he was a sort of down-to-earth Ashbee: not a copy, by any means, nor even a disciple, but a practical and engaging man who believed thoroughly in the Guild and what it stood for.
b. Pyment and the Town Band.
Pyment organised and directed the Guild’s first Guy Fawkes celebrations in 1902; he chaired the committee of Guild and townspeople which organised the May Day celebrations of 1903: chaired the meeting which decided to hold the Whitsun fete of 1904, and then served on the committee which realised it (of twenty-two committee members, seven were Guildsmen)(9). Pyment’s primary ‘workshop’ outside the Guild, however (as Ashbee’s was the School of Arts and Crafts), was the Town Band.
Pyment took over leadership of the Town Band in 1903 and from then seems to have participated in local events mainly as its director. Under his direction the band even became a fete committee.
In 1929 W.G. Godson, hon. sec. of the Town Band, wrote that
about twenty-five years ago this band started under the able leadership of the late Mr. J.W. Pyment, with second-hand instruments.(10)
Pyment’s obituary two years earlier, however, put it more accurately when it said that Pyment “reorganised the Town Band”(11) – an important distinction. We have seen earlier that apart from a period during the Agricultural Depression the Town Band was an ongoing group (II.2). Indeed, it performed on a number of occasions in 1902, the year in which the Guild came to Campden, including the Guild’s Guy Fawkes Day celebration. The band was a living institution at the time the Guild came to Campden(12).
Under ‘proposals for the future’, the report of the 1903-1904 session of the School of Arts and Crafts lists
A course in music, with a view to encouraging the various musical ventures at present carried on in a hap-hazard way by different energetic people in the town…This more especially in view of the fact that the Madresfield Musical Competition (Worcestershire) is now arranged to include Campden.(13)
The significance of this is that the Town Band shared the prize for brass bands at the 1904 Madresfield Musical Competition in May, eight months after Pyment took the band over(l4). Clearly, then, Pyment became involved with the band before the band became officially involved with the School of Arts and Crafts.
It was therefore in the second year of the School that the instruction and practice of the band were brought formally into the School of Arts and Crafts. The instructor, Mr. Matthews, who also organised the Cheltenham Musical Festival, reported at the end of the 1904-1905 session:
The bandsmen have been most regular and attentive. I have been greatly impressed with the interest taken by the members in this excellent branch. To Mr. Pyment I feel greatly indebted for his attendance and assistance on all occasions.(15)
Pyment is later thanked as the band’s manager(l6). It is also reported that “the Band has continued to improve” (1906-1907)(17): that Pyment and Mrs. Ashbee had jointly taught a course in the theory of music and vocal music, the band having the Music Room of the School all of Wednesday evening (1907-1908)(18); and Pyment is thanked again in 1911-1912 “for gratuitous tuition in Instrumental Music”(19).
The Town Band was so closely associated with the School of Arts and Crafts at one time that it could even be confused by an Evesham Journal reporter as the School of Arts and Crafts Band. The band itself was quick to scotch this confusion(20). It is clear, on the other hand, that before its association with the School of Arts and Crafts the Town Band was one of those “musical ventures at present carried on in a hap-hazard way by different energetic people in the town”. What “hap-hazard” means can be seen by what happened to the band after it came into the orbit of the Guild.
For example, in 1901, before the Guild came, the band (or, more accurately, a band in Campden) needed to raise funds to buy music: it therefore played at a concert in the Baptist Chapel in which the money collected was divided between the band and the Sunday School fund(21). By the end of Pyment’s first year as manager, the Band had no fewer than three distinct funds. It had a committee, it had an honorary secretary, an honorary treasurer, and Pyment as its chairman. The Band held its first annual supper in July 1904, complete with financial report presented by the honorary secretary. He reported that a fund had been established to buy instruments, and because the members of the band had given the whole of the money they collected over Christmas to this fund, it was “practically clear”. Furthermore, it was reported, the band regularly played in various parts of the town each Saturday, and the money collected from this was going into a travel fund to take the bandsmen to hear a band contest at the Crystal Palace in September. They had also started a uniform fund, to which £5 10s had been voted by the Whitsuntide Fete Committee (of which Pyment was a member), and to which £4 had been given by friends. Another twenty to thirty pounds were needed, and so (as it was reported in the Evesham Journal) the treasurer “hoped other friends would also come forward”(22). By April. 1905 – two years after Pyment took over its direction – the twenty four members of the band were outfitted in their new military-style uniforms(23).
From a “hap-hazard” venture the Town Band under Pyment quickly became a rather formidable institution which not only played widely and regularly both outside Campden and for almost any public and charitable event within Campden, but which acted as an autonomous committee to organise public fetes.
The Town Band decided in May, 1906, for example,
to hold a Cottagers Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Show sometime during the month of August, and to throw it open to the parishes of Campden, Aston and Weston Subedge, Ebrington and Paxford.(24)
There were two hundred exhibits entered in the show, which was open to
anyone who did not employ a gardener or engage in market gardening.(25)
In addition, the band organised an entertaining sports programme: a bicycle obstacle race, for example, a washing race, and a ‘zoological race’ (horses, ponies, donkeys and dogs excluded) which was won with a turkey, second prize being taken with a pig(26).
The success of this venture led to the holding of a second and expanded flower show in 1907(27). The band arranged roundabouts, swings and other formal elements of the fair. There was also tea on the grounds, dancing in the evening, and a tent in which to house the exhibits.
When the Town Committee, after meeting several times, decided to discontinue the annual [Whitsun] fete, the members of the Town Band, under the able leadership of Mr. J. W. Pyment, took the matter up and made arrangements for holding one.(28)
The band’s stated object in taking over the Whit Monday fete was to ensure that local children had a special day for themselves. The band included in its programme a May Queen and four attendants elected on the day as the five “best-decked” girls, and three boys were elected pages on the same basis. After the judging of this, the parade of some 200 children marched from the chesnut tree in Leaseborne to a field in Westington. The children performed a maypole dance (apparently taught by Mrs. Ashbee(29)). members of the band performed a Morris dance, there were a variety of other entertainments, and then two comic sketches by members of the band. The sports held after were both comic and earnest: a skipping contest for girls, a potato and spoon race on bicycles, a race among the bandsmen in which they had to play their instruments as they ran (won by Algie and Fred Hathaway) and so on. A challenge cup open to any male within a twelve mile radius had been given by Capt. (formerly Lieutenant; see III.3.2) Glossop for throwing the hammer. Along with more sports for the children, there were roundabouts, swings and other fair entertainments, and dancing in the evening. The money collected went to the Campden Flower Show Fund(30).
In 1909 Pyment and townsman H.G. Ellis founded a Boy’s Brigade in Campden, a kind of Church of England Volunteer Corps for boys(31). When the Town Band again put on the Whitsun Fete in 1909, “under the able management of Mr. J.W. Pyment”, the Brigade took part in the programme(32). There were about 260 children in the procession, and a May Queen, four attendants and three pages were once again chosen. A Morris dance is not mentioned in the news report, but the maypole was danced. The bandsmen again performed a farce, the children were given tea and buns, a flag drill by 114 boys and girls was given. There were sports and dancing, and it was a financial success. Once again, in the Autumn, the Flower Show was organised by the band, again successfully(33).
The Band-organised Whitsun Fete of 1910 was held very much as it had been in the prior two years, with the participation of the newly formed Boy Scouts in a joint display of battle and scouting skills with the Boys Brigade(34). Pyment was again the central organiser. The fete failed to make a profit, however, and indeed, the fund meant to help the Flower Show showed a deficit of £2. That Autumn, in a letter published in the Evesham Journal, and in his role as honorary secretary of the Flower Show, Pyment announced that
it had been suggested to him that it would be a good thing to amalgamate the flower show with the Bank Holiday Sports, and that the band, the promoters of the show, were quite willing to fall in with the proposal.(35)
Following this, the band seems to have relinquished its role as a fete committee, and carried on as a non-sectarian musical organisation available for any public meeting, political, religious or social – being, indeed, a Town Band. It continued, interrupted only by the wars, until the 1950s.(36)
Because it was not dead, it would not be fair to say that Pyment, or the Guild, revived the Town Band. The band was actively performing for a variety of occasions in the years before the Guild came to Campden. Nor were certain of the distinguishing features of the band under Pyment unprecedented. Immediately preceding the Guild’s arrival, for example, the band played for Church of England, Wesleyan, Catholic and Baptist events, on various civic occasions, for charities and on its own behalf: it was already civic, charitable, and non-sectarian(37). The band had, at least in 1888, been uniformed(38). It had also acted as an organising committee for public amusements as recently as the late 1880s and earlier in the late 1860s.(39)
The ‘pic-nic’ of 1867, for example, was the first such amusement after an unspecified “lapse of time”. A picturesque site was chosen in Westington, and
upwards of 150 inhabitants of the town and villages adjacent, regaled themselves with tea, cake, etc., all the members of the band and their wives, assisted by several other ladies, heartily joining in, keeping up a continuous and bountiful supply. Dancing was vigorously enjoyed during the afternoon and evening, and among other amusements “Aunt Sally” and “Quoits” had their respective adherents.(40)
The ‘pic-nic’ of 1868 followed this pattern, for
a party of two hundred and upwards, (consisting of some of the principal tradesmen of Campden, the farmers of the surrounding neighbourhood, with their wives and daughters)…with the usual pastimes of Aunt Sally, quoits, juvenile races, and other rustic sports, enlivened by the music of the band until the shades of evening, when quadrilles, mazurkas, galops and waltzes were danced to the ravishing strains of Strauss, Offenbach and Jullien…(41)
An entertainment in 1888, on Whit-Friday, was somewhat less ambitious, the band playing in the Court House grounds, while
From four o’clock in the afternoon visitors wended their way to the grounds, and dancing, swinging, and various other pastimes were participated in…(42)
The Whit Monday of the following year, the band simply played for dancing in the Court House grounds(43).
If being a fete-organising committee was within the Town Band’s tradition of possibilities, the form this took was, under the leadership of Pyment, new and redolent of the sense of self-conscious civic responsibility and personal possibility that was a central characteristic of the Guild. The band in 1868-1869 organised entertainments for the local elite; the band under Pyment organised events specifically for cottagers and children. Whereas Campden’s earlier Flower Shows had been organised on behalf of the cottagers by clergy and gentry(44), the Town Band under Pyment organised flower shows for people who were largely within its own social orbit. This lesson in self-organisation for self-benefit is one of the Guild’s more insistent and consistent features in Campden(45).
It is fair to say that through the influence of the Guild the Town Band was reorganised, and that the band became a kind of independent satellite of the Guild: taking on Guildsmen and proceeding within its own orbit, but gathering Pyment, the consummate Guildsman, to its centre.
c. Pyment and the Morris.
Harry Osborn, who came with the Guild as a child in 1902, recalled that:
Morris dancing was still alive when we arrived as I saw it performed shortly afterwards, although it was not a frequent occurrence. I am certain that Mr. Ashbee had no part in it at all, as I never heard or saw any signs of his involvement. There was never to my knowledge any of the Guild people involved in any way with it. It was regarded, you might say, as one of the native sacred rites.(46)
Certainly in Ashbee’s single entry on the Morris in the Journals the custom is identified with the Hathaway family of Campden: it is something Ashbee watches rather than takes a part in(47).
Set against this, however, is the fact that many of the newspaper accounts of the Morris in Campden before the First World War place it in the context of the Town Band, as being performed by members of the band.
The first reference dates from 1906, four years after the Guild came to Campden, and something over two years after Pyment took over direction of the band. In late April the band organised a competition for itself in the Town Hall, judged by J.A. Matthews, conductor of the Cheltenham Music Festival and music lecturer in the School of Arts and Crafts. They followed the contest with a concert in which they included a Morris dance, which was encored. The list of dancers did not include Guildsmen:
Morris dance, Members of the Band, Mr. D. Hathaway, Messrs. A. Hathaway, F. Hathaway. T. Hathaway, A. Veale. W. Bunker, and F. Bennett.(48)
At the Whitsun fete of 1906, the theme of which was ‘Old English Revels’, two Guildsmen were singled out for mention in association with, but apart from, the Morris: The maypole
then made way for the hobby horse “ridden” by Mr. C. Downer. Hearty praise should be given this gentleman, for his performance was a very clever one. Mr. A. Bunting [sic: Arthur Bunten] as the clown was also good.
The Morris dance followed, performed by D. Hathaway, ‘leader’. F. Hathaway, A. Hathaway. T. Hathaway, A. Veale, F. Bennett, and G. Webb, none of them Guildsmen(49).
In the Whitsun fete organised by the Band in 1908, the maypole dance “was followed by a Morris dance by members of the band…” On this occasion the dancers are not named, but in two “laughable” sketches given afterwards, the participants included Guildsmen W. Thornton, C. Downer and A. Bunten, and townsmen Webb, D. Hathaway, F. Hathaway, A. Veale, F. Bennett, and F. Taylor. Algie Hathaway was present as well(50). The list of non-Guild bandsmen represents the pool of known dancers, and would not require the participation of a Guildsman.
The appearance of Morris dancers in the context of the Town Band was already a possibility of the Morris’ own tradition: the Campden Morris dancers photographed by Henry Taunt at the Whitsun Fete in 1896 were part of the toy band. Just as the Morris dancers in the first revival following the First World War formed part of the Jazz band(51). Their appearance with the Town Band, therefore, is not in itself evidence for direct Guild influence. It would be different, of course, if it could be shown that Guildsmen or Guildchildren took an active part in the Morris. Evidence of the latter is also negative.
In January, 1909, Cecil Sharp gave a talk-demonstration in Campden on folk song – not at the invitation of the Ashbees, interestingly enough, but on behalf of the Campden Nursing Association Fund; it appears to have been a function of the Ashbee-despised Gainsboroughs(52). Sharp took the opportunity to collect some Morris dance tunes from Dennis Hathaway(53). A year later he gave a lecture on folk song in the School of Arts and Crafts(54) and apparently used this visit to see some Morris dances performed on April 30, 1910, by boys trained by Dennis Hathaway(55), one of whom was Don Ellis.
In the preceding February, according to the Evesham Journal’s report of an entertainment in the Town Hall on behalf of the Boys’ Brigade:
Seven of the boys who had been trained by the brothers Messrs. D. and F. Hathaway appeared twice during the evening and gave sets of “Morris Dances”, which were quite features of the evening.(56)
The names of the boys are not given, but there is a photograph taken later in the year of a group of boys with Dennis Hathaway at Scuttlebrook Wake. Don Ellis (who was not old enough to be a member of the Boys’ Brigade, run by his father and Jim Pyment) is among them. His identification of the other boys does not include any Guild children(57).
It would appear that no one specifically belonging to the extended Guild took part in the Campden Morris dancing until the second revival in the inter-war period, when Henry Hart – son of Guild silversmith George Hart – was a dancer(58).
But did the Guild have any impact on the Morris’ organisation?
The Guild was a self-conscious organ of civilisation, bringing ideals of city life with the intent of fulfilling them in the countryside. Among the elements of these ideals were high standards in what were perceived as civic requirements: water, education, and hygiene, for example. They characteristically identified sports, music, pageantry and community festivals as civic requirements. They also brought with them a concept of order and organisation which included the centralisation and rationalisation of public amenities perceived as “hap-hazard” – that is, inefficient (however well meant) and dependent on the vagaries of individual circumstance. Thus the Town Band, like a piped water supply(59), was a public requirement and ought to be organised as such and supported by government grants and public subscription(60).
The pre-World War One Morris dance came into the orbit of this civic network without merging with it; this, at least, would be the conclusion from Ashbee’s description of the Morris in 1914: Dennis Hathaway’s
favourite step is ‘Constant Billy’, he has danced it many times for me with his boys, Algy among them, for a pot of cyder and a silver sixpence. That also is the traditional tip. Like all artists and aristocrats of life he feels uncomfortable doing his tricks for money. He has to be in the mood.
Some American friend of mine once wanted a Morris, and they offered gold. The season of the year was wrong, or Dennis had had some tiff with his boys, anyway he wouldn’t. The bribe was raised till it reached quite a month’s working wages for an hour’s Joy.
But Dennis was not to be persuaded: “I’ve said I wouldn’t and I won’t,” and there the matter ended.
Obstinancy you say? No, something much more intimate, and sacred, and English, and thank God something that can’t be organized. (61)
It was only after the second inter-war revival that the Morris acquired a more formal organisation and became identified as a ‘town’ function, in the sense that the Band was the Town Band(62).
From the evidence at hand, therefore, it is not appropriate to say of the pre-World War One period that the Guild “revived and reinvigorated” the Morris. What the Guild provided, through Pyment in the Town Band, were frequent and regular rehearsals of the Town Band; the experience of Guild-style organisation; occasions, opportunities and venues for performance; encouragement; and publicity, so that we know there was Morris dancing. I would argue that, through Pyment and the Town Band, The Guild of Handicraft and the Morris were in a symbiotic relationship: that the Morris retained its independence, but throve in the environment and sympathy of the Guild. What the Guild achieved was (among other things) vicarious participation in a living tradition, and a friendly native custom for various events and Spring festivals.
The main impact of the Guild will not have been so much on the Morris directly, therefore, as on the every-day expectations and culture of the Morris dancers. The Morris invigorated itself, with the encouragement and support of the Guild: the Guild did not revive and reinvigorate the Morris.
5. Concluding Remarks
In the analysis of this chapter, the claim that the Guild of Handicraft revived or reinvigorated the mummers has been shown to be highly unlikely on three counts, two of them to do with the absence of any record of the mummers in the period, the third to do with the subsequent structure and membership of the mumming:
– No members of the extended Guild, as far as I am aware, have ever been members of the Campden mumming; and the organisation of the mumming reflects the concept of the ‘hap-hazard’ which is antithetical to the Guild philosophy.
– The Guild was organised for social reform, using publicity as one of its tools: for example, the annual meeting and progress of the Town Band are regularly reported: we know of the Morris in this period largely because of its association with Guild-linked events. There is no record of Campden mummers in the Evesham Journal during this period.
– The Ashbees documented Guild achievements in Campden in some detail, highlighting for their own purposes the town’s pre-Industrial survivals; Campden mummers appear nowhere in the extensive and diverse Ashbee-related material that has been preserved.
Taken with the lack of contemporary evidence for a mumming all around, it seems highly unlikely that the mumming existed as an overt performance tradition in the immediate pre-Great War period. Christopher Whitfield’s assertion concerning the mummers appears to be mistaken. The mumming in this period would appear to have been, as later oral tradition indicated, a custom in remission.