1988: Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town. Section V: 1945-1986

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).

SECTION V. 1945-1986
Footnotes (opens in new window)

V.1: 1945-1986. Sources.

A. The Mumming

a. Written

Following the reference in the January 1940 TocH Newsletter to mummers at Christmas 1939 (see IV.1), the next reference is in the TocH Newsletter for December 1945.

The editor/author of the Newsletter from its first issue in October 1939 to number 72 in September 1945 was the Baptist pastor, the Rev. O.P.J. Smith; it isn’t clear who wrote the material from issue number 73 in October 1945 to the final issue, number 84. in September 1946 – W. Howell was the TocH secretary. Jo Warmington was associated with its production, and George Hart signed the final thankyou(1). It isn’t clear, therefore, who is responsible for the following remark in the December 1945 Newsletter:

We hear of preparations for Christmas in Campden and the various choirs are practising carols while kind donors are making all sorts of efforts to give the children their first peace time Christmas. Alas old Ben Benfield [who died in 1938] will not be with us to produce the mumming which one hopes will be restored when peace and plenty so hand in hand and life is say again.(2)

In the January, 1946, Newsletter, the editor reports:

1946, if it has not come to us in a blaze of glory, at least in Campden has arrived surrounded with parties and festivities of all kinds? it would appear that our people had made up their minds that this first Christmas with peace should see the keepins of every tradition known before the war…We missed the mummers; they have for many years been associated with our Christmas revels and the passing of Bill Benfield [in 1941] has robbed us of a leader; doubtless the patter is known to some old Campdonians and it is hoped that a team will be trained in time for next Christmastide – for this is one of the traditions that so to make Campden what it is.(3)

The absence of references to mumming in the TocH Newsletter, the Parish Magazine and other sources makes it clear that between the mumming in 1939 and January 1946 the Campden mumming was not performed in public. The first record of a performance of Campden mummers in the post-war period comes from the end of December 1946, when Ernest Buckland put together a side which was recorded and broadcast over the BBC’s Midland Service on December 24th. The Radio Times listing for the programme records:

Midland 8.30-9.0
St. George and the Dragon
A traditional Christmas entertainment, with recordings made by mummers in the Midlands. (BBC recording). (4)

The programme, introduced by BBC presenter David Gretton, opened with the Uttoxeter (Staffordshire) mummers, recorded on 18.12.1946, followed by a mumming recorded at Malvern (Worcestershire) on 19.12.1946. The Campden mumming, recorded on the 20th, came third, and was followed by two short pieces – a talk recorded in Birmingham, and a dubbing from a 1938 ‘Microphone at Large’ programme featuring the Uttoxeter mummers. The BBC’s Programme-as-Broadcast (the official programme logbook) on the Campden Mummers reads, in full:

MBM 605 Mummers recorded at Campden on 20th December, 1946, by recording car.
Those taking part –
E. Tomes
D. Pitcher
N. Bennett
C. Wright
J. Thomas [sic: Jack Tomes]
R. James
Ernest Buckland
Fred Farman
Facilities – Lional [sic: Lionel] Ellis of Aston Road Nurseries, Campden, and
J. Sadler, Eight Bells, Campden
Script copyright – Ernest Buckland, Park Road, Campden –
(covered by cash payment).(5)

The Campden segment of the programme began with a short talk by Ernest Buckland, the first oral history of the Campden mummers (quoted in full above; see IV.l.d) to have been mechanically recorded. The recording of this and the play exist on BBC Record 1946 10029F(6). There is a transcription in the Ordish Collection, made by Alex Helm(7).

H.J. Massingham referred to the Campden Mummers in two works published in 1951. In The Faith of a Fieldsman it is part of a list of hearty, country, “Campden” features:

The Campden of bleating sheep milling along the noblest of High Streets, of a “di’lect” bristling with Shakespearean words, of the Mummers’ Play, of Jimmy Teapot, the Gargantuan eater, of macaronic tales, of great craftsmen and great buildings.(8)

In Massingham’s second reference, in the magazine Out-of-Doors, the Campden mummers are introduced as a lead-in to a discussion of the pagan mystery and ritual standing behind the Mummers’ Play as such. I have quoted a substantial part of this article elsewhere, as it relates to the Campden mummers (IV.1 fn 125); he concludes with the Campden mummers specifically very briefly:

We were not disposed to be too critical of the performance – the punch saw to that. But, as a matter of fact, the Campden version of the Mummers’ Play was a very corrupt one, as I discovered when I began to collect the versions still current in the Cotswolds, the least garbled of which I picked up at Snowshill, a hamlet near the edge of the northern Wolds.(9)

In January 1953, the Evesham Journal reported a Christmas appearance of the mummers in some detail:

The Mummers. At Campden the local troupe of mummers again performed their one-act play, the origin of which is obscure, but it is known that it dates back many centuries and at one time was more of a religious spectacle.

Again this year Campden saw them all – Father Christmas calling each by name to enter the room, from St. George [sic] until the entry of the last man, the fiddler.

The same play, the same action, nothing alters, except perhaps some of the faces as the older members drop out for others to take their place and carry on this custom, which seems to be as old as the hills on which it is observed.(10)

The official Visitor’s Guide of 1953 re-published, with slight changes, the notice in Percy Dewey’s 1939 guide to Campden (quoted and discussed IV.l.d). The leader of the mummers, Ernest Buckland, was coincidentally elected to the parish council in 1952(11), the year in which the council and the publisher began working together on the Guide:

Morris dancing is still practised by white-clad Campden men, cross-braced, and leggined with jingling bells, upon Whit Saturday at Scuttlebrook Wake, and quaintly attired mummers still do their play, the origin of which is lost in the mists of long ago, upon Christmas Eve. In this they tell In rude rhyme how Saint George [sic] is slain by a wicked Knight – the “Bold Slasher” – but has his life restored by a famous Doctor Haro, “come from Spain to bring the dead to life again”, while “Ole Man Beelzebub” stands by, with club on shoulders, and the dripping pan in hand with which he bastes “down below” the frizzling souls of his poor subjects. It is good to come here and see such things, in the Christmas comfort of the Noel Arms parlour.(12)

The Campden Chamber of Trade had joined the British Travel and Holidays Association in 1952(13), and the mummers are duly mentioned in a BTHA publication (although no more than mentioned) called “Coming Events in Britain” published in December 1953:

other places where the mummers perform at Christmastime include…Chipping Campden, in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire.(14)

There is another set of references from 1958-1959, beginning with an Evesham Journal report in January 1958:

Carols and mime.- Carol singers from the Parish church and the local youth club visited most parts of the town and a section of the Blockley Band played carols in the High Street. A party of mummers, led by Messrs. E. Tomes, E.E. Buckland and W. Buckland, mimed and recited old English Folk-Plays in various parts of town.(15)

Later that year Christopher Whitfield’s History of Chipping Campden was published, in which the 20th century revival of the mummers was credited (wrongly; see Section III) to the Guild of Handicraft(16).

At the start of 1959 a group of Campden men performed the fragment of a mumming play for BBC television, against the wishes of the Buckland family (the sources for this are discussed below).


In 1962, Christopher Whitfield contacted E.C. Cawte in response to a query in Notes and Queries, sending him a typescript of his pre-war essay on “The Mummers” (discussed in IV.l.e), and with a covering letter in which he said the mummers had been out the Christmas before(17).

Ernest Buckland did not stand for re-election to the parish council in 1961(18); the absence of his presence may account in part for the rather brief mention of the mummers under the title “Entertainment” in the revised Official Guide of 1964 (repeated verbatim in the Official Guide of 1970). I give the entire entry:

ENTERTAINMENT: Chipping Campden has dances, concerts and socials at its local halls. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is at Stratford-on-Avon; the nearest cinemas are at Evesham.

Morris dancing is still practised by local men, and mummers still perform their age-old nativity play [sic] on Christmas Eve.(19)

In a January, 1966, letter to the Evesham Journal Buckland responded to a lengthy article concerning the ‘dead’ mumming traditions of neighbouring Broadway and Snowshill(20) with a lengthy letter on the Campden mumming:

Sir, – After devoting so much of your paper’s space last week to a defunct mummers’ play of Broadway, perhaps you would be good enough to print a few words of a mummers’ play that is still very much alive?

We mummers of Campden keep our play alive and were out as usual on Christmas Eve. I can understand why there are only one or two plays alive in the country at the present time. For one thing, it is very hard to get eight men who will leave their family just at Christmas time and go out in all weathers from house to house in the traditional way.

It is also difficult to keep the play in its traditional form and not spoil it by trying to bring it up to date. As far as I know, our play is the same today as it was played several hundred years ago.

One might perhaps be led to think that the mummers only do it for monetary gain. How wrong this would be!

I suppose the mummers at Campden will go down to posterity as the people who first put the “B” in the B.B.C., when two words slipped out during a live broadcast by the mummers from a Campden house in the late 1930’s. They were the first swear-words ever to have been heard on the air up to that time.

And the Campden mummers were responsible for perhaps the only contract ever signed by the B.B.C. which stipulated that two pints of beer be provided for each man. This was in connection with a post-war broadcast.

I have been with the Campden mummers for 40 years and have been their captain for a long time now. I hope that people who read your Journal will know that anything Broadway can do, Campden can do bigger and better, and that what is dead and defunct in Broadway and Snowshill is very much alive in Campden.(21)

In the 1969 Christmas season the actor Richard Todd had the mummers in his Broad Campden home. Writing of the occasion in 1982, he said:

I well remember the evening the mummers visited us at Maidenwell Manor – 1969, I think.

I had been told of their ritual performance, and was delighted when one of their number contacted me and asked if we would like them to come to us one evening.

My family and some friends were fascinated by their playing-out of folk stories veiled in allegory and local tradition – much of it, I seem to recall, hinged on the considerable countryside practice of poaching.

We naturally provided them with a sufficiency of refreshment, which they imbibed with true Cotswold relish. Perhaps because of this, the performance soon became very demonstrative and physical indeed, with a wealth of leaping, stamping and brandishing of cudgels.

Since the spectacle took place in the drawing room, I became quite concerned for the safety of some of the contents – and, indeed, of the mummers themselves!

However, no damage to humans or household ensued, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

I also enjoyed talking to them afterwards and learning a little of their history.

Long may they continue to preserve the tradition!(22)

In 1970, William M. Davis of Maryland (U.S.A.)

a teacher and practitioner of theatre, primarily in Scene Design, Scene Construction, & Stage Lighting…interested in certain theoretical and historical aspects of theatre…(23)

contacted Ernest Buckland on the advice of Dr. Norman Peacock through the Evesham Journal. He was hoping to come to England to see various mumming customs. Buckland tried to discourage him:

Sir I must tell you in this letter that it only wants one or more performers to be ill at Xmas for us not to appear. I don’t think it justifies your air fare. Our costumes are for most part nothing in particular just things kept for the purpose: We do not keep an inventory of people we play before.

Playing mostly in private houses and hotels. I do not know if other Mummers exist or not. We confine ourselves to Campden and District.

I quite appreciate your being interested because so few of our old customs have been preserved.(24)

Davis did come, and took at least one posed photograph of the mummers. Efforts to trace him have so far failed(25).


That Christmas one of the men, quitting from the rest of the team of mummers, created an incident by stripping his clothes V.l p.387 off in a Campden restaurant. It was the last time he was invited to go with the mummers; the case was brought before the local magistrates and was reported in the Evesham Journal at some length in February 1971(26).

It was apparently also in 1970 that Richard Chidlaw and Brian Hayward saw the mummers in performance for their survey of Gloucestershire Folk Drama and the Christmas Wassail. Their full entry on the Campden mumming is as follows:

WhiC and BuEJ both trace an unchanged tradition of a century, the latter referring to ‘several hundred years’ of custom. The claim is contradicted by an unsupported assertion in WesC.

Father Christmas, in fur-trimmed red, makes the introduction, and Bold Slasher fells King George. Doctor Good, or Hero, assisted by Jack Vinney, makes a cure, with pills, medicine, and tooth-extraction. The quete is made by the Drummer and Father Beelzebub, white-whiskered and in black, carrying his club and pan. The final entrant is Fiddler Crump, who leads the mummers in their song.

The troupe are costumed in what we believe is the modern style, i.e. in character, with only a few strips of paper on the military costumes to recall the traditional garb. They perform by invitation, usually in private houses or hotels.

The text is not given, in deference to the troupe’s wishes.

(SP1539; WhiC (T), BuEJ, HaCG, MasE, WesC, PeaC, BBCD, BBCJ; 1970)(27)

In November 1972 the mummers performed at Bath University, having been invited to a folk night there with the Campden Morris Men. The only contemporary documentation of which I am aware is a thankyou note written by one of the organisers, Tub Reynolds, to Ernest Buckland, in which he said:

Everyone enjoyed your play immensely, and we appreciated the effort you made to come & see us, and the pleasure you gave us all.

We also appreciate your leaving the village for the first time to perform your play. Your dexterity with the pincers amazed me, but then you come from the finest county in England, so this accounts for it.(28)

David Bland, writing in 1985, said he

first became aware that there was still a team active through a chance remark from the proprietor of the second-hand bookshop in the village. He talked of a group of villagers who had taken the play out the previous year, but he didn’t know any of them individually. At that time (1972) I was already in contact with Don Ellis in connection with recordings we were making of the Morris team [with Leader Records]. I therefore wrote to Don in early December to ask if he knew any members of the Mummers personally. He replied on December 9th, saying that he had found out that there was a group still active, and that they had appeared “at a Folk Festival at Bristol recently”. However, he didn’t know any of them and had no further details of the team or of that particular performance (I never did find out whether the team who appeared at the Festival was the village team or a team of revivalists). He referred me to another member of the Campden Morris team, Bill Morrey, who he said had more local contacts than he himself had. It must, I think, have been Bill who finally referred me to a member of the Mummers, Ernest Buckland…I quickly wrote to him expressing a wish to see the performance and possibly record it as part of our project to cover the surviving ‘traditional’ performances of plays in G.B. and Ireland. I received a reply dated December 18th, saying that the team had decided against going out that Christmas (1972), though he didn’t say why. I got the feeling that he would have been willing to let me see the performance had the team managed to get out, although he added the significant clause: “I must tell you this, that we do not permit people to take recordings when we do go out.” Obviously that was as far as I got that year. At some point during the following year I called on Ernest Buckland for about 5 minutes as I was passing through Campden, just to introduce myself. He reiterated his statement about not allowing visitors to record the play, but otherwise the visit was very sociable. I left him with the promise that I would be in touch later in the year when the team might be thinking of turning out again. In the event, that was my last contact with the Mummers, since events at Leader Sound overtook me. (29)

Statements made in a Parish Council meeting in 1974 (quoted in the next section), could be taken to indicate that the mummers did not come out in 1973 either; but, as Jack Tomes rightly points out, most people are not aware when the mummers have performed(30).

In 1974 Charlie Wright (one of the named members of the team which broadcast in 1946) died; the Evesham Journal mentioned in his obituary:

At one time he used to take part with the Campden mummers in their annual Christmas performances.(31)

The team accepted an invitation in 1975 to present the Campden Mummers for

a Pensioners Party for approx 80 at Pebworth Village Hall on Friday 12. December…

We would of course compensate you. The Pebworth people to my knowledge have never seen your play and I know you would enjoy coming.(32)

When Edward Tomes, the father of the current leader and Ernest Buckland’s brother-in-law, died in 1977, his obituary recorded that he was “one of the Christmas mummers for many years”(33).

Ernest Buckland died in 1978; his obituary recorded that:

he was also the presiding genius of the Campden Mummers, who perform their quaint dramatic ritual each Christmas. Mr. Buckland learned the art from his Uncle Tom and in his turn passed it on to his nephew, Jack Tomes, who with others keeps the old tradition going.(34)

Peter Harrop, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies of the University of Leeds contacted the mummers in 1978, conducting the first recorded formal interview with a Campden mummer in December(35). In both 1978 and 1979 he exchanged letters and noted conversations with several people in Campden, including Jack Tomes, the leader of the mummers, extracts of which are included in his dissertation(36). In 1979 he returned to Campden to witness a series of performances(37). The dissertation was submitted in 1980, and is held at the University of Leeds.

Col. A.C. Noel, in a December 1982 letter, recalled seeing the Mummers for the first time in 1927 at Campden House:

I saw them again about 3 years ago at the Court House in Campden, nothing much seemed to have changed and as the performance progressed, old memories were reawakened till: enter Right a hideously disguised player: “Oi be Beelzebub…” Immortal words.

This “three years ago”, which is used without the qualifier “about” later in the letter, would place the performance at 1979(38).

In 1981 the Campden mummers were mentioned in the regional magazine Cotswold Life:

In Gloucestershire alone there are records of plays in Bisley, Bourton-on-the-Water, Bussage, Chipping Campden….

Not quite so well known [as the Marshfield mummers] are the Chipping Campden Mummers – not to be confused with the Chipping Campden Morris Men who are quite separate and who dance in the town on Boxing Day – the Mummers perform in private houses and pubs around the town on Christmas Eve.(39)

Col. Geoffrey Powell in his Book of Campden, published in 1982, writes:

  For as long as can be remembered, the Campden Morris Men have danced, one of the handful of traditional teams still playing, and one of the best-known in the country. Even older are the Mummers, how old no one can say. Possibly dating back to before the Iron Age, representing as they do the slaughter and rebirth of the divine king for the benefit of the community, many of these plays are, however, recent revivals; but Campden’s with its King George, Bold Slasher, Jack Vinney, Beelzebub and the rest, has been performed well beyond living memory, its lines handed down by word of mouth.(40)

Since 1982 I have given a number of papers with reference to the Campden mummers, as noted in the Bibliography.

Between 1946 and 1983 there are fifteen years for which there are reports of and references to performances of the mummers.

b. Oral

The earliest recording of the mummers is the 1946 BBC record of the interview with Ernest Buckland and play broadcast on Christmas Eve (BBC Record No. 10029F, 20.12.1946)(41).

In the course of his research Peter Harrop conducted a formal recorded interview with Jack Tomes on 4.12.1978, Harrop Tape 17; a reference in the footnotes of his dissertation (p.240 fn. 1-3. p.240 fn. 1) to l4.12.1978 is perhaps a typographical error for this occasion. In the course of the evening of 24.12.1979 he clearly recorded conversations with several people in Campden, including Jack Tomes and the other mummers, extracts from which are included in his dissertation; the tapes of these conversations do not appear to have been deposited with his collection at the University of Leeds(42).

Since beginning fieldwork in December 1981 I have collected several hundred hours of tapes directly concerning the Campden mumming; mumming in the area; and the history and customs of Chipping Campden. The majority of these tapes have been made on my own equipment, using my own tapes(43).

c. Photographic

I have been shown photographs of the mummers dating from the 1950s. One of these is dated to about 1948. The players are:

Father Christmas – Eddie Tomes
Bold Slasher – Alf Farman
King George – Jack Wheatcroft
Doctor – Ernest Buckland
Jack Vinney – Jack Tomes
Beelzebub – Charlie Blake
Drummer – Charlie Wright
Fiddler Crump – a cousin of the Tomes

A second, undated but of the same period, has:

Father Christmas – Eddie Tomes
Bold Slasher – John(?) Farman
Jack Vinney – Jack Tomes
Doctor – Ernie Buckland
King George – “probably” Jack Wheatcroft (44)

There is also a posed colour photograph of the Campden Mummers taken at Christmas 1970 by William M. Davis (referred to above), taken indoors, and unfortunately affected by camera-shake(45).

Photographs referred to by Harrop in his dissertation – “…I spent a few minutes chatting to the group, promising to, send copies of photographs through the post” – did not, unfortunately, turn out, and consequently could never be sent(46).

I have been shown two colour Polaroid photographs taken in a private house in December 1981. They are posed photographs, showing all the performers, with a fair detail of their costumes(47).

On Christmas Eve 1981 I took a series of colour slides, Fees 505-526, pushing ASA 400 35 mm colour film in a Mamiya camera without flash for indoor photography. The photographs were taken during the performance of the mummers in the Volunteer Inn, and are dominated by a red cast and my inexpertise as a photographer.

On 15.1.1983, Fees 527-545, I photographed the performance of the mummers in the Town Hall using ASA 400 126 film in a Kodak tele-elektralite 40 camera with flash. Though showing the action of the play, these photographs are characterised largely by darkness and graininess.

There are undoubtedly a number of private photographs in private hands in and outside Campden. The mummers have never discouraged the taking of photographs. although they wish to be asked before photographs are taken.


B. The Shadow Mumming: Sources

a. Written

Against what might be called this actual tradition there has arisen another, or another group of traditions which, seen as a unified threat by the leaders of the actual tradition, can be rightfully called a shadow mumming(48), which is perceived as waiting in the wings to seize the custom. The earliest public manifestation of this threat was in 1959, and was described to Peter Harrop by Jack Tomes in 1978:

… as I told you before, this bloke over at the shop he got him all booked up [?] about BBC. Someone went and asked him about setting things fixed up to do a television show, in a pub in Campden, he says yes, I’ll sort this out, I’ll get so and so down there to give you a song, he said. I’ll see old Peony [Ernest Buckland] that was me uncle, he’ll bring the mummers – Oh, fine, of course. They got a hold of it… we never heard another word about it.

Harrop: So he sot somebody else instead of you although you were still doing it.

Mr. Tomes: Ah, ah, ah [yes]…..This gang, this lot, all the lot, Harts as I told you…You see, they are the silversmiths still, and they’ve been on it for, they’ve been getting it on for years, you see.(49)

The television programme in question was the fourth in BBC Midland’s “Midlander” series, broadcast at 22.53 hours on Friday, January 2, 1959. The Programme-as-Broadcast entry runs as follows:

Mummers Play BT/52

Taking Part: Robert Waller

Charles Gardiner
George Hart
F.W. Coldicott
Bill Payne
Lionel Ellis

Facilities: Miss L. Taplin
Produced by Malcolm Freegard (snf)

Film sequences used:

BBC stock film:
footage: 19′ silent 16mm
BBC specially shot film:
footages 539′ sound 35 mm
406′ sound 35 mm
38′ sound 35 mm

Effects: Pub chatter BBC 3C 77
1’30”    (50)


The key figure in the BBC broadcast would appear to have been Charles H. Gardiner, the clerk of the Evesham, Worcestershire, Rural District Council(51). He had been associated with the BBC since at least 1936, when his dialect play “Motor Cars or Hosses”, a satire on parish politics in the fictional Cotswold village of Upper Slocombe, was accepted and broadcast by the BBC’s Midland Service. Between 1936 and 1959 Midland Regional broadcast more than two dozen of Gardiner’s scripts, seventeen of which involved the affairs of Upper Slocombe, and Gardiner came to be considered by the BBC its friendly local expert on dialect and customs(52).

Gardiner was a close friend and associate of H.J. Massingham, whose 1932 report of the Campden mummers play was discussed in IV.1.B. In his autobiography, Massingham capped a paragraph dealing with Cotswold custom and which concluded with the remark “restored to them their vigour as the dead man is given back his life by the Doctor in the Mummers’ Play, and mended severed links between human celebration and the seasonal rhythms” with the footnote:

My friend, C.H. Gardiner of Bretforton, and I collected a jest-book or florilegium of tales of the humour of the hills and the Vale of Evesham, classified according to its various types, with a commentary attached to each example. Owing to the onset of the war, this book, which I believe is a unique collection of oral and vernacular humour, is still unpublished.(53)

Gardiner prepared a mummers’ play extract and commentary – was this related to the unpublished “florilegium of tales”; was Massingham’s association of the Mummers Play with Gardiner a fortuitous one? – for a New Year’s Eve radio broadcast as early as 1950, though the broadcast was cancelled at the last moment(54). He introduced the idea of broadcasting a commentary and an extract of a mummers play to Midland Regional producer Paul Humphries in November 1957, sending Humphries a set of notes on mumming which he had prepared(55). Humphries, who was involved in radio production, replied:

I am just wondering whether this might not be something we can do on television at the appropriate season – This, I suppose, would be next Christmas now. They could perform the play with local players from the Cotswolds and have a commentary by you. It’s worth thinking about anyway.(56)

Indeed, following a phone call in late October, 1958, Gardiner sent Midland Region television producer Malcolm Freegard his composite version Mummers Play – “The Mummers’ Play (Upper Slocombe Version)” – with the Doctor/Assistant/ Resurrection scene marked out for probable broadcast, and a set of notes upon which to base the broadcast’s commentary. He also reported that he had

made an approach to a group of players from Chipping Campden who will probably be doing the play as a whole as part of the Christmas festivities there…I would mention that none of these players is in any sense professional, although several of them have broadcast in dialect comedy and features.(57)

For the broadcast this group consisted of Lionel Ellis, who played King George (and who had been the BBC’s contact man for the mummers’ broadcast of 1946); George Hart, who played the Doctor; Bill Payne, who played the Doctor’s Boy; and Fred Coldicott, who played Father Christmas(58). Ellis, Payne and Hart, though carrying on normal working lives locally, had appeared regularly in BBC Midland dialect plays and features regularly from the 1930s. With the exception of “Motor Cars or Hosses”, in which George Hart did not appear, the three performed together in all seventeen of the Upper Slocombe plays. They had also appeared together in a number of other programmes, and there is no question that they did constitute a definite “group of players” (see Appendix D). Fred Coldicott was George Hart’s cousin, and was involved with Hart in regular Campden British Legion entertainments in the 1950s(59). Robert Waller, of Finstock in Oxfordshire, was paid ten guineas and expenses

To Introduce film of Mummers’ Play and talk to Charles Gardiner about the origin of the play.(60)

Gardiner himself was paid ten guineas to arrange the scene and talk to Waller(61). He planned one minute for the introduction and four minutes for the scene, and arranged for a dress rehearsal in the rear room of the Eight Bells Inn in Campden at 6.30 p.m. on December 8, 1958. Filming took place eleven days later, on December 19 at the Fleece Inn, Bretforton(62).

The script, according to Gardiner, was based on the Bretforton Mummers’ Play, supplemented by material taken from other local versions(63). Following his own understanding of mumming plays, it concentrates heavily on the topsy-turvy language used by the Doctor, “which represents the oldest form of peasant humour”(64).

It is interesting that throughout Gardiner’s correspondence with the BBC during 1957-1958 there is no mention of an active, native Campden mumming tradition, and there is no reference to the 1946 Campden mummers’ recording. The implication that the group of players Gardiner was in contact with were going to perform the play in Campden that Christmas underscores the reality underlying actual leaders’ perception of a threatened take-over, as related to Peter Harrop. It is interesting, too, because it reveals a distinct change in the attitude to the natural rights of the actual mummers between the broadcasts of 1946 and 1959. In that twelve years Hart, Ellis and Payne had participated together in no fewer than twenty-eight dialect broadcasts, sixteen of them having to do with “Upper Slocombe”. That they would perform the “Upper Slocombe Mummers Play”, as Gardiner called it, must have seemed natural to them, just as it must have seemed natural for Gardiner to contact them rather than the actual Campden mummers to perform it.

An added dimension is the fact that Christopher Whitfield published his History of Chipping Campden in October 1958, in which he said that the Guild of Handicraft had revived and reinvigorated the mummers(65). The connection between the BBC 0&\ J V.1 p.403 television broadcast, the Harts and the Guild (“the silversmiths”) is explicitly made by Jack Tomes in the interview with Peter Harrop quoted above. George Hart’s father had been a prominent member of the Guild, and as “Down Your Way” showed in 1956, George Hart and his brother Henry were still publicly seen as connected with the Guild through the family silversmith business, which itself retained the Guild of Handicraft name(66).

Whatever the intent of Gardiner and the others, the broadcast is conflated by the actual mummers with other events into an on-going threat to their possession and control of the mumming. Consequently, when asked in 1964 if the Campden Mummers script could be used for a TocH entertainment, the leader of the mummers declined, in no uncertain terms(67). Scottish-born second-hand/antiquarian bookseller Seamus Stewart therefore compiled a text “from traditional sources”, which he titled “The Merrimix Mumming Play”, and which was played in late February, 1964, for ”friends and supporters of TocH” at a “Tramp’s Supper” involving Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Broadway and Evesham branches of TocH. The Evesham Journal noted the performance and selected a photograph of the cast to go with the story of the evening(68). The prologue to the play, spoken by Apothecary Sam, the Fool, describes the origin of the play:

I open up and enter in,
I ask your favour for to win.
A simple fool they say am I
But I’ll gain wisdom by and by.
Here in Campden on a day
They used to do a mumming play vAnd since we wish to entertain
We’d like to do that play again.
As Campden men ‘twould make us proud,
But woe, alas! We’re not allowed.
So gentles all, we bring to you
A version writ in measures new.
You’ll find our play’s like me, perhaps –
A motley thing of rags and scraps,
For everything within our reach
We’ve used to build up scene and speech.
Because of our sad local dearth.
We’ve borrowed bits from Lutterworth,
And unless I’m sore mistaken,
From Uttoxeter we’ve fragments taken.
And other towns with mumming plays
Have lent their aid in divers ways.
I’ve rambled on too long in fact.
But ere the others do their act,
To tell you this is my commission:
We’re all believers in tradition
And humbly beg that some fine day
They’ll let us do the Campden play.
Now silence please, brave gentles all!
On Father Christmas I do call.(69)

A mumming play was performed at the second annual Dover’s Games in 1964, as part of the Friday evening festivities before Saturday’s Scuttlebrook Wake during Whitsun. The Friday evening programme included a bonfire, a torchlight procession down Dover’s Hill into Campden led by the Gloucester Scottish Pipe Band, a mumming Play at about 10.30 a.m. in the square, “appropriate entertainment”, and dancing in the square(70).

The historian of Dover’s Games, Dr. Francis Burns, wrote that the mummers play performed on this occasion was “based on Campden’s own traditional version”(71). The Evesham Journal reported:

Mumming Play. After the handbell ringers had played, a group of Campden men presented a mumming play, which must have reminded many of those present – in the nicest possible way – of Bottom and his hempen homespuns in the “Dream”; like Bottom’s play, it was a very good piece of work and a merry, which ended with Saint George victorious and Beelzebub sent packing.

So much of the evening was inspired by tradition – an essence which, one suspects, flows in the blood of all Campden citizens…(72)

At Christmas 1964 a kind of mummers play, a rectified ‘mediaeval’ drama of St. George and the Dragon, was performed in the joint Christmas entertainment of the Campden and Moreton-in-Marsh upper schools. The entertainment was an exercise in cooperation prior to the amalgamation of the two schools into the Chipping Campden Comprehensive School, to take place in the next year. Due to construction difficulties in Campden itself, the entertainment took place in Blockley’s Town Hall(73).

Although the programme consisted of several items it was not disjointed, for each item was part of “the theme of Christmas in which men sang praises of the new born Christ or showed what Christmas meant to them”(74). Campden School presented the Second Shepherd’s Play from the Wakefield Cycle.

Moreton school presented “St. George and the Dragon”. Although the story was not concerned with Christmas it remained true to the theme being the type of play produced at Christmas in the Middle Ages. Miss Lewis achieved a remarkable effect with her very young cast. This was very largely due to the successful organisation of movement which began with a dramatic entrance through the audience by the court, and included some very effective fight scenes and a successfully undulating dragon.

The acting, particularly amongst the strolling players, was very strong and fully aware of the comic situations, they brought the laughs in every time.

The most striking feature of the acting was the clearness with which all the lines were delivered.

Special praise must so to Mrs. Hunt, who created a magnificent greenish dragon and who was responsible for the very gay costumes which must have given the players as much pleasure as the audience.(75)

There were then carols – a “very pretty cowboy carol”; readings from ‘Memories of Christmas’ by Dylan Thomas; and readings from ‘On the Nativity of Christ’ by William Dunbar. The report of the evening concluded:

Thus the evening ended leaving the audience reminded of their own impressions of Christmas having shared for a while the feelings aroused by Christmas in Yorkshiremen, the Ensllsh [l.e., the mummers play]. American, Welsh and Scots.(76)

Ten years later, in 1974, there was a move in the Parish Council to insure the continuation of the mumming. The Evesham Journal reported:


“Hath not old custom made this life more sweet?” said the Bard and the same thought appeared to cross the minds of Chipping Campden Parish Council at its meeting when suggestions were made for putting new life into the Ancient Mummers and the office of Town Crier.

When it was pointed out that the Mummers had not been out as usual this Christmas, the council was told that the players were getting on in years.

“Is there any way in which we could interest some others in keeping the old tradition going?” Mr. J. T Doran said. “It seems a pity to let it drop.” He suggested an approach be made to the dramatic society.

The clerk, Mr. F. Holland, said the Robert Dover’s Games Society might be a more appropriate choice.

Mr. D. Hughes [a native Campdonian and local builder] said he did not think that just anyone could do the Mummers’ play. He suggested the council should approach the Mummers first.

It was agreed to write to Mr. E. Buckland asking whether there was anything the council could do to keep the old tradition going.

Mr. Doran also asked whether Campden still had a town crier and the chairman, Mr. L.J. Brodie, said Mr.L. Ladbrook had been the last one. He had not cried for some time.

The council agreed to invite applications for the post of town crier.(77)

Twelve years later, in December 1986, the Cotswold Journal reported:

SCHOOL CAROLS – Mummers’ play similar to Campden’s traditional example was presented as an interlude by sixth-formers at the Chipping Campden School carol services in the afternoon and evening of last Wednesday in St. James’s parish church.

Father Christmas introduced the other characters, including King George, Slasher, the Turkish knight, and the doctor who brings King George back to life after he is slain by Slasher. The play ended with the singing of Me Fayther Died the Other Night, which is traditional to the town [my emphasis].(78)

b. Oral

Prior to 1981 (the first year of my fieldwork in Campden) the mummers play had reportedly been recently performed in both St. Catharine’s R.C. lower school and the Comprehensive School, based on the text transcribed after the 1937 school performance(79).

In 1983 the Boy Scouts put on a mumming play compiled from various sources in their Christmas entertainment(80).

The play was reportedly performed in the Catholic School at Christmas 1987.

c Photographic

The earliest photographic evidence of the “shadow mumming” will be the film made by the BBC in 1959. There is an Evesham Journal photograph of the Merrimix Mummers from 1964, which appeared in the Evesham Journal report of 6.3.1964,1(81). I have four photographs of the mummers play performed by the Boy Scouts in 1983, Fees 549-552. There are undoubtedly other photographs of “shadow mummings” which I have not seen.


V.2. 1946-1986. Context

A. 1946-1950s: A Kind of Golden Era

a. Introduction

The boundaries of “Campden” were again expanded by the Second World War. Both men and women from Campden served throughout the world. Town and parish accommodated evacuees from the cities; English, Scots and American soldiers; Polish refugees; German and Italian prisoners of war; and a factory, placed in Campden by the Defense Ministry.

The toll of dead was nothing like that of the First World War: seventeen men as opposed to sixty. The immediate post-war period was not marked by the same sense of loss and political conflict which had followed the First World War. A generation had not been killed; the old leadership had not passed away. There was not so great a gap between the understanding of those who had remained in Campden and those who had gone to war.

The stress throughout the war and the immediate post-war period was on continuity, both of traditions and community. As the TocH Newsletters show, the desire from the start was to finish the war and re-establish the life and customs it had interrupted, and when the war ended, as the January 1946 TocH Newsletter records:

it would appear that our people had made up their minds that this first Christmas with peace should see the keeping of every tradition known before the war. The bells rang with their old vigour, the band braved both wet and frosty nights and filled the winter evenings with music, while carol singers, and especially the ladies from the Parish Church choir, passed from house to house where their singing was much appreciated. We missed the mummers…On Christmas Day the services in the churches were well attended and on the Sunday before Christmas children from the Parish Church Children’s Service presented a Nativity Play, “The Way to Bethlehem”. The schools gave parties to children of all ages. It would be difficult to tell of all the dances and whist drives that have been held in one place or another for they are legion. Pictures have been shown frequently at the Town Hall and there is at least a hint that very soon we may look forward to their exhibition as a weekly feature. These then were the gala features of 1945…(1)

There was a rolling return to normal life. The Mummers performed again in 1946, and Scuttlebrook Wake was revived in 1948. Also in 1948, work began to restore the footpaths ploughed up during the war; litter baskets were placed about the town again; the new war memorial – a simple plaque, and no public scandal – was unveiled(2). As men returned and prisoners left, the town settled down to interrupted business.

Post-war austerity retarded the process of transfer of Campden out of local hands characteristic of the pre-war period (see IV.2). There was a brief golden era in which the Campden native appeared to have regained control of life in the town. One view this short period took of itself is epitomised in an anecdote published by the Evesham Journal in 1946, in which a gardener refused to carry out the orders of his employer:

“But you mustn’t contradict me,” she said, “I’m the mistress.” To which the gardener replied, “I should contradict the Queen if she was wrong.”(3)

It was a time, that is, for forthright country speech, and a time when the mistresses of trade, incomers and government could be put in their place by straightforward country wisdom.  “Old Campdonians” flourished, and Campden’s annual Parish Meetings became anticipated occasions of lively argument and dialect wit(4). Prominent among the Campden men who emerged into public life in this period was Ernest Buckland, a builder’s labourer and gardener turned gamekeeper who captained the Mummers for thirty years, and whose ability to combine rural wit, local knowledge and Campden accent to devastating effect made him a popular member of the parish council from 1952 to 1961(5).

This golden period lasted only a few years. Then the humour, based on confidence and common sense, began to wear thin under the returning realities of the pre-war period. The autonomy of Campden, and the control of Campden by Campdonians, began, again, their pre-war erosion.

A transition of realisation in the early 1960s drew the bouyant period of the immediate post-war period to a close, as the logical end of the spiral became clear: for the first time local people could imagine a Campden devoid of Campden people. The processes at work were the same as those of the interwar period, but laid bare by time, by the rapid renewal of the economy, and by the accelerated stripping away of the buffer of youth between the older people of Campden and its extinction.

The following sections provide a schematic chronicle of the spiral, rather than a detailed study.

b. Dogs vs. Children

Late in 1948 twelve High Street residents complained about the

“most unnecessary amount of shrieking, shouting and general noise” caused by children in High Street which, they said, was frequently being regarded as a playground.(6)

L.L. Potter Junior, in a letter to the Evesham Journal, replied:

How many of these [complainants], I wonder, have children of school age – “none”. But how many keep dogs? Do they exercise them on their own premises? Most of them fail to realise which are their own premises.(7)

Complainants blamed bicycle-riding children for the poor state of the grass verge between the Market Hall and Grevel House in 1952, and it was brought before the parish council. Ernest Buckland, elected to the council in 1952, turned the complaint back onto the recent residents:

There had always been children playing in the streets, said Mr. Buckland. In the old days, when people had large families, there used to be more than there were today. The real trouble with the grass verges was that they were being poisoned by “little dogs running along on the end of a bit of string.” (Laughter).(8)

A new dimension was added to the debate in 1953 when, not private residents, but first the police and then the Chamber of Trade complained of noisy dances in the Town Hall(9). One hotelier told the annual meeting of the Chamber of Trade in 1954 that because of the noise he was leaving Campden:

It seems a pretty poor show that after five years in Campden, the place I had hoped to settle down in, I must pack up and leave. But after these Friday night dances I simply cannot face my visitors…

I had a visitor last Friday who came to Campden for a quiet weekend but on Saturday morning he said he had not been able to get to sleep until half-past one and that the place was noisier than London.(10)

Grace Dyble of the Lygon Arms Hotel pointed out that the dances had been going on for years. In her opinion:

Those residents who do not like the sound of young people enjoying themselves should shut their windows…

I trust the Chamber [of Trade] will not be allowed to interfere with the lives of the youth of Campden and district in this manner, otherwise I can foresee the day when they will petition the Vicar to have the curfew rung and have Campden all nicely tucked up and quiet by 8 p.m.(11)

The conflict of ‘children vs. dogs’ and ‘Chamber of Trade vs. young people’ involved the economics and politics of leisure. It was not as if the Campden people were against tourism. To the contrary, the importance of tourism was obvious, as it had been since the turn of the century. So were its accompanying

premises: that Campden’s main non-agricultural assets were the natural beauty of her setting, the beauty of her architecture, and her wealth of history and tradition; that these assets ought to be publicised and tourism encouraged. The Dover’s Games revived by Campden for the Festival of Britain in 1951 were as oriented to the publicity of Campden as the Whit Monday Fetes of 1895-1897, or the “Microphone at Large” broadcast in 1934(12); and Scuttlebrook Wake remained, in part, a publicity tool(13). When Ernest Buckland opposed joining the Bledisloe Cup Competition for the best-kept village in 1954, it was not because of the increase in tourism that could be expected for the winning village, but because he did not like Campden being classed as a “village”; it was a town. He was pleased when Campden won the Cup(14).

The issue simply was that for people who paid to be in Campden for its quiet, either as retired residents or overnight tourists, the town needed to be a “village”, a pastoral refuge from noise and care, and not a bustling, noisy rural market town. Peace and quiet is what the Chamber of Trade, which had been founded in 1949 (the same year that television came to the Cotswolds(15) ordered Campden to provide. Buckland and others acted the gardener, and contradicted the Chamber by holding up a different Campden to visitors: a place of beauty and history, but also a place of characters, a working community, a place of children and families and living traditions. It was a conflict, in fact, between two types of tourism – between the cultural tourism which prevailed in the pre-war years, in which the object on view was an “old style” way of life, and in which Campden people could play their parts; and historical/recreational tourism, for “tourists who want to relax or commune with nature” (and English antiquities)(16).

In the ‘golden period’ of the post-war period the people of Campden retained an upper hand. The Chamber of Trade complained in 1953, for example, that Campden’s coronation celebrations would conflict with television coverage. One hotelier went so far as to say “it was entirely wrong that jollification would be in progress in Chipping Campden at such a solemn and religious moment as the crowning ceremony,” and the Coronation Celebration Committee was asked to adjust its schedule(17). Of the “more ambitious programmes” of celebration in the area covered by the Evesham Journal, however, “Foremost among these is the programme which has been arranged at Chipping Campden”, which combined elements of earlier coronation celebrations, the Festival of Britain, and Scuttlebrook Wake into a huge celebration by the community. At the same time, however, television was also planned into the programme for the day.(18)


B. 1950s-1964. The Worm Awakes

a. The Impact of Government

It was through government that the process of stripping away local autonomy was first and most obviously recognised.

Before 1953 the Leasebourne end of the High Street sloped considerably from one side to the other. It was argued by some that the increase in motorised traffic was causing the road to spread, and that this would ultimately threaten the buildings on the lower side. A proposal was therefore put to the Parish Meeting in 1952 to have the road levelled, with a buttress wall to be built along its lower side: the Meeting voted the idea down. In 1953, however, Gloucestershire County Council carried out the work, and to protect the new verges it created, bordered the road with a granite kerbing(19). At the Parish Meeting of 1953. George Hart complained:

all of a sudden, the provision of kerbs is handed to us as a fait accompli…alterations to the High Street which will ruin the ancient appearance of Campden. They are making it look like some kind of garden city instead of keeping it a rural town.(20)

The leader of the parish council, who had bought the Campden House estate in 1943 and was therefore a relative newcomer(21), Capt. Coles, responded to the charge that the work made Campden look like a suburban town with the statement: “The County Council do not think so. And they have the last word, remember”(22).

He was answered that the parish had successfully fought the County Council before; Capt. Coles was ultimately forced to admit that the work had been undertaken only following considerable pressure on the County from the parish council. A motion to have the wall removed was defeated(23).

As early as 1948 Ernest Buckland had complained of the flooding of cottages in Watery Lane in which he lived, following construction on the new Littleworth Council Estate just up the hill(24). After the fifth bout of flooding in 1954 he complained that the District Council “aggravated the position by not taking local opinion into account when they built the new housing estate” – that is, by ignoring local expertise on drainage and the characteristics of the land(25).

In 1955 a District Council sanitary inspector had a water trough on Westington Hill filled in because tramps at a ‘holiday camp’ further up were using it to bathe themselves(26). It had been erected at the end of the 19th century as a boon to working men and their animals(27). It was owned and had been maintained by farmer Walter Gladwin, who had not been consulted by the District Council; through the parish council he asked the District Council to reinstate the trough(28). Adopting a proposal put by Ernest Buckland, the Parish Council agreed that the sanitary inspector be required to restore it(29). The Parish Meeting in April 1956 passed a resolution which supported the parish council. Nevertheless, the District Council refused to negotiate(30).

Also in 1955, the parish council first expressed dissatisfaction with the allocation of council houses in Campden by the District Council. Buckland raised the issue in late May:

Mr. Buckland asked whether there was a points system for allocating houses and when told there was not, said: “I think it is very unfair that people who have lived in Campden all their lives should have to give way to people who have only just moved into the parish”.(31)

At a later meeting,

he said that genuine Campden residents were being driven away from the parish because housing priority had been given to outsiders.(32)

It was no longer a question simply of dogs vs. children; it appeared that emigration was being forced on native Campdonians by government policy.

b. Dogs or Children.

In 1960, the parish council expressed concern that

Unless more employment was provided locally, there was a danger that the real Campdonians would disappear and be replaced by retired people from outside the district…(33)

There was also the old problem of a rural educational system designed to meet the needs of an urban-centred economy: “The days are gone”, Buckland told the parish council “when you will get anyone working with a mop and pail in their hand, after all the education they are getting”(34). In his Speech Day talk in 1961, Alan Jones, headmaster of the Grammar School, agreed that

There were anxieties. For example, the tendency for almost all pupils of ability to seek careers away from the district became stronger each year, and because of the lack of opportunities for employment in the North Cotswolds, those who left were not replaced. Over a period, this drain of youth and talent seemed likely to make radical changes in the community in which we lived.(35)

Lack of employment opportunities and urban-centred education were not the only factors operating to drain youth out of Campden. A study carried out in 1968 found that from 1951 to 1961 302 houses had been built in Campden, but that the population had risen by only 56: “There had clearly been considerable dilution of household size to achieve this strange result”(36). Furthermore, the report found that 20.7% of the population was under 15 years of age while 21.2% was of pensionable age. 45.3% of the population was over 44 years of age. Consequently

The apparently growing parishes of Bourton, Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold are growing only marginally, probably through immigration of middle aged retired persons, and that in reality, these parishes are not endowed with socially viable age structures…(37)

Council house building ceased in 1956(38), while the rapid growth in privately-built homes caused local housing prices to rise rapidly. Not only was the District Council allocating the restricted number of Campden council houses to outsiders, but available private housing was being priced right out of the range that young Campden couples could afford. It was a pernicious cycle.

C. 1964-1974. Whose Campden Is It?

a. Snobs

In 1960 a petition with 19 names on it was turned in to oppose an application to open a fish and chip shop in Sheep Street. A counter-petition was signed by 325 persons(39). P.T. Jones, proprietor of a garage in Sheep Street, was one of the 19 and wrote to the Evesham Journal:

Most of us have residences round there and we do not want to be stunk out by this abomination which is going up…Why not dump it near the council houses? We are not of a fish and chip mentality in Sheep Street: we do not require them.(40)

In 1963 Jean Forsyth wrote in the Grammar School parent’s magazine of her experiences as Campden’s youth club organiser. She didn’t live in Campden, and therefore

I really only know the place through Youth Club members and I gather it is full of snobs. This apparently means anyone from children who go to the Grammar School to all those who don’t live in the Council Estates…Only snobs go to Universities, only snobs go to Grammar Schools, only snobs prevent Campden from having electric street lighting, etc. etc.(41)

In a reflection to the parish council in 1964, Mrs. F.E. James said that

Every day, Campden gets more of a place for toffs…Nothing is being done to provide houses for the working man.(42)

Ernest Buckland spoke at a Parish Meeting in 1969 against a request by the Post Office to have the houses in Campden numbered:

“I know where you lives and you know where I lives,” Mr. E. Buckland told the chairman (Mr.L. Brodie). “What does it matter about outsiders?”(43)

In 1966, the Cotswolds were declared an Area of Outstanding Beauty(44). Campden won the Bledisloe Cup competition in 1967, 1969, and 1971 – or, because a winning community had to wait a year before it could enter the contest again, three consecutive times(45). In 1964, however, Campden’s British Rail station was closed, and her post office was replaced by a sub-post office, with the cancellation changed from “Campden, Glos.” to “Evesham, Worcs.”(46). By 1972 there was no district nurse resident in Campden, no dentist, and Campden was added to the Evesham, Worcestershire, telephone system, “Campden” again being subsumed in “Evesham”(47).

b. Campden Thwarted:
A Subtler Bureaucracy

‘Thwarting’ of local initiative by outsiders who did not seem to understand or appreciate local history increasingly characterised Campden in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1965, for the first time since the War Memorial was unveiled in 1921, there was no Remembrance Day parade because of difficulties in hiring a band and the decreasing number of old veterans(48). In 1967 the British Legion reacted to “sarcastic remarks made about the Remembrance service from people in Campden”, and asked the parish council to take the matter off their hands(49). The council decided to ask the annual Parish Meeting in 1968 for its opinion. Old Campdonian and World War One veteran John Horne said that he felt

the need for Remembrance was greater now than it had ever been. He believed that it should be a civic occasion and not left entirely to the Legion.

A Mr. J. Rogers

said that for 40 years the Legion had paraded in the afternoon, and then the new Vicar had come and the service had been changed to the morning.(50)

The Legion felt it had no control over the situation. The Vicar responded that he had instituted the morning service at the request of the Legion; he would like to see it retained, but he was always willing to do as the Legion asked. The Parish Meeting authorised the parish council to take over the conduct of Remembrance Day in cooperation with the British Legion and local ministers, with the likelihood that the afternoon service would be re-instituted(51).

The parish clerk was a man, originally from South London, who had relatively recently moved to Campden(52). In 1970 he threatened to resign if the parish council agreed to organise the day: “A civic body should not be responsible for organising a religious observance”, he argued(53). Historically, as the discussion in IV.2 showed, the clerk’s position was wrong: Remembrance Day was not a religious occasion, it was a Campden – that is, as John Horne had remarked, a ‘civic’ – celebration. Nevertheless, confronted by the parish clerk’s ultimatum the council withdrew its offer to help. Reaction in the town was immediate. There were letters of protest to the Evesham Journal(54), and in the Scuttlebrook Wake parade at the end of May there were “two be-medalled ex-Servicemen bearing a British Lgsion banner with the slogan “We shall not forget”(55). An independent committee was formed to organise the Remembrance Day ceremonies(56).

This was symptomatic of a change which had taken place in the Council Itself, a loss of direction and unified purpose since the post-war ”golden era”. The Council tried to buy Broad Campden pool in 1971 when the owner died, for example; it was sold to a couple from Herefordshire who wanted first to open a caravan site along with the pool, and then build a house adjoining. The Council initially, through the efforts of the same clerk who had stopped their organising the Remembrance Day celebration, blocked the applications and ultimately, in 1976, the owners closed the pool. In 1977 they offered its running to the Council in return for a nominal rent and all expenses; the Council decided it could not afford this and the pool – a Campden institution since the interwar years – was not reopened(57). A Town Council meeting in 1975 dwelt on complaints by itself about itself: “now it is more like a trade union meeting with rule so-and-so, section so-and-so”; “I used to look forward to coming to these meetings but now it has got to be a drag, with the silly arguments we get”; “we seem to have lost all the co-operation and unity we used to have”(58). The annual town meeting in 1975 was overcrowded and boring, “not a good laugh all evening…Where were the Campden wits, usually so ready to challenge or deflate authority?”(59)] Where was the sense of control in a community feeling itself under a “cloud of bureaucracy”?(60)

In 1969, Edward Nobes, Campden coal merchant, was issued with an enforcement order to move his coal depot out of Aston Road. His son testified that in the ten years before 1958 he had regularly taken coal from Campden Station to the Aston Road yard. In 1958 the coal depot at the station had closed, and the coal now came in lorries from Wales and Derbyshire(61). In defending the enforcement order, the area planning officer reportedly said that Campden was

one of 51 celebrated “gem towns” in the country, because of its absolutely outstanding architectural interest. He added that there was only one other such town in Gloucestershire. In the Cotswolds coalyards tended to be found near the railway line; many disused station yards were now being used for that purpose, he said. “I would not expect to find a coal yard in a good class residential district such as Chipping Campden,” he said.(62)

This basic scenario with this same external definition of Campden was repeated several times over the next decade. In 1974 a local builder applied for permission to convert a barn in Station Road into a builder’s office and storeroom(63). The application was turned down by the highway and planning authorities, and Campden native Don Ellis, in the parish council,

said the Grove family had been in Campden for at least 400 years and according to Church records had always been stonemasons and builders…If permission were given the development would be carried out in a workmanlike way. There would be nothing shoddy about it.(64)

A relative of the applicant argued that

Perhaps it is the intention of the planning and highway authorities to convert the whole parish into a museum, tourist centre, and a place for retirement.(65)

The project had received the support of almost every organisation and eminent person in Campden, including the Town Council and the recently formed Campden Society (see below). It was independently opposed only by the Council for the Protection of Rural England, for which there was a suggested change in title: “cut out Rural, substitute Suburban”(66). With so much support it was difficult to understand on what basis the application had been rejected.

In 1976 all of the previous themes were crystallised when Rusty Hart, a descendant of Guildsman George Hart, was refused permission to open a shop for working on small engines in the town centre(67). The British Legion wrote to the Evesham Journal:

Sir – Despite the spate of controversy over planning, we wonder could we, on behalf of our members, make one more appeal to the good sense of Campden people.

Over the years, the officers of the Campden British Legion Club have been saddened by members’ stories of sons and daughters having to leave Campden to live or find work. We have seen small properties bought at inflated prices by outsiders and watched a lively happy community degenerate into a squabbling divided society part of which is apparently intent on extinguishing the last spark of the countryman’s life and individuality. Appeals to our representatives over the years have merely evoked the same hackneyed response that it is an inevitable process which cannot be halted.

The latest planning decision which has caused our members fury as well as bafflement was that of Rusty Hart’s attempt to run a small but useful business in what was once a blacksmith’s yard and which now contains a garden shop. It met with a blank refusal, yet within 200 yards permission was granted for a pottery shop of no use whatever to the community. It appears to us that once again the dictates of the tourist trade have taken precedence over a local man’s service to the town.

Our members, who fought a tyranny for the sake of democratic principles, feel that they are now being faced with a subtler bureaucracy pursuing the same despotic aims with the tacit approval of a vocal minority who are interpreting the law to their own advantage with no regard to the common good.

Our young people have nearly all gone. Those remaining must have houses and a raison d’etre for living in the town. These young persons are the keystone of our future so we feel it is time that the people of Campden made their disquiet known at this cynical manoeuvring of planning and private interests before they are reduced to the feudal existence of second-class citizens.

Through our local representatives, let us bombard the planners with our objections and then let us hope that reason will prevail. Then every member of the community can pursue their lives in harmony, bringing back to Campden some of the unique spirit of years ago when it was a busy town full of sturdy characters, not the sterile tourist trap it is fast becoming.

P.C. Babcock (Pres.)
F.W. Benfield (Chair)
J.F. Doran (hon. sec.) (68)

Despite supporting the application with a petition of 428 signatures(69), the County Highway Surveyor turned it down on grounds of access(70).

c. Institutionalised Division:
The Campden Society

In 1971 an organisation was formed which called itself “The Campden Society”, intentionally recalling to mind the Campden Society formed by F.L. Griggs and others in the 1920s (see IV.l, IV.2). Its aims were similar to those of the original Campden Society, as far as the preservation of the beauty and physical integrity of Campden were concerned, and like the original Campden Society, it too was composed mainly of ‘incomers’. This made it an easy focus around which the growing tensions in Campden could crystallise.

At this same time a formerly implicit theme was stated publicly by Campden natives. When, in 1972, the District Council was offered the option to buy the row of six Vicarage Cottages “to be retained for the use of Campden people”(71), one of the old Campdonians already resident in them was dubious. He went over the complaints on the exodus of children and young people from Campden, and asserted:

As I see it, if the RDC purchase the cottages and modernise them, that will be the finish for any Campden person living there. When we tenants have departed, they will think, “We have no more Campdonians left; we have kept our part of the bargain: let us dispose of them.”

The surest way to keep the properties in Campden hands, he said, was to let Campden people buy them.

I know all the “big noises” will object to this idea, as they do not want Campdonians to be property owners: Campden is not for Campden anymore.(72)

Frank Nobes, a Mummer, expressed the opinion more bluntly In 1973:

Campdonians and other people are not welcome in Campden. It’s those with a five-figure bank account and a “Brummy” accent that are joyously accepted.

He spoke of “the true Campdonians, the workers…” and suggested

Perhaps when they build the new village at Springhill they’ll call it the Campden Reservation.(73)

Nobes was a lorry driver, and in 1968 he had been asked to park his lorry in Back Ends in order to leave the Market Square free for visitors. He objected to this at a parish council meeting:

I don’t see why a working chap can’t put a lorry in his own Square, Les [Brodie, the chairman]. Why should I be kicked out to make room for visitors…When Mr. Nobes said the working classes were behind him and it was only the “snobs” who were against him, Mr. Jones pointed out that there were five Campdonians born and bred on the council, and they were all working people.(74)

When the Campden Society successfully petitioned the Department of the Environment to designate Campden an outstanding conservation area in 1973(75), transforming the centre of Campden into a Conservation area, parish councillor and native Lionel Ellis said that he was

struck by the fact that the [Campden] Society appeared to be “running this place” as opposed to the Council.

“We are elected to run the affairs of this parish,” he said, and it seems that Campden Society is doing it.”(76)

He accused the Society of interfering, and at a later meeting exclaimed:

I have lived in Campden all my life yet it has got to wait until I bring the matter up at a council meeting before I am invited to join the Campden Society – not that I shall join or want to! Why are all the people who are new to the place asked to join in so short a time? I have got more love of this place than any member of the Society.(77)

A neighbour, Ben Benfield, wrote in agreement:

I very much admire Lionel Ellis for his outspoken criticism of the Campden Society. It is about time someone spoke up at these parish meetings. What do we elect them for. We elect a parish council to look after the affairs of Chipping Campden who, for many years, have been guided or misguided by different societies in the parish. It’s about time the council took a grip on itself.

I would like to ask Mrs. Atkins this [Mrs. Atkins had responded to Ellis’ initial complaint with a statement of support for the Society] – she admits being a Campdonian, so am I, but she must remember, perhaps not directly, that she is connected with trade, and as we all know, tradespeople have to be, shall we say cautious, because of that trade so as not to upset people. So are quite a few on the parish council. Is this the reason why they won’t speak up? If so, why do the people elect them?

I wonder, Mr. Tyson and Mrs. Atkins, if the likes of us did become members of the Campden Society, would any of you listen to us? My answer is no. I have nothing against the Society or any other Society in Campden, but please let the appointed people do their work and for goodness’ sake try and co-operate.

The people who elect to come and live in Campden are, I am sure, as welcome as the day is long. They should know that, for this place is God’s own earth. So let’s try and become not nagging monsters, but friendly neighbours. Social status or money is not everything.(78)

Campden native and councillor Dick Smith attempted to moderate:

There are people in Campden now who seem to have more time than the parish council members and who seem to be able to explore wider avenues than we can but who do not want to give any offence to the parish council and are as interested in Campden as the council members. It would be unfortunate if the parish council made the gap wider: On the other hand we should not lose the initiative…It is most unfortunate to have this split in the town between two sets of people moving towards the same ends. It is much better for the two to work together and take advantage from each other’s efforts.(79]

He also commented

In the old days it was only Campden people in the town and all the work was done by them. Now people were coming in from outside and were interested in the town – for which all should be thankful – and had taken on some of the work as Campden people drifted away from it. Now the Campden people were beginning to realise what power and authority they had lost and resentment was building up against this.(80)

In 1974 the District Council was reorganised, its territory enlarged, and its offices relocated to the other end of the Cotswolds(81). In response, a Council Tenants’ Association was formed in Campden(82), and at the annual Parish Meeting of 1975 its chairman

asked why the Campden Society was always consulted. We have got more Campdonians in the tenants’ association than they have in the Campden Society.(83)

In 1976 the Campden Society opposed the building of old peoples’ bungalows in a field behind the High Street. A Campden couple responded:

one wonders whether it is worth electing a parish council here in Campden as we seem to have been taken over by the Campden Society who, we note, are also objecting to the proposed building of old peoples’ bungalows in Badgers’ Field which we think and we’re sure many more will agree, would be an ideal place. Old buildings and preserved trees and fields are very nice, but surely the needs of human beings must come first.(84)

Another wrote:

I, for one, don’t think they [old Campden people] should be pushed in any old corner just to suit Mr. Mottershead [the Campden Society’s chairman] and his footpaths, as his motto for the old seems to be “out of sight, out of mind”.(85)

Campden Morris man Bert Hathaway wrote:

It is really amazing, that while green fields of Chipping Campden were being built on for private houses, not one voice of protest was heard. Pear Tree Close, Cherry Orchard Close, Hayshum Close, Parsons Close. But the minute one of the green fields (Badgers’ Field) is suggested for the old peoples’ bungalows, which may help the Campden people themselves, there is a hue and cry from private residents.(86)

Sue Magee, on behalf of the Council Tenants’ Association, criticised the Campden Society for taking what appeared to be a maverick line after attending a meeting of Campden clubs and societies called to discuss the issue:

We sincerely hope the district council will take note of the views expressed by the democratically elected representatives of the town and we hope they will not be deterred by the latest spate of correspondence.(87)

In this instance, the bungalows were built.


D. 1974-1980
A Kind of Dunkirk Glory

a. The Elm Tree

The old Elm Tree, standing where the High Street became Lower High Street at the junction of Sheep Street, was condemned by the parish council in 1969(88). Ernest Buckland wrote to the Evesham Journal:

At a meeting of the Campden Parish Assembly last week I listened with concern to the condemning of the old hiring and meeting elm tree standing at Sheep Street corner, as unsafe. Perhaps the people don’t know its history or don’t want to commit themselves.

As a gardener for three-quarters of his life, he felt the tree could be saved, and included a long poem retailing something of the trees’ history:

Under this tree as a child I played,
So did hundreds before I was born.
Searching for birds’ nests in the boughs above,
just like birds in the corn.
Meetings of all kinds took place in its shade,
Bands in plenty played
and many a choir sang under its great green…(89)

The appeal was successful. Instead of being felled the tree was merely lopped and protected by a tin “hat”, and tended for another four years, until 1973.

In 1973, the annual Parish Meeting expressed alarm at the falling number of children in the town, and called for cheaper housing. The meeting was also told that the old elm tree was finally dead, but George Greenall

sprang up with a twig from the tree in his hand and cried “It’s alive!”(90)

In the subsequent discussion, parish council chairman Les Brodie

said he was not in favour of taking down the tree. “It’s a tree of great character,” he said, “the Americans would give their right arms for it.”

Councillor Gell opposed the tree; Ernest Buckland replied:

That tree has got more history than ever Miss Gell will leave behind her. It is the last hiring tree I know of in Campden or any of the villages around…If you keep that tree there, trim him up a bit and put his tin hat on properly, he will last for a good many years yet.

A Campdonian with a shop near the tree

said that all they could see from the bedroom window was this tin hat. “It is so ugly,” she said, “and we have hundreds of visitors coming to us in the summer and asking what the meaning is of this lump of tin.”

Campden native Fred Coldicott drew the moral:

We are told that as a town Campden is dying and so is the old tree. I propose that we leave it alone and let it die in peace with Campden.

By a vote of 150 to 2 the tree was reprieved.(91)

By the end of the year the tree had been tidied, trimmed. 0$\ V.2 p.432 and the tin hat removed. That having been done, the parish council, in Lionel Ellis’ words, found “It’s ugly”. Councillor Hughes agreed: “Even the woodworm have left it”. The chairman, Les Brodie, agreed that between tarmac, road excavations and Dutch Elm disease the tree had not stood a chance(92). Therefore, at the beginning of 1974 the tree was felled “amid much gnashing of teeth by older residents”(93). At the Dover’s Hill Games at the end of May, a piece of the old elm tree was “ceremoniously and sentimentally” thrown onto the annual bonfire, bringing an end to an era(94).

b. Dunkirk Glory

Scuttlebrook Wake, on the Saturday in Whitsun, had traditionally been a day of races and a funfair. Through the influence of the Guild (as discussed in III.3 and elsewhere(95)) it had been re-oriented toward the children of Campden. Immediately before World War II it took over many of the features of the earlier Whit Monday Fete as organised by the town band and became the day of the year on which Campden people returned for reunions in the town. From 1963 the celebrations were begun on the Friday evening, and from 1966 Friday evening was developed into a full programme of sports and entertainments called “Dovers’ Games”(96). The Evesham Journal commented in 1969:

A feature of this annual Campden festival, particularly the Dovers’ Hill Games, is the participation of youth. Seventy-five percent of the crowd on Friday night consisted of young people, which in a district where the old are said to predominate, must be a good and encouraging thing.(97)

I have shown elsewhere that the Whitsun celebrations have come to be a celebration of ”Campden” itself(98). In 1977, however, it rained heavily and the committee called the Games off:

But the lionhearted people of Campden then decided to take a hand. While the rain continued to pour, they trudged first in their dozens and then in their hundreds up to Dover’s Hill, that windy amphitheatre above Campden, even though most of them knew the games were off.

The bands – which could have gone home with their money – decided to parade:

A half-hearted attempt to parade in the shelter of the Square was a flop, so off they all went in their buses to the rain-lashed hill and smartly and enthusiastically went through their paces there, wearing their macs. They were warmly received by the noticeably youthful crowd which continued to grow and grow, though there was nothing to do other than listen to the bands and watch the rain clouds fuming…

The rain-sodden bonfire was eventually persuaded to burn with the help from a paraffin can, then came the torchlight procession back to the square, by no means unimpressive in size and flaming splendour…

The Evesham Journal concluded that

This year’s games should have been the best of the modern series, being also a celebration of the Silver Jubilee, but were the worst as far as weather and the balance sheet were concerned. Yet they had a kind of Dunkirk glory and those who braved the hill were not sorry to have been there.(99)

This experience convinced the organisers of the Games that even if it were to rain again in the future, the Games should not be cancelled(100). One might say that in the rains of 1977, the younger people on Dover’s Hill literally carried the torch V.2 p.434 for Campden. A cynic might remark, on the other hand: what else is there for young people to do on a rainy Friday night in Campden?

c. A Potty Scheme

In 1977, the year of Dunkirk Glory, there were a record number of foreign tourists to the Cotswolds(101). Having decided in 1972 that there were too many tourists coming to Campden, the town council had declined to join the Cotswold Tourist Association(102). In 1977 it changed its mind(103), and In 1979 Campden became the site of the first Tourist Bureau in the North Cotswolds(104).

Also in 1979 Gloucestershire County Council sparked another furore as it started work on a project in the Sheep Street area, the instigation for which was unclear to many, and the need or propriety of which was strongly challenged. When the episode came to an end, one resident summarised a local point of view:

Rightly or wrongly, some felt that the scheme had been foisted on the town by the unrepresentative Campden Society, composed largely of superannuated Birmingham merchant princelings with no great interest in the town as a working community.(105)

Six of the eleven Town Council members at the time were Campden Society members(106). A re-paving scheme had been agreed, but on top of this the council and the Campden Society agreed to jointly sponsor a kerbing and verging project at Sheep Street corner(107). There was immediate opposition: it obliterated scarce parking, it made a difficult corner for traffic more difficult, and it was a purely cosmetic operation for which there was neither need nor general desire(108). Lionel Ellis wrote:

I have yet to meet anyone in favour of this scheme, but maybe I do not move in the right circles.(109)

The mayor, another Campden native, argued that no significant number of legitimate parking places would be lost, that part of the cost was being met by private donations and grants, and shared

Mr. Ellis’ fear that he may not be moving in the right circles. What I am more fearful of is the likelihood that he may be moving in ever-decreasing circles!(110)

to which another Campden man responded:

Does he mean that Mr. Lionel Ellis and all other Campdonians are moving in ever-decreasing circles and eventually we shall be taken over completely by the Campden Society?(111)

In speaking of the scheme, George Hart said:

In the past we have seen some muttonhead ideas and schemes, but this one must surely take first prize.(112)

The scheme received support from Sir Harold Kent, a founding member of the new Campden Society. He visualised the project as a frame for the gem of Campden’s architecture:

At the end of it the architecture of the High Street will have a worthy setting, and people will be able to walk in the town with greater pleasure and safety, especially old people.(113)

These points of view, echoing the dogs vs. children debate of the immediate post-war period and the beauty vs. use debate of the interwar period, were essentially irreconcilable. But though the gardener contradicted the mistress, as he had in the post-war “golden period”, the mistress insisted on having her way: the scheme carried on. The Campden field-gun episode following World War One (see IV.2) comes to mind as, secretly during the night of Sunday, October 21, some

Campden wags, determined to pour scorn on the expensive town pavement improvement scheme now under way in the High Street and to get a laugh out of it, went to work…

As dawn broke on Monday, early risers found that a gas drilling rig [a topical allusion to gas drilling going on elsewhere in the Cotswolds] and a privy had been erected on the site facing the mouth of Sheep Street where, until, the Gloucestershire County Council workmen started digging last week, cars had usually been parked. A chamber pot dangled from a direction post, with a slogan. [An accompanying photograph shows the direction post with its official sign “public conveniences”, and the unofficial sign “A ‘Potty’ scheme”.]

A broadsheet poem was also being circulated:

Councillors, o councillors, what shall we do?
The cads of Campden have built another loo!
Stoutly constructed of cardboard and logs:
Don’t these chaps know it’s only for dogs?

All of this was torn down, and another poem was circulated:

The phantom builders got to work
In the dark they did not shirk,
To build a privy on the site…
And managed it without a strike!
Oil rig erected on the spot.
Long way up, a chamber pot.
The vandals came and took a look
Demolished it and slung their hook.(114)

The Evesham Journal attempted to put the demonstration into perspective for its general readers, speaking of Campden’s “choice sort of civic humour with which that Town has conducted its affairs from time immemorial…”

Demonstrations occur, more or less spontaneously, and the town is roused to communal laughter. Campdonians derive a Gargantuan joy from deflating the pompous, the earnest, and the solemn. They always did, and unless progress takes a disastrous turn for the worst, they always will.

Campden has always had a healthily scant respect for its leaders, from the mediaeval clergy down through William Harrison and C.R. Ashbee to the bunch of eminent people who live there now, slowing down a bit (as it were) after having vacated this or that corridor of power, sphere of influence and topmost rung. Any tendency towards high and mightiness they might come to Campden with is soon dissolved in scornful laughter, and their names are eventually remembered with great respect. But for the moment it is an uphill struggle…(115)

Having been completed, in January 1980 nearly the entire scheme had to be dug up again – it did not conform to the design. There were claims of bad workmanship; but there were counter-claims that “unknown people had been altering the pegs and other

guides to the workmen in the dead of night”(116). A spokesman for the County Surveyor’s Office spoke of “clear evidence of vandalism,” and pointed out

The criticism directed against the County Council is in effect a smokescreen to cover the dissension between various factions of townspeople who are not agreed on the desireability of carrying out the pavement scheme as a whole, notwithstanding the series of public meetings which was convened.(117)

In February it was completed again. A group of residents capped the episode with an impromptu pavement party for the workmen, to show that their labours were appreciated, and to emphasise that the demonstrations and obstructions had not been directed at them but against the scheme(118).

The Evesham Journal placed the demonstrations in the framework of “deflating the pompous, the earnest, the solemn’. Keith Moule, of the Red Lion, suggested that “Making a joke of it…was perhaps all that ordinary people could do to register a serious protest against bureaucracy gone mad”(119). Comparing the affair with the German field gun episode following World War I suggests that the gleeful vandalism of the Sheep Street scheme should be taken more seriously as a protest against a mistress who would not listen, by a segment of Campden reduced to expressing itself through symbollic action.


E. 1980-1986

The objectives of the Campden Society, as stated in its constitution of 1970, were:

a) to stimulate interest in and concern for the character, beauty and history of Campden;
b) to promote high standards of planning, architecture and landscaping in Campden;
c) to secure the preservation, protection and improvement of the character and beauty of Campden and its features of historic and public interest.(120)

In its AGM of 1978, it added to item ‘c’ the significant phrase, “with full regard to its needs as a living community”(121).

In 1881, 55% of the parents of scholars in the Church of England Infants School were born in Campden; 35% had been born within 15 miles of Campden; 10% had been born over 15 miles from Campden. In 1985, in Mrs. Thorpe’s third and fourth year class at St. James’ School, 10% of the parents had been born in Campden; 29% had been born within 15 miles; 61% had been born over 15 miles from Campden. The ratio of native-born parents to those born farthest away had been reversed(122).

A study conducted in 1968 found that 21.2% of the population of Campden was of pensionable age in 1961(123), by 1983 this figure was 32%, with a steady pressure to create more retirement housing(124).

The Evesham Journal reported in 1981:

The Campden Society now has 297 members and its annual meeting at Campden Town Hall attracted almost as many people as the town’s recent annual parish meeting.(125)

In 1982 the Cotswold District Council further secured the physical amenity of Campden by placing an Article 4 Direction on all of Campden High Street and parts of adjoining streets; it was the first time the District Council had applied the Direction to an entire town centre:

…Campden was outstanding not only in the district, but the county, the country and possibly the world.

The effect was “to take away permitted development rights”, without distinction(126). In essence, the entire town centre was sealed, officially at least, against unsupervised change.

In the same year, between the beginning of April and the end of October, the Campden Tourist Bureau had handled over 9,000 inquiries(127).

Chairman of the Town Council Horace Haines, a native of Campden. created a furore among Campden’s Chamber of Trade in 1985 when he publicly characterised Campden’s High Street stores as “little places selling rubbish…”

…things which are not essential…They are not clothes, nothing you can use or eat – just gimmicky things…We need more places selling consumer durables. It is a view a lot of local people would support, but not express in public.(128)

He was nearly prosecuted when, in 1986, he looked in at the window of a cottage in the High Street that he thought was vacant. It wasn’t. A family of incomers, used to a different concept of public space, came close to charging him with invasion of privacy(129).


V.3: 1946-1986. Discussion.

A. Introduction

Organising and running the mumming involves a considerable number of man hours and a continuous stream of decisions, most of which determine the conduct of the custom, and many of which are critical to its survival. The leader of the mummers is constantly confronted by realities which cannot be avoided, and must make the best choices available on the basis of personal experience and tradition. At a time of rapid social and cultural change, such as Chipping Campden has experienced over the past thirty years, the task has become increasingly difficult and the problems acute.

There are certain elements in the custom which cannot be changed. They constitute the custom as known and are part of its history. In Campden these include the fact that it is a men’s custom and a drinking custom, that money is collected, that the face must have some paint on it, that it is a custom for labourers, that there is an element of surprise in their appearance, that it is a family custom and a Campden custom, that the men must behave in an acceptable way, that the leader must be able to make effective decisions about performance details and behaviour(1). Not all of these elements, nor others, sit easily together – eight drinking men are not always easy to control and may not always behave acceptably, for example. Nor do the essential features of the custom necessarily fit easily and congruously into the realities external to the custom: laws against begging and drinking and driving, for example, have a direct effect on the way the custom can be done(2).

The past thirty years, with the radical changes that have taken place in Campden, have therefore been difficult and challenging ones for the leaders of the Campden mumming. There have been two – the late Ernest Buckland and his nephew Jack Tomes, who is the current leader.

Ernest Buckland’s direct experience in the mumming reached back unbroken to the late 1920s and early 1930s(3), while Jack Tomes recalls his father coming home from mumming in the late 1920s, and performed for the first time himself over fifty years ago in the boys’ mumming of 1937(4). Both Ernest Buckland and Jack Tomes performed under Tom Benfield, who was Ernest Buckland’s uncle, and who was willing to teach the boys the mumming in 1937 in part because Jack Tomes was his great-nephew(5). Jack Tomes was very close to Ernest Buckland, who he says was more a father to him(6).

Mr. Tomes had already been helping with the organisation of the mumming before 1970, when his uncle Ernest fell ill for the first time and Jack was suddenly, for that Christmas, in charge of the mummers on his own(7). With his father’s death in 1977 and Ernest Buckland’s in 1978, Jack Tomes naturally – if sooner than he expected(8) – took over sole leadership of the mumming, and has been in charge of it since.

This chapter is therefore to a great extent about the responses of two men, with deep roots in the Campden mumming, to post-war developments in Campden. It discusses the difficulties they have faced and the solutions which they have had to find, and looks at something of the motivation which has V.3 P.443 enabled them to keep the mumming going.

B. The Custom Resumes

The end of the Second World War brought in Campden an almost immediate return to pre-war life and customs wherever this was practicable. There was not the rejection of the immediate past, as there had been after the First World War, nor the great gap of loss, and local people appeared very much in control. Consequently, rather than revival, there is a general sense of Campden and its customs being simply and gratefully taken up again.

Certainly this was the case with the mumming. The Benfield brothers had died during the war, Tom being the last, at the beginning of November 1942 in a fall from a lorry in Calves Lane(9). Ernest Buckland was on leave out of the army at the time, and in helping his mother – who was Tom Benfield’s sister – to clear out Tom Benfield’s cottage, he took what remained of the mummers’ tack to store it in his attic until after the war(10). Following the hope expressed in the TocH Newsletter of January 1946 that a team of mummers

will be trained in time for next Christmastide – for this is one of the traditions that go to make Campden what it is…(11)

Ernest Buckland got together a team of older mummers who recorded for the BBC and also went touring in 1946(12). There were, of course, changes. In the place of Bert Keyte, who had left Campden, Jack Tomes took the role of King George. “Slippy” Stanbrook, who was in his eighties(l3), was replaced by Norman Bennett, himself in his sixties, in the role of Beelzebub. Jack’s father, Eddie Tomes, took the role of Father Christmas. V.3 P-445 immigration displaced an increasing proportion of the local working class community from which the mummers were drawn.

A warning was sounded in the 1950s when the Town Band collapsed for want of personnel(17). In the late 1950s Ernest Buckland organised a performance of the mummers for actor Sam Wanamaker in Broad Campden but found himself on the night without a single mummer(18); he performed alone, and the difficulty of getting a team of men to do the mumming became an integral part of his concerns, as is shown in his letter to the Evesham Journal in 1966:

I can understand why there are only one or two plays alive in the country at the present time. For one thing, it is very hard to get eight men who will leave their family just at Christmas time and go out in all weathers from house to house in the traditional way.(19)

and in his note to William Davis in 1970:

it only wants one or more performers to be ill at Xmas for us not to appear. I don’t think It justifies your air fare.(20)

The reasons for the difficulty are simple: the demands of the custom came in conflict with the changes in Campden. There are certain things which Ernest Buckland could not alter without changing the custom, and these included the fact that it was a custom for working men which included a good deal of drinking. Furthermore, the proper place for the mumming to be performed is on the mat in front of the fire in the front or living room(21) of the homes mainly of incomers or visitors, and this means not only that the mummers must be honest, but they must also have a concern for the furnishings even in the most intense parts of the action, and must be tactful enough not to say or do anything which would offend or embarrass the hosts(22). If it is taken into account that as part of the custom the men have been drinking and will continue to drink throughout the evening, that the audiences are mainly from a different class and performative tradition, and that the performance involves not only the mumming but the songs and stories and chat afterwards(23), this clearly requires a special group of men.

The leader’s choice of men is therefore a practical problem: he must have seven others who can drink and behave in a respectable manner. This means that he must know them, and must be able to exercise an influence when both he and they have been drinking.

They must also be men upon whom the leader can rely to be available at short notice, depending on bookings, weather, and the availability of other men. They should therefore also live near by, unless they are on the phone and have a reliable way to get themselves home after drinking.

Because the mumming is sometimes arranged at very short notice, it is preferable to have a group of men who know the mumming already. It is, in fact, only the shorter roles like Beelzebub which can be got up quickly in an emergency, taking into account stage fright and drinking. In practice, it is most practicable from the leader’s point of view to have men who can be relied upon to stay with the mumming for several years – to have a genuine team of tried and tested men he knows he can rely on, who know several roles, who are able to fill in for one another if the need arises. This means, again, that they must be men with whom he is in ready contact, and with whom he is in sufficiently regular communication to know when and if he will be able to assemble a team quickly(24).

Furthermore, the mumming has always been a custom for working men, for labourers. There have never been professional men in it, nor craftsmen – such as members of the Guild of Handicraft – nor shopkeepers, although Garnet Keyte was a coal dealer and market gardener, and Ben Benfield drove the station bus. And to the extent that they have been “Campden” men, it has been in the sense used by mummer Frank Nobes and quoted in the last chapter: “working chaps”, “the working classes”(25).

In a town which was actively shedding its working class population and providing fewer opportunities for men to work together and get to know each other in that way, the task of finding reliable and appropriate men to do the mumming simply became harder. From what might appear to be a reasonably large pool of men, the requirements of the custom and social realities eliminated a great many potential mummers even before the leader began to put his team together.

As money became more readily available in the 1950s and 1960s, as television spread, and as families increasingly expected men to celebrate Christmas at home, it became harder to find men from this restricted pool of prospective mummers who were willing to come out with the mumming.

Before the Second World War and immediately after there were a substantial number of men prepared to do the mumming and to stay within the lines drawn by the leader during the Christmas slack time in agriculture and building because of the real importance of the money, and because the leader did not divide out the money collected until the mumming season was over(26).

With the revival of the economy the strength of this motivation declined. Greater general wealth also meant that more men could afford alternative ways of spending their Christmas evenings – television, for example, or going out; and also meant that more working men could afford to join their families in the kind of home-centred, present-giving Christmas that grew in strength out of World War Two(27). Fewer men, that is, found it necessary or desirable to come out in the mumming, and fewer families were willing to support them if they did.

With the growth of “youth culture”, as the collapse of the Town Band graphically showed, the shrinking pool of possible young mummers dwindled even further(28).

The older men who loved the mumming for its own sake tried to solve the problem by bringing their own sons in: Ernest Buckland’s son Bill, Eddie Tomes’ sons Bill, Stuart and Jack, Charlie Blake’s son Bernard(29). This was a temporary expedient, however, as these men too, or some of them, left Campden.

All of this meant that during the 1950s the role of the leader changed radically from the organiser of a group of men strongly motivated to perform, to a motivator working very hard to organise an appearance of the custom. Even George Greenall, who vigorously opposed the basis of the concept of “copyright reserve” which Buckland claimed for the custom, asserted that Buckland and the Tomes family had kept the mumming alive when no one else was interested(30). The survival of the custom literally depended on the vision and tenacity of Ernest Buckland and the small group of men upon whom he could depend.

b. Loss of fame; Rise of shadow

Compounding the difficulties stemming from the dearth of suitable personnel was the practical threat posed from the late 1950s by the appearance of the rival or shadow mumming, which competed both for audiences and for legitimacy as the “Campden” mumming. It was in the face of this threat that Ernest Buckland asserted the right of “copyright reserve” which is discussed in greater detail below.

The root of the shadow mumming lies paradoxically in the pre-war fame of the mummers and its role as a virtual civic custom. This fame was in a sense incidental to the mumming itself, and arose both in the need for symbols of local identity by people who were not themselves mummers and out of the demand from incomers and outsiders for Images in Campden of unspoiled rural life. As these requirements changed in the 1950s – as people came less to Campden to share in her rural culture and more to retire – the mumming carried on as it had before the 1934 broadcast as a custom which people knew largely by rumour and when the knock came on their door.

At one time the mumming season had run from December 21st, St. Thomas’ Night, to New Years. Because of the problems with personnel, the decision was taken by the mummers to decrease the season to one night – to Christmas Eve in particular – unless other nights were specifically arranged(31). This reduced the number of obstacles the leader had to overcome in order to successfully bring a group of men together to keep the mumming going. It also meant, however, that the mummers could visit fewer homes in any one season. Fewer people saw them, and at a time of rapid turnover in residents the relative lack of publicity for the mummers in the late 1950s and 1960s simply meant that a growing body of people living in Campden knew nothing about the mummers and were less prepared to have them in their houses – or, in at least one case, in their hotel(32).

The tradition of the mumming as a civic custom belonging to the “town” took on its own life as the public profile of the mummers faded and as a new generation of Campden residents desired to assert belonging to “Campden”. Idealised in reminiscence and memory, and assisted, I believe, by the statement in Whitfield that the Guild of Handicraft “revived and reinvigorated” the mumming (see III.1-3), this tradition of a “civic” mumming gave birth to the “shadow” mumming.

This shadow mumming has become a direct and rival challenge only comparatively recently. Initially, the threat was specific: the generic “mumming” performed in 1959 for the BBC, which so incensed the actual mummers that twenty years later Peter Harrop thought Jack Tomes was telling him of something that had happened recently(33).

The threat from the shadow mumming became more direct in the 1960s: first, when another group of men performed a mumming for a TocH entertainment in 1964 which was reported, and a photograph published, in the Evesham Journal(34): and next when, later in the same year, a group of men performed a mumming play “based on Campden’s own version” at the Dover’s Games at Whitsun right out of the traditional season, also reported in the press(35). Understandably, Ernest Buckland took the opportunity at the end of 1965 to write to the Evesham Journal confirming that the Campden mummers were “still very much alive”, describing some of the practical difficulties in keeping it going without changing it, and concluding

…that anything Broadway can do, Campden can do bigger and better, and that what is dead and defunct in Broadway is very much alive in Campden.(36)

Within a very few years, however, the parish council discussed the possibility of taking the mumming over(37), and a tradition has grown of performing the mumming in the schools.


Given the difficulties already faced by the actual mummers in keeping the custom alive, the shadow mumming posed a threefold threat to its survival: in competing for limited media attention or publicity, in competing for legitimacy as the “Campden” mumming, in competing for audience awareness and interest generally.

As the BBC professionalised, and particularly with the advent of television, the BBC seems to have moved away from the kind of informal incorporation of local people into its broadcasts characteristic of the inter-war years; it came to rely increasingly on its own stable of professionals and to a decreasing extent on the dwindling company of locals who had been cultivated before the war. It also moved away from the interest in folk customs and the kind of presentation of rural life in which the mummers had thrived before and immediately after the war(38).

When the idea of a mumming broadcast was suggested to the BBC in 1957, it was consequently by a member of the cultivated semi-professional group of locals, and when the broadcast was agreed, he turned to friends who were also members of the semi-professional group. Those upon whom the BBC drew for the 1959 broadcast were Campden men, therefore, but not the actual mummers: they were men who already had access to the media. Valuable airtime was awarded to a fictional custom, and the opportunity was lost to publicise the Campden mumming more generally. This occupation of limited media attention was the first threat posed by the shadow mumming.

Because the men who performed in the 1959 broadcast were from Campden but not performing the “Campden” mumming, the impression can readily have been taken that there were no actual mummers to draw on: that the Campden mumming was dead(39). This occlusion of the actual by the shadow mumming, which would raise in people’s minds the question of the legitimacy of the actual mumming, was the second threat.

For people who were not aware of the Campden mumming, or who were marginally aware of it, the performance of mummings by other men or in the schools without reference to the actual mumming will have made them less interested in seeing the actual mummers when and if they appeared. Having seen one mumming – however removed from the genuine experience of the Campden mumming, which is a full entertainment – they would be less interested in seeing another(40). Through this third threat the potential audience for the actual mumming was diminished further, and the awareness of the mummers locally – their supporting fame – decreased accordingly. The shadow mumming therefore posed a genuine threat to the actual mumming, and made more difficult the difficult task of keeping the custom active.

 D. Motivation: Ernest Buckland’s Mumming
1946-circa 1972

a. Heritage and History

In his letter to the Evesham Journal in 1966 Ernest Buckland rightfully pointed out how few living mumming traditions survive in England today, and that to keep the mumming going without changing the custom required a lot of hard work(41): customs do not keep themselves alive. What he did not say was why he was willing to put in so much effort under increasingly difficult conditions and growing friction with the rival mumming to keep the mumming alive. Fortunately, he was an outspoken member of the parish council from 1952 to 1961 and in the well-attended and well-reported annual parish meetings, and we can put together a reasonably clear answer for ourselves. What is apparent is that he was a man with a deep pride in himself, in Campden, and in his family – what we might call ‘heritage’; and that he had an intense sense of social fairness, justice and history.

It was neither fair nor right, for example, that people other than labourers should be living in council houses(42); that the parish council, should be denied the right to use the Grammar School hall, which was and had been maintained on public rates, and belonged, in some sense, to Campden(43); that Campden people should not have first access to Campden council house vacancies(44). It was not right that the district council, which happily condemned cottages in Campden as unfit for human habitation while doing nothing about casual labourers living on verges and in coppices, should then fill in a water trough on Westington Hill without asking parish permission – especially as this act was intended to discourage the casual labourers from using it for bathing, who were forced to sleep rough simply because the farmers who depended on their labour refused to provide them with decent accommodation(45). It was wrong for farmers to block footpaths(46), for the Post Office to attempt to force house numbers onto Campden to suit the needs of outsiders(47). Nor was it right or fair for people without a sense of local pride to disfigure Campden – by parking on the greens (especially in coronation year), dumping rubbish on the greens, setting bins out early so that animals could spread rubbish about, or generally make the place look untidy:

“A lot of trouble has been taken to tidy up Campden and keep it looking tidy,” said Mr. E. Buckland, “and if some of those folk lying up in the churchyard were to come back today they wouldn’t recognise the place. But Back Ends let the whole town down. No wonder we lost the Bledisloe Cup! It looks to me like a place used by jobbing gardeners to dump their rubbish. I think we should invoke the aid of the police in preventing people from dumping their rubbish there.”(48)

His acute sense of history and heritage was evident in one of his first acts of public speaking. Just after the war

Mr. Buckland stated that one of the most historical objects in the neighbourhood was the Kiftsgate Stone but hardly anyone knew where it was. His suggestion that the stone should be cleared and made more accessible was adopted by the meeting.(49)


It grieved me [Ernest Buckland] very much to hear a middle-aged man say the other evening that he didn’t know what the Parish Award was.(50)

This ignorance about local history so upset him that he proposed in the parish council that all young people should have some instruction in local government before they reached the age to vote(51). He believed so strongly that people ought to know about and care for their history and heritage that he became locally famous for it.

In 1957 the parish council decided to fence an ailing Elm Tree in Broad Campden rather then fell it, for example:

Mr. E. Buckland: All this publicity about the tree has brought out some alarming theories about why the tree was planted, but no one has come out with the right one.

The chairman: All right, Mr. Historian, let’s have it.

Mr. Buckland: I have taken pride in listening to old men all my life and they say these trees exist not only at Campden but at Blockley, Moreton and Bengeworth, and are in the main about three or four hundred years old. They go right back to the days when labourers could be hired out. They used to be hired under these trees before the statute fairs came into being. There was always one of these trees within a stone’s throw of the nearest pub, so that they could get the people drunk and then they wouldn’t worry about who hired them or where they went.

The chairman: These trees are a symbol of hiring, then?

Mr. Buckland: Yes, wherever you go you can find them.

Mr. Readman: The one at Broad Campden, as far as Miss Deakins’ deeds are concerned, is known as a Parliament tree.

Mr. Buckland: It is only since 1914 that they have stopped hiring people at Stratford-on-Avon fair.

Mr. T.W. Knott: The same year that they minted the last sovereign, wasn’t it?(52)

When the Campden Elm Tree was threatened with felling in 1969, he sent a poem to the Evesham Journal:

Having been a gardener for three-quarters of my life, I should be most grateful if you could find space to print the few lines I’ve written which I now send.

At Sheep Street corner there stands a tree,
As nice an elm tree you ever did see,
A councillor in his wisdom (or not)
Says that old tree has had its lot.
Under this tree as a child I played,
So did hundreds before I was born,
Searching for birds’ nests in the boughs above,
just like birds in the corn.
Meetings of all kinds took place in its shade,
Bands in plenty played and many a choir sang under its great green.
Back 200 years or more, farmers and their like
Took men on hire for little and a bite.
A shilling they gave them with ale at the pub close by,
So they could rob them of their labour blind.
These are some of the things for which I’ll remember the elm tree
Many old memories of days far behind.
In towns and villages both far and near,
The same noble trees are alas no more.
Some people seem to remember their fate:
But did nothing about it until it was too late.
Find some way to save it from a likely fate!
Over Lower High Street lop off its bough; it will still make
At top, for our summer visitors its welcome shade.
Remember, only you have the power
To save this landmark for others to see
So gather together you Campdonians all
Say to the council this tree you must not fall.(53)

Once an historical object is destroyed it is gone, and it takes with it a world of memories and historical experience which are important in themselves. While a landmark exists people have a responsibility to save it.

Just as the Broad Campden hiring tree and the Campden elm tree were symbols of the past exploitation of labourers, a living lesson in class history, the Campden mumming – by steadfastly remaining a working men’s and ‘begging’ custom, for example – has preserved the memory of the era when labourers were simply let off work to face hard Chrlstmases when agriculture and building were slack, of walking through snow and waiting five hours in the queue in Moreton for dole money, of holes in shoes in winter and handed-down clothes(54).

Ernest Buckland put in the effort to keep the mumming alive because he loved it for its own sake. But he persevered when few others were interested and then when the rival interest developed because it was his personal duty to do so – It was his duty to his own past, to past generations of working-class mummers, to Campden and to the future. He could not save the Elm Tree, but he could and did save the mumming. What kept him going, therefore, was the intense sense he had of the mumming as part of his own, his family’s, and of Campden’s heritage.

b. The Bath University Performance

Ernest Buckland kept the mumming going for over a quarter of a century. Despite ill health he remained the active head of the mummers as long as he was able, and the “presiding genius” until his death(55). Among his last performances was one at a folk evening in November 1972 at Bath University, arranged largely through a chance meeting in Campden with one of the organisers of the Bath University Ceilidhs (56).

The mummers were not paid, as such. In exchange for agreeing to perform the mummers were provided with transport (as there were extra seats in the coach the organisers also invited the Campden Morris Men) and free beer(57). Indeed, as soon as they arrived the mummers were offered drinks. To the surprise of the organisers, however, Buckland exclaimed “Right. We’re going home!”, and he told them that he wasn’t going to have the mummers drinking out of plastic mugs. The organisers promptly V.3 p.458 went to a nearby pub, according to Frank Nobes, and brought back glass mugs with proper handles and indentations just for the mummers(58).

Later, in the upstairs bar, Buckland interrupted the performance of well-known folk-singer Shirley Collins and asked her “Why don’t you sing some old songs, missus?”, and obliged with songs from his own repertoire. He may also have had the mummers perform the play there, before the scheduled performance in the Refectory downstairs.

For the Refectory performance some 400-500 students sat around a cleared space(59). Frank Nobes, playing King George, remarked to Buckland “Look at all the people”, and Buckland told him, “You can die with one eye open, then”(60). The students were largely new to the folk revival, and many were probably unaware of the significance of what they were seeing. The mummers performed as they were used to doing, assisted by the beer and in their Campden accents. It was a unique encounter(61).

David Bland was told by Ernest Buckland later in the year that there was no plan for the mummers to come out again that December (1972)(62); there is a possibility that the mummers were not out during the 1973 Christmas season(63). Buckland was too ill to perform in the last years of his life, and died in 1978(64). The Bath University performance was therefore one of his last.

Eddie Tomes, Jack Tomes’ father, died unexpectedly in 1977, his last outing as Father Christmas being at Christmas 1976(65). When Ernest Buckland died in 1978, his nephew Jack Tomes had effectively been in charge of the mummers for about five years.

E. Problems and Solutions: Jack Tomes’ Mumming
circa 1973-Present

a. Background

When Ernest Buckland first joined the mummers between the wars there was still a stable local base, a rising generation, and a community which was still comparatively integrated. Men were glad of a chance to do the mumming: it got them out of the house; brought them some drink; and could earn them enough money for shoes and clothes(66). At a time when there were enough friendly, wealthy residents and enough hotels with tourists to make the job worthwhile, there was also a rising mood within Campden to encourage and patronise local ‘traditions’.

This is the time to which Jack Tomes’ (b.1925) earliest memories of the mummers relate:

The first thing I can remember about the mummers is this, you see. When I was a kid, right, and old enough to, to realise things, you see, uh, we lived in a one room up and one room down, you see [Debens Cottages in Watery Lane, occupied at the time by three working class families; since torn down and replaced by a single house]. Well, there was, there was only three of us born in them days, you see, and the first thing I can remember about the mummers is, seeing the old man get up one Christmas morning, he got all this bloody paint on him, you see, know what I mean? So I says, where you been? He says ‘mummerin’, you see, and of course the old lady says to me she says, you don’t want to take no notice of him, he got on the drink last night, he went out mummering. Well, that’s the first I knows the mummerin, you see.(67)

He was in the mummers for the first time himself in 1937, in the performance by the boys in the school Christmas play:

The school boss, Hadley, asked, he asked me Uncle Tom if he could have the mummers as he was going to put a play on, you see, well, he put this play on. Well of course me Uncle Tom come to school to rehearse us to do this Mummers at this play as we done at school, you see, and I went and done it, well, that was me first time of doing it, you see, well, and the next year everybody enjoyed this concert at school, what we done in school, and in 1938 we done it again. Well, from then, 1939 the war broke out so we, I never done it no more, you see, and, anyway…well, [after the war] we struck up the mummers, and from that day to this we’ve kept them going. I used to go with me uncle and do it and me dad, and we kept it going…and well today we still go out with the Campden mummers the same way as me uncle always taught me how to do it, go out and knock on somebody’s door, and ask them if they’d like the Campden mummers…(68)

When his father died in 1977, and with Ernest Buckland ill, the mumming fell sooner than he had expected, but naturally, onto Jack Tomes’ shoulders. He had been among the core of mummers since the war. He had taken them out when his uncle fell ill for the first time in 1970(69). It is difficult to see who else besides Jack Tomes was as well qualified or could have taken on the mumming.

However naturally the mumming fell onto Jack Tomes’ shoulders, the deaths of his father and uncle in rapid succession left him unexpectedly alone to carry on the mummers as he had received them, and without the benefit of his uncle’s advice:

I mean I still goes out and does these mummers the same way as me uncle always taught me how to do it, go out and knock on somebody’s door and ask them if them’d like the Campden Mummers, and they say, well, where do you do it, how do you perform it? Well, we performs it on the mat in front of the fire, and of course we goes in there and gets them all seated, and sorts them out; goes in there and introduces the Mummers to them, and tells them what it’s all about and anyway, off we starts and away we goes and we gives them the performance, and of course, they all sits there and enjoys theirselves, and they gets the drink out you see, well when we’re finished we give them a song or two, of course we goes out of that door and knocks on some other bugger’s door, and has a do [?] there. Course, we’ve got us a bloody box to offer [?] for a bloody coppers afore we moves on. I mean, I mean I never knowed it done any other way so I can’t, I can’t do it any other way, and I carries the bloody job on same as I’ve always done it. (70)

As Ernest Buckland pointed out in his letter to the Evesham journal in 1966, trying to do the mumming the way it had always been done, with Campden radically changing, was not easy, if anything, the difficulties have increased since Buckland’s time. Television has become more influential with a generation of youth which is both smaller in numbers and less oriented to remaining a part of local and traditional life. When it came down to it, Buckland had been able to draw on the adults of his family, such as Eddie and Jack Tomes, and on a pool of residents and hotels which knew the mummers and welcomed them. But there had been the contrary influx of new people, the exodus of working-class families, and attrition through death. The attitude to drinking had also changed, as symbolised by the coming of the breathalyser test for drivers(71), and there has been a change in attitude to the type of performance maintained by the mummers (as argued in VI). Added to all of this is the continuous threat of the shadow mumming, something with which his uncle had to deal, but the character of which has changed into an active, if implicit, rivalry.

The immediately suitable ecological niche for the mumming as it was handed on to Jack Tomes has constricted dramatically where change has not eliminated it entirely. Nevertheless, like his uncle, and for similar reasons(72), he has been determined to keep it going without altering the custom, and by force of character has managed to do so.

b. Concrete Problems, Concrete Solutions

Although the play can possibly be performed without Beelzebub, it takes only one or two key persons to back out at the last moment and the mumming can’t be done. If that happens, and the mummers disappoint an audience by failing to appear, the future of the custom is jeopardised(73). Because of this, Jack Tomes tends to go back to the idea that the mummers come by surprise, and doesn’t tend to take appointments. Someone

asked me [Jack Tomes] to go up there this time…Go and knock on the door and ask them to tell them which night we’re going to come, and they’ll get them guests in, you know…(74)

If the people go to all the trouble to arrange to have guests on a particular night and at a particular time, and the mummers then fail to show, the future of the mumming is put at risk: welcome is the basic currency of the mumming, and welcome is lost when the mumming is unreliable in that way.

It is not easy to solve the part of this problem which is due to the lack and unreliability of the personnel. As a conversation with Jack Tomes, recorded in my notebook, shows:

Where can you go to learn someone in five minutes the words of the play? And you get a young fellow all anxious and eager, and he’d do it a couple of years, get married and move along and then you’ve got the problem all over…I [CF] mentioned that that was a problem – what do you do when all the young people move out of Campden. He said, “That’s what Campden’s about now,” – They’re being pushed – forced out of Campden.(75)

The young people are simply not available, or cannot look forward to being in Campden long enough, to form a reliable pool of mummers.

Reflecting this instability is the constant movement among the incomers themselves, who are pushing the young people out. Again from a conversation with Jack Tomes recorded in my notebook, they

come in, they buy it up, they get elected to the parish council, join the Campden Society, and make laws and then a few years later you see the “for sale” sign on the house and they’re gone.(76)

It is a double-sided problem: the problem of continuing turn-over in personnel in the mummers, and a continuing turnover in the potential audience of persons without a deep stake in the community and its traditions, and with whom it is not possible to build up a tradition of performance – of knowing who or what the mummers are, much less a tradition of welcoming them(77).

In the face of a shrinking and unreliable pool of potential mummers, Jack Tomes followed the logic of the tradition itself and turned to his own family:

and, only way I could sort meself how to do it I had six sons. I thought, well, out of them I can make em do the mummers. They was only kids, and, another kid from over the road used to get [with?] our boys and anyway we got together and we done the mummers and we made a good success of it, and well today we still go out with the Campden mummers…(78)

The decision to use his sons delayed the crisis until his sons grew older, began to marry, and almost inevitably – because of the lack of jobs and affordable housing in Campden  have begun to move away.

He might have sought another solution, which would have been to get a group of men together who would not drink and would be more reliable and easier to control during the evening. To do this, however, he would have had to change the custom. It is essential that the mummers be able to drink and get drunk – not simply for the sake of it, but because it is an important element in the acting. As an old mummer, Charlie Blake, said:

Oh when you’ve had a drop of whiskey inside you at each place you didn’t half bring it out and cut the stuff, you know.(79)

Christopher Whitfield noted in his essay of 1939 that it helped to break down the self-consciousness of the men(80).

Jack Tomes relies on the drinking in lieu of rehearsal:

I mean I’ve got six boys all knows it, I mean when we goes out mummering today we don’t we don’t rehearse it, we just puts the bloody tack on and off we goes and knocks on somebody’s door and goes and does it, course there, well they might put one or two words wrong when they starts, but when you done two or three bloody houses, well you’ve got the job sorted out and you were, you could go any bloody where with it, I, the more drink they has the better the bloody job goes on as the night goes out.(81)

Mumming without drinking is inconceivable; even the 1946 broadcast contract stipulated that the men be given two pints of beer, according to Ernest Buckland(82), and there is the possibility that the men in the 1934 broadcast were given drinks for their trouble. Drinking is a large part of the tradition, and has been within living memory(83).

Given that this is the case, Jack Tomes is nevertheless extremely sensitive to the need to suit the mummers to the people who are visited; it is part of the job of the leader to keep the increasingly tipsy mummers up to proper behaviour. This is a difficult enough task when one knows the people for whom one is performing; it is more difficult if one does not know the people on the other side of a door. His is an extremely pragmatic job:

you has to make your own amusement as you goes on, I mean, if they’ve got, you goes to a house, right, and they’ve got plenty of drink, and theym all in a good mood, well you stops and drinks and sings them a bloody good song, you might stop there the rest of the night and go home drunk, well, that’s what the mummers is all about, that’s what mummers’ all about, you wouldn’t change it, I don’t care, whoever does it, whoever tries, they’d never make it work like like I can do it, you know, go out, I mean, you can go and knock on somebody’s door, Oh yes we’d love to see you, you goes in and oh yes, yes, ah, watch yourself here, be careful you don’t knock the bloody light down when you starts fighting with the swords, but make it a quick do here, we can’t stop long, we got to go somewhere else they got more drinks somewhere else. And this is the bloody idea of it…you got it. Well, that’s it, you see, you got to, you’ve got to sort of uh, fit yourself in to different people that you goes to visit, you see…(84)

The late Jack Horne, a native Campdonian born at the turn of the century, believed the mummers had succumbed in the 1960s, and set this down to the increasing sophistication of Campden with the influx of new people(85). As a churchwarden, he was certainly aware that the immigrants tended to be better educated and of a higher church preference than most local people(86). With the rapid growth in the number of new outsiders, and their rapid turnover, it would be difficult for any local person to know the sensibilities of particular immigrants.

The homes where a welcome is guaranteed also suffer attrition, and as known venues disappear, the mummers are less obviously active and may even deliberately take a year off.

If not for other drawbacks the hotels would be almost ideal in this respect, because there is presumably an annual turnover of guests. Over the years, however, the nature of Christmas itself has changed (especially for the men and their families(87); this, the greater wealth that is generally about, and the greater money to be made doing other things have combined with the fewer known venues to shorten the mumming season:

I mean years ago they used to start off at, at oh, St. Thomas’ night before Christmas, and they used to keep going out, and of course me uncle, they used to have the box to collect a few old coppers, he wouldn’t open the bloody box you see to you or anybody. Christ the buggers were hard up, they was hard up…(88)

Consequently the mummers now tend to go out only on one night, usually Christmas Eve, unless there has been a special invitation to go out on another night(89). Nor, as his boys get older, is the money the motivation it once was for them, even a few years ago – one son could earn more playing in a band(90). There is simply not the hardship there once was, and whatever else it is, the mumming is not a commercial custom:

Well, if I was bloody hard up well we’d go, but today’s we ain’t hard up like we used to be…(91)

Indeed, it can be looked at in another way:

And, but you see, we don’t make anything out of it, I mean you go out all[?] nights, you go out and make a fool of yourself like that, you have a drink here or there, but if, if there’s a couple of quid apiece in the box…That’s nothing, is lt?(92)

As his boys marry and have families, and as they tend to move away from Campden, it becomes more difficult for Jack Tomes to gather them together on Christmas Eve. The absence of one or two makes it very difficult for the mummers to come out. The use of cars for getting about – and for his sons to come up for the mumming – is problematical because of the new drink-and-drive laws, and the breathalyser test(93).

This element of unpredictability conditions the value of the mumming to the hotels, which might otherwise be able to advertise their coming to potential guests. Indeed, Jack Tomes states that the mummers have been put on the menu of Christmas attractions by the hotels(94), and this underlines a paradox: while the mumming is good entertainment for the hotels, the mummers still have to go around after the performance with their hats in their hands. When asked why he doesn’t get the hotels to pay to have the mummers, Jack Tomes replies that the mummers have always got their money by passing around the hat(95), and it would change the custom to do it any other way.

If being a ‘begging’ custom in this way has been essential to the mumming since the last century, then it would be reasonable to conclude that when begging was neither necessary nor profitable the men would not make the custom commercial or charitable simply to keep it going. Rather than change it they would give it a rest, in Jack Tomes’ words(96). That is, doing the mumming, when neither necessary nor welcome as a begging custom, would alter the tradition: it would change the custom.

In this case it would be entirely within the tradition to let the mumming rest for as long as necessary – the gap between the end of the last century and 1921, for example, could be taken as a reflection of tradition. For Jack Tomes the mumming can be kept up, in theory, by reciting the entire play at Christmas in his home(97). The pressure to perform each year, which is put on it by the shadow mumming, is in this sense counter-traditional. In this, as in other ways, Jack Tomes has resisted the temptation to change the custom. At Christmas 1987 he celebrated 50 years as a mummer with a tour through Broad Campden and Campden(98).


F. Copyright Reserve

a. Introduction

Ernest Buckland met the initial challenge of the shadow mumming by invoking the privilege of “copyright reserve” – that is, that he held the legal right to the Campden mumming, and that no one else therefore had a right to act the play. There had been some argument before the war over Tom Benfield’s allowing the words of the play to be written down for the 1937 school play(99). When the BBC asked to record in 1946, Ernest Buckland made certain that they acknowledge copyright(100), and it is on the basis of this acknowledgement that he founded the claim of “copyright reserve”.

In practice “copyright reserve” is a claim to textual copyright; to ownership of a cultural property; and to performance rights within a certain territory.

b. Textual copyright

Textual copyright in the matter of orally-transmitted material is ill-defined, but the copyright claimed by Ernest Buckland and acknowledged by the BBC is to the words of the mumming and to any written or recorded copies(101). There is an economic rationale in this, insofar as a written or recorded version of the text can be used by others to perform the play, or can even be read or listened to instead of having the mumming. This reduces the potential audience and provides no “royalties” as such to the mummers from whom the play was recorded or taken down. By reserving the right to the text the mummers can to some extent regulate the exposure that people have to the mumming, and therefore maintain as far as possible the principal resource upon which the mumming depends: curiosity, interest, and welcome. “Copyright reserve” therefore helps in the resource management of the custom.

c. Resource management

As Mr. Tomes told me in a conversation recorded in my notebook:

“I was just talking to a bloke and he said. ‘You should put this on television’. But I never will.”

Why not? [I asked]

“What would I get out of it?” A million people would see it all at the same time. “But that would be the end of it. They wouldn’t want to know. And that would be the end of the mummers. You don’t want to go to the same place every year.” (102)

He told Peter Harrop:

We missed a couple of years even when me uncle did it. Oh we’ll give it a bit of a rest this year, we’ll, we’ll, do it next year you know…You can’t keep going to the same places year after year, I mean, if you gives ’em a rest then they enjoys it, you see, to see you go again…(103)

From these remarks it is clear that the mumming operates in V.3 P.470 an economy of interest and goodwill, and that both are finite resources which need to be conserved and husbanded. Recordings are prohibited because they diminish interest, if not goodwill.

Prior to the Second World War and immediately afterwards, both interest and goodwill were in plentiful supply. The Vicar and the TocH Newsletter advertised the pleasant expectation of the mummers’ return, the last guidebook prior to the war and the first following the war gave them a full billing, and both before and immediately after the war the Evesham Journal was pleased to report that the mummers had been out. At present, by contrast, the hotels are relatively indifferent to their coming(104), the town guides give them short mention, and when I asked permission of the Evesham Journal’s editor to have copies made of the 1934 and 1937 mumming photographs, mentioning that Campden’s is one of the few traditional mumming sides still performing in England, no interest was shown(105). Reference to sources for both the native and shadow mummings would suggest that the relative impoverishment of the economy of interest and goodwill has been developing for some years.

When the BBC granted Ernest Buckland’s copyright of the play there was still a plentiful supply of interest and goodwill, of which the 1946 broadcast itself was a symptom. The decline in this economy paralleled changes in Campden discussed in the last chapter, which correlated also with the rise of the shadow mumming. In the process the claim of ‘copyright reserve’ came to the fore: as the economy of the mumming grew weaker, competition for the increasingly scarce resources of interest and goodwill appeared in the form of rival mummings, and Ernest Buckland responded with a claim both to the property of the V.3 p.471 mumming and to the territory. “Copyright reserve”, in other words, was a measure taken to insure that the territory was not over-exploited.

d. Cultural property.

Of the three claims made in the “copyright reserve”, the claim to cultural property is still the least well-defined in law. In practice, “cultural property” relates to the ownership of things by virtue of membership in a group which anchors its identity by reference to those things. Cultural objects can therefore ‘belong’ simultaneously and in different ways to various groups, each of which can claim possession. The Elgin marbles ‘belong’ to Greece, for example, and they also belong to Britain, and on another level they can be said to belong to the world(106).

For Campden, ‘cultural property’ is the central problem of the century: to whom does Campden ‘belong’; who has the right to decide what will happen there; for whom and by whom are decisions about Campden made? In practice these questions have been answered by progressively redefining Campden out of local possession by successive acts of social appropriation.

These acts of appropriation have been the practical consequence of property speculators and incomers assuming rights of belonging without first merging with Campden, without relinquishing their belonging to the outside – appropriating the property of Campden for the nation, in effect, by buying up local properties and forcing housing prices up; appropriating traditions of water and sanitation by complaining to outside agencies and bringing government machinery to bear on the town; reserving Campden for leisure by progressively restricting the possibilities for physical development and change.

In the inter-war years the local people lodged a claim against appropriation in the only arena which effectively remained theirs: in their Campden-ness, and in the heritage of being a Campdonian. In the 1920s and 1930s this claim to heritage was asserted and displayed in customs such as Scuttlebrook Wake, the Morris Dance, the Town Band, the Mummers.

Through county bye-laws the police attempted to appropriate the site of Scuttlebrook Wake. The Town Band, in a town with fewer children, who were educated out of the heritage of Campden, collapsed from lack of support in the 1950s(107). The possession of “Campden” progressively focussed in on Scuttlebrook Wake (saved by the determination of Campden people, among them mummer Tom Benfield(108)), the Campden Morris, and the Campden mummers. This is how the Campden mumming came to be regarded as a possession of the people of Campden, and treated as a civic responsibility.

The dispute over the mumming as a cultural property arises from the differing perceptions of those who have inherited the mumming and been responsible for organising and sustaining it over the years, and those who have been drawn in as performers or as audience-members with particular reference to the period of the mumming’s fame.

Jack Tomes can trace his claim to the mumming not only through leadership and participation, but through a succession of maternal uncles: from the Woolliams’, whose sister was the mother of Tom Benfield. whose sister was the mother of Ernest Buckland, whose sister was Jack Tomes’ mother(109). Each of these successive uncles was a labourer, each a Campden man, and each of the women was a Campden woman married to a labourer(110). This means a deep inheritance of family culture, one of hardship and labour, of exploitation by landlords and employers, and of vulnerability to the impact of immigration by relatively wealthy outsiders. As this information has been shared with me in the context of discussions and stories about the mumming, the mumming as a cultural property clearly recalls and embodies this inheritance, and also the belonging of the mumming by life and labour to both the family and to Campden. In this sense, as an assertion against appropriation and exploitation, it is able to be simultaneously the “Campden” mumming and the family’s: there is no contradiction. Indeed, in the “Campden” of the Campden mumming both belonging and identity are on display, and preserved in the custom as a mnemonic device. The threat posed by the shadow mumming is the deprivation of this history and identity.

The shadow mumming is based on a different understanding of “Campden”, more in line with F.L. Griggs’ (see IV.1). It is based on an understanding of the mumming as belonging to the place, as “one of the traditions that go to make Campden what it is”(111), as “traditional to the town”(112). It arises from the “civic” mumming that bloomed in the publicity of the pre-war years, the revival and reinvigoration of which Christopher Whitfield credited to the Guild of Handicraft, to people who had come in from the outside and who, in the mythology of the Guild, “saved” the town from stagnation. As there is no written or published source to support Whitfield’s statement (see III), he may very well have been recording oral tradition, or drawing a commonly-available conclusion about the mumming specifically from the vision of Campden’s past generally which was itself a product of Guild tradition.

With his pride in Campden and its heritage, Ernest Buckland would not have disputed that the mumming belonged to “Campden”. Indeed, he placed the Campden mumming on “copyright reserve” precisely because, in the words of his wife, as recorded in my fieldnotes, “he wanted it to remain a Campden mumming, to stay Campden, to be the Campden mumming”(113). It is clear by reference to its membership that the pre-war ‘civic’ mumming was not a custom in which just anyone in Campden could or did perform, however. Indeed, it was not even a straightforward question of birth in Campden: Eddie Tomes was born in Weston Subedge, Charlie Wright was originally from Earls Croome(114). The Campden mumming as understood by Ernest Buckland belonged to the “real” Campden to which mummer Frank Nobes referred, the Campden of the people who lived and worked there, the “working chaps”, the people whose heritage included picking other peoples’ peas, plucking other peoples’ chickens at Christmas, standing in queues for the dole or under hiring trees to sell their labour(115).

As the voice of old Campden was progressively submerged in the post-war period, Ernest Buckland reserved the mumming for that “Campden”. Transposed into terms used by Ernest Buckland in a different context, “copyright reserve” is equivalent to setting aside Campden council houses for Campden working people. Before he died he passed the responsibility for the custom on to Jack Tomes, and with it its “copyright reserve”.

The shadow mumming has fused elements from both the “civic” mumming and the Guild tradition to picture the actual mumming as degenerate and decayed, to see itself as a restoration and regeneration of the town’s mumming, to assert local heritage against continuing appropriation from outside, and to claim that the Bucklands and Tomes have taken to themselves a custom rightfully belonging to the town. In this tradition the mumming is understood as the Town Mumming in the tradition of the old Town Band(116).

The elements of the actual mumming defined by the shadow mumming as degeneration and decay are precisely those points which are fundamental to the traditions of the mumming, or which have developed as decisions taken on the basis of the tradition to help the custom survive changes in Campden. These have already been discussed: the drinking, the fact that it is so little known, that it is a “begging”, and the fact that it has become increasingly peopled by one family. Under the shadow mumming these and essential aspects of the performance (see discussion in VI) would be liable to change: the shadow mumming would be an altogether different custom. There is therefore an element of quality control in the “copyright reserve”, insofar as the mummers consider that they retain control over the real Campden mumming(117).

e. A small family industry.

Within the discussion of cultural property the mumming can also be seen historically as a small family industry. With costumes, for example, according to Roseanne Lloyd (Ernest Buckland’s daughter; quote taken from my notes):

 Say each man got £7 and there was £3 left over, they’d give £3 to her mother (“we got that”) because they stored the costumes all the year.(118)

It was not simply a question of storage, as Mrs. Buckland points out in a conversation recorded in my notes:

Every year before Christmas she took them out and aired them, bought new ribbons, repaired them.(119)

Seeing the mumming as a small family industry helps to explain various of the custom’s features, among them the current wariness that other people, such as myself, will exploit the mumming to make money for themselves(120); and a willingness, at least rhetorically, to give up the mumming in return for a sufficient cash payment(121). Understood as an industry, as an enterprise which can be passed along within the family, clarifies further the antagonism to others doing the play in any context or form, and makes it still more clear that the “copyright reserve” is more than a textual reserve: it is more in the nature of the rights to a shoot, violations of which are understood as poaching(122).

f. Performance rights within a territory.

Although by special invitation the mummers have performed outside of the parish and its immediate vicinity, they do recognise the limits of territory and expect others to do the same(123). Again, it is a question at one level of resource management, although there is also a level of identity involved. Because the resources upon which the mumming depends are finite and have become increasingly scarce with the transformation of Campden, the recognition of territory and its limitation to the one team, through the device of “copyright reserve”, insures as far as possible that these resources are not depleted further. “Copyright reserve” is therefore seen as the functional equivalent of a preservation order in a setting otherwise unprotected by law.


Section VI: Conclusion