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1988: Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town: Section II: 1860-1900

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).

II.1: 1860-1900 SOURCES

Footnotes (opens in new window)

What little direct information we have about mumming in Chipping Campden between 1860 and 1900, apart, perhaps, from an ambiguous sentence in an 1890 Petty Sessions report, derives from 20th century sources.

The earliest note pertaining unambiguously to mummers in Campden is in Cecil Sharp’s Dance Notes, undated, but possibly collected by Sharp in Stow-on-the-Wold in 1908. In full, the note runs:

At Chipping Campden the mummers fool
used to announce himself thus:-

Here comes I as an per net
A great head and little nut
My head’s so big and my net’s so small
here comes I to please you all

I’ll sing you a song
It is not very long
But I think you’ll find it very funny

Don’t be in a fuss
But pull out your purse
And give the poor mumper some money(1)

There are, as we will see later (see III.1-3), good reasons to believe that the mummers did not appear publicly in Campden between 1900-1914, so that the past tense used by Sharp can be taken almost certainly to pertain to a 19th century mumming. Harrop points out that the first stanza is found in a similar form in the current mumming text, the second stanza not at all(2), but given the stereotypic nature of the verse among mumming plays in general, I cannot follow his suggestion of a direct link between the 19th century stanza and the current text.

Chronologically, the next two references which appear follow in the wake of the broadcast of the mumming play by the BBC in October 1934 (see IV.3).

In late 1934 or early 1935 an American researcher, James Madison Carpenter (see IV.1.e), recorded both the text of the Campden play and some few notes given to him by two Campden informants, Tom Benfield and George Greenall (senior). The text of the play is preceded by the note (here transcribed as it appears in the original):

Mr. Benfield learned 40 years ago,
here in Campden, from older mummers.
Old Mummers — Henery Brotherridge [sic],
Mr. Greannell [sic] learned same time as
Benfield never saw in print (3)

At about this same time J.C. Kingzett, an emigrant to Canada, concluded a brief reminiscence of his Campden boyhood (published in the Evesham Journal in July 1935), with this short after-thought:

By the way, I have not mentioned the mummers, who, by all reports, are still going strongly. Those of today must be the grand children of those I used to see performing outside the Wolds End fully 70 years ago. May they still continue, for another 70 years or more! (4)

A photograph published in the Evesham Journal in January 1937 with the caption “Campden Mummers in 1891” has been shown to be a picture of Campden Morris dancers taken in 1896(5). The Evesham Journal corrected the mistaken identification of the Morris dancers (though not the date) in its following issue(6), indicating that its editorial staff was aware or was made aware of the distinction between the two customs. In December 1939 the Evesham Journal published an obituary notice for George Griffin, one of the dancers pictured in the photograph, in which it said that he was a mummer “several years nearly fifty years ago” – or in about 1890(7). This is the only published reference suggesting that George Griffin was a mummer, and as later discussion will show (II.3.f), its reliability is problematic.

All of these pre-World War Two references are, or could conceivably be, reflections from living memory. Later references to a 19th century mumming derive from the secondary testimony of oral tradition.

Ernest Buckland (b.1902), recording for the BBC in 1946, reflected the tradition of Tom Benfield’s mumming which is now current in the primary mumming families:

Well, it’s a job to say where we got it from, but first time I heard on it was sat on my old grandmother’s knee, and her tell me after I’d asked her where she got it from, and she said, ‘well I can remember my grandmother telling me about it when I was a kid’, and old Uncle Tom…Uncle Tom Benfield, he pipes up and he says to me ‘I used to be in ’em’, and I says, ‘did you’, and he says ‘aye’, and he said ‘if I lives long enough I shall have me another troupe’…(8).

Oral tradition is the only source for the information that Harry Keeley was an ‘old mummer’. He is remembered in particular for disagreeing with the text as performed, and disrupting the live 1934 broadcast of the mumming play (see IV.3-B.a).

Sources specifically referring to a 19th century Campden mumming therefore derive exclusively from the twentieth century, and give only the fragment of a text, an early date and venue, five men named as mummers, and the name of an audience member. Given the paucity of this information, a considerable amount of work will be necessary to provide it with a social and historical context from which a meaningful picture of Campden’s 19th century mumming may emerge.


II.2. 1860-1900.
The Social/Historical Context

1. Introduction
a. The Periods

What we know of the 19th century mumming in Chipping Campden is the barest “who” – the names of several agricultural labourers as mummers, and the name of one child in a prominent Campden farming family for whom the mummers performed; and the barest “where” – in front of a Campden farmhouse. In a predominantly agricultural district the fact that the performers were or were mainly agricultural labourers, and that their audience included agricultural employers is not surprising. It does emphasise, however, the need to develop the analysis of conditions in the local agricultural industry, and particularly changes in the relations between masters and men during a period, nationally, of great social change. Equally important are details of the local performative field.

In the studies that follow I have distinguished four broad socio-economic periods for Chipping Campden between 1860 and 1900: 1) 1860-1870, a period defined at the time as a period of pastoral simplicity and progress, and in retrospect as a golden age of prosperity and good feeling between masters and men; 2) 1870-1878, a time first of increasing social tension, particularly between masters and men, followed by a period of reconciliation; 3) 1878-1889, an era ushered in by the Agricultural Depression: relations between masters and men stabilised, as Agriculture began to give way to Trade in importance to the local economy; 4) 1890-1900, a decade in which Trade, tourism, a new set of civic values and concomitant public pageantry were in the ascendant.


b. The Public Meeting: A Performative Type

The most accessible sources for assessing the impact of change on both masters and men are the published reports of the various types of Public Meeting which flourished in the period, from pastoral Pic-Nics of the 1860s to tense Disestablishmentarian meetings of the 1870s, through Friendly Society parades and dinners to the floral fetes and parades of the mid-1890s. It will be useful to analyse the Public Meeting in some detail, as references will recur throughout the dissertation.


The Public Meeting is a public performative event which illuminates community codes and conflicts within a fairly strict set of conventions, of which the political meeting is one representative type.

In 19th century Campden the political meeting was typically called as a “public meeting” – that is, a meeting open to anyone in the community – in order to ratify a particular political point of view on a specific issue and thereby give it a corporate legitimacy. This point of view was put before the meeting as a Proposition, the ratification of which, after a series of speeches, was almost a formality. Because it was so rare for a meeting to do anything other than adopt a proposition, the act of successfully formulating a meeting around a proposition was morally tantamount to its ratification. Successful formulation, that is, conveyed the legitimacy of the Proposition in the broader, corporate sense.

Legitimacy of the meeting as such was invested in a chairman who guaranteed the passage of the proposition through the meeting.

Although a proposition could and would be opposed, the nature of the political meeting was such that it could only fall if the chairman were physically or figuratively removed and a counter-proposal passed in what would amount to a de facto political coup.

In the majority of Public Meetings referred to below, the corporate membership of the meeting was defined beforehand by a parade, church service and dinner, participation in which was restricted to members of a particular organisation: a certain benefit society, for example. In these meetings, typically, a series of propositions were put before the meeting in the form of toasts, which consisted of the toast proper and a response by someone connected with it. The meeting ratified each toast and response in turn with cheers, applause and musical honours. The end of the formal meeting was marked by the transfer of the chair to a master of ceremonies, who conducted an informal but socially important entertainment usually provided from among the members.

The mode of address used in the formal meeting depended upon the relative social positions of the head table and the floor. In the annual meetings of the Britannia Benefit Society, for example, clergy, gentry, farmers and tradesmen sat at the raised head table and put propositions to be ratified by labourers on the floor; the mode of address (before about 1885-1890) was comparable to the schoolroom form of the Public Meeting in that it tended towards instruction rather than discussion, and the role of the floor was to listen to a lecture or lesson which it subsequently ratified through gestures of approval. In meetings among relative social peers, such as the annual dinners of the Oddfellows, the North Cotswold Farmers Association, and the dinners following the annual rent audits for tenants of the Gainsborough Estate, the propositions tended to take the form of expressions of shared sentiment among equals.

c. The Britannia Benefit Society

One aim of this chapter is to study the relations between agricultural labourers and the rest of the community. Because it was the single major event to involve all classes together in annual Public Meetings which were extensively reported, the most sensitive index to these relations lies in the meetings of the Britannia Benefit Society.

The Campden branch of the Britannia Benefit Society was formed in 1841 and was, like many local philanthropic projects in the latter half of the century, a marriage of paternal charity and guided self-help(1).

Members of the Britannia paid a small weekly subscription to the Club, which entitled them to medical attention when certified ill, a short period of compensation if unable to work on medical grounds, and burial. As he grew older, and the risk of expense to the Society increased, a member’s subscription also increased. This increase, and indeed the weekly subscription itself, did not meet the real costs incurred by the Club. To survive, the benefit society required a continually growing base of young and healthy members and the  charitable support of honorary members. The survival of the Club and the welfare of its members therefore depended on its ability both to encourage patronage and to recruit new members. The single most important publicity tool available was the Club’s annual parade, dinner and meeting, which were closely reported in the press, and the success and conviviality of which advertised the Club’s strength to potential members and its suitability for charitable support.

The Society’s annual club day was the Thursday in Whitsun. On Friday the Oddfellows held their club day, and this was followed on Saturday by a local fair called Scuttlebrook Wake. The Britannia club day therefore initiated a period of general festival, and with this and its own advertisement in mind the club organised its day to attract as many people into the town as possible. There were stalls and amusements in the Market Square, and the bells of the parish church were rung at intervals. They provided spectacle by meeting at their club house late in the morning and parading the town, led by the Campden Town Band and featuring their large flag (which was lent to the Oddfellows the next day for their parade). After a tour of the town, the men gathered in the parish church for a special service after which they paraded back to the clubhouse for their annual meeting, which consisted of dinner, meeting and entertainment. The parade and the proceedings of the meeting were reported in detail by the Evesham Journal, the local paper of record. The large number of members taking part, their conviviality in the parade and entertainment, and their good conduct in the church service and the general meeting demonstrated the strength of the club, its friendliness, and its success as an organ of civic instruction. As an annual exposure of Itself to public scrutiny the Britannia Club Day was the single most important event in the club’s life and survival.

It was also the only day In the year in which the social leaders of Campden directly and formally addressed a sizeable body of the labouring population of Campden as an unmixed group.

With so much resting on the one meeting, with so many different sections of the community present together, and with a balance to be maintained between the interests of young potential members, established members and potential patrons, the reports of the Britannia club day are sensitive documents of social and economic change.

B. The Periods

a. 1860-1870: Pastoral Content

The period 1860-1870 appeared in retrospect, especially following the troubles of the 1870s, as a kind of golden era. As “An Old Shepherd” remembered it, in a letter to the Evesham Journal in 1892:

When I was a lad my master, and oftentimes my mistress, would come into the foldyard and help me to milk the cows. Wealthy people, too!(2)

Even at the time it presented itself as an era of rural contentment and mutual consideration. In receiving clothing at the onset of Winter from the Viscountess Campden, for example, the Evesham Journal reported that eighty poor people of Campden and Broad Campden “all appeared with cheerful countenances, very grateful for her ladyship’s bounty”(3).

There was also a self-conscious meta-narrative on the pastoral simplicities of countrylife. Laurence Gane Esq., of the Inner Temple, lectured in the Town Hall in 1869 on “The Poetry of Life”:

The poetry of life is not confined to the upper state of Society, however grand and costly its surroundings, but may frequently be seen in the humblest and most unheeded homes of the poorest in our land. He who has never read a line of Shakespeare, and to whom Milton has ever been a sealed book, but who can look every man honestly in the face without cause for shame, is a nobler and better man in every sense, and has more of the true poetry of life within him, than he who builds a splendid mansion with £50,000 of other people’s money, and in the hour of danger flies like a recreant coward from his home and family, leaving them to the cold mercies of the world.”(4)

The Campden Brass Band arranged a Pic-Nic in August 1867 “with the kind permission of Mr. Harrison, of Westington,” whose

fields lying at the back of his Orchard, were selected, which for beauty of scenery could not well be surpassed in the neighbourhood. Here, on Thursday the 22nd inst., the Pic-Nic was held, when upwards of 150 inhabitants of the town and villages adjacent, regaled themselves with tea, cake, etc., all the members of the band and their wives, assisted by several other ladies, heartily joining in keeping up a continuous and bountiful supply. Dancing was vigorously enjoyed during the afternoon and evening…and it is gratifying to record that a more pleasant and agreeable afternoon’s amusement could not have been spent the weather being glorious, and it was not until the shades of evening grew thick around, that the company dispersed.(5)

There were “two hundred and upwards” at the Pic-Nic in July 1868, “consisting of some of the principal tradesmen of Campden, the farmers of the surrounding neighbourhood, with their wives and daughters.”

The visitors amused themselves with the usual pastimes of Aunt Sally, quoits, juvenile races, and other rustic sports, enlivened by the music of the band until the shades of evening, when quadrilles, mazurkas, galops, and waltzes were danced to the ravishing strains of Strauss, Offenbach, Jullien…(6)

This comfortable rusticity took place against a background of prosperity(7), and a narrative line of progress in moral and social order. These were reflected in a civic boosterism which fore-echoes that of the late 1880s, and which, though muted, carried on through the agricultural troubles of the 1870s. In this narrative line, social and moral progress and social and moral duties were parts of a whole.

When the Campden Gas Company opened its plant on Candlemas Day in 1870, for example, it celebrated with a Public Meeting in the form of a banquet, at which the Baptist Rev. Irvine responded to a toast by calling gas “one of the moral reformers of the age (Hear. Hear.)”. The Rev. M.A. Nisbet, curate of St. James’ Church, declared “light was civilising them” – with streetlight to reveal a drunken man’s face, there was hope to induce more men to go home sober. The next task, he said, was to improve the town paving: “They were now on the road to a better state of things in Campden.”.

In offering the apparently novel toast to “The Town and Trade of Campden”, the headmaster of the Grammar School, Dr. Hiron, said that he thought that gas would be the “means of bringing an increase of Trade to the town (Hear. hear.)”.

Offering the toast to the Gas Company, the Earl of Gainsborough thought that gas should go to “lower class of habitations” as well as the better, suggesting “that landlords should meet the expense connected with the meter, etc. making some slight advance weekly or otherwise in the rent of their cottages until the expense so incurred by the landlords be refunded (Hear. hear.)”. He “felt sure many of the poorer classes would gladly purchase gas in preference to continuing the present miserable mode of lighting up their dwelling”, and as a landlord, he was prepared to follow his own suggestion to make that possible, if “desired and likely to be appreciated (cheers).” Responding to the toast to the new company, the Director, W. Stanley, declared that the company was not interested in profit – it “undertook the work solely for the public good”(8).

When the toast to “The Town and Trade of Campden” was next offered at a dinner of the Rifle Corps Volunteers (which at the time was composed mainly of farmers and tradesmen(9)) in 1874, gas was still one of the manifestations of Campden’s vital civic life, according to the respondant, along with excellent schools and a “fine [new] police station”(10). To this he could have added the planned restoration of the Parish Church and the installation in it of gas lighting(11); a revamped sewerage system(12); a successful reading room, entirely funded by private donation(13); improved pavements(14); a new Baptist Chapel and Minister’s House(15); new Church of England Chapel in Broad Campden(16); new Catholic Chapel and schools(17); and other manifestations of a healthy civic life.

This momentum of civic improvement carried through as a theme despite, or against, the background of the turbulence of the early 1870s.


In the 1860s, especially in the latter half of the decade, public meetings were emphatically seen as one of the moral and civilising forces of the time. The Infants were examined in a public evening performance for an audience of school managers and parents in 1869, for example, going through various exemplary lessons with songs between each. The Campden Herald commented,

We cannot praise too highly the behaviour of the children; as one child they followed the direction of the mistress. The answers to the questions were quickly and well returned, the songs were sung with a sweetness and precision most delightful to listen to, and the little ones entered with such spirit into the examination, that it was evident they were well and carefully looked after by Miss Groves and her two assistants.(18)

The Evesham Journal, covering the Britannia Benefit Society’s club day in 1870 similarly stated:

We cannot conclude our report of the day’s festivities without stating that the behaviour of the members of the Club was most excellent, and contrasted very favourably with preceding years.(19)

Local authorities could look back over several decades of improvement In standards of civic order. Superintendent of Police Evans had noted on June 8, 1843:

on Town duty from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. this being the annual meeting of the various clubs, etc. etc. a great many drunk and disorderly people about throughout the night.

On Bonfire Night, 1840, he noted:

at 7 P.m. a Mob attacked the Police with Sticks Stones etc on their attempting to prevent them making fires in the street, but on my making my appearance with 4 more Constables all dispersed quietly remained on Town duty with 6 Constables from 7 pm until 2 am.

The next year he patrolled from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., the town being disorderly, but the fifth of November 1842 “passed off quietly”, and there is no evidence of subsequent Bonfire Night difficulties (see III.3.2).

In a similar progression: Supt. Evans noted on 14 September 1842 that he

Visited patrol on Town duty, from 1 am until 2 am in consequence of several Harvest feasts, being given this night, a great number of drunken people about the streets.

and similarly on 4 September 1843 he found

a great many drunk and disorderly people about the streets.(20)

In 1868, however, the Evesham Journal reported that

The growing movement, for an intelligent celebration of Harvest Home festivals has, in Campden, assumed the form of a Thanksgiving service…

which it said was annually growing in popularity(21).

The rowdy Dovers’ Hill Sports were finally shut down in 1852; by the end of the 1860s even skittles and dominoes had been suppressed by magistrates and police from the pubs(22). The “drunk and disorderly” festivities of the 1840s and 1850s, the overall sense of ‘Disorder’, gave way (at least in retrospective narrative) to the more ‘intelligent’ and ordered celebrations and the sense of general moral and social progress of the 1860s.


b. 1870-1878: Turbulence and Stability

In contrast to this, “An Old Shepherd” looked back from 1892 to characterise the years around 1870:

Then, just before 1870, the farmers began buying pianos for their daughters and stud horses for their sons, “which opened the labourers’ eyes”. Then Joseph Arch sprang up, and told his fellowmen to ask a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, “which gave offence”, so that the farmer began discharging his men, and the result was emigration by the thousand…(23)

This was the beginning of a period in which, to many in Campden, the established order appeared under general attack; certainly Order in the Public Meeting gave way increasingly to Attack and Disruption.

At the end of March 1870, a public meeting was held to support the Education Act of 1870 – with the proviso that it include mandatory religious instruction in the tenets of the Church of England. Campden’s Baptist minister, W.R. Irvine, attended and insisted that it was not a public meeting (the conclusions of which would carry a representative weight with Government), but a Church of England party religious meeting. A Blockley Baptist, Mr. Godson, supported Irvine:

You try to crush us. (Mr. Bull: “No, No”) But you have tried to do so. You tried to put Mr. Irvine down (Tremendous confusion and hisses). I have been in Australia and have there addressed many meetings, but never have I been hissed before. In Australia you enjoy perfect religious, social and political equality, and every man is fairly and uninterruptedly allowed to give utterance to his opinions whatever they may be. Then there is the “Conscience Clause”. If a man can muster sufficient moral courage to do without the charities and gifts that are in the hands of the clergymen, then he could avail himself of the “Conscience Clause”.(24)

In 1871 the Rev. Irvine addressed a public meeting called to consider the future of Campden Grammar School. He spoke for the proposition that “the more useful education desired by the majority of the parents” of which he was one, must not be allowed to be superseded by “a higher classical teaching…under the Endowed Schools Act of 1869”. A quarter of the students in the Grammar School were Non-Conformists, he said, and “I think that section of the community should be fairly represented on the Board – (cheers and counter-cheers)”. Furthermore, the school was a public trust, but its meetings were held behind closed doors, to which he objected – “cheers and hisses”. A circular had appeared opposing the proposition, and Irvine declared “that circular is published by the authority of the Earl of Gainsborough” – chairman of the Grammar School’s Board of Governors, lord of the manor and principal local landowner – ” and I don’t call it fair play – (cheers and hisses)”. “Tory Campden,” he told the noisy meeting.

(cheers, groans and miscellaneous noises) – we shall have some Birmingham men here next time – A voice: We shan’t have your “Brummagems” (cheers and laughter).(25)

In June, 1872, a meeting was held under the Elm Tree to form an agricultural union, at which:

An old labourer, named Job Benfield, was called upon to preside, and unlike his namesake, growled over the “lingering”, not living, which he said he had had to pass through. A secretary and treasurer were elected and a few signatures obtained.(26)

A poorly organised second meeting was held in July(27), but at the beginning of September Joseph Arch himself came to speak to a successful and well-attended public meeting(28). In April, 1873, a mass union meeting was held. The main speaker was

met by a large concourse, headed by the Broadway brass band, who most energetically played on the occasion, marched in procession to the Elm Tree, where a waggon was drawn up as an impromptu platform…

The speaker

for upwards of two hours enlarged on the past and present grievances of the labourers, and denounced everyone from the prince downwards, excepting the peasant. His language seemed to suit the larger portion of the audience, but we venture to say that had he been really desirous of doing good between employed and employers, he would have addressed them more in the spirit shown by Mr. Arch. Mr. Yeats’ arguments were in our opinion calculated to sow dissension between men and masters, and also to promote Republican principles.(29)

The importance attached to the rise of the Union can be gauged by the fact that the Earl of Gainsborough himself attended and took the chair at the annual meeting of the Britannia Benefit Society that May, for the first time since the Evesham Journal began reporting the meetings in the 1860s. The morning was miserably wet. Nevertheless:

nearly the whole of the members put in an appearance and as an instance of the feeling prevalent among them relative to the labourers’ agitation, a band was engaged by the unionists, who wore blue rosettes in their hats, in addition to the one engaged by the society. After the customary parade through the streets, the unionists withdrew from the ranks and marched by themselves to the strains of their own band. The proceedings commenced as usual with service at the parish church…(30)

The dinner was at two o’clock. The Earl of Gainsborough, in the chair, was supported at the head table by the Rev. Horace Noel; the new Vicar; officers of the Club, and leading local citizens. According to the Campden Herald, the Earl of Gainsborough

in responding to the toast of his health, referred to the agitation amongst the farm labourers, who form the bulk of the members of the society, and who are connected with the labourer’s union. Amidst considerable interruption, he advised his hearers not to pay any attention to those men who were paid to go about the country agitating, but to think for themselves. They might depend on it that the farmers would give them what was just, if they only settled it amongst themselves (The labourers here protested that they had tried this plan, and it was nothing of the sort, and that they intended to get their rights by means of the Union). The noble earl was proceeding to give his views further upon the question, but the uproar was so great that he was obliged to sit down. The Rev. Horace Noel’s health was also proposed, but before he could respond, a labourer got up and proposed the health of Joseph Arch and Henry Taylor, president and secretary to the Labourers’ Union, whose names were received with enthusiastic demonstrations.(31)

The Evesham Journal’s report is more detailed and underplays what the Campden Herald displays as a virtual political coup in which the role of the chair was temporarily usurped by union labourers, and the Earl and the Rev. Noel effectively insulted.

According to the Evesham Journal account, the Earl of Gainsborough first proposed the toast of “The Queen, Prince and Princess of Wales, and the Royal Family”, which was cheered. C.W. Morris, town surgeon and surgeon to the Club, then proposed “The Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese”, to which the Rev. Braithwaite, the new Vicar, responded:

It had been remarked that the clergy of this country had been friends of the working man, and he believed it was true. (“”)

The next toast was the less controversial “The Army and Navy”. The respondent,

after speaking at some length upon the subject of the toast, gave a few words of advice to the labourers In case of obtaining an advance in wages.

This advice does not appear to have been controversial, although it may have called up raised expectations among the men. The speaker coupled the Earl of Gainsborough’s name with the local Volunteers, pointing out that the Earl’s two sons were both in the military, and

hoped they would now show their respect to the Queen and country and to the noble earl by giving the toast a hearty reception, (loud cheers).

Charles Izod, club treasurer, answered “Success to the Britannia Benefit Society” with a report on the club’s finances. J.S. Morris, the auditor, offered a toast to “The Visitors” – the patrons and potential patrons on whom the club depended – stating in the course of the toast that

For his own part he only wished that occasions like the present occurred more frequently because it would tend to dispel that prejudice and bad feeling which seemed to exist between nobleman and tillers of the soil. They could not all occupy the same position, but they could do much good if they chose in their respective stations, and he would exhort them to do their duty in that state of life to which God had called them. (Hear, hear).

When the Rev. Noel rose to reply to this toast, an unnamed labourer stood up in the hall and proposed “The health of Mr. Joseph Arch and Mr. Henry Taylor”,

and it was some time before sufficient order could be restored to enable Mr. Noel to respond to the toast with which his name was associated. The Rev. Noel briefly returned thanks, and expressed the hope that they would all part as good friends as they met.

There was also a great deal of noise and turmoil over the rule that “members were disbarred from partaking of the benefits of the society in case sickness arose through inoculation for smallpox”, which was mandatory by the rules of the club.

William Rimell, a principal local farmer, steward, and a founder of the club, proposed the health of the Earl of Gainsborough. The Evesham Journal’s report of the Earl’s reply differs markedly from that given by the Campden Herald, placing the apparent coup in brackets. He opened with the question of inoculation:

The noble Earl, in response, was understood to say that matters of dispute ought to be rectified before a committee and not discussed in an assembly like that. If there was anything distasteful to any of the members, so far as he was concerned it should be rectified. He had lived among them for many years, and was acquainted with most of them, and he hoped good feeling would continue to exist between them in the future as it had done in the past (Hear, hear). He would advise them not to pay any attention to those men who were paid to go about the country agitating, but to think for themselves. (Uproar) They might depend upon it their employers would give them what was just if they settled it among themselves – (cries of dissent). He was happy to see their club so prosperous, and he hoped it would be a long time before any of the members required help from it. (Applause).”

The health of the host and hostess was proposed by Mr. Rimell and enthusiastically drunk, bringing the formal meeting to a close.(32)

The next day the Oddfellows, with a membership from Campden’s middling classes, departed from precedent and also hired two bands for their parade. The Vicar left the dinner early, farmer William Stanley taking the chair. Replying to the toast to his health, Stanley said:

He felt a pleasure in being there that day because he knew he was amongst a class of men who loved order themselves, and who set themselves to discountenance and resist that lawlessness and disorder which was so rife amongst them. It was painful to witness how much there was of envy, discontent and evil speaking spread abroad among the lower orders, with little or nothing in many cases to counteract it (Hear, hear). It was grievous to think that certain men were now getting their living by travelling about sowing discord between employers and employed. We were certainly entering upon very troublous times, and while for the moment he endeavoured in a shadowy way to fill the place so ably occupied by the Vicar, they would perhaps bear with him for a few minutes while he pointed out that we seemed to be entering upon that troublous state of things so long looked forward to by students of prophesy…

That is, that as the world grew older, “many should run to and fro”, and knowledge be increased. He spoke of the

great unfairness practised towards the great middle classes to which they belonged (Hear, hear). Notwithstanding that many of them had long gratuitously assisted in educating the children of those immediately below them, they were now [by the Education Act of 1870] compelled to give education to that class, who immediately turned round and used against them the weapon they had just furnished themselves with. This was a strange state of things, and one which would certainly need to be rectified. (Applause).(33)

The Earl of Gainsborough did not attend the annual rent audit for his major tenants in July, but his agent, Mr. Frisby,

proposed the usual loyal and patriotic toasts, and in giving the toast of the Queen, said it was to our sorrow as a country that a certain few said they knew no Queen. They knew no order, and were almost ready to say they knew no laws. If they would look back at the past as well as the present prosperity of this country, they must well know that without such rulers and laws such a state of happiness could not have existed (hear, hear).

Mr. W. Rimell, as one of the oldest tenants, said he had great pleasure in proposing the health of the Earl of Gainsborough, their noble landlord. He knew that the toast would meet with a more hearty reception that day than his lordship met with on the occasion of his last visit to that house [the disruptive Britannia meeting]. He thought the gentlemen present knew better how to behave to a nobleman of Lord Gainsborough’s stamp. The toast was drunk with musical honours.(34)

That same July, three men disrupted a service being conducted by the Rev. Noel under the Elm Tree; they were subsequently convicted of being drunk and riotous and of using blasphemous language(35). A Union meeting under the Elm Tree in September “abused” the clergy in strong language, though the speeches concluded with what the Evesham Journal called “sensible remarks” to encourage labourers to emigrate to Australia(36).


A climax in disorderly Public Meetings was reached in 1876.

During a public meeting organised in March 1874 by the Rev. Irvine on the disestablishment of the Church of England, the announced lecturer attempted to speak while:

three cheers were given for the Queen, three for the House of Lords, three for the Church, and three for the Volunteers, with groans for the promoters of the meeting. Some of the most stalwart of the members of the Volunteer corps marched into the room with “Church and State forever” printed on a blue ground, and wearing it round their hats.(37)

Ultimately, the chairman dissolved the meeting and vacated his seat. Notwithstanding this, Campden solicitor W.H. Griffiths was elected to the chair and an anti-disestablishmentarianlst proposition passed. Correspondence in the Evesham Journal claimed

there was a thoroughly organised effort to disturb the meeting, and to prevent the lecture being given if possible. A number of roughs were introduced into the room for the express purpose of shouting down the lectures, and one or two persons, dressed as gentlemen, led them on.(38)

“A Member of the Peace Society” accused the Volunteers of being intoxicated, and of coming to the meeting with the specific intention of putting it down(39). A third correspondent, “Non. Com”, denied that the Volunteers had been drunk, denied that the opposition to the meeting had been organised, but justified their behaviour on the grounds that the lecturer had been told (from the floor) that “his lecture was at an end”(40).

Two years later, in January 1876 at another Disestablishment/Liberation meeting – Non-Conformists sitting on one side of the room, supporters of the Church of England on the other – Baptist R.B. Belcher of Blockley warned:

the extension of the franchise, and the reform of the land laws would only have a passing effect upon the political life compared with the change they advocated. And it would be for the people to decide whether, in the future, England should be classed as a Protestant nation or as a spiritual appanage of a foreign power. (cheers).(41)

The meeting degenerated into a howling match. A correspondent to the Evesham Journal, accusing the Liberals of improper tactics, claimed

Immediately on the opening of the Town Hall, at 7 o’clock, for the meeting, a compact gang of thorough roughs, some of Campden, and some unknown, gathered like a body-guard to the chairman on the right hand side of the platform and obeyed most readily every hint given them in any way for hindering a fair and full discussion. Some of these roughs were convicted poachers, who certainly by their obstructive roaring at the right time, well earned the fraternal confidence expressed in them by the chairman, who repeatedly referred to them as “his side”.(42)

The Evesham Journal itself reported insults, men standing on chairs, an egg (possibly thrown, possibly planted to look as if it had been thrown), an attempt to physically depose the chairman – a full hour of uproar, during which the supporters of the Church sang ‘Rule Britannia’ and no business could be conducted. At about 11.30 p.m. the chairman finally closed the meeting, but when the Church party voted W.H. Griffiths to the chair (as it had at the end of a similar meeting nearly two years before), Mr. Belcher refused to vacate it.

A struggle then ensued to secure the position at the head of the chairman’s table, a portion of which fell down. Mr. Belcher, Mr. Hastings, and several other leading Non-Conformists here left the places they had previously occupied, and Mr. Griffiths took the chair.(43)

As he was leaving, Mr. Belcher wrote in a letter to the Evesham Journal,

two Church-defenders (brothers) attacked me, collared me, and poured in their blows fore and aft.(44)

“Fairplay” of Chipping Campden wrote that “If the Church party were not ‘roughs’ and cads their conduct belied them”(45).

According to correspondent William Stanley, a Church and State supporter,

The disciples of Mr. Joseph Arch were there, together with other celebrities of the Police Court, combined to yell down every one on our side who attempted to make himself heard.(46)

Despite Stanley’s jibe, however, changes had taken place among the labourers and the agricultural union.

The Evesham Journal reported of a Union meeting in April, 1874:

There was a smaller attendance of people present than at any of the previous meetings. A collection was made at the close of the meeting which amounted to about 10s.(47)

At the Britannia Benefit Society Club Day in May 1874 – a year after the Earl of Gainsborough had been rebuffed in the chair – there was a second band engaged by the unionist members and a big blue flag to represent the Union, but there was no double procession. During the toasting session, over which the Vicar once again presided, the direct question of the Union seems to have been avoided by all concerned. The overall theme of the toasts was an asserted, didactic defense of the British political system, especially against the Republican system of America. The toast to “The Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese” was (by contrast to the cries of “No.No” of the year before) met with cheers, and in his response the Rev. J. Foster took the opportunity to spear

a false notion people entertain that those who lived in palaces did not care for those under their charge…

In responding to “Success to the Britannia Benefit Society” farmer William Rimell said that

on occasions like the present they had reason to be pleased at the conduct of the members save in one instance – that of last year – (Voices of members, “It was a great mistake, sir,” “It hadn’t ought to have been”, etc., etc.) He felt much grieved by their conduct on that occasion, but he was pleased at the quiet and orderly meeting of that day, and that all had been settled so amicably.(48)

At the next annual meeting, in 1875,

The members of the Labourer’s Union, connected with the club, forming as they did a large proportion of those who walked, engaged the services of the Broadway brass band, which brought up the rear of the cortege. They also carried two of their own flags, and wore the blue ribbons of the Union.

Chaired again by the Vicar, the meeting again went without disruption. In proposing the loyal toasts, the Vicar once more

took occasion to dwell upon the advantages of a monarchical over republican form of government...

pointing out that the Queen was less expensive, and the American “system in many other instances was inferior to our own (Applause).”

In proposing “The Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese”, W. Stanley told the members

it was too much the fashion to assail the Church of England, but many of the people who found fault with her did not know why, and it would be well if they were better informed before they ventured to raise objections.

The Vicar responded, calling the Church “the most wonderful institution in the world”, saying that it did not cost the nation a farthing(49).

At the annual Britannia Benefit Society meeting of 1876 – its 35th – there was once again only a single band. The meeting was characterised by a restored sense of humour, with a greater emphasis placed upon the development of the club as such(50).

Joseph Arch spoke in Campden again in September, and rather than spreading fire, is reported by the Evesham Journal to have

referred strongly to the manner in which the farmers had been served by some of their labourers.(51)

Mottoes at the Campden Cottagers’ Horticultural Society Show later in the same month proclaimed ‘Unity is Strength’. ‘Make good cheer and praise the merry year’, ‘Patience and perseverance overcome all difficulties’. Mr. Yorke, M.P., spoke at the awards ceremony of

strenuous efforts to disturb the good relations which had so long existed between farmers and their labourers. Until then [the onset of Union agitation] it had been their proud boast that all classes worked together in rural districts…let them hope, however, that that movement was on the wane, and that the good feeling which had characterised the relations between farmers and their men would be renewed, and again placed on a satisfactory basis.(52)

The Horticultural Society and Show had been formed in 1874 to help reestablish (on the old basis of combined paternalism and self-help) the good relatione that had once existed among the different classes. It nearly foundered in religious intolerance at the outset when the Catholic Father Ferreri joined the Committee and several important contributors withdrew their support(53). Further, according to Mr. Watson,

it had been urged by…[a gentleman] who was connected with agriculture, that it was an inopportune time to form such a society because of the unsatisfactory relations between employer and employed [in 1874]. As he [Mr. Watson] pointed out at the time, it was not the way to diminish such ill-feeling by withdrawing their support from such societies. (Applause). It was rather their duty to cement the relations between the farmers and their labourers by bringing them together upon such occasions (Applause)…although men might differ in politics and religion, there were cases like the present, when all could meet for the promotion of a common object (Applause).(54)

It would appear, therefore, that in the second half of the decade, relations between labourers and employers emerged from the tensions of the first years of the decade with a renewal of dialogue and a renewed sense of order (if not yet of equity).


c. 1878-1889 Agricultural Depression
The Increasing Importance of Trade

The restoration of order and normalisation in the relations of local farmers and labourers was overtaken, however, by the historical watershed of the Agricultural Depression.

The local harvest of 1875 was particularly bad(55). Sickness in the Britannia Society, and therefore the drain on its resources, was the greatest in the society’s history in 1877(56). In 1878 the crop failure was so desperate that at their annual rent audits, the principal local landlords remitted 10% of rents on arable land(57). There was a heavy snow that Christmas; the Evesham Journal reported (which it was not in the habit of doing) that “Many labourers are without work, and standing about the streets”(58). By 1879 Britain was nationally acknowledged to be caught in an Agricultural Depression(59).

At the Britannia Society’s annual meeting in 1879(60), “hearty North Cotswold cheering” was given the loyal toasts. The times were acknowledged bad, but it was also reported that more members had joined the club. Defense of the political order was no longer the principal concern of the speakers: the Vicar, from the chair, urged the men to come to church and to join the Church of England Temperance Society. At the 1880 meeting, J.S. Morris

availed himself of the opportunity to bring before the members the advantages of the penny bank, held at the Working Men’s Institute every Monday night.

Married men with families could not do much, he said, but younger men

by saving only a small sum weekly could furnish a comfortable home, where they could live with their wives in health and comfort. By adopting this course they would not only secure their own happiness, but would add to the greatness and prosperity of their country.(61)

The new Vicar, Francis Forster, took the chair at the 1882 Britannia Benefit Society meeting. He told the meeting:

The position of the clergy gave them opportunities of seeing that a great deal of poverty and distress were caused simply by the want of ordinary forethought. If all working men would join a substantial benefit society like theirs, there would be very few paupers (Applause).

The Rev. W.H. Stanley urged the men to adopt more civilised values:

How much better the homes of working men would be if each member of the family treated the others as though they were of noble birth. It was a mistake for members of a family to get too familiar with each other, for “familiarity breeds contempt”. Nothing could be better in the home than complete courtesy.

In marked contrast to the earlier call for the men to be happy in whatever station God had called them, Stanley told the men:

There was no position in this country that was not open to a working man who possessed sufficient nerve and self-reliance.(62)

The Society, however, was in trouble. In 1880 about two hundred members took part in the annual parade(63). In 1882 only about seventy men marched(64). In 1884 the number was seventy only if the presence of patrons and guests was taken into account(65). In 1886 the shortfall in marchers led to a call for a rule to compel attendance(66).

Membership in 1879, at the onset of the Agricultural Depression, was 216(67). In 1882 it was down to 189(68); in 1883 to 181(69). The Society did not recover from this decline, and in the early 1890s became extinct and was superseded by two new benefit societies constituted along different lines, less sensitive to social and economic change.

The mode of address, and the concerns addressed at the Britannia meetings in its final decade, reflect the changed status of the labourer through universal education and the extension of the franchise, and the rise in public importance of trade and local tradesmen. At the 1883 meeting, in responding to the toast “The Town and Trade of Campden”, which was new to the Society’s list of toasts, grocer-baker-bank manager Herbert Wixey

said Campden was well represented in every class of business, and his experience proved that he could get work done there much cheaper than in large towns. He urged the tradesmen of the place to exert themselves to keep the trade in their own hands, and said that he never spent a shilling elsewhere that he could spend in Campden.(70)

The Rev. J. Foster proposed the same toast at the 1885 meeting, and said

he wished the advantages of Campden were more widely known. It was prettily situated, had a beautiful church with hearty services, and as a place of residence no better town could be found. If they wanted good schools, here they had them.

In responding, Wixey attacked the Civil Service Stores, which

had greatly damaged tradesmen [though] he thought they had held their own in Campden, for he believed twenty years ago there was not one half so much business done as was done there now.

Leaving the theme of “buy Campden”, Wixey ventured into the controversial area of allotments. The boundaries of controversy had shifted, however, and it was no longer a question of whether or not the men should have allotments: “They all had a little in the land”, he is reported to have said,

and he knew some of them wanted more. Now if a man had three acres of land he must be possessed of capital to work it. (Some of the men cried out they would soon get that a bit at a time). His view was to let the labourer have his land at the same rent as the farmer, and he hoped a representation would be made to the Earl of Gainsborough with a request that the rent of the land let out in allotments might be readjusted. (A cry among the men arose in the room that they wanted more land at a fair rent, and the interruption was so great that the chairman was obliged to call for order).(71)

This appears to be less a cry of opposition than of dissension within a consensus, reflecting, I believe, the different economic relationship that existed between tradesmen and labourers from that between farmers and labourers.

Within a month of this meeting there took place in the Noel Arms yard, and in support of the (ultimately successful) Liberal candidate’s contest for the local seat in Parliament,

the largest political meeting ever held at Campden, the number present being estimated at one thousand persons. Before the proceedings commenced the drum and fife band, headed by banners, paraded the town.(72)

The Conservative response echoed the early unionising period. An inaugural meeting of the Primrose League was held in January 1886 in order to forge a

common bond of union between Conservatives, so that they might meet together for the expression of their opinions, and act as well as talk. Such a union was very necessary now, seeing there was likely to be a rebellion in Ireland, which might extend to every part of the Kingdom. If property were destroyed in one part it might be destroyed in another, and there was need for them to unite in strong form, and so protect their property and themselves.(73)

The Rev. C.W. Simons pursued these concerns in March in proposing “Agriculture” at the annual Teg Sale dinner for farmers and landlords:

Why were these gentlemen [big landlords] to be run down as they were, for example, at the recent meeting at Broadway? There it was said that “The squirearchy and the priestarchy wished to keep down the people and would stamp them in the dust if they could”. He stood there on his own behalf, and he appealed to them – were not these calumnious charges? – (“Yes”) and he asked whether it was fair for men to make such.

He warned that the mob would not stop at sacking houses and large mansions, nor confine themselves to cities:

Were they satisfied in the West-end? No, they went on to the small shops in the East. So they would go on to the grocers’ or millers’ shops in the country, as they did in Belgium last week.

A decade had passed since the height of the unionising furore, however, and his remarks were not wholeheartedly endorsed. Farmer Sam Stanley, taking the reply, used the humour for which he was well known to gently rebuke the speaker and defuse the heat of his remarks. He pointedly said that he did not agree with all that the Rev. Simons said,

as he thought Mr. Simons had gone into what might be called political matters – (hear, hear) – and he did not think they should bring political matters up in a meeting like that.(74)

Despite the fears of the Primrose League, or the excesses of Liberals, a sense of stability and direction were emerging based on meeting change as opposed to resisting it.


d. 1890-1900
Boosting Campden

Campden had been, since the granting of a charter by James I in 1605 (confirming earlier charters by Henry II and Henry III), a municipal Corporation, a Borough, with mayors, bailiffs, and the trappings of a city government. In 1879, along with the nearby Borough of Winchcomb, it became the subject of a Royal Inquiry(75), the consequence of which was that, with the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883 (which took effect in 1886) Campden ceased to be a borough(76). This did not strip Campden of its real economic and political significance to the area (though it does draw attention to the growing trend to rationalise and centralise government); to the contrary, despite the economic distress brought on by the Agricultural Depression Campden was in the process of reconfirming its local position. Following the January, 1882, Stock Sale, a group of local farmers met to establish a prize teg show for March, with first and second prizes for any tenant farmer in England occupying not more than 500 acres of land, and first and second prizes for farmers within four miles of Campden(77). Following the success of the first Prize Teg Show it became an annual event, and later became a model for other towns(78). It also provided the foundation upon which the first combination of local farmers was built.

In 1887 Campden was threatened by proposed local boundary changes, in which the Gloucestershire town was to have been administratively absorbed into neighbouring Warwickshire, with the effect that Campden would lose its County Police Station, Magistrate’s Court, Highway Board and Inland Revenue offices. Quite apart from the effects of the Agricultural Depression, the proposals would have meant the end of Campden as a district administrative centre. The town of Campden organised, fought the proposal, kept itself in Gloucestershire, and in the end was made the centre of its own non-workhouse Union as well(79).

This successful defense of its civic integrity was a direct outcome of Campden’s consistently developing sense of itself as the Town of Campden, as indicated in the resurgence of the toast to “The Town and Trade of Campden” at the 1883 Britannia Society dinner (80), and by the Rev. Forster’s comment in proposing that toast in 1885: “he wished the advantages of Campden were more widely known…”(81). With Agriculture in decline, Trade became more important economically, socially and politically, and as the notion of “Campden” as an Agricultural District gave way before the idea of “Campden” as the Town, the Town as such came to be regarded increasingly as an economic object in its own right, with its own market value. The modern conception of “Campden” as something which could be packaged and sold took shape and crystallised by the end of the 1880s. This radical shift in local self-concept culminated in its greatest single success at the turn of the century: the attraction to Campden of the Guild of Handicraft in 1902 (see III.2 below).

Over this last decade of the century local Agriculture itself began to come to terms with the effects of the Depression, and though still declining as an industry, a returning stability towards the end of the 1880s contributed to the developing civic sense of “Campden”. The new and marketable concept of the ‘Town’ of Campden was securely entrenched, but in balance with the reasserted identification of Campden as Agricultural District.

Among the leaders of the new generation of farmers taking the initiative in the reassertion of local agriculture was Ulric Stanley, who had spent time in the United States, and whose farmhouse was inside the town(82). In 1889 Stanley argued successfully for the ‘useful’ vs. classical education which the Rev. Irvine had failed to win for the Grammar School against the opposition of the Earl of Gainsborough nearly two decades earlier; Stanley argued that chemistry and business math were more useful than classics in a farming district(83). Also in 1889 he helped to form the North Cotswold Farmers Assoclation(84). His message to his fellow farmers was that conditions had changed, that they needed to recognise these changes, and that they needed to act appropriately. In a major speech to the Association in 1890 (it was important enough to be reported in the national Agricultural Gazette(85)) he asked them:

Has the great change that has taken place during the last twenty years in the social position of the agricultural labourer been sufficiently recognised? Has not the extension of the franchise, the Education Act, the allotment movement, been received in too many cases in a grudging and, perhaps, resentful spirit that has tended to alienate rather than conciliate? How many are there in the rural districts (I am not speaking only of farmers) who still think – despite the fact that the labourer has equal electoral powers, and in another generation will be an educated man – he may yet be handled like one £ note, and treated with as little deference. Again, how many yet entertain the idea that if a labourer is allowed to “get on in the world”, he will in consequence be a less efficient man, or that he will not work at all.

Until these prejudices were got rid of

I am afraid the connection between employer and employed will partake more of the nature of an armed truce rather than a lasting understanding.

In analysing the events of the past twenty years, he argued that the quality of local labour had fallen since the Education Act, not because education of labourers as such was a bad thing, but because

The process of education [as presently constituted] finds out all the best and most Intelligent lads, and they are at once designed for something better than an agricultural labourer – employment in an office, in a railway, anything rather than work upon a farm…Education that should be for our benefit has become the means of drafting all the cream of our rural population, both male and female, into the towns…Village communities must go back if the process of extracting all the best of the rising generation is to continue.(86)

This ‘brain drain’ of agricultural labour began in earnest twenty years earlier, during the period of union organisation. It continued, and perhaps accelerated, during the Agricultural Depression, and was exacerbated by Liberal national legislation such as universal education. ‘Old Shepherd’ (quoted above) cited emigration of labourers as one of the immediate effects of the labour troubles of the seventies. A Campden correspondent to the Evesham Journal in 1889, calling himself ‘Perishonear’, touched on the problem of emigration in a letter about allotments:

us got sum gooduns ear els now, our parliament man muster winterbotom [Liberal m.p. for the North Cotswolds] fund em, and niver made ony fuss or bother bout it aither, e ort to av bin ear ears afoor but it may kape thu yung uns ear moor now…(87)

The slow collapse of the Britannia Benefit Society after 1882 reflects, in all probability, the drain of young men away from the district. The parish population in 1871 was 2,013; this dropped steadily with the decline of agriculture, and in 1881 it was 1,861; in 1891 it was 1,736; and in 1901 it was 1,542 – a fall, in thirty years, of nearly a quarter of the population (the greatest percentage of fall being between 1891-1901, when it was over 11%)(88). Another illustration, and in some ways more enlightening (particularly in relation to the mummers), is the record of the Campden Band over the period.


C. Public Display and Civic Boosterism 

a. The Uses of Publicity 

The Campden Band had played annually at the Britannia Benefit Society meetings from the band’s formation in 1851 to 1876(89), and for various other publicly recorded events from their first mention in the Evesham Journal in 1862 (the newspaper was established in 1860), to 1876 (see Appendix A for references and citations to bands in discussion below). From 1877 to 1886, the Campden Band disappeared from Evesham Journal reports. In 1887 it reappeared, flourished, and maintained a consistent presence in Campden (excepting the two World Wars) until Its collapse following the last war(90). The full implications of the 1877-1886 hiatus, covering the fall into agricultural depression and the reassertion of local balance, have yet to be studied. To function and be seen, however, the band clearly needed a leader, occasions to perform, organisation, motivation, and bandsmen. Occasions remained: the Britannia Benefit Society continued to meet and hire bands throughout the hiatus, though the Campden Band had been their ‘official’ band for twenty-five years, even when the Broadway Band was engaged by Union members during the short period 1873-1875. It is conceivable that the Campden Band had become so thoroughly identified with the leadership of Thomas Warner, who died in 1879 at the age of 74, that his illness or retirement may have prevented anyone else taking it over after 1876. There were other potential bandleaders, however, and under the leadership of William Warner the Rifle Corps drum and fife band (along with the Broadway Brass Band) appeared at the Britannia meeting in 1877, and Mr. Court’s band played at the meeting in 1879. It is notable, however, that between 1877 and 1887 all of the named brass bands performing at Campden functions were from outside, apart from one – and that was described as the “old brass band of the corps”, playing at a Rifle Corps Volunteer member’s funeral. The Rifle Corps band was otherwise a drum and fife band, and the first mention of a ‘town band’ after 1877, in 1885, was also a drum and fife band. The implication, supported by the nomenclature “old brass band of the corps”, is that younger men were simply not interested or available in sufficient numbers for brass instrument playing.

The reappearance of the Town Brass Band in 1887 (under William Warner) as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations ((91), and below) is not, I think, accidental. It reflects in part Campden’s growing sense of itself as a Town, and the emergent philosophy of civic celebration. This, in turn, was part of a national growth in civic spectacle and ritual(92), which culminated in Campden in the floral fetes and parades of 1895, 1896 and 1897.

To attempt to correct the falling attendance at the Britannia Society procession and dinner – “so small a display must be detrimental to the society” – grocer Herbert Wixey proposed in 1886 that attendance be made compulsory, and that, following the lead of other benefit societies, sports be held in the afternoon as an added attraction(93). Independently, on the following Saturday a number of small tradesmen (including H. Hands, James Haines and Robert Guthrie), led the revival, after a seventeen year hiatus, of ‘Scuttlebrook Wake’:

The programme included climbing a greasy pole, a donkey race, a married woman’s race, a smoking contest, jumping in sacks, and several men’s and boys’ races. Some of the items, which in the present day have the claim of novelty, created much amusement, and amongst these was a “gorging contest”, 2s 6d and 1s to the first and second who shall consume half-a-quartern loaf of bread and a quart of ale in the quickest and cleanest manner. A large crowd congregated in the street and seemed to much enjoy the fun.(94)

In the following month the Primrose League held its fete at nearby Norton Hall. At this fete, too, there were featured a number of serious and novelty races (William Benfield, possibly the inter-war mummer, took part)(95).

More elaborate and civically-oriented celebrations took place around and on these foundations.


To understand these more elaborate celebrations, we must recall the role played by spectacular processions in Campden generally, and the growth of civic awareness as the entity of Campden became a theme in its own right. The latter development crystallised towards the end of the 1880s. A correspondent to the Evesham Journal in 1887, advocating a new public water supply as a fitting memorial to the Queen, wrote:

A few months ago I read in some local print something pointing to Campden as possessing religious and educational advantages and features beyond those of other small towns so near to a railway, and that if improvements were made within and about the town (such as better pavements, a line of trees along each side of the main street, a good raised footpath to the top of Westington Hill and the planting of a few seats) Chipping Campden might become, little by little, a health resort in the summer months…

There are very many quiet-seeking and sober-minded people, now-a-days, who prefer an old, quiet place like Campden, where they can get inside accomodation cheaper and in more homely style, to the comfortless and more expensive, fashionable “Tom-tiddler-grounds” of pleasure-seeking Society. To such people, I have sometimes thought, if we could offer them something decent to drink, Campden might offer a rustic retreat, surrounded by a profusion of natural beauty and fanned by a bracing air not to be surpassed (Malvern, Bredon and Ebrington only excepted) between the Metropolis and Wolverhampton.

Thus four classes would be benefited: 1) The very poor, who form so large a bulk of the population here and whose struggle for existence in the winter months, with no demand at all for labour in the shop and hardly any in the field, must be severe indeed, 2) those with insufficient income, who would be able to let rooms, 3) the shopkeepers and tradesmen, 4) those with independent means – socially.

It is interesting that farmers are not on his list of those who would benefit (although an argument could have been made for an increase in their local business as well). His appeal goes on to mention two of the key elements In the modern marketing of Campden: The concept of the natural landscape as an economic resource for its own sake, and the intrinsic value of ‘old things’, thus combining tourism, local patriotism, boosterism, and antiquarianism in a single package of progress:

We have, I say, in that copious flow of excellent water, and in the natural gifts around us, undeveloped stores waiting to be worked for the good of this town, and of thousands of our neighbours, to whom a retirement (temporary or permanent) from city life is an absolute necessity…I have the prejudices of an old inhabitant regarding the Market Hall. We old people don’t like to see old things pulled about very much beyond putting in a new slate or stopping a hole in.(96)

The “antiquity” of Campden became a self-conscious motif: Scuttlebrook Wake 1888 was advertised as ‘Ye wake of Scuttlebrook’, with a programme of ‘Old English Games'(97); a Christmas entertainment in 1889 was performed by ‘ye younge folke of ye Olde Campdene'(98). Civic improvement was closely coupled with the need to attract trade, visitors, residents and employment: Improvements in sanitary and housing conditions, for example, were proposed on the basis that Campden “might become more widely than it is now a health resort for those needing a clear and bracing air”(99). Attention was drawn to the fact that

though Campden is specially rich in charities, it has the appearance of a much neglected place, much work needing to be done, but left undone.(100)

“Perishonear”, writing to the Evesham Journal to advocate a suggested improvement of Campden’s paving, said

me and my mates sez our strits do warnt doin bad, speshully wen thay was done if simn gentel fokes hood cum and tak the ouses as be hempty, them as cum hood want their gardin dun if thay dident do it thersels jist fur Xhersiz…but us doent mane to go on the job afore winter comes, cos us be harf clamd then and we r hactuly to lay in our beds day time fur warmth, cos us cant affurd firin, and if us was to stale a fow stiks, thayd send us to l or hooster as the sayin is…(101)

The Evesham Journal in August 1890 noted

The town is now very full of strangers visiting this healthy locality.(102)

A letter in 1891 from “Antiquarian” congratulated Campden that it had not yet fallen under the sway of “the vandalising mania” in which

nothing seems to be safe, reverence for antiquity stands no chance in the struggles with gain, buildings that have withstood the stormy blasts of centuries lift up their aged fronts and antique porticoes with mute appealing eloquence that melts the heart of the antiquary with pity in vain, and with ruthless energy these remnants of bygone generations are razed to the ground, and in their place springs up a row of commodious, jerry-built, red-brick villas…(103)

In 1891 it was agreed to enlarge the Town Hall, Mr. Griffiths, the solicitor,

believing the scheme would be the means of bringing many more people to the town, which would be for the benefit of all.(104)

Furthermore, it was explicitly said that the renovations would be carried out in such a way that they would harmonise with the old and unique architecture of Campden. Later in the same year the newly-built Catholic Church was opened, and it was reported that

this gives another attraction to the town, which is deservedly looked upon as already one of the most picturesque in the country. Its old buildings are unique, and the new edifice is erected in such a way as to in no way clash, but to harmonise with the existing style of architecture.

The new Church was built of local stone

thus harmonising suitably with the many ancient buildings of this quaint old town.(105)

In 1892, in nearby Broadway (which a correspondent in 1887 said “bids fair to become a fashionable summer resort, [with]…a fair chance of becoming the Queen of the West”(106)), a group of influential Birmingham people intervened to stop a local County Council improvement scheme – the paving of the streets in bluestone – because:

Broadway is essentially an old English village, almost unique in having for the most part escaped the desecrating hand of the “improver” and the avarice of the jerry-builder. It is in this that its attractiveness to the outsider and the visitor chiefly consists, and no surer means of driving him away can be devised than levelling the place up or down to a standard of suburban trimness.

Keep Broadway as it is…

The author of the letter suggested the formation of a “Defence Association”, a type of the modern amenity society,

for which I am sure many outsiders would subscribe, to protect themselves from the encroachment of this sham and shoddy age of improvement”.(107)

In the following year, 1893, a “Visitors list” for Chipping Campden – the names of visiting tourists, and the homes or hotels in which they stayed – appeared for the first time in the Evesham Journal(108). In 1893 also, a party of 350 Conservatives visited Campden, rallied, and toured the antiquities as part of their visit(109). In 1894 the planting of trees, as suggested earlier, began, in order to make Campden more attractive for visitors and potential residents(110). The Parish Councils Act of 1894 was seen locally as giving local people the power to seek

ways to make the villages and small towns more attractive…If they brought some of the town advantages and attractions into the country districts there would be more inducement for the young men to remain there, and to obtain a richer and better and more intellectual life.(111)

That Christmas, for the first time, views of Campden were sold on Christmas cards(112).

In 1898 another Town Hall restoration was completed “not as the act of any one person”, according to the Earl of Gainsborough, “but as the act of the whole town”, with another speaker asserting that

whatever increased the population of the district would increase the welfare of the town.(113)

In 1899 the first history of Campden as such was published, with the avowed intent of making the beauties and antiquities of Campden better known, hopefully drawing some of the many tourists away from Stratford-on-Avon(114). On the verge of the Guild of Handicraft’s arrival from London in 1902, the Parish Council mooted the building of a bathing lake (if the funds could be found) partly on the basis that it would be a boon to visitors(115), and the Town Trust ordered that carts no longer be stored in the Market Hall, on the basis that it disfigured the picturesque old building(116).

Travel publicity increased generally for the Cotswolds towards the end of the century(117). A short publicity piece on Campden by Campden postmaster/antiquarian J.R. Neve appeared in the Bristol Observer in 1895(118). Campden featured in an article in Architecture by Guy Dawber in 1896(119), and in 1900, in a lengthy travel article in the Birmingham Weekly Post, C.C. Middleton wrote that

Fashion has many freaks, and so it happens that whilst Broadway is visited, written of, and otherwise ‘boomed’, Campden, a neighbouring and more interesting town, receives but scant attention, and is, in fact, but seldom heard of…

To those who appreciate the quiet of a small country town, the picturesque, and the archaeologically quaint, perhaps no place within a mile of a railway station affords greater facility for enjoyment than historic Campden.(120)

It is in this context of ‘booming’ – involving the sometimes contradictory notions of modernisation to improve amenities, and conservation to preserve antiquities – that the civic celebrations of 1887, and particularly 1895, 1896 and 1897 are best understood.


b. 1887- The Queen’s Jubilee

As early as 1868 the Oddfellows had decided to hold an annual parade, with the idea that it

will prove itself to be a source of attraction to the inhabitants of the immediate neighbourhood, as well as of great benefit to the tradesmen of the town of Campden generally.(121)

Public display was regularly used – by the friendly societies, schools, Rifle Corps Volunteers, and others – both to recruit and advertise, as we saw earlier with the Britannia Society(122). In this sense, as well as in structure, Campden’s Jubilee celebration of 1887 was based on the model of the old club processions, translated to the parish as a whole: the members of the the parish paraded, attended the service in the parish church, feasted, ratified the loyal toast, and then relaxed together in sports and games.

Townspeople were woken on the morning of the festivities at about 4 a.m. “by loud reports in the streets, which were occasioned by some not over thoughtful young men” two hours before the official start of six a.m.(123). This latter was announced by the pealing of the church bells. The townspeople, awakened prematurely, took the opportunity to decorate their houses, hanging out flags and putting up mottoes. At 8.30 the Campden Brass Band (in its first publicly noted appearance, so far as I am aware, since 1876) paraded the town. Provision was made for dinner to be taken to old and infirm persons, and then:

Shortly after ten the members of the different friendly societies commenced to assemble in front of the Noel Arms Hotel, and then the procession was formed…First came the royal coat of arms, and then a large flag, surmounted by a crown. Then followed the band, under the leadership of Mr. William Warner; the members of the Britannia, Oddfellows and Hearts of Oak friendly societies, and last of all the parishioners generally, the school children taking their places in the procession en route.

The first circuit of the town culminated at the parish church, where a special service was conducted. Then the town was paraded again, and

Opposite Mr. R.H. Haydon’s house the procession was joined by the “Royal Baron of Beef” and the “Jubilee Loaf”(124)

which were carried by the carvers attired in white aprons and caps. Dinner of cold joints began at 12.30 in Cotterel’s Orchard, along with potatoes and beer. The series of toasts usual on other occasions was reduced to the single toast to the health of the Queen. Then the sports and games commenced in Flag Meadow (for the adults) and Cotterel’s Orchard (for the children). This completed the traditional club day structure: parade, service, feast, meeting and entertainment – with the parish as a whole the ‘club’.


c. 1895-1897. Whit Monday Fetes.

The Whit Monday celebration of 1895 was more directly and explicitly an extended toast to the “Town and Trade of Campden”. It took place, significantly enough, on Whit Monday – the club day of the recently founded Cirencester Conservative Working Men’s Benefit Society (125), one of the two successors to the old Britannia Benefit Society, and was advertised in 1896 as being “In connection with the Cirencester Working Men’s Benefit Society”. The ‘Ciren’ (as it came to be called), with the essential word ‘Conservative’ in its title, was founded in Campden in 1890; its first annual meeting, in 1891, was “practically a meeting of the Tory party under another name”(126). A non-Conservative alternative, the Stroud Mutual Provident and Sick Benefit Society, was founded in 1891(127). The club day of the Stroud was Whit Friday, and would be virtually eclipsed by the Whit Monday celebrations of 1895, 1896 and 1897.

Whatever other motivations lay behind the choice of Whit Monday for the parade, the intent of the first Whit Monday Fete of 1895 was clear to the local press:

What took place was a town festival in which “capital burgesses” and “inferior burgesses” were alike interested.(128)

It was inspired by a recent “grand floral parade” at the seaside resort of Eastbourne, which had been well covered In the illustrated papers(129), and

The great idea of the promoters, it is understood, is to bring Campden to the front…

According to the Evesham Journal’s report, the town’s effort “eclipsed Eastbourne”(130).

Both dinner and church service were left out of the celebrations (the Friendly Society excepted), but fancy dress novelties appeared as a feature of local parades for the first time, and it was certainly the most spectacular celebration the town had seen. The procession was led by the band of the Evesham Company, 2nd Volunteers Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment. The marshal was J.C. Haydon, a local farmer, mounted and in hunting costume. The stewards were the Rev. F.S. Forster, Messrs. Hands, C. Groves, J. Harwood, J.R. Neve, and G. Haines (a mix of farmers, tradesmen and clergy). The fire brigade were followed by decorated donkeys, then by “grotesque cyclists” (bicyclists in a variety of fancy dress), the Church of England school children dressed so as to form a Union Jack, a car with “Aunt Sally” riding in procession, and then the body of the procession. This main section of the parade consisted of decorated carts and costumed individuals representing “the trades” of Campden. Mr. Wixey (who had answered the toasts to “The Town and Trade of Campden” at the Britannia Society meetings), led this section with two carts – one dressed to represent the baking and confectionary side of his business, and the other his grocery. It is quite clear now, and was at the time, that the tradesmen used the public spectacle to the full: or, as the Evesham Journal said, various among them “appeared to know that sweet are the uses of advertisement”.

The main bloc of tradesmen’s vehicles was followed by a cart arranged by postmaster/draper/antiquarian/local historian J.R. Neve to represent the seasons. The Catholic school children came behind this

decorated to represent “Fairy Queen” and ten fairies, “May Queen” and four subjects, “Queen of Roses” and four subjects, “Queen of Laburnham” and three subjects, and the effect was very pretty.

Following the Catholic children came a cart prepared by Miss Josephine Griffiths (see III.1, IV.1.B.b), representing “Britannia”. H.G. “Fishy” Ellis, fish dealer, came next as Neptune, with four sea nymphs. The streets were decorated with flags and festoons of greenery, and somewhere in the parade there was even a ‘Jack-in-the-Green'(131).

The 1896 floral fete was bigger and better:

The old town asserted itself: The ‘Chippy’ has to be dropped if you are talking to the Campden man, and you must give him the ‘Chipping’ with the ‘ing’ unmistakeably pronounced. And quite right, too, for Campden deserves to be treated with respect.

The Evesham Journal called it “far and away the best Whitsuntide attraction within a radius of many miles”, and respectfully suggested that next year the organisers advertise beforehand.

The route of the 1896 procession was elaborate: the town was paraded its full length, Westington taken in, and a large figure eight performed through the High Street and Leasebome. The order of the procession was much as in 1895, but behind the mounted marshal,

came the Campden Toy Band, under the command of a drum major; the bandsmen were dressed in fancy costume, and as for the instruments, they included drum, fife, cymbals, triangles, coronet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music.(132)

Also new were the Bidford Shakespearean Morris Dancers, with hobby horse and clown – a commercial unit of morris dancers which had performed extensively and to a great deal of local advertisement not many years before(133). “The trades of Campden” came next, after the fire brigade, and “formed perhaps the most interesting feature of the procession”. Mr. Wixey brought up the rear of the trades procession, and among those following behind were carts carrying Robin Hood and the Foresters, the Yeomen of the Guard, Maypole dancers, and the first modern May Queen in Campden (a Gloucester, not a Campden, girl), with the sons of a local farmer as pages, followed by a carriage with maids of honour. The procession ended “with a representation of Ye Olde Campden in the time of James I”.

Following the parade was a fete “in connection with the Cirencester Working Men’s Benefit Society”. There were the usual sports, but also elaborate entertainments: a stand-up comedian from Birmingham, the maypole dance and crowning of the May Queen, dancing by the Bidford Morris Men, formal dancing and fireworks. “It is very satisfactory to know”, reported the Evesham Journal “that last Monday something like twice the number of people paid for admission to the grounds compared with last year”. Significantly, photographer Henry Taunt from Oxford had come for the show, taking, among others, the first photographs of the Campden Morris Dancers(134).

The fete and parade of 1897 “fairly eclipsed its previous efforts”, according to the Evesham Journal, and “visitors soon began to troop into town”: over two thousand people, it reported, were present for the entertainments after the parade, and between two and three hundred took advantage of special railway arrangements. The maypole dancers and the May Queen (a Campden girl this year) were singled out for mention, the fancy costumes and variety of instruments of the Toy Band remarked on, but the signal event of the day was the performance after the parade of a game of “living whist”, in which ladies and gentlemen wearing appropriate costumes represented the cards played by four gentlemen at a table.

The parade itself was notable for the lower profile of the trades carts, and the rise in the number and spectacular nature of the non-advertising displays(135).

1897 was also the last of the three Whit Monday Fetes, perhaps because the continued decline in population and every part of the economy apart from tourism (see Appendix B) did not warrant the time and effort involved. Spectacles as such were still organised: though lacking the parade and sports, for example, the benefit for the Nursing Association in 1899, in display and entertainment, rivalled the fetes of 1895-97(136). It was not until the Guild of Handicraft arrived in 1902 that elaborate parades through the town were again organised, coinciding with a general upturn in the local economy (see below. III.2).

From the early 1890s, the only local industry which appears to have been growing was tourism. Though 1898 lacked a floral fete and parade, the Evesham Journal could report in August:

There are a larger number than usual of visitors staying in the town this season, enjoying the fresh air of the Cotswolds and admiring the architectural beauties of the place.(137)

As noted above, Campden was being publicised more widely throughout this period, and this seems to have taken effect.


d. 1890-1900 Reprise:
Farmers and Labourers

The relations between labourers and farmers between 1890-1900 seem to have stabilised in the positions, more or less, of 1890, the year in which Ulric Stanley delivered his first major speech to the North Cotswold Farmers (quoted above). 1890 was the next to last year in which a meeting of the Britannia Benefit Society was reported in the local press.

It was a difficult meeting. The Vicar missed the service and the dinner, and this raised protests from the floor:

(“Why didn’t he come?” “He might have stopped”.) He had gone away a short time for the benefit of his health. (“He might have stopped one more day”, and hear, hear).

There were numerous interruptions of the speakers: the society was badly represented in the parade; the sermon couldn’t be heard; how about the Baptist minister giving a sermon?

Mr. Newman, in proposing “the Secretary”

made some kind of charge against Mr. [Ulric] Stanley, who, he said, with other honorary members, did not take sufficient interest in the club. He was proceeding to some unexplained “bother” which he appeared to consider Mr. Stanley had caused when

Mr. Stanley observed that he had made no bother at all. Mr. Newman had made more bother than anybody else, (laughter). He had always taken a great interest in the club…

Some person here got up in the room brandishing a dangerous-looking stick, and made some adverse remark about Mr. Stanley which was scarcely audible above the din of interruption.

Mr. Stanley: You are not a member of the club.

Further disorderly conversation was carried on…Mr. Oliver Smith opined that they wanted no honorary members. Mr. Newman said they could do without them, while others in the room shouted out that they wanted more.

Mr. Edges was sorry the club was in such a position, but said the old saw was as true as ever, that if the poor were as much against the rich as they were against themselves things would be much worse than they were.(138)

Ulric Stanley’s talks to the farmers after 1890 reiterated many of the themes of his speech of 1890, particularly the farmers’ “indifference and prejudice” to the education of the labourers (see III.2). There does not come from the reports of the meetings, however, the same sense that farmers were universally taking the labourer for granted, as if the labourer was nothing better than a pound note, to use Stanley’s phrase. For example, agricultural labourers were not included in the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1899; a point the North Cotswold Farmers debated in November of that year, when farmer Sam Stanley said that

He should like the question to be settled by the labourers themselves. If the labourers wanted the Act to be extended, he thought it should be extended, because in the long run it would cost the farmers less.

This willingness by a farmer to grant an element of choice to his labourers in an economic decision is a significant fact in Itself. At the same meeting it was felt necessary to leaven the general tone with some hard criticism of fellow farmers:

Mr. Woodward said the philanthropic feeling some farmers had towards their labourers was not universal. He did not want it to go forth that every farmer was good to his labourers.

Farm manager C.H. Smith agreed:

He had known farmers who would not give a single farthing to labourers who had met with fearful accidents.(139)

In theory, at least, the labourers were acquiring not only educational but civil equality with the tradesmen and farmers. This was not achieved, but for a period at the end of the century it must have appeared to many to be particularly close to reality.

After the Parish Councils Act of 1894, Campden elected a largely Liberal council(140). Indeed, Campden was called “the most Radical place in Gloucestershire”(141), and a correspondent to the Evesham Journal called Campden’s “an essentially working-men’s Council”(142). The initial optimism of this Liberal council was not borne out by what it could actually accomplish, however(143), and the 1898 elections were poorly attended. There were only nine nominees for the nine positions in the three wards, and without contest all were declared elected(144). Three principal farmers – Ulric Stanley, George Haines and R.H. Haydon, stood for the first time. Stanley, who had been the first chairman of the council (appointed from outside, not elected; see III.2) became chairman again. The position of local farmers was re-asserted generally throughout this final period of the century, though not with the power of the pre-Depression years. It was a shared and mitigated power, and was almost immediately challenged by the arrival of the Guild of Handicraft in 1902.

By the turn of the century, the social position of the labourers had altered: the Britannia Benefit Society meeting of 1890 had not been held in check or to order in the same way that even the fiercer meetings of earlier days had been. The toasts at the meetings of the Stroud Society, the Britannia’s Liberal successor – for example that of 1900, which was heavily flavoured by the Boer War(l45) – partook more of the quality of the ratification of shared values which characterised the early Oddfellows meetings than the moral instruction of the early Britannia Society meetings.

Labourers were still on low pay; Non-Conformists were still prevented from teaching and holding administrative posts in the schools, and apart from the Catholic lower school, religious instruction in the schools was still Church of England. Compared to the pre-Depression era of the 1860s, however, ‘Campden’ and conditions of life in Campden had been fundamentally transformed.


D. Conclusion 1860-1900

This chapter began with the statement that there were four broad periods between 1860-1900 in Chipping Campden relative to social relations involving labourers and the performative field.

The period 1860-1870 was pictured, for the most part, as a period of cordiality and goodwill, of moral and civic progress, with an appreciation of what might be called ‘civilised rusticity’. It would be a tenable hypothesis to suggest that identifiably ‘folk’ customs, especially if they involved an element of deferential performance for alms, and thus fell within the extant pattern of paternal charity and self-help, will have been welcomed if not actively organised by the well-to-do. It would be equally tenable to suggest that in a period priding itself on orderly progress and the stability of the social structure, performances which excluded drunkenness and rude behaviour may have been encouraged, as were those which accepted recognised social boundaries: J.C. Kingzett remarks, for example, that the mummers performed outside the farmhouse rather than in. It would also be possible to suggest that, at a time of relative prosperity, the mumming was more likely a custom for adolescents or children than established working men.

The period 1870-1878, marked as it was by vandalism and rumours of vandalism, by a rise of labourers against their condition and the inevitable counter-reaction, will not have been so conducive to gangs of disguised men being abroad at night, even at Christmas. Certainly in the early period, when the Earl of Gainsborough himself was shouted down in a Public Meeting, the rules of order will have been so confused as to make a hiatus in the mumming likely until concerted efforts (comparable to the Horticultural Society) took effect to re-establish social understandings. The attempts at reconciliation which were made were on the old model of paternal charity and self-help; given the emerging economic troubles of the end of the period, and the apparent mass emigration of young men from the district, there may have been a tendency for older men to take over casual money-making customs such as mumming. The growing importance to public life and the economy of tradesmen, and a normalisation of the feelings of the middle classes towards the labourers – with what that implies in willingness to extend casual charity, to ratify their social positions through seasonal giving – may well have renewed and perhaps broadened the potential audience for the mummers.

This will have been more true of the period 1878-1889, when the Agricultural Depression was in full cry, and when the self-conscious concept of the marketable entity “Campden” was formulated, in concert with the rise of Trade and the development of tourism. It is also a period in which the population continued to fall, with the emigration, it has been suggested, of considerable numbers of young men in the early period. These and other developments, including political and educational advantages opened to labourers, may well have had a considerable impact on mumming. If mumming formed part of a system of social and economic exchange between masters and men in the period before 1870, for example, the two decades leading up to the turn of the century is quite likely to have broadened the mummers’ audience-base to include tradespeople generally. Late meetings of the Britannia Society suggest a more familiar relationship between floor and headtable, which might be reflected in a less ordered, or at least more informal and less rigidly formalised mumming, perhaps of adults, and perhaps taking place Inside rather than on the doorstep of peoples’ homes.

The period 1890-1900 sees an upsurge in fancy dress and civic pageantry and in appeals to ‘folk’ phantasy generally, from Maypole and Morris dancing to dramatised fairy tales and Robin Hood. Mumming may well have been ‘revived’ or encouraged as a recognisable Old English Custom at this time. Tourism appears to have been largely a summer phenomenon at this time, and will therefore have had little direct impact on the Christmas custom of mumming. The custom may well have come to an end as a combined effect of continued emigration and the service of key men in the Boer War.


II.3. 1860-1900. Discussion.

A. The Audience

J.C. Kingzett’a letter of reminiscence, written from Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, and published in the Evesham Journal in 1935, set out roughly the dates to which his recollections referred:

Born at the Wold’s End in 1861(1), and living at Campden until 1875, and then for five years at Chipping Norton, with frequent weekends and occasional holidays spent at Campden, these reminiscences have reference to the period covering, say from ’65 to ’82, or thereabouts.

He concluded his recollections with the afterthought:

By the way, I have not mentioned the mummers, who, by all reports, are still going strongly. Those of today must be the grand children of those I used to see performing outside the Wolds End fully 70 years ago.(2)

According to other remarks in the article, Mr. Kingzett’s association with Campden continued intermittently until a final visit in about 1910. Indeed, after a period abroad he appears to have been in Campden, however briefly, in 1886(3), and these later contacts might conceivably have influenced the character and quality of his memories. His earliest memories are framed by the death of his father in 1870(4), however, and the one specific date which he gives, for the opening of the gas works in “about 1870” is correct; the majority of his dateable references are to the late 1860s and early 1870s(5). It seems reasonable, therefore, to take his dating of the mummers more or less literally, and regard “fully 70 years ago” as referring to his earliest childhood memories, from about 1865 to the death of his father in 1870.

The Kingzetts were a prominent local farming family, the Wold’s End farmhouse being at that time the northernmost extension of the town on the Aston Road. (The farm is now largely consumed in the Wold’s End housing development, and the Aston Road has been built on for a considerable distance beyond).

John Charles Kingzett’s father was William Henry Kingzett, son of John Herbert Kingzett, Campden saddler. John Charles’ mother was born Lucy Ann Izod, a member of one of the oldest and best established farming families in the area, and the Kingzetts were closely related to a number of local farming famillies(6).

Among them, these inter-related families exercised considerable influence in local affairs. At the time of his death in 1870, John Charles’ father was a member of the Highway Board, the Vestry, and was Junior Bailliff of the Corporation. He had been a surveyor under the old highway system, and was a way warden of the new. He had been one of the first members of the Cotswold Lodge of Oddfellows, within which he advanced to the rank of Past Grand Master before he died. His funeral was a full and impressive military one: it included a volley fired by the Volunteers, the Oddfellows in full regalia, and a brass band(7).

According to the census of 1861 (taken before any of his children had reached working age), the elder Kingzett farmed 100 acres with the help of four men and two boys(8). His wife continued to run the farm after his death in 1870, and in the 1871 census she is described as farming 117 acres with two men and one boy. Her eldest daughter was then 21, her eldest son was 19: another daughter was 15, another son 12, and John Charles, author of the reminiscences, was then 9(9). The children presumably helped on the farm, enabling Mrs. Kingzett to run the farm with fewer hired hands. It will also have diminished the number of labourers economically dependent on the Kingzetts, and if we take the view that the mumming at that time was a form of service and counter-service between master and man, this will have decreased the potential likelihood of a Christmas visit.


B. Mummers 

a. Henry Brotheridge

A note on the name ‘Brotheridge’:

Until quite recently, the orthography of several local names has been flexible, with different forms depending on the writer’s transcription of the spoken name.

Like the family name “Greenall”, “Greenhall”, “Grinnell”, “Grinnall”, the name “Brotheridge” has been transcribed at different times in three main and mutually exclusive ways: “Brotheridge”, “Blotheridge”, “Botheridge”.

The elder Thomas Brotheridge discussed below, for example, was called “Blotheridge” in the marriage record of his daughter Mary in 1845(10), a son’s marriage in 1838(11), and another son’s marriage in 1844(12). When daughter Sarah married in 1848, Thomas was listed as “Brotheridge”(13), as he was in the 1851 census(14) and his burial record of 1858(15). The 1861 census called his son, Thomas, “Botheridge”(16).

In the Petty Sessions manuscript for a case involving Charles Brotheridge, noted below, the name was written “Blotheridge”(17). The Evesham Journal, reporting the same case, called him “Brotheridge”(18). In a Petty Sessions case in which he figured in 1901, Charles was called successively “Brotheridge”, “Botheridge”, “Brotheridge” and then “Botheridge” in the recorder’s manuscript(19).

In the marriage record of Joseph Williams to Lucy in 1870, she was called “Blotheridge” by the recorder, but signed her own name “Botheridge”(20). As late as 1929, in a manuscript Church census, the same man was listed as “Brotheridge, Harry” in one entry, and "Botheridge, Harry” in another(21).

In interpreting the various records, therefore, I have treated “Botheridge” and “Blotheridge” as forms of the name “Brotheridge” unless there is a good reason not to. This may not be readily accepted in Campden today, where a distinction is drawn between the Botheridge and Brotheridge families, but is justified by the family ties for the persons discussed.

The name of Henry Brotheridge was given to James Madison Carpenter as that of an “Old Mummer” when he spoke to Tom Benfield and George Greenall in 1934 or 1935(22). There are three Henry Brotheridges to whom they could conceivably have been referring, the more likely of whom, the second chronologically, will be considered last.


b. Henry I

If by “Old Mummer” Tom Benfield and George Greenall were referring to an older adult performer who had taught them the words of the play, then the only candidate of whom I am aware is Henry Best Brotheridge, baptised in St. James Church, Campden, on August 14, 1842. His mother, Mary Gibbs Brotheridge, was single at the time; she married William Dowler of Welford-on-Avon, Gloucestershire (now Warwickshire) in 1845(23). In 1848 Mary witnessed her younger sister, Sarah’s  marriage(24), after which she disappears from the record. Henry appears in the 1851 census, living – along with four cousins from three separate families – with their grandfather Thomas Brotheridge, an agricultural labourer, in Sheep Street(25). Thomas was fifty-eight at that time, and apart from his wife and five grandchildren, had an unmarried son living with him. The latter, also named Thomas, was eighteen and an agricultural labourer. The grandchildren, Henry among them, were all “scholars”.

Thomas senior died in 1858 at the age of 65(26). His son had married by then, and at the time of the 1861 census still worked as an agricultural labourer(27). He, his wife and three children lived in Broad Campden with his wife’s unmarried uncle.

Henry Brotheridge, however, disappears from the record following the 1851 census. He is not in the 1861, 1871, or 1881 census, neither for Chipping Campden, nor his step-father’s native parish of Welford. In neither place is there a record of his marriage or burial. It seems unlikely, therefore, that he can have been the Henry Brotheridge that Tom Benfield (b.1869) and George Greenall (b.1873) were referring to. His uncle Joseph, however, was the grandfather of the second Henry Brotheridge, and great-grandfather to the third.

c. Henry III

The third Henry was born to John and Mary Brotheridge October 16, 1898, and baptised June 4, 1899(28). His mother was the daughter of labourer George Plested; she was a Campden girl, though living in Oxford at the time of her marriage(29). His father, John Brotheridge, was a labourer and a nephew of Henry Best Brotheridge(30).

There is not a great deal of information in the publicly available records concerning this Henry. After 1897, when his parents moved to Westington Hill and notified the Infants’ School that their children could only come in good weather(31), nothing is heard of Harry or the Brotheridge family in the Church or Church school records until 1906, when Harry and his elder brother Fred simultaneously enrolled in the Boys’ School(32). Prior to the move to Lapstone Farm near Westington Quarry in 1897 the family had lived in Watery Lane (now Park Road)(33), a road south of the Catholic Church which was then predominantly habited by labourers’ families. They were still at Lapstone Farm in 1906(34). Oddly, neither Arthur Brotheridge nor George Brotheridge, who were both married in 1926, their father listed as “John”(35), appear in the Boys’ School admission registers. Unless the family moved from Campden sometime in the two or three year interval after Harry entered the school and we would expect his brothers to have done, then the rest of the family must have been enrolled in St. Catharine’s, the Catholic school. This need not mean that the Brotheridges were Catholic. A number of Non-Conformist and Anglican children attended the Catholic schools(36).

Harry married in 1924(37), and this could have provided the occasion for his breaking off from the mummers, had he been one, although it is not clearly established that the mummers had been revived by then. If this interpretation is accepted, then he is referred to by Tom Benfield and George Greenall as an ‘Old Mummer’ to indicate that he had done the mumming at one time. Why should he be chosen over any other lapsed mummer, however, and why should Carpenter be interested in the name of a lapsed mummer considerably younger than either Benfield or Greenall? It doesn’t seem probable, and it therefore seems unlikely that Henry III is the person Benfield and Greenall referred to. All things being equal, the most probable candidate must be Alfred Henry Brotheridge.

d. Henry II

Alfred Henry Brotheridge was baptised in St. James Church on August 26, 1866, the son of Charles and Elizabeth Brotheridge. He was the first child in a family which eventually included ten boys (another died in infancy) and four girls. His father is listed as a labourer in Henry’s baptismal record, and as an agricultural labourer in the 1871 census(38). This is somewhat misleading, however, because Charles became an expert and, indeed, locally legendary agricultural steam engineer, a profession into which several of his sons followed(39).

Whether he was indifferent to the demands of formal education, whether he felt his boys could be more helpful at home, or whether he simply did not keep absolute control over such a large family, Charles senior was called several times before the magistrates for not sending his children to school. The Botheridges (as they are known in the school record(40)) are mentioned relatively frequently in the school logbooks. Charles senior, “engine driver”, appeared before the magistrates for the first time, to answer for Henry’s truancy, in 1878. He was fined a minimal shilling to include costs, upon promising to keep the boy in school(41). Charles Foster Brotheridge, the Brotheridge’s second child, a year and a half younger than Henry, is described in the Infants’ School logbook soon after admission as “very troublesome”(42); sometime after he is listed as truant(43). The subsequent record is consistent, Charles senior having to appear before the magistrates in 1887, and again in 1891 to answer for his various sons’ absences(44).

Henry, however, does not appear in the disciplinary record again after the 1878 incident. In December 1886, at the age of twenty, he joined the Gloucestershire constabulary. He served thirty-three years – the first nineteen as a constable, the final seven and a half as an inspector – and retired to Campden in 1922(45). He appears in a Church census of 1929 as living in Watery Lane (Park Road)(46).

The last possible year in which Alfred Henry Brotheridge can have gone with the Campden mummers before 1900 – barring Christmas leave from his duties as a policeman – would have been 1885, when he was nineteen years old. At this point, Tom Benfield was sixteen, only three years Brotheridge’s junior. In what sense, then, would Benfield have remembered him as an ‘Old Mummer’?


Given that Carpenter was on a short visit to Campden specifically to record the mumming play, Tom Benfleld may have given him Brotheridge’s name as someone still living in Campden, who performed earlier than Tom Benfleld, and who might be willing to talk with Carpenter. “Old” in this sense would carry two meanings: “before me” and “still alive”.

The transition in Carpenter’s note from the sentence “learned 40 years ago, here in Campden, from older mummers” to “Old Mummers – Henery Brotherridge”, suggests that Tom Benfleld learned the mumming from Harry Brotheridge. If we take it that Brotheridge last performed, at the latest, in 1885 (on the assumption that he did not go out with the Campden mummers after joining the police force), it is possible to construct two interpretations of the manner in which Benfield learned the play from him. The two interpretations lead to different conclusions concerning the mumming.

In the first interpretation we accept Tom Benfield’s dating of “40 years ago” literally, and take it that he learned the mummers in about 1895. He was then twenty-six. If Brotheridge had not performed the play since 1885, then what Benfield learned from him was the simple text; Benfield did not learn the play in a performance context but from recitation. If this is the case, it raises the question of what had happened to the Campden mumming? Had it ceased to come out, and was Benfield reviving it? Or was he thinking of taking out a rival to an extant mumming?

The mid-1890s was a time when the Town Band, Morris dancers, and carol singers were flourishing (as far as our sources permit such a statement). 1895 was the year of the first of the three big floral fetes, culminating in that of the Jubilee year of 1897: it was a time when fancy dress and self-consciously “antique” customs were popular in local festivities, a period beginning in the mid-1880s and peaking in the late 1890s. Rather than lapsing, from 1885 there is a continuous growth in the revival of performance customs, including the reappearance into prominence of the Town Band in 1887. Tom Benfield could, arguably, have been organising a second or rival mumming: there are several arguments which could be marshalled to support this conclusion.

In the first instance, there is no evidence at that time that such customs were exclusive, in the sense that the existence of one group precluded another. While today different groups of carollers each have their accepted nights for touring Campden, there was no such formality at the end of the century(47). We know of the existence of morris dancing in Campden in the floral fete of 1896 because there is a photograph of the Campden dancers(48); but they are not reported in the detailed newspaper account of the event, except as subsumed within the anonymous costuming of the Toy Band. That same year, the Bidford Morris Men appeared and were reported: in that context, the Campden morris dancers were a second and perhaps impromptu group. Nor did the existence of a Town Band preclude other impromptu bands forming throughout the year. The sense of possession and exclusion which are taken for granted today were not then necessarily the norm. Individuals could, as perhaps Tom Benfield did, take out a custom if it could be organised, and if support in the community was forthcoming, whether or not another group had been formed.

It is possible, too, that in 1885 at the age of nineteen, Henry Brotheridge was at the top end of a boys’ and adolescents’ custom, and that in joining or reviving the mummers in 1895 at the age of twenty-six, Benfield was instituting or becoming part of a young/mature men’s side in addition to an on-going boys’ side. This possibility is supported by George Greenall junior, who said in an interview recorded in 1981:

…you see they had two teams, in Campden…you had a young team, and you had the old men. The boys used to go round and go to small houses, the big men went to the big houses, but the smaller boys, of about twelve or fourteen, they went, look, come to your house or our house or anywhere like that, while, if they got a tuppence, or oranges, or a bun, they were satisfied. I’ve heard them all talk about it, you know, these old people.(49)

This interpretation might make sense, too, of George Greenall senior’s involvement in the mummers. George Greenall senior left Campden in 1886 to join the army; he returned in 1897 and married, and then left again before Christmas 1899 to join the army for the Boer War (see below). If he learned the mummers at the same time that Tom Benfield did (and if this was not before 1886), it can only have been during those two years, 1897-1898, in which he was back in Campden. In this model it will, then, have been a custom for men who had passed out of adolescence into young adulthood.

By taking Tom Benfield’s date “40 years ago” literally, we can therefore assemble a chronological picture of mumming in Campden at the end of the nineteenth century which is reasonably tenable, and fits into the growing fashion in fancy dress and “old times”.


Inasmuch as Tom Benfield was working and living in London by mid-1898, and does not appear in Campden records between 1895 and 1916 (see below), it is conceivable that there was no time after 1886 when both Greenall and Benfield were in Campden at the same time until after the turn of the century. A second interpretation therefore adjusts Benfield’s dating, taking “40 years ago” as figurative speech for ‘a long time ago’, with a hypothetically more literal date being closer to 1885. In this reading, Henry Brotheridge would be remembered as an “Old Mummer” for handing the play on to a new generation involving Benfield and Greenall. Furthermore, it would be a young men’s or adolescents’ custom: Greenall was thirteen in 1885, Benfield sixteen. By extension, Harry Keeley (see below) may have been a boy among the mummers seen by Kingzett about twenty years earlier. A date of 1885 would also lend a degree of plausibility to the theory that a Petty Sessions record from 1890 is contemporary evidence of a Campden mumming.

The case involved Henry Brotheridge’s eldest brother, Charles Foster Brotheridge. Tom Benfield appeared with Brotheridge before the magistrates on Brotheridge’s behalf, with the implication that he and Brotheridge were close friends. This establishes a more than casual link between Tom Benfield and the Brotheridge family at an early date.

Charles Brotheridge was charged with having been drunk and disorderly on the night of January 3, 1890. Coming home from the Swan Inn at about 11.10 p.m. in the company of Tom Benfield and one or two others, he was stopped by Police Constable Dennis outside Brotheridge’s house for using loud and offensive language. Brotheridge offered to fight the constable: Benfleld helped to restrain him. In court, Benfield admitted that both of them had had a bit to drink, but denied being drunk(50).

The most important line in the manuscript, which admits of interpretation, records part of the defense offered by Charles’ mother, Elizabeth:

he had had a little drink because he had been out with some music he played.(51)

Her defence is in the word “because”. Elizabeth Brotheridge’s statement can be taken to mean that as an element of a traditional custom, her son’s drinking might be excused by the magistrates. In the event he was fined a punitive 40s and 21s costs(52).

The question is what lay behind the phrase “out with some music he played”, and therefore, what inflection Elizabeth used. Certainly the modern mumming involves concerted drinking; but neither the report of the case in the Evesham Journal nor the Evesham Standard help here; neither details Mrs. Brotheridge’s testimony(53).

The interpretation of “been out” is fairly straightforward: the question is whether Brotheridge had been out on his own or with a group, and whether he had visited different places or entertained at one particular place. We can interpret a group into the phrase by inserting a pause after “music”: “with some music, he played”, “some music” being the general activity, “he played” defining his particular role. If we insert a pause after “out”, then Charles becomes a musician for an unspecified event: “he had been out, with some music he played”.

If we were to take it that Mrs. Brotheridge was alluding to a mumming team, we could then suggest that Tom Benfield, who said he had been with Brotheridge “the whole of the day and night”(54) was also among the mummers. Accepting this, we could then suggest that Charles Brotheridge and Tom Benfield took mumming over from Charles’ older brother Henry and his generation sometime in the late 1880s, the mumming passing, as it does today, within family and among close friends. The association by friendship, reinforced in his recollection by the court case, will have brought Henry Brotheridge’s name readily to hand when Carpenter asked Tom Benfield for the names of “Old Mummers”.

Interpreted less heavily, Mrs. Brotheridge’s statement reflects at the least a (possibly perambulating) custom of performance for drink; a type of custom, such as carolling and bands, to which mumming could belong.

In interpreting Carpenter’s note, it is also possible to detach the name of Henry Brotheridge as an “old mummer” from the “older mummers” from whom Benfield learned the play.

Having detached Brotheridge as the specific teacher, we could speculate that Henry Brotheridge did the mumming in the early to mid 1880s before he entered the police force, and that the custom carried on more or less continuously until Tom Benfield and George Greenall (perhaps independently and at different times) joined it in the 1890s. Perhaps because of the involvement of young men in the Boer War, the play then lapsed. It would have been some years following the end of the Boer War that Ernest Buckland (b. 1902) sat on his grandmother’s knee and asked about the mummers (perhaps stimulated by references to mumming in the Evesham Journal in 1907 or 1909 (55)), and that Tom Benfleld replied he would get another troupe up some day. This interpretation does not preclude the other interpretation, nor make the connection between Charles Brotheridge and Tom Benfleld less interesting.

e. Harry Keeley

The term ‘old Mummer’ is ambiguous. It can refer to an earlier generation of mummers, without reference to absolute age: nineteen year old Henry Brotheridge could conceivably have been an ‘old mummer’ to sixteen year old Tom Benfield in the 1880s. To more youthful mummers of the late 1920s and 1930s, the mummers who came out just after the First World War were considered and described as ‘old mummers’. Given that Carpenter collected the phrase in 1934/1935 it is conceivable that Henry Brotheridge was an ‘old mummer’ in this sense: that he took up mumming with the first generation of post-war mummers after retiring to Campden in 1922.

‘Old mummer’ can also have the connotation of “a long time ago”, and it is in this sense that we have interpreted the note in Carpenter referring to Henry Brotheridge. In this interpretation someone is an old mummer not simply because he is earlier or prior, but because he is earlier or prior a long time ago.

It is necessary to highlight this ambiguity, because it is as an ‘old mummer’ – a designation arising primarily out of the interrupted 1934 broadcast of the mummers (see IV.2/3) – that we know that Harry Keeley was an ‘old mummer’.

Harry Keeley is the oldest mummer of whom we know; he was baptised in St. James Church in Campden on August 29, 1858, eight years before Henry Brotheridge, and eleven years before Tom Benfield. It is just possible that Harry Keeley was a boy among the mummers performing to J.C. Kingzett in front of Wolds End. If, on the other hand, the mummers to which he belonged was a young men’s rather than a boy’s custom, then Keeley may have performed around 1878, when he was twenty. Given the analysis of the last chapter, the earlier date is attractive from the point of view of stable local social conditions, the later as revival at a time of simultaneous social reconciliation and increasing economic hardship.

Henry Keeley was an agricultural labourer, as was his father, although in the 1890s he may have attempted to set up as a farmer in Essex (56). Indeed, he was present at the 1934 broadcast not as a mummer, but as an expert in the rural crafts of thatching and hedging(57).

In 1881, the year in which he married Susannah Hughes, Harry was still living with his parents in Watery Lane in Campden(58). Shortly afterwards, according to his obituary, he moved to London(59). Certainly he was working and living in Northwest London (not very far from Hampstead) by late 1884, moving to Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, by the end of 1885, and to Essex by 1892, returning to Campden by 1894(60). By 1900 he, his wife and children (an eventual total of eight), were living in Poppet’s Alley in the Lower High Street(61). Between 1906 and 1908 he and his family moved to Watery Lane(62). In 1920 he bought four freehold cottages and moved into the Lower High Street(63). He had been a bugler in the Volunteer’s fife and drum band, and made and played his own violins(64). He sang publicly, and as late as 1935 is reported to have entertained an audience with his one-stringed fiddle(65). He died August 19, 1936, two years after the 1934 radio broadcast, at the age of 78(66). Interestingly enough, considering the heightened public awareness of the mummers following the broadcast, Keeley’s obituary in the Evesham Journal does not mention that he had been a mummer(67). Other obituaries in that era – George Greenall’s in 1935 and the problematic one of George Griffin in 1939 (see below) pointedly do. Keeley’s obituary in general, however, is brief in relation to that of other old Campdonlans who died in the same period (such as Greenall), and is brief also in comparison with an extensive article published in the Evesham Journal on the occasion of Keeley’s golden wedding in 1931(68). Coming before the Broadcast, the latter, not surprisingly, does not mention the mumming. It may be that, having printed this article in 1931, an extended update was not felt necessary in 1936.

If it is correct that James Madison Carpenter visited Campden after the broadcast, why did Benfield and Greenall not give Keeley’s name as that of an old mummer? It was, perhaps, a case of the curious occlusion that can occur concerning rival or alternative versions of customs. It is also conceivable that Harry Keeley genuinely did not come to mind. He was away from Campden from at least 1884 to as late as 1894, during one of the periods when it was postulated that Tom Benfield and George Greenall became involved in the mumming. This decade also covers most of Benfield’s and Greenall’s boyhoods and early adulthoods; Greenall was only briefly in Campden in the late 1890s before returning to the army, and Keeley could easily have not come in contact with the mumming if Benfleld and Greenall were involved during that brief time.

If the mumming in Keeley’s day was a custom of boys and adolescents, and if there was a disruption in the mumming in the social turbulence of the early 1870s, then it is  conceivable that the text Keeley objected to in the 1934 broadcast was that which was introduced upon the revival of the mummers. In other words, it is conceivable that Keeley learned one text as a boy, that a new text was introduced into a revived boys’/adolescents’ custom in the decade in which Keeley was away from Campden, and that in the brief period in which the mummers flourished in Campden after he returned, Keeley did not come into contact with it. In this case, the text he knew would be that of the late 1860s, and different from that of the last part of the century. Separated by text and generation, it is conceivable that Benfield and Greenall simply did not regard Keeley as a mummer. It is clear, from the fact that there was an argument over the air (reportedly following the same argument in the rehearsal(see IV.3)), that they did not accept Keeley’s authority.


Two working hypotheses have been advanced regarding Keeley’s mumming: 1) he was a boy mummer sometime in the late 1860s and/or early 1870s; or 2) he was a member of a young men’s side, going out sometime before moving to London in the early 1880s. To the first hypothesis is added the hypotheses of a hiatus in the custom during the troubles of the early 1870s, and the use of a different text when the mumming was revived. In any case he is the ‘oldest’ of the mummers of whom we know, both in age and priority; he is separated from Tom Benfield and George Greenall by time as well as by text.

f. George Griffin

The sole item of documentary evidence to suggest that George Griffin was a mummer comes in his funeral notice in the Evesham Journal in December 1939. It is a surprisingly brief and spare note for a man who had become one of Campden’s best known “characters”(69) in the inter-war years:

Funeral of Mr.G.A. Griffin: – The funeral took place at the Parish Church, Campden, on Tuesday, of George Albert (Ninety) Griffin, second son of the late Mr. and Mrs. James Griffin, of Campden, who died on Saturday, at Stow-on-the-Wold in his 66th year. Deceased had been in falling health for some three or four years past. He was well known in his native town and lived there practically all his life. For several years – nearly half a century ago – he was a prominent member of the then Campden mummers troupe. He was a bachelor.(70)

Griffin was a member of the troupe of Campden Morris dancers photographed by Henry Taunt at the Whit Monday Fete in 1896(71). Two years before Griffin died, this photograph appeared in the Evesham Journal titled “Campden Mummers in 1891”, and although the newspaper subsequently corrected its mistaken identification of the custom – it did not correct the mistaken date(72) – there is the residual uncertainty that the Evesham Journal may have made a mistake in calling Griffin a mummer in his funeral notice.

Had the Evesham Journal not made the mistake in 1937, or had it in his funeral notice called Griffin a “prominent mummer and morris dancer”, there would be less uncertainty about the reliability of the mumming reference. The Evesham Journal nowhere else mistakes mummers and morris dancers, as far as I am aware, and in the years between 1934 and 1939 carried several references to both including the obituary of another mummer and a wedding notice of a morris dancer – both, however, referring to recently active rather than to former performers(73).

The mistake in 1937 is not likely to have been that of the newspaper, however. The Evesham Journal was publishing a photograph brought in for its “Stalwarts of the Past*’ series: a series of photographs brought by readers which pictured different types of teams or groups of men from the pre-Great War period. The newspaper will have depended upon the source of the photograph for its identification. The credibility of the Evesham Journal in this case is therefore a separate issue.

Obituaries and funeral notices were, in any event, the responsibility not of the newspaper, but of the family and the funeral director(74), which are not infallible sources of information(75). The reliability of the Identification of Griffin as a mummer rests on the reliability of the knowledge of the family and funeral director.

George Griffin was a bachelor. His nearest family was his brother James, with whom he was in continual confllct(76), but who lived in Campden. His brother Thomas lived in nearby Paxford. He had three married sisters, one of whom lived in Coventry at the time of his death, and two in Leamington(77). Any of these, or the funeral director, may have contributed information on Griffin.

The fact that in December, 1939, it was remembered that Griffin was a mummer but not a Morris dancer may be a function of seasonal memory. It may, however, have more to do with the mistaken identification of Henry Taunt’s photograph in 1937. In the full caption to the 1937 reproduction there is the second mistake, which dates the 1896 photograph to 1891. This date, if it were translated into the funeral notice of 1939, could legitimately be rendered as “nearly half a century ago”.

This, I think, is what has happened: saving the 1937 photograph from the Evesham Journal, but missing the subsequent correction, the person supplying the information in 1939 innocently perpetuated the mistake, or, rather (and more significantly) the double mistake of the original caption. He or she took both “1891” and “Mummer” as correct. Griffin himself, ill and living in Stow-on-the-Wold, was not asked or was not in a position in 1937 to correct the mis-identification: it therefore passed innocently into the 1939 obituary. The obituary is evidence of the influence of print in the transmission of information and mis-Information: barring independent supporting evidence it is not, in my opinion, evidence that Griffin was a mummer.

g. George Greenall (senior)

The evidence that George Greenall was in the mummers before the turn of the century consists of his statement to James Madison Carpenter in 1935 and subsequently recorded family tradition(78).

He was baptised George Richard Greenall in Wormington, Gloucestershire, on June 1, 1873. His father, also George Richard, was listed in the baptismal register as a labourer, but in later records is described as a carpenter(79).

About three years after George was born, the Greenall family moved to Campden(80). In 1883 George had a brief period of difficulty with school, when he was punished for disobedience, and then for truancy(81). He appeared before magistrates in 1885 along with two other boys for damaging trees and a wall to get at apples; the case was treated as a warning for the youths of Campden generally, and the three boys were discharged with costs(82). At the end of 1886, at the age of thirteen or fourteen, he falsified his age and joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment(83). After training, he spent over eight years stationed abroad: in India, Egypt, Bermuda and Canada, and in June, 1897, returned to Campden on the first class reserve list(84). With two others he appeared before the magistrates in 1898, again in connection with stealing apples(85). On August 22, 1899 he married May Pinchin of Campden whose father, Robert Pinchin, was a bricklayer. George himself is listed in the register as a labourer(86).

In October 1899, at the outbreak of war in South Africa, he rejoined his regiment. He was wounded under fire, recuperated in hospital, and returned to the fighting. He was discharged in July, 1902, being awarded the Queen’s and King’s Medals with five clasps. At the outbreak of the First World War he re-enlisted, and was immediately sent to France as one of the “Old Contemptibles”. He was invalided home in 1917, having been awarded the Mons Star, General Service and Victory Medals(87). Recovering from his wounds, he undertook various jobs in Campden, including window cleaning, eventually working as a stone mason(88). He died in September 1935; and his obituary mentions that “He was a member of the Campden mummers”(89).

During the pre-Great War period following his discharge from South African service, the family moved fairly frequently about Campden: in 1904 they lived in Sheep Street(90), in 1908 in the Lower High Street(91), in 1910 in Cidermlll Lane(92), in 1912 in Dragon’s Yard in the High Street(93). In 1913 they were ejected from their home in Back Ends(94), moved temporarily to Blockley(95), and then returned to Sheep Street in Campden(96). By 1915 the family was living in Watery Lane, where both George and his wife subsequently lived out their lives(97).

In this pre-Great War period he worked as a labourer to support himself, his wife and four children, but conditions were clearly difficult, and the family were in receipt of the Church Beef Charity consistently from 1910 onwards(98).

George Greenall junior reported that his father was a mummer as a “young man”. Greenall senior told James Madison Carpenter that he had learned it at the same time as Tom Benfield or, taking “40 years ago” literally, in the mid-1890s. There are, in fact, only two Chrlstmases in which he could therefore have performed with the mummers in the 1890s – 1897 and 1898. This would indicate that there was a mumming in Campden right up to the beginning of the century.

The only other option, reinterpreting Benfield’s ’40’ years to ’50’, are the Chrlstmases of 1885 and earlier, when Greenall would have been, at the oldest, thirteen, and the mumming would have been a boys’/adolescents’ side.

h. Tom Benfield

Tom Benfield is also known as a 19th century mummer through his statement to Carpenter and through family tradition(99).

He was baptised Thomas William Benfield in Campden on March 28, 1869, the third child (second son) in a family of eight belonging to Benjamin and Susannah Benfield. His father was a groom and agricultural labourer, and eventually went to work as a warehouseman and apparently spent some time as a traveller(100). Tom Benfield’s elder brother, William Henry (bap. 15.5.1864; d. 1941; a member of the inter-war mummers) became a groom, gardener and general labourer(101). His younger brother Benjamin (“Ben the Bus”, bap. 30.11.1873. d. 1938; another inter-war mummer) is best known as the driver for a number of years of the horsedrawn bus between the Noel Arms Hotel and Campden Station(102).

Tom Benfield was in Campden in April, 1895, when he witnessed his brother Bill’s marriage(103). He was there in December, working as a general labourer and carter for farmer/miller Joseph Walker of Berrington Mill (104). His obituary reported that “as a young man he was a dairyman In London but returned home and had been working as a gardener since”(105): when he married Lucy Anna Maria Keyte of Ebrington in 1898 (her sister, May Edith Ellen Keyte, was also married in 1898, in Campden, to Tom’s brother Benjamin(106)) he was living in North London working as a milkman (107). He had returned to Campden, at least to visit, by about 1907, if Ernest Buckland’s 1946 reminiscence is literally accurate(108). By 1916, when he was 47, Benfield was living in Leaseborne(109), where he remained until his death.

His wife Lucy died in 1933(110); they had no children. Tom was killed in a fall from a lorry in Campden in November, 1942(111).

Thomas William Benfield, who lived most of his married life in Leysborne in Campden, is not to be confused with Thomas Joseph Benfield of Box Hedge Bank in Campden, nor with the latter’s son, Thomas W. Benfield. The two families are not related.


C. Conclusion

The least arduous interpretation of the available oral and written reminiscences, taking into account other information, suggests that there was a boys’ and adolescents’ mumming as early as 1865, in the period of relative stability and prosperity in Campden which extended to the beginning of the 1870s. This probably came to a halt in the troubles of the early 1870s, which peaked in 1873.

If a mumming was then revived in the period of reconciliation, from about 1874, a new or altered text may have been introduced, and this might explain the difference of opinion in 1934 between Harry Keeley and the ‘radio mummers’.

There will have been an increased motivation for labourers to go out, or to encourage their boys to go out, during the Agricultural Depression. The emigration of young men which apparently affected the Campden Band may not have affected the mumming if it was still a custom for young boys and adolescents. From the mid-1880s, with the increased prominence of tradesmen, the increased awareness of Old English “customs”, the growth of education and the rise of tourism, the mumming may have become increasingly self-conscious, and may have perhaps become oriented more to the standards and expectations of the town-centred middle classes. Perhaps at this point, in the 1890s, the concept of a standard text was introduced, and there may even have been a rationalisation of costume and a change in performance style to suit indoor performance and town tastes. With men returning from the cities, and with more young men remaining in Campden, it may have been the time when a men’s team of mummers was introduced. With changing notions of propriety and charity, the boys’ side may gradually have been eliminated (as boys’ Thomassing was over the turn of the century; see IV.3).

If a young men’s custom, comprised of men in their twenties and early thirties, the mumming may well have come to an end with the onset of recruitment for the South African War. By the turn of the century the mumming will have been in abeyance.

Section III: 1900-1914