1988: Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town. Section VI: Conclusion

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).

VI. Conclusion
Footnotes (opens in new window)

A. More Groundwork

This dissertation has focused on the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, in the attempt to lay the groundwork for a performative analysis, or at least to catalogue some of the territory in which a performative analysis can eventually be made. Standing alongside the current mumming and looking back, a pattern begins to emerge of performative worlds in contact and conflict. Because of the resolution of the lens there is a telescoping effect: the distance appears all of a piece and what is near appears sharply divided. This is a distortion, but it is also a reflection of how people in Campden have presented events around them.

B. Unity Diverges.

In 1887 Stephen Hancock, who seems to have been an educated spokesman or champion of working men(1), wrote to the Evesham Journal:

I remember the day when the working classes formed no small proportion of an audience at entertainments, at which they were orderly and well-behaved. One fault only was sometimes found – they gave their entertainers too much applause. The day is not far distant when I hope to see the same cordial interchange of affection between class and mass.(2)

A meeting of worshippers of the Parish Church decided in 1884 to put a temporary end to appropriated seating in the church, and one man said at the time:

Some time ago many of the poor used to attend, but there were few now, and he hoped free seats would induce many to come back.(3)

These comments echo the sentiment of “Old Shepherd”, quoted in II.2, that before the turbulent period ushered in with the 1870s the masters and mistresses in agriculture often worked alongside their men, in the period referred to in that chapter as one of “pastoral content”.

Simultaneously with the experiment in free seating in 1884, the Vicar instituted a surpliced choir:

when other bodies like the Volunteers, Good Templars and cricket clubs wore uniforms a choir should bear some mark of distinction because it would have a tendency to lead the choir to think less of themselves and more of the office they held.(4)

The result of the two changes was an upsurge in attendance, some of it due to the novel robing of the choir, part of it to the free sitting(5). Indeed, the church services became so popular, in one sense, that appropriated seating was reinstated(6). Attendance then fell by 35% and free seating was instituted once again. J.S. Morris said at the time,

The system of appropriation tended to divide class from class and alienate the poorer people from the church.

and Mr. Godson reported that

After the last Easter vestry he had spoken to working men who had said to him that they thought the rich people wouldn’t sit with them.(7)

Ulric Stanley, who had opposed putting the choir into surplices – despite the Vicar’s assurance that he had no VI p.481 tendency towards Ritualism(8) – also opposed the reinstitution of free sitting. Apart from the initial scramble for seats, to which he objected,

under free sittings strangers came and took the best seats to the detriment of the parishioners. He agreed that if the church were thrown open people would come in from the villages, but they came from curiosity. There was a danger when people came to hear instead of worship, and they had no right to pander to such feelings.(9)

Although in the full arguments against free seating an obvious discomfort emerges among some at having to sit among lower classes – perhaps a minority, inasmuch as only seven families took appropriated seating – two main themes emerge: a belief in joint celebration of the parish community as a community (one can almost hear in Ulric Stanley’s complaint Ernest Buckland’s “What does it matter about outsiders?”(10)); and the opposition to church service as mere spectacle. This was the tradition of the parish; at the time the surplicing of the choir was being discussed Herbert Wixey was able to say with assurance

that everyone in the room would hold up his hand against processions and the carrying of banners about the church.(11)

This feeling was underlined in 1898 when the new Vicar, from London, changed the role of the choir in the service. Dr. Dewhurst argued in vestry that

There is a very strong feeling that the singing in the church is becoming less and less congregational.

and W.H. Griffiths agreed in strong terms:

A great many of them were not pleased with it. They got too much of it, and the tunes were such that the majority of the congregation could not join in the singing.(12)

The Parochial Church Council pointed out in 1969 that the tradition of the parish within living memory had always been moderately low church. It also pointed out that with the recent influx of relatively well-educated outsiders, a new vicar would have to be able to adapt both to higher and lower church preferences(13). The association of the urban immigration (of a particular type – Campden was not flooded by urban working-class immigrants) with high church preferences is not a random one; it is through this conjunction that the theme of performative worlds in contact and conflict emerges.

In the broad performative tradition of Campden at the end of the 19th century the group as a whole joined together – to celebrate the Jubilee in 1887, for example, in the annual club dinners, in the Whit Monday Fetes of 1895-1897. The after-dinner sing-song, the toy band, the spontaneous sing-songs in pubs were part of a world in which children became informally involved in pig-sticking, helped in the blacksmiths, did odd jobs; even, if the occasion arose, started themselves in the Infants School(l4). It was, to use the Guild of Handicraft’s term, a “hap-hazard” system of social relations: founded in a different conception of public space and organisation of social reality than the Guild brought with them. This was the broad base of the performative vernacular to which the mumming revived after World War One belonged.

Already, however, and alongside this there was another general performative world with roots in the industrial city. Berger, Berger and Kellner have argued that the modern or industrial worldview is one in which functions in a group or process are divided and specialised, in which bureaucracy proliferates as the means through which things are done(15). This was certainly the case with the Guild of Handicraft and the customs with which it was associated, as we have seen, but it can be seen, too, in the Vicar’s argument for surplicing the choir – that it will more clearly take them out of the congregation, in effect, and clarify for them and others their specialised role. The further specialisation of the choir from 1898 by a vicar from London identified the development clearly with the city.

As a performance technology the culture of the city demarcates clearly the role between audience and performer, between spectator and spectacle, between religious and secular. It is characterised by order, by utility of parts within a whole, by neat and clear boundaries, by containing events and behaviour.

On the basis of this understanding both of the local performative vernacular at the end of the century and the performative field of the city it is possible to discuss the impact of tourism and incomers both on Campden and in terms of the Campden mummers.

C. Tourism, Incomers, and
the Performative Field.

Subjectively and objectively, the period since the mid-1960s has been one of rapid and radical change in Chipping Campden, a model in compressed time of the type of change over the past century. This change can be spoken of in broad terms as an invasion of the country by the city, but it is more specifically described as two performative worlds coming into conflict, the urban/sophisticated spectacle-oriented world settling on top of and displacing the vernacular congregational world.

The spectacle-centred view requires of the vernacular a radical shift in the concept of public space, in the concept of public participation, and in the nature of public events. Technology has been discussed as the equipment of performance, as what reveals in the revealing of display (see the Introduction). The performance technology appropriate to the industrial city (more especially those who effectively organise its operation and functioning – Stewart’s “superannuated Birmingham merchant princelings”(l6)) has the character of modern technology, as described by Martin Heidegger:

The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging, which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well? No. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind; they are left entirely to the wind’s blowing. But the windmill does not unlock energy from the air currents in order to store it.

In contrast, a tract of land is challenged into the putting out of coal and ore. The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit, the field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order appears differently than it did when to set in order still meant to take care of and to maintain. The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon nature. It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanised food industry.(17)

Compare C.E.M. Joad’s observation, as related in Wolfe, “That it would be said of his generation that they found England a land of beauty and left it a land of beauty spots”(18).

The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth…The revealing reveals to itself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating their course. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured. Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the challenging revealing.(19)

Only to the extent that man for his part is already challenged to exploit the energies of nature can this ordering revealing happen. If man is challenged, ordered, to do this, then does not man himself belong even more originally than nature within the standing reserve? The current talk about human resources, about the supply of patients for a clinic, gives evidence of this. The forester who, in the wood, measures the felled timber and to all appearances walks in the same forest path in the same way as did his grandfathers is today commanded by profit-making in the lumber industry, whether he knows it or not. He is made subordinate to the orderability of cellulose, which for its part is challenged forth by the need for paper, which is then delivered to newspapers and illustrated magazines.(20)

And in an observation which is especially apt for the particular circumstance of Campden, Heidegger remarks:

let us ponder for a moment the contrast that speaks out of the two titles, “the Rhine” as dammed up into the power works, and “the Rhine” as uttered out of the art work, in Holderlin’s hymn by that name. But, it will be replied, the Rhine is still a river in the landscape is it not? Perhaps. But how? In no other way than as an object on call for inspection by a tour group ordered there by the vacation industry.(21)

…the work of modern technology reveals the real as standing-reserve.(22)

The transformation of Campden from an agricultural district into an object for the leisure industry, the subordination of Campden’s residents to the orderability of Campden’s ‘ruralness’, as described in Section V, has not been sudden, as the dissertation as a whole makes clear. Residents themselves saw the value of Campden’s antiquity and setting as a standing-reserve of leisure for people from the cities as early as the 1880s. The setting-upon, the appropriation, the taking over of the rural town by city residents began in nearby Broadway before the end of the century with the aim of maintaining it as a resource for contemplation and a store of pre-industrial Englishness(23); Campden was lectured on its duty to the nation as a reserve of architectural and natural beauty by C.R. Ashbee at the turn of the century; between the wars it was suggested that the Cotswolds be secured and regulated as a national resource in the form of a National Park(24). Campden has increasingly become a secured bank for national appreciation since the Second World War, and recent claims for the preservation of Campden have put it in the context of the heritage of Europe and the world(25).

Leisure is not in itself an independent entity; it is part and parcel of the culture of the City; “Dans le tourisme, la societe urbaine propose une alternative a la societe rurale”(26). The countryside, of which the rural town is a feature, becomes a standing-reserve for the city: it is there, on deposit, for the City to order and marshal, a resource to meet the needs and satisfy the interests of urban society. Thus, beginning earlier but intensifying in the post-World War Two period, we hear protests against what is essentially a unified take-over of Campden: as a beauty spot for urban tourists; as a reservoir for the urban retired; as a retreat for the City commuter; as a temporary holding pool for the future urban workforce: and – thanks largely to pre-war Council building policy – as a housing resource for the homeless in the region’s catchment area.

Campden’s primary role throughout has been as a standing-reserve of leisure, a leisure of tourism, retirement, weekend residence, and commuting – “ce phenomene urbaine transforme radicalement le centre d’interet de la societe rurale et le remplace par un autre de nature differente”(27). Campden as the place in which to live one’s life, to work and bring one’s children up has been radically supplanted by a Campden which exists both as a property investment and as something to be seen and contemplated, to be preserved and restfully appreciated in long leisurely strolls. As The Heart of England Tourist Board found in 1978, British tourists regard the Cotswolds as

an area for touring and quiet peaceful scenic holidays. The emphasis tended to be more on a sort of lazy enjoyment as opposed to a more active exploration of the area as in the case of the Welsh borders.


it was the towns and villages generally which overseas visitors came to see, rather than specific attractions.(28)

As Lynch noted. The landscape serves as a vast mnemonic system for the retention of group history and ideals.(29)

In its servicing of the mnemonic and recreational needs of VI p.488 the nation, and ultimately for the world, Campden has become, to paraphrase Greenwood, more of an enterprise than a town(30): “a gold mine for the tourist industry”, in the words of a member of the parish council(31).

Classically, the social conflict that results from this setting-upon “n’est pas entre paysans et touristes” – and the Campden people are remarkably tolerant of passing strangers and tourists – “mais entre paysans et hoteliers ou commerciants”(32)… “l’innovation touristique est bien saisie comme un changement d’existence, mais un changement ambivalent, negatif dans les relations internes a la soclete rurale, positif dans ses relations avec la societe urbaine”(33).

In Campden the conflict has been compounded by the many ‘strangers’ who have come into the town and actively taken over its running or at the very least passively – by their willingness to pay high prices for property – made it impossible for the majority of local people to buy homes there. Thus, as was seen in V.2, hoteliers, tradesmen and incomers are conflated in a set of rhetorical dichotomies in the post-World War Two era which has roots and echoes in the rhetoric of localism following World War One (compare Table 1 in IV.2):

natives vs.  incomers
 children   vs.  pet dogs
 children’s play/dances  vs.  peace and quiet
 real Campden people
working class
 vs.  snobs, toffs,
hoteliers, tradesmen
 vs.  museum/preserved
native Industry
 vs.  Tourist-related
  Table 3 Rhetorical Dichotomies in Campden
Post-World War Two

In the early years after World War Two the restoration of the general sense of co-operation with the tourist industry, with local people firmly rooted in the sense of their own identity and place in Campden, was marked by the joking and good-natured heckling characteristic of mummers’ leader Ernest Buckland in the parish council and annual parish meetings. In this period of cooperation, as we have seen, the mummers were billed dramatically in the Town Guide, and reported enthusiastically in the Evesham Journal: the mummers themselves self-consciously portrayed themselves as “locals” for the benefit of tourists, in their co-operative role as one of the attractions of Campden – as one of the things which made Campden worth coming to see and live in(34).

During the 1960s the balance of the living reality of Campden as a place of living, growing up and working shifted visibly: it became a place from which Campden people were displaced at an accelerated rate for people seeking leisure, especially of retirement; Campden became subjected to, rather than a partner in, the leisure industry. The people of Campden, their traditions, the amenities of the town became more completely items to be ordered and marshalled, to stand in reserve until called into use. Thus the mummers became merely an item in the listing of attractions standing-in-reserve for the tourist in the Guides of 1964/1970; and the hoteliers have come to take their appearance or non-appearance for granted, and not as something to be cultivated and important to the essence of a living “Campden”.

In the stead of the joint community participation of public dances, there is put forward the reserve of peace and quiet. For the 1937 Coronation, the London wireless broadcast featured in the town’s joint celebrations of parades, sports and a meal; the television precluded joint physical celebration of a civic festival at the moment of the coronation in 1953, and the low church concept (as it were) of the coronation as a civic festival to be ratified by games and entertainments, rooted in the nineteenth century, was opposed by the spectacle-centred view (as expressed by one hotelier) that it was wrong “that jollification should be in progress in Chipping Campden at such a solemn and religious moment as the crowning ceremony”(35).

This orientation towards things as things-to-be-seen, to be held in reserve and contemplated rather than joined and shared in, fundamentally endangers traditional forms of public performance. Thus, though

the preservation or reintroduction of traditional customs is often a key factor in the attraction of an area to tourists, and thus to some degree, tourism may act as an agent of preservation as far as local culture is concerned…(36)

the whole premise, the whole framework of the tradition is altered by changed conceptions of public space, public privacy, public events. What has been found elsewhere could be said with fairness of Campden:

Local people claim that with the arrival of a large number of outsiders…unprompted visiting and casual calls came to an end, and people no longer spent evenings by each others’ fire sides.(37)

The Remembrance Day parade to the War Memorial, a civic – or, rather, a Campden celebration par excellence, built upon the conventions of the performance traditions of the 19th century public/civic meeting – misunderstood by a key incomer as a religious spectacle, was abandoned by the parish council. The church’s role was seen not as parochial in the older sense as representative of the community as a whole, but as specifically “religious” in a world view in which functions are kept ordered, regulated, and separate, and social relations with them.

The local vernacular concept of public space, in which the streets belong to those who live and play in them and who utilise them, was challenged in the inter-war period: by the police, who attempted to bar Scuttlebrook Wake from Leasebourne; by the movement to keep children from playing in the fields around Campden and to confine their playing to the Recreation Ground established in 1928; by the growing sense that the streets belonged to the cars and the local authority; that the face of Campden belonged to the Nation, vested in Government; that the council housing belonged to the district and not to the local people in need of it. The close intermix of on-street housing in the town centre has given way to a suburban housing on the outskirts, buffered by lawns and a strict sense of privacy. And with this concept of private space, the cultural right of informal visiting, as, for example, with the mummers dropping into a Christmas party unannounced, has virtually disappeared.

The performative field of the mummers is one of conviviality and informality, a participation-with and in which stems from the working-class version of the general 19th century local performative field.

The performance-type appropriate to the standing-reserve of the incoming resident is the legitimate theatre, within which the theatre is a machine, an assemblage of equipments standing in reserve and ready, on-call, for entertaining. The theatre in the world of modern technology is a factory of performance, with regulated and strictly controlled access, a strict division between auditorium and stage in which the spectator is primarily safe and separated from the action on the stage by the gulf of seating, lighting, and perhaps even an orchestra pit. Within this universe, the actor appropriately regards his body and personal experiences primarily as tools and instruments, and, characteristically, there is strict distinction between operatives: between actors, builders, changers, runners, all of whom are employees on call within the over-all machinery of the theatre industry.

Mumming groups established within this tradition share a variety of its features – self-conscious professionalism, advertising, set times and venues of performing, controlled reservation of performance style, collection for designated charities or outright commercial profitability, a developed organisational machinery(38).

The Campden mummers share none of these features, and certainly do not regard themselves as tools or instruments. At the same time, however, the primary audience for the mumming has been at most times the residents of big houses and tourists. The mumming explores, in practice, the shared worlds of audience and mummers; the men display themselves as ‘locals’, emphasising dialect and the roots of the performance; and the audience participates in this ‘locality’. This means that the mumming becomes what the audience can make of it: if they can make nothing of it, the performance is perfunctory; but it is also possible that in the shared world of ‘performing’ the belonging of both parties together carries the mumming into an all-night do. The mummers are not ‘flexible’ – a concept appropriate to the standing-reserve of industrial theatre – but participatory. The mumming as an event therefore mediates between performance technologies, discovering the shared world, and therefore effectively creates community. As a performance technology appropriate to communities of locals and outsiders, the mumming establishes fields of belonging(39).

The Campden mumming is an equipment rooted in the Campden past, and aware of it, refusing to adapt in the obvious ways appropriate to the technology of modern performance: it remains the “Campden” mumming. In a world ruled by the demands of modern technology, therefore, the Campden mumming is easily represented from the viewpoint of modern performance technology as either quaint or decaying. But it remains grounded in the 19th century performative vernacular of Campden, and more specifically of working-class Campden: it stands against the entire phenomenon of appropriation characteristic of modern technology, and displays this by refusing to be appropriated. It remains a display – and hence calls into play, as discussed in the Introduction – of a Campden which otherwise and in many other ways has disappeared.


d. Concluding Remark

Tourism puts the entire community on view: it places “character” on (or challenges it forth from) the countryman, and into this role the Campden mummers have been pleased to step. Residentialism, a kind of tourism-in-residence, supported the mummers in the Interwar period, and discovered in the mumming an induction into belonging to “Campden”. It was only when the balance between incomers and locals shifted radically in the 1950s and 1960s that this residentialism became destructive, as part of a broader acculturation which left the mumming virtually stranded. Because of the resources of the men most closely involved, and because of their personal belief and commitment to the way of life the Campden mumming calls into being, the mumming has been made to keep going. It will continue to live as long as this world is valued, and the role of the mumming in calling it into being is understood.