cropped IMG 1293

1988: Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town. Section IV: The Interwar Period

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).


IV.1 The Inter-War Years: Sources. 
Footnotes (opens in a separate window)


A. Description. 

a. Written


Between the wars there is a substantial increase in the amount of documentary evidence that becomes available which reflects, I will argue, a surge of interest in the mumming. By the end of the period, the previously unremarked custom was virtually a civic institution.

The earliest inter-war reference to the mummers of which I am aware comes in a 1925 letter from artist-engraver F.L. Griggs, a resident of Campden, to his London-based friend R.G. Alexander. Griggs and Alexander, a journalist for the Daily News, were preparing a book celebrating Campden which was to have text by Alexander and engravings by Griggs(1). Griggs was forwarding notes and suggestions made to him by various people on

Such interesting things as the hymn or carol sung here on St. Thomas’s morning before dawn; the Campden Mumming Play: new facts about old Bell-customs here, etc. etc. etc.(2)

In an unpublished essay written probably between 1921 and 1927, quite possibly for a talk to the recently-formed Campden Society, Griggs referred again to the mummers(3). Sometime before his death in 1938 – perhaps in 1936, when he was preparing to leave Campden in profound disillusion (see below) – he re-worked the manuscript, putting its observation of Campden’s uniquely preserved charms into the past tense and adding ten years to the dates (as reflected in the following transcription; underlined words are those he added; the parentheses enclose words and phrases struck out in the second working):

The people in this legendary time,- it seems very long ago: (and so it is, for) it is nearly (thirty) 40 years – responded to Campden’s ancient spirit in many ways. They went about their quiet country labours, and made many things with (old) traditional skill,

as if old custom in their sight
were a straight road, and a steady

They sang (some) old songs, and danced (some) old dances; crowned a May Day Queen, and made merry at Whitsuntide; refreshed the Mummers on their nightly rounds at Christmas; rang the bells on all proper occasions; children gathered primroses and violets in the woods of Spring…(4)

At about the time that Griggs wrote the first version of this paper, what seems to be the first published reference to the mummers in the interwar period appeared in T. Hannam-Clark’s 1928 Drama In Gloucestershire:

Miss Griffiths, of Campden, has been told of a Mummers’ play there by a Mrs. Hathaway who could not remember the details.(5)

These three references, two by Griggs and one by Hannam-Clark, reflect a mid-to-late-1920s interest in the mummers play, but do not necessarily indicate that anyone had seen it. The first documentary report of a performance of the Campden Mummers’ Play refers to Christmas 1930, and appeared (in response to a query by columnist John Fletcher) in the Observer of January 4, 1931:

Sir – A correspondent in your last issue inquired whether any of your readers could give him information as to the recent performance of  mummers plays. On Christmas Night, at Chipping Campden, on the edge of the Northern Cotswolds, I witnessed a mummers’ play at the “Nall Arms”, which fully conformed to the tradition as to time and costume and dramatis personae.(6)

This letter was written by H.J. Massingham, a professional author who had taken a cottage in Blockley, near Campden, in 1930, spent time there for approximately two years, and wrote a book about this stay called Wold Without End which appeared in 1932(7). Apart from the short notice above, he wrote an article on the Campden Mummers’ play for the December, 1931, Saturday Review(8) which appeared complete in Wold Without End, and will be discussed in more detail later. Massingham referred to this performance again in his book Shepherd’s Country(9) published in 1938, and in an article in the magazine Out-of-Doors(10) in 1951 – neither of which add materially to his report of the mumming in the Saturday Review of 1931.

In 1934 the Mumming play was featured among the ‘traditional practices’ on the inaugural “Microphone at Large” BBC radio programme (see IV.3). F.L. Griggs helped to organise the broadcast, and there was a considerable amount of publicity both before and after the programme, which is reproduced in Appendix E. Apart from the Programme-as-Broadcast (the BBC’s broadcast logbook), no BBC paperwork appears to exist for the programme, and there is no recording. The log entry runs:

8.0 – 8.43 ‘The Microphone at Large’ (I) – a visit to Chipping Campden from (Midland Regional Programme) (11)

[Note: underlining is in pencil on the original typescript, as is the erasure of the first parenthesis in the final phrase and the striking-through of “land” and “programme”]

The Radio Times listing for the Wednesday, October 17, programme reads:

8.0 ‘The Microphone at Large’

I. ‘Chipping Campden’

The programme arranged and presented by Owen Reed this ‘outside’ broadcast is intended to give a picture of life in the old Cotswold town of Chipping Campden, which is famous for a very fine church, and for its broad main street, with an old market place and a number of Tudor houses. Behind the town is Dover’s Hill, where for centuries games were held and ancient Midsummer customs maintained.(12)

The mummers enlivened the programme with “a strong expression given with rustic candour which would have been censored had it not been impromptu” – thus ‘putting the B in the BBC'(13); and Polly Waine, billed as the 94 year old “star turn”, refused to appear. These two features gave rise to the majority of the post-broadcast publicity (reproduced in Appendix E). Only two of the post-broadcast articles mention the Mummers specifically: The Manchester Guardian of October 18:

An amusing interlude was the extract from the Mummer’s Play, in which there were several breakdowns and some kindly prompting from friends.(14)

and the Evesham Journal of October 20:

A mumming play and Morris dance tunes were also included in the programme…[performers in the programme included] Thomas Benfield, George Greenall and Fred Farman, members of the old Campden Mummers.”(15)

The broadcast went out to the Midland and London regions on 17 October 1934. In what suggests a causal relationship, that Christmas, for the first time since its founding in 1860, the Evesham Journal reported the appearance of the mummers in Campden:

Christmas passed off quietly but satisfactorily in Campden. All the tradesmen did good business prior to the festive day. The Campden Mummers and the Town Band gave their usual performances about the town much to the enjoyment of the residents and the many visitors, all the hotels being full. One very gratifying feature so far as Campden is concerned is that everyone is in work. There is not a single case of unemployment in the parish. Obviously this means a lot to those who have to depend on the wage earner.(16)

In July, 1935, the Evesham Journal printed J.C. Kingzett’s “Reminiscences of an Old Campdonian”, in which he referred to the mummers of his youth (see II.3)(17), and in September 1935, in its obituary of George Greenall, the Evesham Journal reported that he had been a member of the Campden mummers(18). James Madison Carpenter, an American who was collecting folk plays in England at the time, visited Campden in 1934 or 1935, and collected both the play and some details about it, as will be discussed below.

In January, 1937, the Evesham Journal mistakenly identified a picture of the 1896 Morris dancers as ‘Mummers’, a mistake which it rectified in its following edition(19). In the January, 1937, Parish Magazine, Rev. O’Loughlin, the vicar, reported that:

Thursday [Christmas Eve] brought us many visitors – odd little boys and girls kindly sang their carols. God bless them. The Mummers with their play – they were really good. The band, now near, now far, reminded us of the real purpose of it all as they played “O come all ye faithful”.

Another contribution of the Church to the Christmas Eve festivities was made by our bellringers, who with the same devotion that they have shown through the year – for the bells rang into the night and heralded the coming of Christmas Day.

You know there were big congregations at all the services on Christmas Day.

You too felt the spirit – I have no word to describe it.(20)

The following December, 1937, the Church of England senior school produced a Christmas entertainment, a central feature of which was a performance of the Campden mummers’ play by a group of eight boys. A photograph of the full cast of the entertainment appeared in the Evesham Journal, and the boy mummers were mentioned in the newspaper’s report of the event; it is an indication of their significance that the only other photograph taken by the Evesham Journal photographer, though not published, was of the boy mummers alone. A manuscript text of the play was subsequently prepared as a school assignment by one of the boys. The occasion and its documentation will be discussed in more detail in IV.3, below.

In 1938, passing references to the Campden mummers’ play appeared in H.J. Massingham’s discussion of the Snowshill mummers’ play in his book Shepherd’s Country, and in Phyllis Crawford’s In England Still:

…at Campden there is a very corrupt version…

according to Massingham; and

…when Mr. John P. Fletcher asked readers of the Observer to tell him where the Mummers play had been given that year, answers came from Chipping Campden…

referring to Massingham’s letter quoted earlier(21).

The December, 1938, issue of the Parish Magazine again referred to the mummers:

The approach of Christmas must this year mean a tremendous amount to all. For war with all its horrors has been averted. Campden will keep Christmas as I believe only Campden can. We will have I hope the annual programme: the bells and plays, the mummers, the carol singers, and the band.(22)

A provocative but unelaborated remark concerning the Campden mummers appeared in Margaret Westerling’s book Country Contentments in 1939:

In three villages nearby mummers still exist, though it is doubtful if any of them are more than revivals…Campden certainly is.

She goes on to say, of Snowshill’s play:

It is less distorted than the Campden version, the Campdonians being such originals that they could never, I feel sure, leave anything as they found it, but must add to it something of themselves.(23)

This sounds rather like a paraphrase of Massingham’s remarks concerning the Snowshill and Campden plays in Shepherd’s Country, referred to above.

There is another reference from 1939 which may owe something to H.J. Massingham, published by his Campden friend and informant Percy Dewey in Campden and Neighbourhood: A History and Guide (with an introduction by Massingham). Dewey concludes a brief guided tour of Campden with the regret that he has not more space:

Nor can I tell of the morris dancing, still practised by white-clad Campden men, cross-braced, and leggined with jingling bells, upon Whit Saturday at Scuttlebrook Wake; or of the quaintly attired mummers who do their play, the origin of which is lost in the mists of long ago, upon Christmas Eve. In this they tell in rude rhyme how Saint George [sic] is slain by a wicked Knight – the “Bold Slasher” – but has his life restored by a famous Doctor Haro, “come from Spain to bring the dead to life again”, while “Old Man Belsebub” stands by, with club on shoulder, and the dripping pan in hand with which he bastes “down below” the frizzling souls of his poor subjects. It is better to come here and see such things, in the Christmas comfort of the great Inn’s parlour.(24)

The obituary of George Griffin in which he is problematically referred to as an old mummer (see II.3) appeared in the Evesham Journal in 1939(25). In 1939 also, Campden resident Christopher Whitfield wrote the first extended description of a performance of the mummers for a Country Life book the publication of which was, in the event, overtaken by the war (discussed in detail below)(26). With the onset of war, the senior school re-produced its Christmas entertainment of 1937. According to the December, 1939, Parish Magazine:

We are reviving the Campden Mumming Play again this year in the concert. So many people enjoyed the show two years ago and there are so many who did not see it that we have acceded to the many requests to repeat it.(27)

The Evesham Journal reported that the entertainment attempted

to capture the spirit of Christmas of bygone days. Their 18th century costumes, the family gathering, stately dancing, children’s games, boar’s head procession and clownish mumming were history lessons at their best.(28)

The last documentary reference of the inter-war period was in the January, 1940, TocH Newsletter, sent to Campden persons serving in the armed forces:

The town did its best to keep Christmas. The Nativity Play “The Way to Bethlehem” was again given at the Church Room on Christmas Eve…The mummers did their stuff for one night and the Parish Church bells rang on Christmas Morning;  indeed, we just did our best to keep the festival as in years gone by; but the carol singers were silent this time – they are keeping their voices for the end of the war and your home coming.(29)

These twenty-seven interwar references to mummers in Campden range from the mistaken identification of the Morris photograph in the Evesham Journal in 1937, through general notices, to detailed and eye-witness description. Performances of the men’s team of mummers are specifically reported for Christmas in 1930, 1934, 1936 and 1939: boys performed the mumming in the school entertainments of 1937 and 1939. Firmly dated reminiscence (see below) distinctly recalls performances of the mummers for 1927 and 1930; less firmly dated memory recollects specific performances of the mummers as early as about 1924.


b. Visual

There are three photographs and a set of drawings from this period.

The first photograph, taken by Butt’s Photographic Studio of Bourton, Gloucestershire (but now in the Evesham Journal collection of negatives housed on permanent loan in the Evesham, Worcestershire, Public Library), is of the cast of the 1934 “Microphone at Large” wireless broadcast. The photograph was published in the Evesham Journal‘s report of the broadcast. The men are all in street dress, with nothing to distinguish the mummers from others taking part in the broadcast(30).

The second and third photographs, both taken by Evesham Journal staff photographers (and also housed in the Evesham Library) are of the 1937 school Christmas entertainment. The first of these is a full cast photograph which includes the mummers and was published by the Evesham Journal in its report of the entertainment. The other is a separate photograph of the mummers, which is published below with the permission of the Evesham Journal for the first time(31).

The drawings, of the various characters in the mumming play, illustrate the title page of a manuscript version of the 1937 school text prepared just afterwards by the late Fred Benfield, who was one of the performers.


c. Recorded

By Implication, there is or was once a recording cylinder in the James Madison Carpenter Collection to correspond with the transcription which Carpenter made. The transcription consists of the play as recited by George Greenall and Tom Benfield sometime in 1934/1935(32).


d. Reminiscence/Oral Tradition

Chronologically, the earliest recorded reflection on mumming between the wars is a combination of oral tradition – recollection of what one was told – and reminiscence. It is Ernest Buckland’s introduction to the mummers’ play, recorded and broadcast by the BBC in 1946. Prompted by the BBC presenter, he said:

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 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, and he waited a long time, and after the 1914 war he started a gang of mummers at the British Legion, in Campden, and few years went by and I Joined ’em meself, that’s near 17, 18 year ago, and I’ve been in ’em ever since.(33)

Charlie Blake, born in 1909, recalled that he had learned the play by carrying the mummers’ tack around for them about the time that he was of school leaving age, or around 1922(34). In a letter to E.C. Cawte in 1962 Christopher Whitfield said that there had been mummers ever since he had been in Campden, or since 1924(35), and it was of about this time that Mrs. Dorrie Ellis recalled seeing performances over several years in the magistrate’s court at Christmas parties hosted by her uncle, police superintendent Bunker, who retired in 1932(36). Fred Coldicott, although he never saw the mummers at the time, remembered that Charlie Chamberlain was “a mummer when I was a kid – one of the old mummers”, and that in this same period just after World War I Norman Bennett was also a mummer(37). In a 1982 personal communication, Col. A.C. Noel remembered seeing the mummers for the first time at Christmas 1927, in Campden House, which belonged to his father:

I have retained an indelible recollection of one hideously disguised player entering with the words: “Oi be Beelzebub, oi be”.(38)

Fred Benfield could remember as early as 1928 or 1929 his grandfather Bill Benfield, and his great uncle Ben Benfield, getting ready to go out mumming and coming back(39).

The late Mrs. Nina Griggs, F.L. Griggs’ widow(40), remembered their gardener, Tom Benfield, telling them “you ought to have the mummers” and getting together a group of older men to do the mumming for the Griggs’ soon after they moved into Dover’s House. That was in 1930, and she “rather thinks” they were reviving it. She recalled that it was an “amateurish thing, no costumes as such, apart from a hat or perhaps a funny tie, and sticks for swords, but no attempt at characterisation. After that they always came, always asking first. “Do you want the mummers?”. They came on Christmas Eve, performed in the hall, had some beer, and then went on to someone else’s”(41).

If we accept the late Ernie Buckland’s dating in the 1946 broadcast, then he will have joined the mummers for the first time in about 1928 or 1929. Mrs. Buckland thought it was about two years after they were married, or in about 1932. In her recollection, it was about two years after that (which would date it to about 1934, the year of the first radio broadcast of the mummers) that the mummers had to leave the British Legion, due to a disagreement or altercation. She remembered the occasion because it was then they brought the mummers’ tack to her for storage and care(42).

George Greenall junior went out only one year with the mummers, sometime in the 1930s, and on that occasion Charlie Blake, playing the drummer, fell head first through the drum, cutting himself and bleeding all over his white shirt(43). Charlie Blake, recalling what I take to be the same incident, remembered that Garnet Keyte picked him up. He also referred to his half brother Fred Farman as having been in the mummers with the older ones(44).

John and Phyllis Horne remembered the mummers coming to their home in Aston Road the Christmas they were married, or 1932(45). Sometime in this period Mrs. Norah Howells recalled Pip (Ernest) and Spud (Fred) Benfield coming to their home in Aston Road; the mummers would tap on the window to be let in, and they wore bells around their legs – like the morris dancers, but they were not morris dancers(46).

Charlie Wright is remembered as a mummer from this period(47). Other names given for ‘old Mummers’, although it is unclear whether this refers to inter-war or the post-war mumming, include Dick James, Arthur Mayo and Fred Nobes(48).

The first documentary evidence for a performance of the mummers relates to Christmas 1930, but it is the general consensus both in reminiscence and oral tradition that there was a mumming as early as 1920, and perhaps as early as 1920 or 1921. This consensus is broad and deep enough, I think, to be accepted as evidence for the existence of the mummers in the early 1920s.


B. Discussion 

a. F.L. Griggs

The earliest documentary references to the Campden mumming between the wars were made by Fred Griggs in the mid-1920s. He also helped to organise the 1934 wireless programme on which the mummers appeared, and which was broadcast live from his home. This broadcast, as discussion in IV.3 will show, was the single most important public event in the inter-war history of the mumming.

Griggs was an artist/engraver, a convert to Catholicism who first came to Campden in 1903, fell in love with it and made it his home until his death in 1938(49). Christopher Whitfield said of Griggs, “he must be regarded by any present or future historian of [Campden] as its most distinguished inhabitant during the years from 1900-1938…”(50). C.R. Ashbee wrote in his Memoirs:

Campden and the Cotswolds owe more to Griggs than it is possible to repay. He was never a member of the Guild of Handicraft…[but] he spent his earlier years at our Campden Guest House. He was one of the leaders of its communal life, and represented, more even than Alec Miller, or Pyment the builder, or the Harts, or Downer the blacksmith, or the other young craftsmen there gathered, the spirit of aesthetic conservatism and living craftsmanship for which the Guild of Handicraft stood.(51)

He was also the person who, more than any other, took up Ashbee’s mantle in Campden in the inter-war period. The two men were not close before the First World War, a fact which Griggs later regretted(52). He referred to Ashbee on one occasion as “a true master, from whose example wise ones may profitably learn”(53). Ashbee in turn wrote to Griggs in 1924:

When I look back on it all, and our joint efforts to save from destruction one of the loveliest things in the world (and I’ve seen a good deal of the world) I think the dream of you Catholic revivalists and of us ‘socialistic’ humanists had much in common. We both wanted a better world and were both quite out of touch with the one provided us, which the beauty of life – expressed in that Gloucestershire village was almost all in all to us.(54)

Before World War I Griggs experienced Campden as a virtual social and aesthetic paradise. His conversion to Catholicism in Campden culminated in his baptism in February, 1912. sponsored by Campden’s resident stained-glass artist Paul Woodroffe(55). The enthusiasm in Griggs’ letters to his friend Russell Alexander in this period is unmistakeable(56):

Must stop now, as some possible converts are coming in to tea to meet the parish priest.

P.S. I expect the Vicar here will resign or have fits soon. (19.3.1913)

We all went up to Campden House this morning for the Bishop’s Mass and Confirmation and Breakfast. All undiluted happiness and so Catholic. (29.4.1913)

Woodroffe wrote this morning that Mrs. St. John Mayhew has taken a house at Campden – “Oh my dear another house gone to Rome!!” (28.9.1913)

[Police] Supert Jones resigns this month, and in his place we get a Catholic with a family. (12.1.1914)

When baptised, he gave two bells to the Catholic Church, taking the name of one of these, ‘Maurus’, as his baptismal name. He wrote to Alexander in February, 1914:

The little town is fairly busy-seeming and noisy these days, but Maurus sings out at the three hours with a most sweet sort of command to stop and think of eternal things.

It carries over the whole town, and echoes very sweetly among the little hills and hollows.

And his little sister the Sanctus bell can be heard each day too – It rings for the sanctus (the ‘saunce’ bell) and the elevation (the ‘sacring’ bell) and at the Benediction o’ nights. We’re getting awfully Catholic here you know. (6.2.1914)

This enthusiasm and Griggs’ optimism were victims of the First World War. In their stead came a recurrent unhappiness tempered with hope. As early as June, 1918, he wrote to Alexander:

Even Campden, so great a solace, is now threatened. There’s to be – a factory -!-!-! The Board of Agriculture are going to take over one at the Station and enlarge it, and build houses – so that while such trees as are left will still shelter a few birds, and the fields and hedges will be green, it will be no longer country in the neighbourhood. Soon there will be no country except such as private gardens afford.

But, as Morris says, things have perhaps to be much worse before they are better. Even the little church is threatened by ugliness from two new quarters, and I am working hard to prevent it. One cannot be happy here now – but its because of the war and the universal suffering and wickedness, and moral and material destruction, of beauty.

…So in a numbed way I pass the days, which are worthless in themselves except for the time they give me for doing things against a happier future. Then, and only then (when I am hardest at work) does the awful fear of today leave me for a little space. (13.6.1918)

The “awful fear of today” drove Griggs until his death in 1938, by which time, as we have already seen, he was writing of the beauty and character of Campden in the past tense. Whereas Ashbee envisioned Campden as a kind of monastic mother-house from which the seeds of socio-industrial reform would be sown to the world, Griggs’ post-war aesthetic-theological vision eschewed modern industrial culture as such, and increasingly saw Campden as an island to be fortified against the combined power of modern commercial and technological culture. The resistance to inappropriate change became, quite literally, a crusade for territory, a battle of attrition in which Griggs fought to secure this or that property from desecration, and minimised losses where losses had to be taken(57).

In 1924, Griggs played a major role in the formation of an amenities association called the Campden Society, delivering the two papers which formed the Society’s first charter, and serving in 1926 as its honorary secretary(58). The aims of the Society were broad, and fell within the tradition of the Guild of Handicraft. Indeed, the Campden Society had grown from an art and craft exhibition in 1924, the aims of which were “To promote the reputation of the town as an art-centre, and to continue as far as possible the work of the Guild founded by Mr. Ashbee”(59), and at least as far as the Society’s officers are concerned, Ashbee was correct when he wrote to his wife “It is mostly composed of ‘our’ people – those that were left.”(60)

In an official pamphlet Griggs wrote that the Campden Society

exists, then, for the purpose of protecting the natural and architectural beauties and the ancient traditions of Campden. To this it adds a protective care for the surviving old crafts of the neighbourhood, and the purpose of assisting the local arts and crafts of to-day in their best interests.

…In promoting the interests of the arts and crafts of to-day, whether of the so-called fine or useful arts or those of pastime, the Society once more presses the claims and values of tradition, even when it may be faded and hard to define, as in musical or dramatic art. In such cases it holds that when English and more particularly local expression or idiom has become forgotten the best way to revive it is to make known the wealth of tradition before it was broken. In thus helping to guard our own legacy we may hope to hand it on intact to those who follow us, and possibly with useful and beautiful additions of our own.(61)

In the second of the Society’s founding papers Griggs wrote to the question of “what has made Campden what it is”:

We see too that Campden was largely independent of the outside world (if we exclude the Church and State) and that its character and customs were those of the region and itself. That is to say, what went to the making of our Campden and its life was a whole series of local traditions that had grown and accumulated during the town’s long independent life…It is often said the history of a people can be read in their architecture, and in the architecture of Campden we can most easily look back into the past. We can see, for instance, when the town began to be subjected in some degree to outside influences; and one may guess, that it took to them no more kindly then than it does now…Those of us who know Campden well are aware that it is the same in the town today – we resent anything that is not of Campden and Campden as a town still rejects it. What is it, this nameless local god of influence? In Campden we call it “Campden”, which is as an exact a term as we need. It is what in the past gave us the Campden we know, and love, and wish to preserve. While it was always itself, it was always growing and slowly changing. But it is in danger today, there are forces at work which, because of their universality, are destructive of local traditions – of the differences between one locality and another.

…its situation, its beauty and its comparative quiet are parts of its charm, and it is these, added to its character and its traditions that we, who suggest the formation of a Campden Society to you, wish to do all we can to retain. You will ask what it is that we can do, and what traditions are left? The most obvious surviving tradition, though hardly more than a mere influence today, is the building tradition. Other traditions are mostly moribund too, and only find expression in what we may call local patriotism.(62)

Griggs suggests, among other things, the formation of a glee and madrigal choir which might “possibly act as carol singers at Christmas”, and lead public singing; he suggests, too, the possibility of folk dancing classes under the aegis of the English Folk Dance Society.

This paper was delivered on March 30, 1925; the letter to Russell Alexander in which he first mentioned the mummers had been written that January. Griggs’ second reference to the mummers was probably written in 1926 or 1927, almost certainly, I would think, before he resigned from an increasingly divided Society in 1927. It was in March 1926 that he suggested to the Society that it invite Dr. Vaughan Williams to come to Campden to talk to them about

the attempts now being made to revive English and Regional Expression in music – he, Dr. Vaughan Williams being pre-eminently one to understand the Society’s wish that any local effort of this sort should have as far as possible a traditional basis.

…Similarly with Dramatic Entertainments; in this case the advice of Mr. John Masefield might be sought. Dancing might be under the aegis of the Folk Dance Society, and Folk Song gatherings be organised in the same way.(63)

Griggs became disillusioned with the politics of the Society, and feeling pushed aside as “a well-meaning but futile person” resigned in 1927(64). The Society collapsed and was officially wound up two years later(65).

Towards the end of 1928, however, Griggs helped to create and became chairman of a limited company called the Campden Trust, the aims of which were those of the Campden Society shorn of their socio-cultural dimension: it was specifically empowered to buy properties and expend funds in the protection of the physical amenities of Campden(66). Griggs had already come close to bankruptcy in buying endangered properties with his own funds, and it was this that led to the formation of the Trust. When Dover’s Hill, site of the old Cotswold Games and overlooking Campden, came onto the property market in 1926 and was rumoured to be in danger of purchase for the erection of a hotel, Griggs bought it on his own account, hoping that others’ donations would spread the burden and make it possible to transfer the property to the National Trust(67). As he wrote to Russell Alexander, however:

Apart from yours, and one or two others outside the place, one doesn’t get much encouragement or apparent approval. (4.6.1926)


No one speaks to me of Dover’s Hill – no one seems to care. There’s opposition too – heaven knows on what ground. That wouldn’t matter too much if it didn’t help to jeopardise the scheme, for so far Campden has done nothing. (15.6.1926)

By October he reported to Alexander that he held no fewer than five properties in Campden (3.10.1926). In letters to Alexander around Christmas he spoke of “saving” the various properties, saying that the purchases “help to save the character of our dear old town – the peace and freedom of it…” (23.12.1926); “I began the New Year well by saving the Old Row of trees which borders the Coneygree…” (3.1.1927). He was less happy with other developments:

It’s been a most lovely Whitsuntide, as far as weather goes, and the old town did what I suppose must be its present best to do as it used to do in happier and better times, in the way of a Procession and fete. Apart from the gangs of motor cars, spoiling any picture of the sort, the procession was not very good. The day ended in the loveliest imaginable evening. (Whitsun, 1928)

It was not until the end of 1928 that the outstanding debt on Dover’s Hill was finally paid for him, and the transfer to the National Trust was made(68). But this did not ease Griggs’ financial burdens. In 1926 he had undertaken to build a new house for himself and his family. “Dover’s House” was to be a monument to traditional Cotswold building:

The workmen he chose were all skilled old local craftsmen, supervised by Griggs himself; he furnished them with a rough sketch, rather than detailed architect’s plans. Only local materials were used, in the traditional methods Cotswold builders had employed for hundreds of years. The work was done by hand, and Griggs enjoyed boasting to his friends there was not a right angle or a straight line in it.(69)

He also referred to it as “Griggs’ Folly”(70). Started in 1926, he was not able to move in until 1930, by which time his financial position had been further undermined by the Stock Market Crash of 1929:

The effects of the slump were felt almost immediately in the art-world. The wealthy American buyers who had maintained art prices at a high level throughout the decade vanished from the scene…and at a time when his financial commitments were particularly heavy, he was dismayed to see his income dropping from one year to the next.(71)

Although recognised artistically – he became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1931(72) – Griggs’ life grew increasingly desperate. He needed to work to make money, he needed money to save Campden, Campden continued to degenerate, and he required more and more time off from his work to fight the battles to save it. January, 1934, was devoted entirely to Campden(73). It was also the year in which he helped to organise the ‘Microphone at Large’ broadcast, a further effort on behalf of a Campden which not only didn’t seem to thank him for his troubles, but in some cases actively attacked him(74). By 1936 he was in despair, and attempted to sell Dover’s House in order to leave Campden, but there were no suitable offerings(75). In 1938, at the age of 61, he died, the strain he had been under contributing in no small way to his death.

Some years before his death he had instituted an annual dinner for the bell-ringers(76), who rang a half-muffled peal on the day of his funeral. According to one biographer:

Nothing delighted him more than a gathering of his friends round his own fireside, or in a local pub, or at their houses, for talk and laughter and boisterous fun. Long walks and picnics, local cricket matches and tennis parties, were the pleasure of his summer; and when the days grew short again, there were evenings of music at Dover’s House – not played over on a gramophone to a silent audience, but made and enjoyed by everybody present, with Griggs, who was a good accompanist though he played only by ear, at the piano urging on solo singers, or joining in the country songs he adored, or giving up his seat at the piano to friends who were excellent performers.(77)

His friend Russell Alexander wrote after his death:

Campden, to Griggs, was a passion – not merely for what it was, as he knew it at its best, in its beauty and charm, but for what it represented, in his mind, as a survival, in its tenacious hold of what seemed to him to be older and better things than many of the things of today. He thought of Campden as he thought of other pathetic survivals of a glorious and vanished, or vanishing, England. He would dwell on the way in which Campden seemed to respond not so much to modern commerce as to its old festivals, holidays, and merry-makings, to songs, to its church bells. He thought that much of the best of England was epitomised there – the England that men had fought for, and that Shakespeare and Drayton and Milton (and how many other poets!) had sung of. He remembered that still, not long after the ending of the last war, the only sounds heard in the High Street were often the songs of birds from gardens and meadows, the twittering of swallows and swifts as they flew above the roofs; and he rejoiced in the cuckoo’s notes in May and June; loved to see the Cranesbill, the Campion, and the Cuckoo-flower by the roadsides; and to hear the Curfew and the Hour-Bell sounding sweetly and gently, as much as to say there was no need for a loud tolling, as time passed by easily, and slowly. He noted that still in the year of Grace 1918,dogs would bark when a rare motor car passed through the street.(78)

Griggs’ vision of life seized on the mummers, as it seized on other ‘old’ or ‘faded’ customs of Campden; and though his was a peculiarly intense vision, it represented a major type of incomer and tourist belief. As such, it was early to pick up on the Mumming as an item of local culture, and elevated it to a position within the numinous essence which Griggs called “Campden”. It is in large part because Griggs chose to place the mummers in the 1934 broadcast as one of the representative traditions of Campden that the mummers became so well known in the pre-World War Two period, coming to be cherished as Campden’s Mumming. It was in part because of the vision of rural England represented in Griggs, but shared by many incomers, that the mumming flourished in the latter part of the inter-war period, supported both by new residents and locals.


b. T. Hannam-Clark, Miss Griffiths, Mrs. Hathaway

T. Hannam-Clark – whose reference to the Campden Mumming in his book Drama in Gloucestershire (1928) is the first published in the inter-war period – described himself in the book’s preface:

Though born in London, I claim to be a man of Gloucestershire, having ever since lived in the county – in every parliamentary division. I have been Under-Sheriff of the City, and my grandfathers were both Precentors of Gloucester Cathedral. I have helped at times to administer it as a diocese and a volunteer regiment, and have explored it for several years as an occasional Joy-rider by day, and for a generation in the cause of Drama, chiefly by night.(79)

He was an active actor, director and producer of amateur drama in the county, and it may have been through dramatics that he was introduced to Campden. If that is the case, it will have been a rushed familiarity:

After a day’s work at the law a lazy evening is tempting. It is often uncongenial to start to drive a loaded car to (perhaps) Coleford or Campden, bear the strain of an evening’s entertainment and drive home again, next morning starting out at 8.30. That is what I have done many a time.(80)

In 1925, however, he took the time to produce John Masefield’s play “The Campden Wonder” in Campden for the Campden Society(81), three years before the publication of Drama in Gloucestershire – the compilation of which, he says in his preface dated June 1928, took five months(82). It was in 1925 that F.L. Griggs, founder member of the Campden Society, mentioned the mummers to his friend R. G. Alexander in a letter. One of Griggs’ sources of information at this time was the same Josephine Griffiths cited by Hannam-Clark(83), and so it is arguable that mummers were in the air and a topic of conversation among members of the newly formed Campden Society at the time that Hannam-Clark was producing “The Campden Wonder” in Campden.

Miss Griffiths (1865-1949) was a Campden native, daughter of a Campden solicitor with a practice in London. For her, according to the Vicar’s obituary note in the Parish Magazineof January 1950, “Campden, its church and its people, was life itself. She loved them as a trust from God”(84). The Evesham Journal obituary called her “a wit, a saint, and a scholar”(85).

Her local antiquarian interest appears to have dated from an early age. In a 1923 letter to Mr. Hockaday, of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, she included transcriptions of two Campden Christmas carols:

The verses were gleaned from 3, or 4, old folks, whom I used to visit, when they were ill, – as a young girl; and the tune was sung to me, by another old friend at the Almshouses, who died shortly afterwards, at 102. Thus it was rescued from oblivion.

In the same letter, she said that

I am most anxious to collect as many items about Campden, as possible, and write them down; so that they may be kept among the Parish Church, for the use, and reference of incumbents.(86)

The material she collected fills two large manuscript volumes kept in the Church, comprised mainly of notes culled from ecclesiastical and historical sources. There is, however, some orally collected material such as a verse on the design in a china plate that her nurse had recited to her as a child and other items of local folklore(87).

Her interest in preserving the records of Campden in writing appears to have been further stimulated by the First World War. Her hand – or, rather, her calligraphy – is a very distinctive one. The earliest antiquarian work in her hand of which I am aware is The Book of Remembrance 1914-1918, a roll of honour with a description of each man from Campden killed, a list of all the Campden men who served, and short recollections of the start of the war and local war work(88). She was part of a committee which produced a guide to the Church soon after the war, another in about 1929 published by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Churches, and she wrote another at the request of the Vicar in 1939(89). In 1931 she compiled a guide book to Campden called Chipping Campden Today and Yesterday(90). In a letter to E.A.B Barnard, whose “Old Days In and Around Evesham” column in the Evesham Journal subsequently noted the publication of Chipping Campden Today and Yesterday and the SPCC guide, Miss Griffiths told him “please do not mention my name. I have such a horror of appearing in print”(91).

She, in fact, seems to have published relatively little – several brief articles in the Parish Magazine in the 1930s, an article on the Grammar School for Gloucestershire Countrysidein 1936, and the guide books mentioned above (see Bibliography). The majority of her work of preservation went into correspondence with others, talks, discussions, and unpublished manuscripts. She wrote a number of letters to E.A.B. Barnard concerning his Evesham Journal column(92). F.L. Griggs began collecting information from her in 1923 for his projected book in collaboration with Russell Alexander on Campden(93); the Gloucestershire Record Office has a manuscript dated November 14, 1938 (Griggs had died on June 7th) entitled “Extract from MS. by Miss Josephine Griffiths, Campden” compiled by Alexander(94). The title of this manuscript suggests the existence of a longer one, and indeed, Alexander wrote in the preface to the book of Griggs’ Campden etchings which were ultimately published, “Miss Josephine Griffiths, of Campden, has collected into large MS. books much of Campden history and humours, and very kindly allowed me to make extracts”(95). Inasmuch as the material in the Alexander extracts does not appear in the two of Miss Griffiths’ large volumes housed in the church, this statement implies the existence of still another or other manuscripts, which have apparently disappeared. E.A.B. Barnard made inquiries after Miss Griffiths’ death, and Percy Rushen, whose History and Antiquities of Chipping Campden was first published in 1899, told Barnard in 1952 that it had occurred to him

that a good many years ago Lucas [I take this to be a reference to Campden solicitor’s clerk George Lucas] mentioned to me that Miss G. had written an account of the characters of some of the Campden notables – humorous of course. If I am right I don’t know what has become of it. Miss G. never mentioned it to me. I don’t know who settled her affairs…I surmise that it was not a thing to publish and so has probably been destroyed, possibly by herself.(96)

Alexander’s transcription includes material on old Campden characters, rhymes, carols and odd sayings, and reminiscences of life and work in earlier times.

This manuscript has nothing about the mummers, and though Griggs began talking with Miss Griffiths as early as 1923 with the publication of the book in mind, it was not until 1925 that he mentioned the mummers to Alexander. There is no mention of the mummers in any of Miss Griffiths’ other publicly available notes and letters, Hannam-Clark’s reference being unique. The latter reference seems to suggest that she herself was not personally acquainted with the mumming, although it might arguably reflect her self-effacing nature. If the reference dates to 1925, when Hannam-Clark was producing “The Campden Wonder” in the first year of the Campden Society’s life, it may indicate a growing awareness of the mummers which had not yet emerged into the personal familiarity of later years. This suggests that the mummers had not yet, for whatever reason, obtruded themselves onto general public awareness.

Mrs. Hathaway, Miss Griffiths’ informant concerning the mummers, will have been married to one of the men in the family which was identified with Morris dancing in Campden in the immediate pre-Great War period, and in its inter-war revival(97). Mrs. Hathaway’s inability to supply details of the mumming is not surprising: local women have, as far as we know, not been involved with the mumming directly, and had few opportunities to see it(98). It is not clear whether her reference is to a mumming in the present, or whether it is an historical reminiscence.


c. H.J. Massingham

H.J. Massingham’s description of the Mummers’ play in the Saturday Review of December 1931, republished in his book Wold Without End in 1932, is the earliest published account of a performance of the Campden mummers in the inter-war period. Massingham saw the performance in the tap room of Campden’s principal hotel, the Noel Arms, on Christmas Eve, 1930. He had been living for about a year in nearby Blockley, left the area before Christmas 1931, and never seems to have seen another performance in Campden. He subsequently referred to the performance several times in various publications, usually – as in Wold Without End – as part of a discussion on cultural diffusion.

Massingham was not a naive observer. He was the eldest son of H.W. Massingham, editor of the Nation, and he was given a high quality literary, political and formal education(99). His tutor at Oxford was Reginald Tiddy, author of the posthumously published The Mummers Play. For two years in the 1920s he was on the anthropological staff at University College,  London(100), working under Elliott Smith and W.J. Perry. He had joined them:

with a kind of roving commission to prospect the upland homes of prehistoric man in England to act as their assistant both in research work and in preparing and editing their books and papers for publication. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was enlisted as a light skirmisher in the then Battle of Books raging between the Tylorians. or the advocates of the spontaneous birth of independent cultures with similar characteristics in various parts of the world, and the diffusionists. who regarded civilisation as a complex derivative process originating from a single parent stock, favoured in its own germination by unique geographical conditions.(101)

“This school”, as he wrote in his book Downland Man, published in 1926, “derives the whole of the megalithic culture from the British Isles to Mexico either directly or indirectly from Egypt”(102). Downland Man, which appeared four years before Massingham moved into the Campden area, was an attempt by the Diffusionists to lay out the study of English prehistory within the framework of diffusionist theory.

Massingham represented his conversion to diffusionism as the turning point in a troubled and unhappy life. Through diffusionism he came to the realisation that the decay and degeneration characteristic of modern civilisation were not biologically or in any other way fatally ordained, but were the consequence of human choice; and where Man had chosen, choices could be made again:

The root of my own dissent from the attitude of modern thought lies precisely here – that it [modern thought] welcomes and regards as inevitable that severance by means of the Industrial Revolution between past and present which I believe to have been disastrous and no more predetermined than any other historical event…(103)

He arrived independently at Ashbee’s concept of culture and time: that the pre-industrial heritage could be reclaimed by splicing the present directly onto the stock of the past. His conclusion, too, was remarkably similar to Ashbee’s:

The invaluable sense of continuity has enabled me to detach myself from the current acceptance of a mechanised society whether by left wing or by right, to be free to examine the whole past and choose from it what I felt to be good.(104)

With this freedom he could look at modern civilisation closely, and yet still arrive at a positive conclusion:

Degeneration set in as a consequence of the loss of the end in the means. At the same time, progress, where and when it occurred, was not, as Descartes said it was, biologically determined by the immutability of natural law but due to the efforts of small groups and Individuals favoured by particular circumstances. The generality of mankind, on the other hand, has always been governed by social custom and habit, harmful or beneficial as the case might be. The notion of the rootless reformer that average humanity had only “to throw off the shackles” of such customary practice in order to find itself in Utopia was as unwarranted as that of inevitable progress. Rather the question was – what forms of civilisation were more stable and durable than others, and, if they were found, on what main principles did they rest? The answer was unequivocal: the steadying, the contenting, the fructifying element in human life arose from its intercourse with the earth. The farther that human life got away from the earth, the greater the mastery of the external mechanism…The more insecure that life, the more vulnerable to strife and the bacteria of disintegration. In the long run, the good thing could only be judged by its lastingness, its resistance to rapidity of change.(105)

It was against this standard that he judged the life about him, which included the Campden mummers play.

Massingham saw the modern industrial city as a harbour of disintegration, and he fled it for the stable and secure way of life in the countryside. He found the countryside, however, also under assault. Already “the realities of village life” were “starved and pauperised”(106); and Massingham’s battle for Diffusionism became a crusade to save rural England.

Leading the forces of urban dis-integration into the countryside was the “weekender”, a townsman who

is weary of the town and yet cleaves to it for his livelihood. So he solves the problem by taking a “weekend cottage” in a “picturesque” old village…(107)

for which he is willing to pay extremely high prices by local standards, forcing local rental costs up proportionately:

The villager cannot pay the inflated rent and out he goes, either to leave the village altogether, and so depreciate the reality of village life one step further, or to take a council house in the neighbourhood. Many council houses are built simply to meet this new demand on the part of virtually evicted householders for a roof over their heads.

The indifference to the welfare of the villagers is shocking, but is due not to hardness of heart but to a curious blindness to the fact of their existence.(108)

He concluded in 1939:

If the events of the last twenty years were tabulated into a convenient digest, the treatment of the country by the town would impartially appear as not at all unlike that of a foreign despot in possession.(109)

Having seen the Campden mumming at Christmas 1930, his initial response in a letter to the Observer in January, 1931, was that the mumming “fully conformed to the tradition as to time and costume and dramatis personae“(110). By the time he came to write of the performance for the December issue of the Saturday Review, reprinted in Wold Without End, he had re-devised his presentation:

One laughed, but wryfully; to such an extent had my dear Campdonians distorted and corrupted the old play.(111)

His description of the play itself, compared with his discussion based on it, was relatively brief. The performance took place in the evening, in the tap room of the Noel Arms:

First, Tom Barnes aired his theory to me that England had been fished out of the sea and one day would drop back in again…(112)

A group of handbell ringers played.

The mummers then appeared – mostly dressed in top-hats, with smocks, aprons, or ancient dressing-gowns, faces daubed with vari-coloured paints and broomsticks in their hands. An ancient addressed the audience, and then the play began. After Father Christmas’s monologue as the chorus, King George (viz. St. George) appeared and strutted until he was challenged by another doughty knight, a Saracen in a top-hat. They tapped their wooden laths together until King George fell prone. A doctor entered the stricken field, top-hatted in the mode, but also corked and painted in a manner that would have astonished a Solomon Islander. By-play with a comic assistant who looked like Sam Weller after a day hoeing turnips. The doctor chanted:

I am the doctor come from Spain
To bring the dead to life again

and King George in his top-hat, his royal smock, and be-smeared face, rose from the dead, waving his toy sword. To them appeared Beelzebub, an old gentleman carrying a lantern in one hand and a broomstick in the other and looking, in the inevitable top-hat, like a decayed town crier. The members of the caste then tramped round in a circle, stentorianly singing this jingle:

Me feither died t’other night and left me all his riches.
An old tomcat, an’ paper hat, an’ a pair of leather breeches.
I looked here, I looked there, I looked over yonder.
There I saw the old grey goose smiling at the gander.
House and land at my command and Dobbin in the stable,
Three old chairs, painted red, and a rare old kitchen table.

The epilogue was supplied by Tom Barnes, who, between breathless pulls from his mug, sang the song by which the Morris dancers used to conclude their programme. There were about eighty stanzas, each a foot or so long, and I had not the courage to ask him to write them down for me.(113)

With this turn, Massingham neatly frames his description of the performance with a formal prologue and epilogue using Tom Barnes, a Campden blacksmith whom Massingham describes as a drinking companion. This frame marks a clear distinction between the report of the performance and the commentary upon it, which follows immediately and begins with the criticism quoted earlier:

One laughed, but wryfully…The true tradition was maintained, at any rate till quite recently, in many a Cotswold village, at Longborough off the Five Mile Drive, at Icomb near Stow-on-the-Wold, Salperton among the wolds, Weston-Subedge and Ilmington north of Campden, Leafield and Shipton-under-Wychwood in the South-east, and at Great Wolford, where the hills sag into the Warwickshire plain. But at Campden, of all places, they have pantomimed it out of all recognition.(114)

Given the sources available at the time, and given Massingham’s list of sites where the “true tradition was maintained…till quite recently”, it is almost certain that he was drawing on Reginald Tiddy’s The Mummers Play(115). An examination of the texts named by Massingham with those printed in Tiddy, however, shows that Massingham’s cavil with the Campden play is entirely a rhetorical device:

Where were the masks and the conventional headgear of long streamers? Where was the due reference to the dragon, for whose slaying “King George” wins “The Queen of Egypt’s daughter,” and why in all traditional conscience was the Homeric boaster, George, slain instead of the “Turkey Knight”, his foe?

These dropped or distorted elements obscured the illimitable religious landscape behind the orthodox Mummers Play, whose deeper origins extend beyond the Mysteries, Miracle Plays and Interludes…”Belzybob”, again, should not only carry a “dripping-pan” (mediaevally used by the Devil to baste souls), but a club, and so trace his ancestry to the phallic giant of Cerne Abbas, carved into the turf; to Gog and Magog and all the giantly fraternity of most ancient England. With the traditional Hercules they were, I believe, a debased mythical version of authentic culture-heroes, the sons of the sun of the Early Bronze Age, who built Stonehenge and many a Cotswold barrow.(116)

None of the plays of the “true tradition” printed by Tiddy conform to Massingham’s model: In only two of the texts are costume notes given, and they do not include headgear with long streamers(117); only one of the seven texts refers to a dragon(118); in only three of the plays where there are appropriate characters is it clear which is killed, and in each case it is George rather than his foe(119); none of the texts indicates that Beelzebub actually carried a club, though all but one – like the Campden play as we know it from the mid-1930s onward – has Beelzebub declaring that he carries one(120).

Massingham’s criticism of the Campden play is therefore a literary device to invoke in the reader a sense of the timeless presence lying just beneath the surface of the Campden play, enabling Massingham to move smoothly from the observed performance to the matter which is actually of greater interest to him:

Yet behind the crude tap-room jollity that still survives at Campden, what stars of suggestion gleamed as far as the horizon of civilisation in England!(121)

So vast were these vistas that the nearest foreground was peopled with strolling players and Shakespeare, who, living in nearby Stratford, had witnessed similar entertainments locally. Back in time, the prehistoric “sacred high places of Cotswold”

beheld a not dissimilar play of death and resurrection, while the smocks and top-hats burlesqued the robes of the ancient gods impersonated and brought back to earth. When the doctor in his top-hat and exuberantly corked eyebrows chanted the magic formula, unknowingly he mimed the archaic ritual to restore the dead to life, to reanimate the dead prince with song and dance and magical ceremony in his mould-covered chamber so that he might live for ever and enter the watching stone by his tomb. The top-hat became a symbol of almost infinite history…It is. indeed, no Phaethon intoxication of fancy to see in the Mummers’ Play the last ragged relic of the immemorial Egyptian ritual of the death and reanimation of the slain Osiris…(122)

come, by way of diffusion and degeneration, to Campden. It was on this point that Massingham closed his discussion of the Mummers’ Play, and drew the literary device to a close by re-endowing the Campden play with something of the mystique which he had begun by stripping from it:

So the rustical mummers of Campden carried into the night a mighty rag-bag of dead kings and gods and ceremonies. What an enchanting curiosity shop!(123)

Massingham described himself as a “light skirmisher in the then Battle of Books”, raging between the Diffusionists and the Tylorians. His treatment of the Campden mummers is a skirmish, in which the Campden mummers’ performance is only an excuse for battle. The relative insignificance to Massingham of the actual mummers’ performance can be seen in the nature of his report.

The report gives no indication of who the mummers were, nor what the ‘ancient’ said. There are no script details beyond the Doctor’s couplet, which Massingham inserts to permit him to comment later:

And why did the doctor in his furry top-hat declare to our mild surprise that his real practice was in Spain? Was it because it was probably from Spain came the first megalithic colonisers of England?(124)

Furthermore, Massingham’s report records the appearance of only six characters, while the play as we know it from the mid-1930s has eight characters: the Drummer and Fiddler Crump being absent from Massingham’s list. A distinctive feature of the ‘resurrection’ scene in the Campden play, not mentioned by Massingham, is the drawing of a horse’s tooth from the dead man. There is no mention of a collection, no indication of a song session after, and no indication that the mummers stayed for drinks or were offered drinks by the house. The strongest details of Massingham’s report are visual ones – make-up, props and costuming – and the transcription of the words of the mummers’ song, which is conspicuous in the report by its presence and its agreement with the song as sung later. This accuracy, the particularity of his visual description, but the vagueness otherwise and the several disagreements with the performance as known soon after raises the question of the report’s validity and usefulness.

Both in Wold Without End and his 1951 article in Out-of-Doors Massingham frames his participation not in ethnographic terms, but in terms of good fellowship, informality, and heavy drinking(125). He says in Wold Without End specifically that after a spell in the pub in the afternoon, “that same evening I returned to see the mummers”(126). This indicates that the mummers came by some prior arrangement. He noted in January soon after the performance that Mumming Plays were “much in the air lately and I’ve been hard studying and seeing them for a book on the Cotswolds I’m doing”(127), and he is very likely to have made inquiries about mumming as such among his friends in the area. But there is no indication that Massingham intended anything other than passive observation, and he was not, in my view, collecting the Campden play in any rigorous sense. The two characters missing from his description are precisely the two least obtrusive and least easily integrated into the logic of death-and-resurrection-ritual which Massingham brought to the play. Their absence from his report is not, in my view, an indication of their absence from the performance he witnessed.

If Massingham’s presence was indeed as I have described it, the accuracy of the transcription of the words of the mummers’ song is problematic. He either took notes rapidly during the performance, memorised the song, or had it written out for him afterwards. He doesn’t seem to have set himself the task of recording the play as it was in progress, nor to have interposed pen and paper between himself and the occasion: he represents himself as a drinking member of the convivial group, and not as a recording observer. There is, likewise, no other indication that he had given himself to the occasion in such a way as to have memorised the words: to the contrary, his was apparently a generalised enjoyment which is not likely to have gone to the work of memorising the song on the spot. Nor is there any indication that he approached the mummers for the text of their song: the mummers appear only distantly in his report, without personalising details of any kind which might suggest direct contact. It is more likely that he subsequently asked his friend, Percy Dewey, for the words of the song. In his preface to Wold Without End Massingham expresses his

warmest thanks to my friend, Mr. P.S. Dewey of Chipping Campden, for the great service he has done the book by writing down many of the modern folk-tales in it and in introducing me to the true native stock of Cotswold humanity. Without him, I, a foreigner to the land, could never have crossed the frontiers of its human spirit.(128)

Having had his attention directed to the Campden Mummers by Percy Dewey(129) and observed them in a general way as material for a book he was writing, I believe Massingham crafted a commentary which he felt needed to be anchored firmly in a sense of place and immediacy, and so asked Dewey for the words of the song. These serve an authenticating function, providing an apparently firm observational base for the core speculative skirmish of his essay.

If this is a correct analysis, then Massingham’s report must be judged as a personal and non-specialised recollection in a crafted literary setting. I have not been successful in tracing any original notes he may have left, which might more fully clarify the actual circumstance and detail of his observation(130).

The details he gives may therefore be accepted as having been observed. The details he does not report, however, cannot be taken as positive evidence of their absence: the absence of Fiddler Crump and the Drummer, for example, cannot be taken as an indication that they were not part of the performance, and the same can be said of the collection, drinking and post-performance entertainment.

Wold Without End is one of the better books to have been written specifically about the Campden area, and as his friend C.H. Gardiner remarked, it was among the first to take seriously and attempt to transcribe the North Cotswold dialect(131). It is still readily available in second hand bookshops. Quite apart from the question of the value of Massingham’s report of the mumming as evidence, therefore, is the question of the influence of his report on subsequent generations of audience and mummers. There would appear to have been few immediate repercussions: no immediate flurry of newspaper reports, for example, as after the 1934 broadcast. If Massingham’s presence at the performance was a consequence of the awareness of the mummers among literate and articulate Campden residents such as Percy Dewey, however, it will also have contributed to that awareness. Two years after the publication of Wold Without End, the mummers were included in the “Microphone at Large” broadcast, after which there was a sudden rise of the mummers into civic awareness and prominence.

We have seen, in the prior section, that interest in the mummers was very likely “in the air” in the late 1920s(132). Massingham’s report can be interpreted as evidence that this interest had developed into actual knowledge through experience of performance. This growing awareness led to their inclusion in the 1934 broadcast, and their subsequent local fame. The published reports by Massingham probably helped to lay the groundwork for this.

Massingham censors the Campden mummers for their failure to have streamers on their headgear. By 1934/1935, James Madison Carpenter recorded that the mummers’ clothes were “decorated with ribbons over Jackets and hats”(133), which might reflect a sensitivity to Massingham’s report on the part of the mummers. Massingham also criticises the failure of Beelzebub to carry a club. Although photographs of the boy mummers of 1937 show Beelzebub carrying a club, and Percy Dewey’s Campden and Neighbourhood of 1939 (see below) refers to him carrying a club, these may not reflect the actual practice of the men’s mumming, and there is no evidence of experimentation with masks, there has been no reference inserted into the play about the dragon, and there has been no substitution of Bold Slasher for King George as the victim.


d. Percy Dewey

Percy Dewey was the son of headmaster George Dewey of the Boys school, and Mrs. Dewey, mistress of the Girls school, who had come to Campden in 1904(134). In Wold Without End, H.J. Massingham thanked his friend Dewey for writing down many of the tales in the book, and for “introducing me to the true native stock of Cotswold humanity”(135). Massingham put it more strongly in the introduction to Dewey’s guidebook, Campden and Neighbourhood, published in 1939:

I first met Mr. Dewey when I was writing, or thinking of writing, my first book on the Cotswolds, and so profound did I find his instinctive knowledge of his native county that I needed to go no further in order to discover the local genius of the Cotswolds as distinguished from those of other regions. The word “instinctive” is chosen with care, because I have never met any other man in Gloucestershire, and I know a great many of them, who can express in his talk and in his tales the “form and pressure” of the countryman’s mind, his way of thinking, feeling and speaking about his own place.(136)

Indeed, Dewey was among the principal performers in three dialect comedies portraying life in the fictional Cotswold village of Upper Slocombe written by Massingham’s friend Charles Gardiner (see V.l.B) and broadcast by the BBC between 1936 and 1939, and performed in a fourth script co-authored by Gardiner in 1936(137). In 1935 he helped to organise and arrange a BBC broadcast from Broad Campden called “Harvest Home”, which featured the Campden Morris dancers(138), songs, and reminiscences in which he joined as one of the locals(139). In 1938 he collected the material and acted as presenter for a BBC programme entitled “Annually For Ever: A Programme of Cotswold Charity” in which surviving, quaint and ancient local charities were discussed(140). Campden and Neighbourhood was published in 1939. Up until the start of World War Two, therefore, he played a prominent role in publicising local life and customs. He then married and left Campden(141).

In the twenty-two pages (including illustrations) which Dewey devotes to Campden in Campden and Neighbourhood, the Morris dance and the mumming are the only living customs described. The mumming is by far the more prominent, being given a third of a page in a context linking mumming with winter tourism and thereby suggesting the extent to which the mumming had become part of Campden’s menu of attractions.

The relative emphasis on the mumming in the guidebook is interesting given Dewey’s friendship with H.J. Massingham, their mutual relationship with C.H. Gardiner, and the importance of mumming as such to both Massingham and Gardiner (see V.1). It would appear that Massingham, Dewey and Gardiner played a mutually stimulating role in promoting and publicising the Campden mumming play.

It is also interesting that Dewey refers to the protagonist as “St. George” when all of the scripts from the period, as well as Massingham, call him “King George”. This suggests that Dewey’s description of the play, such as it is, is an idealised one and not based on the play as performed. This suggests in turn that the description of Belsebub standing “with club on shoulder” could owe more to rhetorical flourish and Massingham than Campden practice.


e. James Madison Carpenter

When he first came to England for the summer of 1928(142), James Madison Carpenter was still enrolled at Harvard University as a teaching instructor in English. For four months, supported by a Dexter Scholarship, he travelled up the English coast collecting sea shanteys. He completed his degree at Harvard in 1929, and then returned to England on a Sheldon Fellowship to collect ballads. His methods were the same as they had been while collecting shanteys: he prospected from place to place for singers until he found one, and having found one, he was generally introduced to others. He would record one or two stanzas on a dictaphone cylinder, and then painstakingly type the rest of the ballad from dictation, using a portable typewriter. He queried words and tested the reliability of the singer’s memory as he went along.

He continued in England until 1935, when he returned to the United States to lecture and teach. It was in the last year to year and a half of his stay that he turned to collecting folk plays. His base by this time was Oxford, and according to his own report, when he started to collect folk plays he worked through Oxfordshire to Wiltshire, acquired a car in Wiltshire and then travelled up from Bristol through Gloucestershire:

I started finding them right off. I started finding play after play after play, and I saw immediately that there were lots of them…I’d go from [one] town to another, and it was the, it was a rule, instead of the exception, that they had the mummer’s play. And so, you’d go into the town, and sure enough, there was the play.

Generally he was satisfied to record one informant:

I suspect there were more people than one that knew the version. But, in most cases, I just copied down one play from the man I found…

Although this might mean deletions through slips of memory, it was his opinion that

Each one knew, knew the, all of the play, right straight through. See, they’d gone over it so many times.(143)

Consequently, he made no concerted attempt to seek out more than one or two men at each venue.

At Campden he collected from two men – George Greenall and Tom Benfield(144). The date on which Carpenter collected the play in Campden is not clear.

Gloucestershire was the last of the three main counties in which Carpenter collected plays. Assuming that he returned to the United States in the Spring or late Summer of 1935, in order to take advantage of the Autumn start of the new university year to seek work, and assuming that he began his collection of mumming plays (by his own recollection) a year to a year and a half before returning to the States, it is very likely that he visited Campden in late 1934 or in 1935. The broadcast in which the mummers featured took place in October 1934, and it is therefore possible that he found or was directed to Tom Benfield and George Greenall as a consequence of their notoriety in the wake of this broadcast. It has been argued earlier (II.3) that Benfield and Greenall’s failure to tell Carpenter of Harry Keeley may have been due to bad feeling or rivalry following from the broadcast. If Carpenter visited Campden before the broadcast, Greenall and Benfield may not yet have had it brought to their attention that Keeley had been a mummer.

The text transcribed by Carpenter is our earliest. It is remarkably similar both to the 1937 boys’ production text, and the text of the 1946 broadcast.

Carpenter was fascinated by dialect, and attempted to an extent to represent the sounds and usages of the words as they were spoken to him. In his transcription of the Campden text. Carpenter consistently represents “and” as “an”, and occasionally drops the initial ‘h’ as in ” I opes old Father Christmas” (l.3), “I’ll cut ‘im” (l.26), or the ‘f in “of”. He records the use of “me” for “my” as in “I brought me broom to sweep your house” (l.5), and “My yed’s so big, me wit’s so small” (l.106). It is with the entrance of the Doctor (l.45) that the representation of dialect forms becomes distinctly pronounced, the Doctor’s second line being “An he was barn at  ‘ome” (l.46), Father Christmas replying, “What can’st thee cure?” (l.47). It is a case of transcribing specific and striking words rather than attempting to convey the dialect sounds as a whole, or presenting an imposed consistency. “Thee” and “thy” are used in the Doctor/ Jack Vinney scene instead of the conventional “you” and “your”; “yud” and “yed” rather than “head”; “tayel” and “jayel” for “tail” and “jail”; “old dummon” (l.111) for “old woman” (thus representing the dialect elision of “w”); “byut” (l.131) for “beat”. He has presented the shifting gender of the pronoun characteristic of the dialect in Jack Vinney’s speech:

Throw ‘er dead body in the ditch
Pull ‘er out in six months after
Stick his yed on; he make as good an old magpie
As ever walked in a pair of pattens… (l.62-65)

He accepts the use of “else” (l.38) for “or” or “otherwise”, and “as” for “that”, as in “I’ll play ye a tune as’ll plaze thee all.” (l.147).

Inasmuch as his method of transcription is likely to have been the same as for the ballads – typing the text to recital and repetition by the informant, querying specific words as he proceeded – the dialect items represented specifically as such are likely to be those features which were emphasised by the mummers themselves.

Heading the text there is a relatively extensive informative note:

THE MUMMERS. Thomas Benfleld. Leasebourne. Campden – George Greenall. Park Road, Campden-

Mr. Benfield learned 40 years ago, here in Campden, from older mummers.

Old Mummers – Henery Brotherridge, Mr. Greannell learned same time as Benfield    Never saw in print.(145)

Within the text there are several notes on staging, as when King George tells Bold Slasher to be less hot: “for in this room/ You don’t know who’ve you’ve got” (l.35-36). The direction “Face up with sword” (l.37) precedes Bold Slasher’s reply, with the two men prepared to fight: “Mind your hits/ An guard your blows,/ Else on this ground you’re forced to lie!” (l.37-39) at which point: “They fight; King George falls” (l.39a).

When Father Christmas calls for a doctor, the Doctor: “Comes in, riding a broom” (l.44a). Jack Vinney, as part of the subsequent by-play, mounts the broomstick and is warned by the Doctor to be careful: “Jack rides off on broomstick; falls off” (l.80a).

The longest and most complex scene in the play, that between the Doctor and Jack Vinney, is also the most closely choreographed. Having taunted the Doctor and backed off (over fetching the Doctor his medical bag), Jack Vinney: “Brings in bag” (l.85); again, he “gives spectacles” whereupon, “Doctor gets down over prostrate body of King George/ Puts glasses on” (l. 89-89a). Jack fetches pliers for the Doctor without a specific direction to do so. Immediately: “Doctor holds big bullock’s tooth in his hand; gets pliers on to tooth gets Jack to help hold” (l.95a-95b). They apparently pull, and pull a second time: “Both fall over: as Doctor gets up, produces tooth” (l.96a-96b). Jack Vinney defies the Doctor over bringing the medicine bottle, recants, and: “Brings in drop of cold tea in medicine bottle; (Doctor shakes bottle)” (l. 100a-105). There is another episode of refusal and so on over fetching the Pillbox, and then Jack Vinney: “gives him pill box” (l.110a). Finally: “King George gets up, and says” (l. 120a): “Terrible, terrible to be seen”, the play carrying on to the point where the final song is to be sung, at which point the performers: “Raise the fiddler’s song; all sing in unison” (l.151a), at the conclusion of which there is: “Singing and drinking” (l. 163a).

The transcription of the play is followed by a note on costumes and make-up:

Clothes decorated with ribbons over jackets and hats; each dressed/ to character as nearly as possible; Blackened and reddened/ Blackened faces and reddened lips – (146)

Apart from the instruction concerning the entrance of the Doctor, all performers are called on directly by Father Christmas except, in the case of Jack Vinney, by the Doctor. The importance of the scene between the Doctor and Jack Vinney is marked not only by the pronounced shift into dialect and the relative proliferation and detail of stage directions in their scene, but also by the fact that it is the Doctor who calls Jack Vinney in and who finally calls King George back into the action with the speech: “Rise up, King George, An fight again!” (l. 119-120). In essence, these directorial lines by the Doctor frame the Doctor/ Jack Vinney scene as a playlet within the overall play, when control of the performance space and sequence passes from Father Christmas to the Doctor.

It can be noted, too, that as early as Carpenter’s 1934-1935 interview the subsequent “Singing and drinking” were regarded as an integral part of the mumming, and that ribbons – conspicuous by their absence in Massingham’s 1930-1932 report – are specifically noted by Carpenter, as are the blackened faces and reddened lips which feature in Whitfield’s 1939 report.


f. Christopher Whitfield

Christopher Whitfield, born at Edgbaston, near Birmingham, moved to Campden in 1924. He was in his early twenties, commuted to work in Birmingham, and became part of the circle of new residents and extended Guildsmen who formed the Campden Society in 1924-1925. Ultimately he became chairman of the family company, S.B. Whitfield Ltd., makers of industrial and hospital beds. In 1955 he retired as chairman and sold the business, but continued as chairman of the Birmingham Bedstead Manufacturer’s Association, and was a director and vice-chairman of Super Oil Seals until 1966. He died in Campden in 1967 at the age of 65(147).

He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1964, and in his obituary was called “The historian of Chipping Campden”(148). His A History of Chipping Campden – which made a reference to the mummers, as discussed in III.3 – appeared in 1958; Robert Dover and the Cotswold Games, Annalia Dubrensis in 1962. He wrote A Guide to the Parish Church, Chipping Campden in about 1965, as well as articles on Robert Dover and other aspects of Campden history in the same period (see Bibliography). He was writing about Campden before the Second World War, however, in essays and poems in which Campden occasionally appeared as his anonymous village. A World of One’s Own, a collection of short essays published by Country Life, appeared in 1938. A companion volume, in preparation at the advent of the Second World War, was never published. It was for this book that Whitfield wrote his essay, “The Christmas Mummers”, which is the best contemporary description of the Campden Mummers from the pre-war period(149).

Harrop treats Whitfield’s essay on the Campden mummers as an accurate report of a performance “most probably from Christmas 1938″(150). He quotes Whitfield to the effect that “the words were taken down from the memory of one of the oldest men in the vlllage”, and takes it for granted that the names of the performers Whitfield gives are genuine(151). He does not cite Whitfield’s further note on the words of the play:

They have been altered here and there, for continuity and rhythm, but they are substantially in the traditional and often meaningless form.(152)

Nor did Harrop explore the implications of the fact that the essay as we have it is a draft for a literary work intended for popular consumption, nor of Whitfield’s tendency in his works of this inter-war period to use pseudonyms for persons and places. Harrop further states that “During that year [1939] Christopher Whitfield collected the full text of the Campden play”, a statement which does not derive from the Whitfield manuscript, and which Harrop does not support independently(153). It could be equally legitimately argued, for example, that Whitfield had access to the text written out for the school performance of 1937, which was repeated in 1939.

In the absence of a standard published text, it is impossible to discuss Whitfield’s version in a fully satisfactory way. For reference, however, I have used Carpenter’s 1934-1935 transcription of the play as a base text. In this text there are 163 lines. Whitfield deletes sixteen of these lines, or nearly 10%. He adds six lines, two of which are a repetition of the two lines with which the ending song of the play closes.

In contrast, the 1937 school text adds two lines without deleting any, and the 1946 broadcast text adds one line, deleting four(154).

Four of the lines deleted by Whitfield are those in which Father Christmas calls in the other characters (Note: line numbers refer to the corresponding line in the Carpenter text: both texts follow the same sequence. A small letter ‘a’ indicates a line not found in Carpenter, coming between lines corresponding to that numbered and the next in sequence): “Walk in, Old Bold Slasher” (l.21); “Walk in the Drummer” (l.123): “Walk in Old Father Beelzebub” (l.138); “Walk in, Old Fiddler Crump” (l.143), and therefore involve a significant change in the role of the presenter in the staging of the play. The deletion of lines 74 and 75 denies the initial comic agon between the Doctor and Jack Vinney of its standard comic climax. The deletion of line 81 eliminates a piece of comic stage business in which Jack Vinney is thrown from a stick horse. The deletion of lines 96-100 eliminates the entire verbal business built around the pulling and display of a large animal’s tooth as part of King George’s cure, the pulling as such being described by Whitfield in his commentary(155). The loss of lines 119-120, in which the Doctor commands King George to rise up and fight again, alters the nature of the transition between the Doctor’s self-advertisement and King George’s resurrection speech. Taken together, the deletions amount to a significant difference in the play’s staging.

The lines which Whitfield adds, on the other hand, and most of his changes within lines, are designed, as he says, to improve rhyme. After the line “A room! A room, pray give us all” he adds “Beneath the timbers of this hall”(l.7a). Carpenter’s line 8, “Pray give us this room to rise”, Whitfield alters, and adds a rhyming line to follow: “Pray give us room to act our play,/ Which we allus acts on Christmas Day”(ll.8-8a). Following the line “To cure King George of his sad wound?”(l.41) Whitfield inserts “From head to foot wounded is he,”(l.41a) in order to rhyme with the following line: “and likewise at the knee”(l.42). The Doctor’s line in Carpenter: “O yes, there’s Old Dr. Aero,/ An he was barn at ‘ome”(ll.45-46), are modified by Whitfield into a rhyming couplet: “Oh yes. there is a doctor to be found/ Can raise this bleeding man from the around.” The deletions in the text therefore have staging and performance implications of some significance, while the additions are mainly literary interpolations.

In his transcription of the text, Whitfield takes the opportunity to convey a sense of dialect. For the most part this involves a stereotypic and mostly consistent dropping of “h” before vowels, rather than the use of specifically dialect features such as “me” for “my” or transcriptions of accent such as “carns” for “corns” and “barn” for “born” as are found in the Carpenter transcription. The use of the contemptuous or familiar “thee” for “you”(156) in the scene between Jack Vinney and the Doctor, integral part of the comedy, is consistent. Less consistent are transcriptions of dialect pronunciations of several other words, the effect of which is to emphasise the dialect pronunciation of certain lines. These include lines and words which have been pointed out to me independently as particularly pronounced, and include, the phrase “cans’t ‘e cure a deud mon”(1.50), and Fiddler Crump’s use of “yeud” for “head”(1.145, 1.146)(157). The local dialect is emphasised in the Doctor’s dropping of “w” in speaking of “an ‘old ‘oman lay deud” (Carpenter’s “ol dummon”)(l.lll). and there is a dramatic emphasis implied in King George’s “It’s tarrible. tarrible, what I have seen…”(l.l21). It can be argued that these indicate, in the context of the rest of the text, an attempt to transcribe dialect emphases made in performance by the mummers themselves. This argument would be supported by the evidence of the role of dialect and of particular dialect features in the meta-folklore of the tradition. That this role of emphasised dialect appears distinctly as early as 1939 – as the Whitfield transcription suggests – implies that the mumming was already functioning as a display of localism, that local culture was being intentionally crafted and presented at this period through the medium of the mumming. This interpretation supports, and is supported by, the argument made elsewhere(158) that local customs were being revived in Campden in the inter-war period as an assertion of Campden-ness and as a reflection of the expectations of the buying public. Though too much must not be made of it, the Whitfield text therefore makes an important contribution to our discussion of the mummers.

To what extent, however, is it a reliable source of information?

In the course of the essay, Whitfield gives the names of four performers:

my mild friend Bill Benfield…little Sammy Gosebeck…Harry Taylor, a settled gipsy’s son…and Dick Barnes, the coal merchant…(159)

The presence of the name Bill Benfield is seductive, given that a Bill Benfield was among the principal mummers in the inter-war period. We recall from Massingham that Tom Barnes the blacksmith figured in his presentation of the Campden mummers. There was indeed a Harry Taylor active in Campden at the end of the 1930s. The only immediately difficult name is that of Sammy Gosebeck, a name which does not seem to be otherwise known in Campden.

If we read other essays by Whitfield published in the late 1930s, we discover a variety of names which do not correspond to those of real people in Campden. Indeed, although Campden is readily recognisable, it is not generally named in the essays. The principal pub to which the author has recourse in his essays is the Dragon, a pseudonym. The names of the participants in “The Bellringers’ Dinner”, published in Gloucestershire Countryside in 1939, are also pseudonymous, featuring the non-Campden names of Luke Smith as the local plumber, Mr. Harley as the solicitor’s clerk, Tom Goole as the sexton, and Sammy Gosebeck as a bellringer(160). There is no reason in advance to believe that Whitfield’s essay on the mummers is any more specific, although it could be argued that coming in a draft for publication the names had not yet been completely fictionalised, or that – having identified the site of the essay specifically as Chipping Campden, he had not fully de-fictionalised them.

The name Bill Benfield is that of a known mummer, and is sufficiently plausible in this context that Harrop has suggested (incorrectly) “that Mr. Tomes [current leader of the mummers] has confused Tom Benfield with the Bill Benfield mentioned in the Whitfield essay…”(161). Whitfield’s description of “Father Christmas, the leader, an old gardener who has played most of the parts in his life, and knows them all…”(162) could well apply to Tom Benfield, in which case he would have been well known to Whitfield: Tom Benfield was gardener for Whitfield’s good friend F.L. Griggs(l63). In that case, however, why would Whitfield name Bill Benfield, playing Bold Slasher, but not Tom Benfield, the leader of the group? Why, indeed, would he name the performers of Bold Slasher, Beelzebub, the Doctor and King George and not of Father Christmas, Jack Vinney. the Drummer or Fiddler Crump? Why would he give real names to some of the performers and not to others?

“Sammy Gosebeck” appears in no records with which I am familiar, and the name has not been known to anyone to whom inquiries have been put in Campden, including the current leader of the bellringers, and several old mummers(164). The name Dick Barnes does not appear in the record either. James and Thirza-Ann Barnes flourished locally for a period in the l860s and 1870s, and odd Barnes’ appear in the record(165). Tom Barnes, blacksmith, was single, and there is no coal-merchant of the name Barnes listed for Campden in Kelly’s Directory for 1935 and 1939, nor is there for Gloucestershire as a whole(166). On the other hand, we know that members of the Nobes and Keyte families have been involved in the mummers at different times, and that both Edward Nobes and Garnet Keyte were coal dealers in Campden at the time that Whitfield wrote his essay. “Dick Barnes” would appear to be a pseudonym, assuming that Whitfield was describing a real person.

The names “Harry Taylor” and “Henry Taylor” appear a number of times in Campden – Charles Henry was baptised in St. James’ Church on 26.3.1882. Henry Thomas on 3.5.1886, Albert Henry on 30.6.1889; Henry Richard was married in the church in 1932 to Gwyneth Matthews, and a Mrs. Henry Taylor of Back Ends (maiden name “Vinn”) was buried in 1937(167). In 1933 and 1934 a Harry Taylor (identified with the Henry Richard who married in 1932) gave exhibitions of club-swinging in the area(l68), and an H. Taylor was employed by plumber William Haines in 1935 (quite possibly the same man, who came from Wales in the early 1930s as a labourer)(169).

Whitfield describes Harry Taylor as “a settled gypsy’s son”. The Henry Taylor who married in 1932 was the son of Edward, a coal miner, and had come from Wales. Those baptised in the 19th century were all sons of labourers, with nothing to indicate specifically Romany backgrounds.

Ernest Buckland, on the other hand, who played the Doctor in the immediate post-War period and was already a mummer before the war, was unmistakeably the son of a settled gypsy. In a book published by Country Life in 1938 called A World of One’s Own, Whitfield included an essay based on Buckland’s father entitled “The Old Poacher”, beginning “He is a settled gypsy…”(170). The Romany is a definite element in the Buckland family tradition. It would seem more plausible, therefore, that “Harry Taylor, a settled gypsy’s son” is a pseudonym for Ernest Buckland, Christopher Whitfield’s gardener(171).

If Gosebeck, Barnes and Taylor are all pseudonyms, it increases the probability that Benfield is as well, though a case could be made that Whitfield used Benfield’s real name as a token of friendship.

“The Mummers” is the only one of Whitfield’s essays of this period, with which I am familiar, which places the described event specifically “at Campden in Gloucestershire”. Following the Second World War his published writing appears to be entirely historical. This particular essay may mark a transition between Whitfield the author and Whitfield the scholar. In this case, although pseudonyms have been used for the mummers, the essay could be regarded both as a report and as a literary entertainment. The impression it gives is of a direct description which has been polished into a literary form, as has the text itself. The performance and costume details correspond with, or are plausible within, our knowledge of later performances. Specific details might be literary flourishes – e.g., “he bowed to the audience, and his white beard came unhooked from one ear and dangled down. Hastily replacing it, but in such a way that it muffled his already blurred speech…”(172) but there is nothing described which, within our knowledge of the play, could not have taken place. It is, I would argue, a reliable description when taken within the supporting framework of other and later sources.


IV.2: 1914-1939. Context 

A. War, Reconstruction, The Rhetoric of Localism 

a. War and Loss


The Chipping Campden war memorial was built in the centre of Campden, on a bank between the town hall and the Market Hall, and between Post Office Road and the High Street where trees, to make the town more attractive to tourists and new residents, had been planted at the end of the last century. These were taken out and an artificial platform created rising five feet above the High Street to come level with Post Office Road. On this was erected a stone cross twenty seven feet from top to bottom, with sixty-one names carved in the base. The whole was designed by F.L. Griggs, the work carried out under the direction of Jewson and Berkeley of South Cerney. Though the retaining wall was only half-finished, the memorial was officially unveiled in January 1921, capping the Great War with the greatest single architectural alteration to the centre of Campden within the period of this dissertation(1). It was very nearly not built; it nearly succumbed to the turbulent reconstruction of “Campden” in the immediate post-war years. Indeed, if the pre-war political structure had still been intact, the memorial as we know it would probably not have been built.

A reminiscence of about the time the memorial was unveiled recalled the declaration of war:

It was on August 4. A.D. 1914 that war was declared. That Monday, was the August Bank Holiday: and all Campden and the neighbourhood, were gathered together in the pleasant Vicarage garden, for the annual Parish Fete; the proceeds of which, helped so successfully, to finance the many needs of sick and poor, during the winter. There were attractive stalls under the trees; the tables dotted over the lawn; games and other amusements, in different parts of the garden; there was the laughter of little people; the scent of flowers, and the lovely summer sunshine. The school children and others, had delighted their audience with a pastoral play; and later on, there was dancing on the lawn for the young folk, by the light of Chinese lanterns. Like a bolt from the blue, had come the terrible news in the morning; and it had been too late to put off the Parish Fete. The next morning, August 5, the first detachment of Campden men left on active service.(2)

Exactly a month later the first of sixty Campden men was killed(3). By that time nearly eighty Campden men were already on active service(4). Ultimately over three hundred served, or one fifth of the parish population (though a number of men returned from overseas to fight); nearly one in five of the Campden men who served were killed(5).

By the end of October 1914 there were twenty-two Belgian refugees settled in Campden and Broad Campden(6). The local branch of the National Reserve had rallied its members into action, the Campden Subsidiary War Relief Committee was in operation, Norton House had been converted into a hospital directly under the War Office, and there was a flurry of committees and activities related to the civilian war effort(7).

Partly because of the military demand for horses, the Master of the Foxhounds Association announced in August that although it could not be stopped altogether, regular foxhunting was impossible and “should not be looked upon from a sporting point of view until the war is over…”(8). Various football teams  in the area decided not to play, for patriotic reasons and with so many of their members away; the North Cotswold and other leagues were temporarily disbanded(9). Organised bellringing competitions were suspended, as were other organised sports(10). According to a post-war report, the Town Band played for the last time when the Territorials marched off to war(11); by Rogation Day in May, 1915, the band was reduced to its leader, Jim Pyment, playing his cornet(12). The Boy Scouts and Boys Brigade appear to have lapsed soon after the war began, presumably due to the enlistment of the leader in the one case, the departure of the patron in the other, and the lack of adult males to take their places(13). The Grammar School, on the other hand, formed a cadet corps under the school’s second master, which was affiliated with the Gloucestershire Regiment(14).

A number of Campden women worked as nurses in the two local War Office hospitals, and both men and women went to cities to work in war industries(15). The tops of streetlamps were painted black against the possibility of Zeppelin raids, and the lamps were eventually extinguished altogether(16). By the end of the war people were experiencing major shortages to accompany the extraordinary inflation which had set in with the declaration of war(17); for a short period a communal kitchen was operated(18), young school-boys were again working in the fields(19), and a Guildsman later noted that Campden had gone back to the 19th century(20).

At least as radical as inflation and shortages on the life of the parish was the impact of central government. Indeed, the nearly moribund North Cotswold Farmers’ Association(21) revived and flourished for the war largely as a platform of advice and complaint against the central civilian and military bureaucracies. The farmers’ main argument centred on their competition for labour with the War Office, and the fact that military logic defied common sense. As farmer George Haines complained:

I know of a farmer, who has three men – a carter, shepherd and cowman – the last-named has been medically examined twice and rejected. All were summoned to appear at Cheltenham on the same day, which practically leaves his stock to be waited on as best it could and considering there are at least three to four inches of snow on the ground makes things very awkward for the cattle and the master. There are several tradesmen called up the same day – the Thursday before Christmas – grocers, chemists, and butchers, on one of the busiest days in the year in their businesses.

He was over 70 years old, and yet he, himself, had received notice to appear. As far as he could see, the Government did not seem to be listening to local advice:

If they had appointed Doctors to meet the men at Campden, as I suggested at the meeting of the North Cotswold Farmers Association, it would have saved time, trouble and expense.(22)


He had lost four men from his farm, and if more were taken the land would go out of cultivation. They could not do their haymaking, harvesting, and planting without men; and if they did not get their hay, their oats, and their wheat, how was the army going to be supplied?(23)

Substitute soldier labour, according to another man, was a failure. The minimum wage of the soldiers on land work

was considerably higher than that paid to ordinary farm labourers, and this caused dissatisfaction, and in two cases that he knew of it led to a strike.(24)

Farmer Sam Stanley could not see the logic in substituting soldiers for labourers:

He thought if there were any agricultural labourers to spare they should be sent back to their own villages; men from the towns would be useless on the farms. There would be difficulties with regard to housing. They could not send a substitute into the house where a wife and family were left behind.(25)

Ulric Stanley argued against the introduction of Daylight Savings Time:

He could not see why rural districts could not have been left out. Nobody could say that it was the rural districts that burnt the coal and the gas, but it was the rural districts that lost most by the Act. It was all foolery to say that people could go to bed an hour earlier at night. If people got up an hour earlier in the morning, the only effect was that they worked an hour longer in the day. The Act was lauded by people who never got up before 8 until it was passed, and now they found it was nice to get up at seven; but farmers who got up at five or six now had to get up at four or five.(26)

Trains ran to the new time, and in order to get the milk to market, the cows had to be milked an hour earlier:

Mr. [George] Haines said the Act affected the senders of milk more than anyone else. Would they get their men to start milking at three in the morning? In the haymaking, too, they could not start an hour earlier, because the dew would not be off.(27)

Ulric Stanley concluded:

it was all very well from a manufacturer’s point of view. In his own case his wife wanted to go by the new time and he wanted to go by the old time, and then there was a bother.(28)

There were other laws, too, which may have made sense in  manufacturing cities but not in small and informal agricultural towns. It was ordered by central government in the Autumn of 1916 that all businesses must close at seven p.m. except on Saturday, when they could stay open until 9. The following summer the weekday closing time was relaxed to 8 p.m. Nevertheless, in 1917 Campden baker and grocer W.J. Hobbs was fined, following a caution, for having his business open late: the police constable had heard Mrs. Howell call for a penny-worth of chocolate which the Hobb’s son had fetched for her from the shop.(29)

The presence of central government in the everyday lives of so many people was one of the facts of the war which determined the character of the post-war years. So, too, were the varieties of experience with which men and women returned to Campden from war work and the war; the differences between their experiences and the experiences of people who had remained in Campden; the gaps of experience which the war opened up between the old and the young; and the unincorporated experiences of persons who moved to Campden during the war or immediately after. In the first critical years of reconstruction, 1918-1921, the leaders of the two most distinct communities of pre-war Campden either died or left, and their organisations – the North Cotswold Farmers Association in the case of Ulric Stanley and George Haines, and the Guild of Handicraft Trust in the case of C.R. Ashbee – were wound up(30). In the wake of the war, in other words, “Campden” had to be renegotiated: and to a significant extent, given the losses of the war and the changes during it, “Campden” had to be completely reconstructed. The material for reconstruction were the memories, loyalties, and aspirations of the people living in Campden: the distant and immediate past of personal experience, the present as found, and the future of possible communities that Campden could be.

There were a number of customs and occasions from the social repertoire of pre-war Campden which were easily reactivated and accepted by the community at large as appropriate and “Campden”, even when and if they involved innovations: among these were sports clubs and the Town Band, Scuttlebrook Wake and the Whit Monday Fete, a fancy dress “jazz” band and Morris dancing. There were also new interests and loyalties arising directly or indirectly out of the experience of war which were recognised, for example, in the formation of local branches of national organisations: the Comrades of the Great War, the British Legion, the National Farmers Union, the National Agricultural and Rural Workers Union, the Labour Party; these new organisations also drew on old customs to formulate and express new associations(31).

What was not clear, and could not be defined simply by the creation of organisations or the revival of customs, was what form “Campden” was to take, and who Campden would belong to: How was the power to act, create and define to be handled and distributed in post-war Campden? Who was to make social/political decisions, and on what basis? These were questions which could not be avoided, but which required a degree of social negotiation which pre-war social forms could not handle. Consequently, the period 1918-1922 is one of the more prolific in terms of groups and activities and one of the more turbulent in socio-political terms covered in this dissertation. Organisations and customs were both statements and fora of negotiation.

It is not surprising, therefore, that a considerable amount of conflict was generated over the terms in which the war itself was to be remembered. This conflict, of different visions of war and community, focused on a German fieldgun – a war trophy – and the question of a war memorial. Through these conflicts the new terms of local socio-political discourse began to clarify.


b. The German Field Gun Affair

The German field gun was offered to the parish council by the War Trophies Commission in 1919:

Mr. Ebborn [the chairman of the parish council] said as one representing the Upper Ward of the town, he was prepared to vote for the acceptance of the gun. It was a trophy of the war captured by our brave British soldiers. It was in itself evidence of their valour, and although he was not personally enamoured of anything German, in fact quite the reverse, he was sincerely proud of the great and glorious achievements of our soldiers and sailors of all branches of our King’s service.- Mr. H. Pitcher said he should like the Soldiers and Sailors Association consulted on the matter. Mr. Howley said from a soldiers’ point of view he thought the gun should be accepted.- Mr. Ellison: Personally I don’t want to see another German gun.- The Chairman: I think that civilians would like to see the gun. We should do no harm in accepting the gun.- Mr. Pitcher proposed that the gun be accepted, and a committee be formed to arrange for a suitable site.

This was unanimously agreed, and Ebborn, Pitcher, Ellison and Howley formed the committee. It was also decided

to write to the Chairman of the forthcoming meeting of the Comrades of the Great War, asking them their opinion, and to suggest a site.(32)

The meeting referred to was the foundation meeting of the Comrades of the Great War in the town hall. In the chair was Captain Spencer-Churchill of nearby Northwick Park, and he was supported on the platform by Maj. Hon. Charles Noel. Rev. Hitchcock, Father Bilsborrow, Dr. Dewhurst, RSM Travill, Sgt. Green, L.S. Eden and delegates from Gloucester. Upwards of sixty members were enrolled that night(33).

The parish council was told at its next meeting that the Comrades had chosen a site next to the Market Hall, and that the County Surveyor had agreed for it to be there(34). The gun arrived in early February, and stood in the yard of Oliver New’s Ivy House while a bed of concrete was prepared for it next to the Market Hall(35). A month later, on March 6, the gun was installed amidst ceremony. A gun team under former artilleryman Joseph Bennett fetched the gun and brought it to its concrete bed:

…Mr. Joseph Bennett said he, as the Comrades’ representative, had been asked to hand the gun over to the Parish Council for them to take charge of it for the town, and he had great pleasure in asking Mr. Ebborn, the chairman of the parish council, to accept the gun for him.(35)

In his acceptance speech the chairman of the council acknowledged that the gun was ugly, but he emphasised that it was

a witness to remind them of the gallant and heroic deeds done by our brave soldiers and sailors.

As a badge of honour,

That gun would serve to remind those who did their bit, however humble, that they fought to protect the women and England and protect their hearths and homes.

To others, however, he said, it would stand as an accusation:

Of course all could not go into the service for varied and genuine reasons. But that gun would to some stand as a mark to condemn them for the cowardly way in which they evaded their plain duty. Some suddenly found they had a conscience and refused to go, and so wriggled out of serving. That trophy would remind them that they failed to do their duty.

The Catholic Father Bilsborrow gave a speech in which, given the devastation the nation had just experienced, he surprisingly affirmed that there would always be wars. He was followed by the town doctor who, perhaps more surprisingly given the purpose of the event, told his listeners:

Campden’s greatest asset was its beautiful architecture, and he thought, as the gun was not a thing of beauty, it need not have been placed in the centre of beautiful surroundings. In his opinion it would have been equally prominent if placed near the chesnut tree, where the pump now stood.

The climax of the ceremony was a speech by J.H. Clark who

again urged the comrades to force the Government to make the profiteers disgorge their ill-gained wealth, and said those who ought to be better off were the soldiers and sailors, but in so many instances they were worse off through going into military service…

His speech and the ceremony were cut short by torrents of rain(36).

Two weeks later the annual Parish Meeting was asked whether the gun could be moved “to a more suitable site”. Joseph Bennett explained that “the site was chosen at a meeting when over one-hundred ex-servicemen were present”; this statement (presumably referring to the foundation meeting of the Comrades of the Great War) effectively killed discussion(37).

One morning a month later, however, the gun was found unceremoniously dumped in the cart wash opposite the Almshouses. The parish council had the gun put back in its prepared place, and as a precaution against further “vandalism” had the trail and wheels fixed to the pad with cement(38). According to reminiscence the wet cement was scooped out during the day by children(39), and shortly before midnight:

a lot of youths and many spectators gathered around the gun, and “some” speeches were made, one saying, “People of Campden, was it your desire to have this gun brought back?” Loud cries of “No”.(40)

The police constable reportedly emerged from the police station opposite, saw the crowd, was given a warning, and disappeared.(41)

The last speaker finished by saying, “We are now about to move this gun under sealed orders to an unknown destination.” The gun was then taken off its bed, but had not got far before a wheel came off, but as there were plenty of willing helpers it was soon put on again. This happened more than once afterwards, but nothing daunted their determination, and so with bulldog pertinacity they overcame all difficulties and proceeded past the church some considerable distance down the station road and across the Coneygree. the crowd singing en route. “Na-poo, too ta too, good bye-e!” The gun was eventually pushed into the mill stream. Though past midnight there were a lot of people in the field. As one expressed it: “It looks as if there was a football match.”(42)

The mill stream, at this point, was a part of the town sewage system(43).

At the subsequent parish council meeting the chairman said that if the town wanted the gun back in place then they must call a public meeting; otherwise the nearly £2 cost of retrieving it could not be justified(44).

Nearly a year later, in April 1921, the parish council was told that Lord Sandon of nearby Norton House would like the gun for his grounds if it were available:

Mr. Ellison then suggested that it had better be given to Lord Sandon, as eventually the council might be asked to remove it from its present position, as it is likely to cause an obstruction in the mill stream, and it would be an expense to get it out.- Mr. Howley said he should support that suggestion.- The Chairman: If we do that, at a parish meeting some one may bring the matter up and ask what has become of it. It is for you to decide. If it is given, you gentlemen present must take the responsibility.- Mr. Ellison: The gun was given to the Parish Council. It was taken away twice, so I take it the people of Campden don’t want it and we can now do what we like with it. Is the gun to stop where it is till we are asked to move it?(45)

The affair came to its close when Lord Sandon, with the blessing of the parish council, had the gun removed at his own expense and also donated two guineas to the Campden War Memorial Fund(46).

I am not aware of a precedent for the double removal of the field gun by unknown persons(47). Put into the terms of the Public Meeting, it was a dramatic coup of the chair and an overturning of the Proposition from the floor. The Proposition offered at the installation ceremony contained elements of an outmoded vision of war and the image of a community divided against itself by greed and cowardice. Furthermore, it was a Proposition divided against itself, with a Counter-Proposition explicit in Dr. Dewhurst’s remarks.

Reminiscence underlines the ability of the community opposed to this Proposition to act together with a roguish but earnest playfulness, concealing the identities and plans of those involved in removing the gun from under the noses (and out of the cement) of those who had placed it there. The issues involved are not, in reminiscence, complex: the gun was ugly, it had killed English men, and it was a reminder of a painful war. The concept of the war trophy was not accepted, and “the people”, defined by themselves and by the ultimate acquiescence of the parish council, acted as a community to get rid of it(48).


c. The War Memorial Affair 

While the affair of the German field gun was being played out, another series of conflicts erupted around the question of a war memorial, which was to be a tribute to the men who had died and to the sacrifices of the town. If the affair of the field gun was a conflict between the perceptions of the conventional leadership and those of “the people”, then the war memorial affair was a struggle between this conventional leadership, which expected to be in control of affairs in Campden, and the rising liberal and aesthetic leadership, rooted in the Guild, which challenged this expectation.

Jim Pyment and Sons ltd. had received permission as early as 1916 to erect a wooden war memorial near the town hall, and (with typical Guild foresight) suggested that plans be made for a permanent memorial(49).

The parish council did not select a war memorial committee until February 1919. This committee was to present proposals for a permanent memorial to a parish meeting(50). Apart from the town’s three main clergymen, the committee consisted of Dr. Dewhurst, Oliver New, and Alec Miller, the first the town doctor, the second a solicitor and councillor, and the third a councillor and member of the Guild of Handicraft. Any unity this committee may have had quickly collapsed. Dr. Dewhurst wrote to the Evesham Journal in March:

In reference to the correspondence sent by Mr. A. Miller for publication in last week’s “Journal”, I should like to remark that he is quite correct in saying that it was on my proposition that he was elected a Parish Council representative on the Campden War Memorial Committee.

I therefore feel that I owe him an apology for my stupidity on that occasion, and can only plead for mercy in that I tried to rectify my mistake at the earliest possible moment!(51)

The annual Parish Meeting followed almost immediately on this correspondence, and H.G. Ellis pointed out that most places had appointed their war memorial committees at parish meetings.

He did not want any bickering in the town over this, and wanted to go very gently on it…To have bickerings on the subject would be like quarrelling over the graves of the dead.

Ellis proposed the council call a special parish meeting to consider the question of a war memorial, and that a new committee be appointed then(52). This proposal was carried, and the special meeting was held about a week later, when six projects were suggested and a new committee formed(53). The suggested memorials put before the new committee were: 1) workmen’s cottages, proposed by Miss Drury; 2) a drinking fountain, proposed by A. Walton; 3) an extension of the town hall by fifteen feet, proposed by W.N. Izod; 4) a simple Cotswold stone cross, proposed by Miss Griffiths; 5) “A cross in front of the Post Office, and the bank levelled and steps in the centre”, proposed by Paul Woodroffe; and 6) a nurses’ home with two rooms for patients, proposed by Dr. Dewhurst. The first and last were obviated by government initiatives(54), and the proposal put forward by Paul Woodroffe, to a design by F.L. Griggs, became the agreed main project.

The members of the committee appointed at this meeting included Dr. Dewhurst and Oliver New from the old committee, joined by the headmaster of the Grammar School, Mr. Cox, who was apparently co-opted; Paul Woodroffe, who took the place of Alec Miller(55); and H.G. Ellis, Jim Pyment, J.R. Neve and Reg Hands. Woodroffe, apart from being a Catholic and Griggs’ sponsor during his conversion to Catholicism (see IV.1), was closely associated with the Guild and was himself a stained glass artist; and H.G. Ellis was a close friend of Pyment, the Guildsman, and had had close ties with the Guild from the beginning(56); Reg Hands, the chemist, was probably also sympathetic with the Guild(57).

This committee, however, also fell to fighting with itself. F.L. Griggs wrote to his friend Russell Alexander in June:

The War Memorial Committee here have plumbed the depths of infamy, in my opinion – an unspeakable Protestant Crew!(58)

Soon after a second general meeting in the town hall to consider the report of the committee, in which Griggs’ plan was approved(59), he again wrote to Alexander:

The Devil’s own trouble here over the memorial – you may hear of me in the courts yet!(60)

And in September:

The War Memorial here seems in danger of finishing out – “Danger”, I say, but really I’m glad they’re likely to do something else with the money, for it would be horrible if now they erected a cross out of so much squabbling.(61)

The covert issue, apparently, was Griggs’ Catholicism; the overt issue, if not quite explicitly charged, was the false claim that Griggs had evaded war service; underlying both were some long-standing political and personal antagonisms(62). The final battle was fought in a third general public meeting, which Alec Miller described at length in a letter to C.R. Ashbee:

The sketch Fred Griggs made was a charming one – and Woodroffe was so taken with it and so anxious to get it approved that he sent it to Lethaby – who wrote back and said that few things that could be devised could beautify Campden – but that this was one of the most appropriate and beautiful memorials he had ever seen – The committee however was speedily split into two camps – one being New and Dewhurst and Cox – all hostile to Fred Griggs and the scheme – and all unscrupulous in their scheme to wreck it – and a few others, Ellis, Neve, Woodroffe and Mrs. Hankin, all supporting FLG. Then a few weeks ago they had an idea that if they said they could not get the money the scheme might be wrecked – So a few days ago OH New called a public meeting to give the report of the committee…I ran along to the Town Hall – to my surprise it was crammed full and I could only get standing room on the steps and O New was alone on the platform looking rather worried and I found him explaining to the audience that the committee “had been misled” – a scheme had been presented to them and a sketch made and they had tentatively approved= They tried, he said, to get the necessary money – but had failed and in the course of their meetings it transpired that the design had been made by one whose “war record” they could not approve – etc. etc.

A labourer beside me called out “Bloody liar” – when New invented the story of not knowing who had made the design – and Fishy [H.G.] Ellis,- who was quite near me called out that there was no use misleading the audience but that it would be better to admit the truth and say that the committee had quarrelled as to Fred Griggs’ fitness to do the work – and that and no question of money, was the cause of this meeting – Ellis said it was ridiculous to say the committee didn’t know as they had issued an appeal and a report which referred to it as “Mr. Griggs’ scheme” – New denied this and to our joy Ellis looked straight at New and said “I beg your pardon Mr. New but the report is in my pocket and it is signed by you” and he strode up the hall and shoved the report with the references into News hand and said loudly – “read it out” and stood by him while New swallowed his own dirty lies by reading it out. Then Ben Chandler rose and said persuasively “At what precise point in the deliberations of your committee Mr. New did you discover that the design was not Mr. Woodroffe’s but Mr. Griggs”‘ – and Mrs. Hankin also butted in with some sarcasms about the futility of denying what everyone knew. New hedged and shifted and got red and tried to bluster – could give Ben no answer – and Mrs. Hankin and Ellis kept up a sort of enfilading fire, which reached a climax when Ben again rose and said with his American accent and an ironic quiet manner “Do you think, Mr. New, that there are any other people in Campden who could have made that design and drawing.” “Oh yes – many!” said New – “Then” chimed in the American voice quite calmly – “Campden must consider itself exceptionally fortunate.”

Somehow the labourers all appreciated this badgering of Mr. New and howled with derision. Finally Ellis said very sententiously that he proposed a resolution that the original scheme be gone on with and that Fred Griggs be appointed architect.(63)

F.T. Ellison proposed “That we employ an architect who was not over military age in 1914, and the contractor employ only men who have served their country overseas”(64), and there was a proposal to abandon the Griggs scheme in favour of a simple cross(65), but Ellis’ proposal was carried seventy-five to five. Miller reported:

wild enthusiasm all over the hall…and the children of light had gained a triumph – New looked almost pitiful – baited and driven from pillar to post to find excuses to support his lies – Dewhurst meanwhile had bolted out in a temper – and Cox wasn’t there – (66)

Griggs took it as a personal victory(67). Wentworth Huyshe, who also was closely associated with the Guild, wrote to C.R. Ashbee almost immediately after that the old committee:

have done nothing but wrangle and squabble and hurl insults at each other, until the thing became a scandal – quite “in the note” of Campden, you know – and a public meeting had to be called to put matters right. New was in the chair, the Town Hall was crammed, and he had about the most mauvais quart d’heure of his life. By a majority of 75 to 5, the Old Committee was kicked out with ignominy, and a new one approved…(68)

The new committee consisted of Fred and James Bennett, stonemasons (and members of the Town Band under Guildsman Jim Pyment); Henry Pitcher, postman and parish councillor on the Labour Party ticket (like Alec Miller, who was one of the founders of the Campden Labour Party branch(69)); Paul Woodroffe, a close friend and associate of the Guild; Wentworth Huyshe (hon. sec), also closely associated with the Guild; Reg Hands (hon. treas.), probably sympathetic with the Guild; H.G. Ellis (chairman), another close friend of the Guild; the Vicar, the Catholic priest, and Miss Ramsay – or, as Huyshe remarked in a letter to Ashbee, “a fine democratic committee n’est-ce pas?”(70) It was, in fact, a committee composed largely of persons associated with the Guild or sympathetic to it, and not surprisingly:

Our meetings are business-like and completely harmonious…It will be a real good thing,- worthy of the town and of the sixty dead men. The printing and publication matters are in my hands, and next week I shall placard the town with posters, giving the entire report of the new Committee. We will have no intriguing, no quarrelling, and no insults, and are determined that the entire town, from the Earl to the chimney-sweeper, shall know all we do, and have a hand and a say in everything.(71)

Having said this, the road to completion was not entirely a smooth one. Griggs wrote to his friend Alexander in September 1920:

after I had spent more than two days a ‘gilding of it [the cross] it was so badly rubbed and scratched in fixing that it had to be cut off, and the brutes here never liked it. “Yer know, Mr. Griggs. I’m a low churchman myself I am – to speak plain” our chairman said to me. “Yes, ‘low’ you all are,” I thought.(72)

And he also reported:

Yesterday Dr. Dewhurst told someone that “of course Griggs would see to that [that the memorial was beautiful] to advertise himself”!!!!!!!!!(73)

But through the mobilisation of various customs and public subscriptions the more than £700 necessary was raised(74), there were no more public bickerings or squabbles, and there was nothing like the popular opposition that had built up to the field gun. The opposition that persisted appears to have been individual and based mainly on political, religious – and perhaps, given the affair of the town maces discussed below – “local patriotic” grounds.

The memorial itself and its ultimate mode of realisation were thoroughly within the tradition of the Guild – well organised, socially inclusive and conducted in public; central, civic, and with more than a passing reference to the mediaeval period in its design.

The celebrations based on the memorial – Armistice Day 1920 and Armistice Day 1921 in particular – drew both on the traditions of the town and the vision of the Guild, with Jim Pyment as chairman of the committees. The celebration in 1920 involved a gathering around the memorial and a huge bonfire in the Market Square – the first bonfire in the centre of Campden (as far as I am aware) since Guy Fawkes fires were suppressed in the 1840s (see III.3.2). The schoolchildren paraded the streets led by the jazz band, there were sports in the streets, a pig roast in the Square, and fireworks in Tanner’s field(75). The celebration in 1921 was far more formally organised: the Territorials formed on the West side of the memorial, the British Legion Comrades on the East side, the Catholic School children and Catholic Men’s Choir on the Northwest, and the Church of England schoolchildren on the Northeast. After “Last Post”, the two minutes silence and “Reveille”, the Catholics sang a psalm, the Church of England children sang a hymn, and then all joined together in the National Anthem. There were sports for the children in the afternoon, a pig roast in the Square, bonfire in Westington, and fireworks to close the day(76). The symbols of communal integration, the tendency to organise formal participation by institutional groups, the sense of civic participation, the involvement of children are familiar elements of Guild celebration.

The success of the celebrations organised under Pyment, and the success of the war memorial campaign under the final committee contrast markedly with the failure of the German field gun and the ceremony surrounding it, and the failure of the first two war memorial committees. At one level this speaks of the coherent vision and the success of Guildsmen and their ideas in Campden, a success which had its correlates in positions of local decision and administration(77). At another,  it speaks of the inability of the conventional leadership to gather itself together, identify with and formulate a rhetoric which appealed to the post-war community.


d. The Town Maces Affair

In the town maces affair which developed at the end of 1921 they seem to have done just that, at least for one part of the community, identifying local feeling against “London”, incomers, and the appropriation of Campden heritage by outsiders, and directing this feeling against H.G. Ellis and Paul Woodroffe – as principals, I would argue, in the war memorial affair and as proxies for the extended Guild and general incoming community.

The attack was led by George Ebborn, chairman of the parish council; F.T. Ellison, saddler and parish councillor; and Grammar School headmaster Cox. Oliver New might well have been among them had he not died at the end of 1920 at the age of 54(79). The other principal in the war memorial scandal, Dr. Dewhurst, had either left or was preparing to leave Campden by this time(80).

The two maces were in the care of the Town Trust, an appointed body which had been created by the Charity Commissioners to administer parish property at the winding up of the Borough in 1886 (see II.2). The maces, dating from the time of James I, had been valued at something in excess of £700 – some reports said £1000(80). They were currently kept under a bed. A display case had been made to show them in the town hall, but the town hall was used regularly for classes, cinemas, exhibitions and so on, and under these conditions the Town Trust felt the maces could not be considered safe(81). The Trust was casting about for a way to insure their safety when it was suggested that the Victoria and Albert Museum might be willing to help. After discussion, the Museum said that it would be willing to have them as a long-term loan, and would also provide exact replicas which could be put safely on display in the town.

F.T. Ellison challenged this plan at a parish council meeting in September, 1921(82). At the council meeting in October he put a formal motion stating opposition to the plan, which requested that the council’s five appointees on the ten-member Trust oppose it, and which required a copy of the motion to be sent to the Charity Commissioners who had ultimate Jurisdiction. When another councillor remarked, in opposition, that the Town Trust had unanimously approved the plan, George Ebborn:

said if that decision was unanimous he was not present. At a meeting of the Town Trust one member [he himself] strenuously opposed it, and it was recorded in the minutes of the Town Trust.

After further debate, in which Guildsman Alec Miller spoke against Ellison’s proposal, it was carried by a vote of four to three(83).

George Ebborn, with Ellison and the late Oliver New, had already campaigned successfully against a rumoured plan to run telephone poles through Campden:

and that not for the use of the townspeople but for some other authority…[the telephone was necessary and desirable, Ebborn said] But it was their bounden duty also to see that their beautiful old town was not in any way disfigured.(84)

Whether purposely constructed as such or not, this threat to the beauty of Campden appears to have been a straw dog. The Evesham Journal remarked:

We should not think that any public authority would contemplate such an act of vandalism, but one never knows, and Mr. Ebborn is to be commended on publicly calling attention to the danger before the work is actually put in hand.(85)

The superintendent engineer of the telephone department of the Post Office visited Campden, met with Ellison and Ebborn, and readily agreed to running lines into Campden underground(86).

Whatever the reality of the threat, Ebborn’s campaign was seen to be successful, and several of its elements reemerged in the public debate on the town maces.

A public meeting was called on the same in January 1922 in order to condemn the Trust’s proposed action, and Ellison chaired the meeting. He was supported in absentia by headmaster Cox, who sent his apologies with the statement

that so far he had heard no strong reason why their little town should be deprived of its few emblems of past grandeur.

Ellison himself opened the meeting with the statement:

that although he was an Old Campdonian he had never seen the maces, but he strongly objected to them going away from Campden.

Josephine Griffiths (see III.1 and IV.1) had prepared a history of the maces which she read to the meeting. She concluded:

Now, you see, we get these valuable heirlooms in their right focus; they were evidently given by some generous and distinguished Campden man, and in this town they are in their own atmosphere and setting; surely they are unique gifts to be handed down to future generations, as they have been received by us from those of the past.

F.W. Wixey proposed the resolution opposing the Town Trust’s plan, and George Ebborn, not surprisingly, delivered the supporting speech.

In stating his case Ebborn portrayed the Town Trust as overrun with conspiracy, foolishness and fear, giving a narrative version of their decision to send the maces away in which “The Town Trust were full of danger and he never saw anybody like it in his life…They were green with fright.”

During a meeting of the Town Trust, he said, the idea of the museum had been dropped into the conversation. Someone mentioned that valuable paintings had been stolen from the country and sent abroad; the maces wouldn’t be safe in the town hall. Ebborn had pointed out that in the church, which was much easier to break into, there were valuable tapestries hanging: these were safe.

His contention was that they [the maces] would be perfectly safe, for what use would they be to anybody? He tried to get them out of the idea of sending them away, but he could not move them one inch; it seemed they had set themselves for safety. (“Camouflage.”) He believed they thought he was a sort of crank. He then came to the fateful meeting, the last meeting of the Town Trust. He told them he did not take his stand for cussedness sake and to be awkward, but because he was doing the right thing in looking after the town’s property. Previous to that meeting a gentleman stated that he should be in London on a certain date and he would make enquiries. He reported that matter to the meeting and said that the people in London would be very glad to have them and would make replicas of the maces (“We don’t want them.”) Was it fair that they should have a sham and have their own property sent away?

Then, Ebborn said, the parish council passed its resolution against the Trust’s plan and sent each member of the Trust a copy. The only member of the Town Trust who acknowledged its receipt was the Vicar: “The Vicar said ‘The Parish Council have a right to write to the Trust.'” “At the last meeting of the Town Trust,” Ebborn continued,

a gentleman tackled him [Ebborn] and seemed to work himself up into a frenzy. No doubt he thought it was righteous indignation. The question they were discussing was a resolution from London, but it was the resolution they passed at the Parish Council. In the course of the discussion he used the words “I will not be dictated to by the Parish Council.” (A voice: “Who was that?” Other voices: “Harry [H.G.] Ellis”) He [Ellis] went away from the meeting with the idea that he had smothered him (the Speaker), but he was never more mistaken in his life. He [Ellis] said. “If I had been in the minority, when I had once got outside the door I should have held my tongue.” That was all very well for gentlemen like that, but he (the Speaker) held several political offices and he had his duty to do towards those he represented. Did they think he could connive at such things and not let the public know what was taking place? Would that have been fair? It would have been grossly unfair, and he thought it well that they should take the feeling of the inhabitants. (“They want it all their own way.”) He asked that same gentleman, “How could it have become known in the town?” and he replied, “An instigator.” Those were the words he used. A person could be an instigator for good and an instigator for evil, and it appeared that he was under the last category. Was the Town Trust doing anything they were ashamed of? Why did they want to smother him and make him keep his mouth shut? He thought that was a very serious point.

Ebborn said that when the allegation against him was made he had risen to reply, but the Town Trust’s chairman – Paul Woodroffe – had refused to let him speak. Ebborn was taken aback:

“Why, I am accused; can’t I defend myself?” and he [Woodroffe] replied. “I am not going to hear a speech from you,” and he assumed that austere, magisterial manner.

By the end of that meeting, Ebborn said, the Town Trust had “not gone back one iota.”

He concluded his case to the public meeting with a rhetorical question: why wouldn’t the Town Trust call a general meeting to take the feeling of the parish:

if they could not keep the maces in the town they should at least keep them in the County. (“They are not going away.”) Surely Gloucester should have preference before London.

After this an opportunity was given for other members of the Town Trust to reply. The Rev. Philip Lewis, the former Baptist minister, who had worked with Guildsmen in the foundation and leadership of several progressive organisations over the years (e.g. the Home and Land League), and was a long-standing Town Trust member, attempted to point out that the Trust’s only interest was in the safety of the maces, and was perfectly happy to keep the maces in Campden if that safety could be guaranteed. Under current arrangements, it couldn’t be.

Paul Woodroffe, on the other hand, chose to criticise Ebborn for attacking H.G. Ellis when the latter was not present, and for presenting a travesty of the Trust’s meetings. Furthermore,

They had heard a great deal about the maces being kept in their proper atmosphere. Their proper atmosphere at present was under somebody’s bed. He doubted if six people in that room had ever seen the maces.- (Voices: Old Campdonians have seen them.).

Woodroffe was shouted down twice before he refused to continue.

Scudamore Griffiths proposed that the Trust’s plan be condemned “as ridiculous and an act of vandalism”, but the meeting adopted the original motion “by 55 votes to 3 amid signs of great enthusiasm”(87).

In February the Charity Commissioners reported to the parish council that they were in favour of the Town Trust’s plan, unless or until a safe place could be found in Campden(88), but Ebborn was not satisfied: “As chairman [of the parish council], I feel I am responsible to the inhabitants”. He believed the Town Trust meant “to send them away in defiance of everybody”. The council decided to let the matter rest, however, until they had officially heard from the Town Trust(89). In June it was announced that the maces would be kept in the bank in Campden(90).

The rhetoric used by Ebborn threw up a number of explicit and implied polarities which, as a set, are familiar by the 1970s (compare list below with that in VI), but as explicit statements were new to the political rhetoric of the day in Campden. The dichotomies included:

 Inhabitants   ‘they’
Old Campdonians   ‘newcomers’
Local   London
elected   appointed
public   secret
openness   conspiracy
forthright speech   innuendo
common sense   “safety”
courage   fearfulness
fair/just/popular   autocratic/austere
Table 1
Dichotomies in the Rhetoric of Localism In Post-World War One Campden


On one level the affair of the town maces was a reassertion of political presence after the embarrassments of the field gun and war memorial affairs, and as such it took the form of an attack on the Guild and its friends – or, to put it more broadly, on the section of the community which tended to be liberal, was urban and professionally or artistically oriented, and which was heavily weighted with recent and incoming residents. It based itself on local people and “Campden”, and though the terms of the attack were not entirely new, the level to which they had been raised was without precedent: whereas “not Campden” was an isolated accusation and “old Campden” a statement of sentiment prior to the war(91). “Campden” and “Old Campden” became moral and political positions. In the reconstruction of “Campden” in the inter-war period, in other words, “localism” in Campden took on a political form for the first time.


B. Tourism, Incomers and Urbanisation 

a. Tourism and the Incoming ‘They’

With the war’s end Campden filled with visitors and newcomers(92). Wentworth Huyshe, who lived in Pike Cottage at Westington Corner, wrote to Janet Ashbee late in 1919:

this year the lack of houses has been more excruciating than ever. I have had nine applications for my cottage, and all summer long the visitors were rushing about begging people hats-in-hand to take them in. And yet all round the town there are meadows bordering every road, and within half an hour’s walk an entire hill of fine building material.(93)

Guildsman Charlie Plunkett wrote to C.R. Ashbee in September, 1920: “During the whole of this year we have been very busy. Our rooms have been let nearly the whole time”(94).

In February 1923 Guildsman Will Hart wrote a letter to C.R. Ashbee retailing some of the changes among the residents: “During the war,” he wrote, “Campden sank back undoubtedly to the late nineteenth century, but at present great changes are taking place, and for the better I’m sure”. The Earl of Gainsborough’s Campden Estate, at one time comprising most of the parish, was being sold, and in the sale in 1924 the Estate was broken up – “So you see Campden is changing hands, and it’s all for the good”(95).

Walter Edwards, who had gone to Cadbury’s Chocolate Company in Birmingham at the breakup of the Guild, gave a very different report to Ashbee in September 1923:

When one visits this place and thinks, one is glad that they have left; it’s all right for a weekend but no more to see the labourer turned out of his cottage and it taken for a weekend show, and old farms made into mansions for Birmingham rich and upper class that had to fly from Ireland…(96)

At the end of 1924, and over the New Year into 1925, Ashbee himself visited Campden. “The immediate danger,” he wrote to his wife, Janet,

is the car – mechanised transport in its various forms. It is altering the poise of life, even as it is altering the balance of every landscape. For the car not only takes you and me pleasantly to see the beautiful thing it takes the steel and rubber and the oil along through the old roadside; homesteads and villages may before we know it become mere ghosts, shells untenanted, immaterial as the old wheelwright’s shop by the wayside.(97)

He noted,

There’s a lot of building going on, the break up of the Gainsborough Estate, mainly among the farmers, who are speculating in land and house property here, is going to have far reaching effect on the place. I wish you could see it again before it is too greatly changed.

There’s a rather charming crowd of children here now. All sorts of nice families have come since our time,- are trying it. I wonder how long they’ll hold on. It is most interesting to observe, from outside, the new life shaping within. But the displacement of the poor by the gentry, wherever there is an interesting or beautiful home to be had, goes on apace. I suppose it is good for the ‘amenities’ of Campden yet I do feel regret for the old character of the place seeing so much of that is the outcome of those tough old personalities. One after another they are passing away. These new cheap cottages and houses, some 40 have been built since our time, don’t seem to express the character of the inmates, nor they to leave their marks upon the houses. I wonder what it all means.(98)

Mrs. Martha Dunn, a native of Campden, wrote to the Ashbees in 1928:

The old town goes on receiving more folks – married and single – quite a motley crew. I do not know half I meet on the street.(99)


b. Residentialism

Tourism and residentialism, or the economic activity revolving around new residents and the creation of new residences for them, are closely and to some extent even causally related. Both involve the appreciation of the place “from the outside” (for the significance of this phrase, see discussion of town hall extension below and VI), and view the “town” primarily as architecture and setting and not, in the first instance, as a body of people living and working together. The self-conscious beautification and protection of Campden begun at the end of the last century, and undeterred even by the war(100), had both tourists and new residents in mind.

Though related, however, both were viewed differently by and had quite different impacts on local society. Tourism was a visibly productive industry, bringing trade and employment to the town: it appears to have been taken as an intrusive but manageable fact of life. The new resident, on the other hand, intruded heavily – put pressure on local housing and services, pushed up property prices (in a way that an experienced Evesham estate agent found it difficult to credit(101)), and, as Guildsman Walter Edwards remarked, displaced labourers from desirable town-centre properties: as early as 1928 the old working community of Broad Campden could be referred to as a “residential suburb”(102). In 1920 the Rural District Council committed Itself to building 48 houses in the parish(103): when it asked in 1929 if more were needed, a parish councillor remarked that “Men working in Campden had sometimes to cycle miles before they could reach their work”: more houses were therefore badly needed in Campden and at a rent that working men could afford(104).

Not only were increasing numbers of people moving into Campden, but the incoming residents had new and different expectations of local services, which pushed up the rates(105) and led directly to the loss of local control over services to apparently unresponsive – if not actively perfidious – outside agencies. In 1929, for example, the Ministry of Health pressed an expensive and strongly opposed sewerage scheme onto Campden. As George Ebborn, the chairman of the parish council, told a parish meeting with reference to the breaking up of the Campden Estate following the First World War:

A few years ago…there was a lot of property in Campden up for sale, including Berrington Mill. A short time after it had been bought the owner thought there was some existing nuisance, and that, to his (the speaker’s) mind, was the start of the trouble…[the] Ministry of Health crept in…(106)

This scenario was confirmed at an inquiry into the sewage system which was called by the Ministry of Health despite an official protest from the parish council, after assurances to the town from the District Council that the whole matter had been dropped, and after a unanimous vote had been taken at the annual Parish Meeting opposing a new sewage scheme(107).

It was the mill stream through Berrington Mill which was part of Campden’s sewage system (the same stream into which the German field gun had been dropped). There had been no complaints or problems with it until a new owner bought the mill in 1924. This person had “found a deposit of sewage matter”, and had complained. The District Council responded to the complaint by clearing the brook, “but unfortunately the eye of a higher authority had been turned to the way in which Campden disposed of its sewage,” and there had been constant pressure from above since(108).

Campden farmer Lewis Horne wrote to the local paper that

We old Campdonians have been brought up to bear our own burdens and we feel that this influx of town people want all the conveniences of town life but they want to put the cost on to the other people and are pulling the wires behind our backs. There is no question at all of the real health of the town, behind it all is pushing the burden on to other shoulders. All we want is for each to bear their own responsibilities, even to disposing of their sewage matter.(109)

The Grammar School headmaster also put the responsibility for the situation onto an outside agency when he asked, rhetorically,

if the whole difficulty with regard to the scheme was not occasioned by the necessity for draining the new Council houses which the District Council had erected…(110)

Once the Ministry of Health stepped in, however, there was no real choice; Campden had to have a new sewage system.

In a similar way, the Rural District Council attempted to press Campden into a regional water scheme in 1936. Campden already had her own water supplies, which had been bought and largely paid for by the town itself(111). An overwhelming majority of Campden’s ratepayers opposed the proposed new scheme at a parish meeting(112), and Lewis Horne again wrote to the Evesham Journal:

Now in dealing with Brig. General McCalmont [chairman of the Rural District Council]’s explanation as regards Campden and the shortage of water which occurred during three years of drought (unprecedented in my experience) and which he backs up with the minutes of the old Rural District Council, he does not say that the shortage was mainly owing to a large leak in the main, which, when repaired, put a different aspect on the whole thing. Neither does he speak of the use of water for car washing, watering of gardens, even to supplying water to lily ponds all done by the very people who kept shouting, and still keep shouting, about shortage. The Ministry of Health is only responsible for the supply of water for domestic purposes, and we have ample for this demand.

…At the present moment, Campden is in a very strong position if she can retain her water rights, but if once we are driven by superior forces to be brought into this comprehensive scheme what is to stop the Rural District Council from taking Maiden Well [Campden’s principal water source]…and carry that supply to Paxford and Ebrington?…Then our main supply would be cut off and Campden would be forced to use from the trunk main permanently and pay for it at double the cost.(113)

As with the sewage scheme, the Comprehensive Water Scheme was, in the end, pushed through. Lewis Horne wrote again:

…we have come to the stage where the public want an unlimited supply of water at little or no trouble to themselves and for all purposes. They do not realise the value of pure water and take not the slightest care in its use. Neither do they think of the unfair burden they are helping to impose on those with a limited income, and in this respect the authorities are equally selfish in the use of water for other than domestic purposes, such as car-washing and such like.(114)

In both cases similar themes appear: relatively wealthy newcomers, with no understanding of the local way of doing things and with a desire to keep their city comforts, make inappropriate demands, pull strings and make complaints which bring the eye of an external bureaucracy to bear on what ought to be a matter of local or individual responsibility. Accommodation to the will of an outside agency is enforced, and Campden loses another layer of local autonomy. Responsibility for and control over their own environment is taken farther and farther away from the people of Campden.

The Guild of Handicraft had prepared the way, making demands for better services as part of its programme of social progress, and bringing in outside agencies to support its demands: the affair of the Technical School is a case in point (III.2). The scale was different, however, as was the degree of power exercised by the new wave of immigrants. For the specific and personal pressure of the Guild had been substituted a generalised demand from the increasingly anonymous body of newcomers, backed by higher levels of government, that Campden conform to certain external patterns of life.


c. The Politics of Use vs. Beauty

Foreshadowed by the rise of localism in the wake of World War One, the politics of Campden came increasingly to be perceived as something between incomers and outsiders, from which local people were effectively excluded.

The Campden Society, discussed at greater length in IV.l, was formed in 1924

for the purpose of protecting the natural and architectural beauties and the ancient traditions of Campden.(115)

The Campden Society, however, was mainly organised and run by Guildsmen, their friends and associates, and joined mainly by outsiders or newer residents. Fewer than half the subscribers in 1927 actually lived in Campden. Over the course of its life, from 1924-1929, an average of 30% of its members lived outside of Campden – and few of the members who lived in Campden were also Campden people born and bred(116).

The Campden Trust, ltd., which replaced the Campden Society (also discussed in IV.1), but had the specific charter to buy and spend to protect Campden properties, had even less to do with Campden natives. Fred Griggs, the Campden Trust’s founder, was its chairman; Ben Chandler, a wealthy American who had worked in the Guild shops as a hobby, was its vice chairman. Among its directors were Walter Barrow, W.A. Cadbury, Prof. E.T. Campagnac, Norman Jewson (contractor for the war memorial), and S. Gordon Russell, none of whom were Campden natives, and only three of whom actually lived in Campden(117). They were, essentially, an organised group of outsiders and incomers who used their money and Influence to preserve the amenities of the locality as they perceived them.

As ‘incomers’ took an increasingly active role in the affairs of Campden, a sense of powerlessness emerged among natives which was not based explicitly on class, but on being “Campden”. A hint of this appears in a 1932 letter which farmer Lewis Horne wrote to the Evesham Journal opposing a scheme for public conveniences, supporting an earlier letter from Christopher Whitfield:

We are indebted to Mr. C. Whitfield for the sensible reasons of his opposition, because, apparently, more notice is taken of new blood than of older inhabitants.(118)

It is seen more clearly in the dispute over a proposed new Public Hall in 1934 and its conclusion.

The plan for a new public hall was put forward by (non-native) architect Guy Pemberton who, with the support of the Gainsborough Estate, intended to convert a barn for the purpose in Church Street, adjoining the ruins of old Campden House near to the Almshouses. The new hall would hold 305 persons as compared to the 180 person capacity of the existing town hall, exclusive of the stage; and with central heating and electricity would cost £1,200(119). At a public meeting called to discuss the proposal, 100 persons voted for it, and 20 voted against(120); by the standards of the 19th century-style Public Meeting this ought to have amounted to the decision being taken. A flurry of correspondence ensued in the Evesham Journal, however, in an attack led by F.L. Griggs. Griggs agreed that a better town hall was needed, but did not feel Campden could support two:

Various efforts to fit it [the existing town hall] first for one thing and then another, according to the needs or whims of different times – a reading room, a billiard salon, a Jubilee Memorial (not to mention other partially-realised suggestions) – have done little more than to disfigure it progressively; it narrowly missed conversion to meet the needs of a nightly cinema; its “crazy clock and bewildered chime” are fit emblems. Of late years the letting of it for dances of a gay and inexpensive character, with consequent noise inside and out, especially at the late hours of departure, have brought the sedate old building into such disrepute that, as I’ve heard It expressed by a not-too-fastidious critic, it has become “a nuisance to the whole b—-y community.”(121)

He opposed the proposed hall on the basis that it would ruin the quiet and solace of that corner of town by the Almshouses and Church, and concluded that he had obtained the promise of Sir Edward Lutyens to come to Campden to prepare plans and elevations for the Town Hall, if asked to do so, at no cost to the town.

Christopher Whitfield also wrote opposing the plan, as did Griggs’ friend Russell Alexander from London, A. Roberts from London, locally resident incomers H.P.R. Finberg, Gordon Russell, and Ben Chandler, a “Campdonian”, and others(122).

Ormonde Plested. a Campden native (the well-known fool of the Campden Morris Dancers, foreman of the fire brigade) wrote to support the new plan:

Being one of the proletariat, I cannot hope to emulate the penmanship of the two correspondents [Whitfield and Griggs] in your issue of last week

but nevertheless he appealed

to my fellow “Campdonians” – not to countenance the suggested alterations to our present Town Hall.

Mr. Griggs mentions in his letter that it has been altered in patches to meet the whims of different times. Apparently we still suffer from whims. It is the whim of our more artistic residents to demolish the Victoria Porch and patch to their own taste.

Regarding the proposal to convert the old barn near the Almshouses into a Public Hall…Why not? At present the barn is – like the Town Hall – not particularly beautiful, but can be compatible with its surroundings.

The possible nuisance to the aged and infirm – on which both Mr. Griggs and Mr. Whitfield lay so much stress – might surely have the same remedy applied as the one suggested by Mr. Griggs for the “whole b—-y community.”

Have these gentlemen ever spent a whole summer’s Sunday afternoon or Bank Holiday in the neighbourhood of the peaceful Almshouses? Chars-a-banc and cars pull up and unload scores of visitors in the course of a day, go to the Church and ruins and gossip along the causeway – and often actually peer in at the windows of the Almshouses.

This, of course, will continue. Campden’s quiet days are nearly over.

There is always something to deplore.(123)

Guy Pemberton wrote thanking Plested for his common sense:

It is significant that the other writers are all those who, I believe, never take the Town Hall themselves, or who rarely, if ever, support anything got up in it. Their object has been to appeal to the outside public, who do not understand local conditions, on sentimental grounds such as “destroying a quiet beauty spot,” and “disturbing the last rest of the old men and women in the Almshouses.” The latter, by the way. vigorously voted for the new scheme at the public meeting.

He asked where the money for renovating the Town Hall would come from:

We are told there would be “outside help”. Why should there be? Why should Campden have a white elephant parked on it with outside money and then be told to feed it. These animals are very costly to buy and also support, as no doubt more than one of the sponsors have discovered before now.

This would clearly be a reference to Griggs, who had borne the burden of the purchase of Dover’s Hill in 1928, and then came close to ruin building his monument to traditional craftsmanship, Dover’s House (see IV.1).

Pemberton pressed on:

In the letters there is fear expressed that a cinema might come to the new Hall. Why not? No one can put the clock back. The cinema has come to stay…

Further, Saturday used to be the best shopping day in Campden. Now more than half the shoppers take their money to Evesham because they can go to the pictures. Why not keep that custom at home?

He noted that letters coming in had ranged from Balham in the south to Oldham in the north, and reflected that

The poor old Town Hall has to go far afield for its champions for enlargement.

Of Whitfield, who had originally come from Edgbaston in Birmingham, and who still commuted to work in Birmingham, he remarked

no doubt he is used to this sort of thing in the suburbs of Birmingham…(124)

A special town meeting was necessarily called, the conclusion of which was the formation of a committee to look into the question, with special reference to the examination of the state of the existing town hall. The Town Trust, with responsibility for the building, had already engaged Sir Philip Stott (owner of the nearby village of Stanton; the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society’s representative on the Town Trust) to draw up plans for the Town Hall. The meeting was addressed by the local secretary of the Gloucestershire Society of Antiquaries who told them:

Here in Campden our duties are plain. We are custodians of a very beautiful town and it’s up to everyone to see to it that first of all the town is not harmed… I should like you to remember that it is not only the people that come into this building who have to be considered; it is perhaps more the people who stand outside and look at it“.[my emphasis](125)

The basic committee included Matthew Cox, headmaster of the Grammar School: Sir Philip Stott; F.L. Griggs; Guy Pemberton; George Hart; and a Mr. Goulding, none of whom were Campden natives. Indeed. Goulding remarked, ironically. “I came to Campden for peace and quietness”(126). There were to be nominations from the Women’s Institute, British Legion, Town Trust, Rural District Council, and the Parish Council. Mr. Haines, Jr., asked

Would it not be possible to have some real Campden people on the committee – Campden born and bred?

Mr. Stokes answered:

This is not the time and place for these distinctions. I think with any proposal of this kind Campden is in need of the help of every one of her sons and daughters whether they were born here or adopted.(127)

The fact that the question could be asked, and the fact that the question could be so answered, demonstrates how far the affairs of Campden had been taken out of “Campden” hands.

In the end, the proposal for the new public hall was set aside; the town hall was eventually renovated instead, and Campden still has no regular cinema.


d. Tourism

Although tourism shared with residentialism the appreciation of Campden as an object of beauty, it was also, in the interwar years, concerned with her “culture”. The publicity material available indicates that it was very much what has been called “cultural tourism”, which “includes the ‘picturesque’ or ‘local color’, a vestige of a vanishing life style that lies within human memory…”(128). Thus tourists were interested in peeping behind the Almshouse windows, as Ormonde Plested remarked; and the first wireless broadcast from Campden (discussed in IV.3: the first “Microphone at Large” broadcast) was specifically designed to cater to the tourist’s interest in Campden’s old time customs and characters.

Because “cultural tourism” is about the quaint and old-fashioned, it was a tourism in which local people had the opportunity to take on supportive roles. For example, in Companion into Gloucestershire, published in 1939, R.P. Beckinsale (onetime master at Campden Grammar School), describing the ruins of old Campden House, tells the reader:

The remains are open to the public; the key is obtainable at the Alms-houses, and a bearded, white-haired cobbler will totter across the road and open the big double doors…Perhaps old George will, if you are patient and do not start ‘telling’ him that so and so is surpassed in such and such a place, draw your attention to the huge barn and to the big washing tank through which, they say, cattle and carts entering the town were driven so that the streets might not be fouled…

In his opinion,

Chipping Campden has retained its saneness in spite of the visitors which throng there, nor does it thrust at you cigarettes and cheap teas.(129)

Instead, he says,

The Morris Dancers are still performed in the street and the old charities remain(130)…On rare occasions such as the loss of a dog or shortage of water, the town crier will turn out with his bell to give notice to the inhabitants…There is a row of houses off Sheep Street which they knew as Workhouse Bank, and for years this has been altered officially to Gainsborough Terrace: a huge name-plate denotes the change, but the inhabitants read it ‘Wurkhus Bank’ and so it will always be.

These homely Campden folk used to amuse themselves before the coming of wireless and, with a rare sense of fun and mischief, they have stored up jokes against their grandfathers and even nearer neighbours. Many of these local yarns have found their way into print, and the ‘regulars’ at the IV.2 p.328 public-houses have a fund of others which, at the price of a pint of bitter, they will embellish and interweave until the listener is duly impressed. (131)

When Polly Waine. who had been made famous in guidebooks and pre- and post-broadcast publicity for the 1934 “Microphone at Large” programme, died in 1937, her obituary remarked:

her active, erect and somewhat striking figure will be greatly missed by the hundreds of visitors to Campden in the summer months, to whom she was well-known.(132)

The obituary of Thomas Bennett in 1939 similarly said

His familiar figure will be greatly missed not only by the local inhabitants but by many visitors to the town, many of whom would pull up to chat with him.(133)

This sense of ordinary Campden people taking part and playing roles to promote Campden and entertain visitors appears in a 1935 letter by Guildsman Will Hart protesting the Rural District Council’s plan to fill in the New Pool (“the big washing tank” of Beckinsale’s description; the cart-wash into which the German field gun was dumped) to make a car park:

The glory of Campden is continually being broadcast to the world, and what’s more, some of our local worthies lend a hand by even reviving old traditional practices to give added interest to these broadcasts. Then for the love of Campden also do something to assist in staying the hand of vandalism in the old town.(134)

The revival or ‘revitalisation’ of old customs and the presentation of images of ‘old England’ and rural life to tourists will have been encouraged by the clear relation between publicity and tourism and between tourism and prosperity, especially with the rapid expansion of publicity from about 1930 and the discovery of Campden by the BBC.

The first of the locally written history/guides for tourists, Chipping Campden Today and Yesterday by Josephine Griffiths appeared in 1931, indicating the extent to which the tourist trade was already established, and perhaps indicating one level of local reaction to it(135). H.J. Massingham’s nationally-distributed Wold Without End, featuring tales of Campden and its characters, appeared in the following year.

In March 1933 it was reported that Campden had forty unemployed men(136), and visitors and prosperity were explicitly paired that Christmas by the Evesham Journal: 

There were a greater number of visitors than ever to the old town. Business in the shops has been above the average, and it is very gratifying to note the marked decrease in unemployment compared with the last and several previous years.(137)

The BBC featured the Cotswolds in a January, 1934, broadcast entitled “Old England Looks Ahead”(138). In October, 1934, Chipping Campden customs and characters (among them the Campden Mummers) featured in the first “Microphone at Large” broadcast, preceded and followed by relatively extensive publicity in the national press (see IV.3 and Appendix E). That Christmas the Evesham Journal reported:

all the tradesmen did good business prior to the festive day. The Campden Mummers and the Town Band gave their usual performances about the town much to the enjoyment of the residents and the many visitors, all the hotels being full. One very gratifying feature so far as Campden is concerned is that everyone is in work. There is not a single case of unemployment in the parish. Obviously this means a lot to those who have to depend on the wage earner.(139)

In February 1935 the BBC broadcast a ‘debate’ between several residents of Campden and Broadway on the relative merits of their respective communities (for list of broadcasts involving or concerning Campden see Appendix D). At the same time. British Gaumont Films released the first cinema travelogue on Campden(140). That April, the Evesham Journal reported:

Campden enjoyed an exceptionally busy Easter entertaining a record number of visitors. It is generally agreed that the town experienced one of the best Easters within living memory.(141)

Broad Campden people and customs, including the Campden Morris Dancers, were featured in a BBC broadcast on the harvest home in October 1935(142).

In the 31 days of August, 1936, 2,940 persons – “chiefly visitors to Campden” – paid for admission into a Cotswold Arts and Crafts Exhibition(143). At Christmas, 1936, apart from family and friends,

there was a large number of other visitors, consequently all the hotels and guest houses were full. Trade was exceptionally brisk with all shopkeepers and all are well pleased with the business done.(144)

The link between tourism and business was so obvious that even F.L. Griggs and Christopher Whitfield attempted to harness the connection to prevent the District Council filling in the New Pool in 1935. F.L. Griggs wrote to the Evesham Journal:

the character of Campden as we have known it is something of priceless value to be most jealously guarded, and which even in business eyes is something of an asset…(145)

And Christopher Whitfield pointed out that:

that loss [of beauty] will affect not only those who love the place for its beauty. It will affect all those who make their living out of that same beauty, for there will be one thing less, a small thing it is true, worth coming to Campden to see for and to live in it for, and that will affect the traders and hotel keepers of the town. Surely they will protest against this and all steps like it, if they are not blind to the future of their livelihood.(146)

It can even be argued (IV.3) that Griggs helped to organise the 1934 “Microphone at Large” broadcast precisely to publicise “old Campden” in a radical effort to save it from what seemed to him then as almost certain destruction (see IV.1).


e. Urbanisation: The Wireless

The day of the 1937 Coronation celebrations began conventionally enough with peals on the parish church bells, and a public gathering in the Market Square for a religious service accompanied by the Town Band. During the day there was a procession of decorated carts, clubs, Britannia, civic dignitaries in the old town regalia. Morris dancers, people in fancy dress, and sports. The religious service in the Square, however, had come over loudspeakers by wireless relay from London, and following the sports, the crowd reassembled in the Market Square to hear the King’s broadcast. A torchlight procession headed by the town band then marched traditionally up Westington Hill, set off rockets and lit a Coronation beacon(147).

The dimension of culture change which can broadly be categorised as urbanisation, and which reflects an orientation IV.2 p.332 of rural concerns and expressions towards those of the city (in the sense, even, of providing local material for urban stereotypes of country folk) can be charted conveniently through the expansion of technology and communication channels – the making and paving of roads, for example, the coming of the telephone and electricity, and – given their impact on the mumming both before and after the Second World War – the broadcast media and the automobile(148). The wireless and the car were very different forms of technology which were differentially available and reflected different ways of ‘urbanisation’.

As early as 1924, as part of a Broad Campden Wake, dancing to the Campden Orchestra was followed from 11 p.m. by the London Savoy Band via wireless:

Thus by modern invention and a kindly feeling towards one’s neighbours, those who live in the remote corners of the countryside are enabled to hear music direct from the most advanced city.(149)

Later in the year a Campden and District Radio Club was formed(150), and in December, 1925, the wireless relayed from London was used for the first time in a public dance in Campden itself(151).

When C.R. Ashbee visited at Christmas, 1924, he wrote to his wife:

We all went and ‘listened in’ yesterday at [Guildsman] Charley Downer’s and heard people in London telling children’s stories, reading ‘Treasure Island’ and playing Chopin. That’s what people now come to Campden for.(152)

By which he presumably meant that people could now live in Campden without abandoning the cultural amenities of the city.

A peculiar feature of the interwar radio, one which has not been sufficiently studied, is the extent to which non-professional local people became involved with it. For reasons which are not yet clear Chipping Campden people played a particularly active role in the BBC’s Midland Regional Service – from the 1934 “Microphone at Large” broadcast, which displayed Campden characters and customs as themselves; through dialect comedies in which Campden men acted, and John Masefield’s “Tragedy of Nan”; through feature documentaries prepared locally using local people; to brief appearances to share anecdote and personal experience narratives (see Appendix D). The role of the wireless in the urbanisation of Campden is not a straightforward case of people in Campden being fed with culture from the city, therefore; Campden people took an active role in presenting images of Cotswold life to the city via the wireless, as they did for tourists within the town itself. The interwar period appears to have been a time when Campden people appear to have delighted in and generally profited from playing the role of the Cotswold countryman.


f. Urbanisation: The Automobile

Though F.L. Griggs first came to Campden on a Rex motorcycle in 1903(153), and touring automobiles were fairly common in Campden before and during the First World War(154), he hadn’t ridden through the Cotswolds in an automobile until taken on a tour of the Coln Valley by his friend Ben Chandler in 1923. Afterwards he wrote to Russell Alexander:

The result is that I never want to get into a car again. It seems like jeering at those dear places. The distances once were mysterious, and had their importance; we lose more than we gain in annihilating them it seems to me…

I don’t feel as if I had seen those places. I don’t mean explored them, but seen them with my own eyes. It’s more like having looked at a lot of picture-postcards of them. And what a waste of material! What it would have been like to have walked down that Coln Valley from Foss Bridge to Fairford, with you,- taking a day to do it!!

Chandler is good fun, and very kind, and very intelligent and of course he’s a friend, but it leaves a void that cottages and little houses and barns and farmyards and all the evidences of the old life and work, in short, are nothing to him…A countryman he never even notices, unless he’s in the way. Perhaps I’m tired, and full of the old grief at what is gone, and the ghostliness of what is left…but you’ll understand and sympathise too. I had never before seen that wonderful Coln Valley; and first impressions are an importance: and it’s hard to forget them.(155)

There are echoes in this of H.J. Massingham’s description of the rooting out by “weekenders” of village natives, which is

due not to hardness of heart but to a curious blindness to the fact of their [the villagers’] existence.(156)

Inexpensive wireless sets could be built even by teenagers(157); by 1938 (at the very latest) mummer Eddie Tomes and Morris dancer Ormonde Plested both had radios(158). It was not the local labourers who had automobiles, however; it was the relatively wealthy newcomers, and those identified by the Ashbee’s Campden friend Mrs. Dunn as “apeing folks”(159). She wrote to the Ashbees in August 1928:

Campden is full of many old Campdonians though who they think they are it is difficult to say they are possessed with motor cars and side [sic] I laugh at it…(160)

The wireless as used in public dances and the Coronation celebration of 1937 was a socially inclusive invention; the automobile, as described by Griggs and others, was alienating. The wireless brought people together into voluntary contact with the outside world. The automobile imposed a contact characterised by an aggressive and “curious blindness” to local people’s existence; and by enabling sizeable residential communities to develop whose worklife and social focus lay outside Campden, made possible the increasingly natural exclusion of Campden people from public life.

The distinction between the wireless and the automobile indicates two levels of urbanisation, two types of inclusion in an urban-centred culture.


C. Conclusion 

The impact of changing technology, and the orientation towards the Nation as the horizon of the neighbourhood – through the wireless, through visitors and new residents, through changing governmental boundaries and legislation – went together. It was only between the wars that the idea that Campden’s beauty and antiquity belonged not to herself but to the nation was translated into organisations – first the Campden Society, and then the Campden Trust. It was between the wars that national legislation was first suggested to preserve the Cotswolds as a national park(161), an idea taken up again after the Second World War and then progressively realised (see V.2). It was between the wars that Campden natives were submerged in the concept of the externally defined public good, and therefore came to ask – against a curious blindness to their existence – if it wouldn’t be possible to have Campden natives on Campden committees.

This was part of a transformation of the concept of ‘public’ away from the meaning “common and available to those who live in and use it”, to something closer to “held in reserve for the people at large as administered by a defined public authority or body” (a development seen more clearly following the Second World War in the ‘dogs vs. children’ debate). The police attempted to suppress the use of Leaseborne for Scuttlebrook Wake in 1927 and again in 1934(162), for example; and increasingly the farmers’ fields around Campden began to be closed to children’s play(163). In 1928 the Recreation Ground was opened on the outskirts of Campden – an attempt to set aside a reserved space for playing and celebration, a move which was not entirely welcomed, and by many not expected to work(164).

The tendency to live in a common space – and this again is more clearly developed following the Second World War – gave way to living in defined areas of public and private space. Streets increasingly ceased to be playgrounds, and the persons one met in the street increasingly ceased to be neighbours – to be persons one knew and with whom one exchanged recognition (even recognition of informed hostility). The organisation of entertainments and public events became increasingly formalised. Looser, less formal, “hap-hazard” (see III.3.4) organisational structures (though not the Mummers) tended to disappear into more formal structures on a path already beaten by the Town Band.

The working out of these socio-cultural changes in Campden’s architecture and landscape was the ‘creeping urbanisation’ which the Campden Society and the Campden Trust were formed to oppose; the Society and the Trust, paradoxically, being typically urban solutions to an urban-centred problem.

In the process of urbanisation Campden tended to become literally a sub-urb, a space reserved for the use and benefit of the urban dweller. Campden’s role was to be a repository of old world repose and beauty, antiquities and customs; her identity and economic survival lay in the protection and projection of her past, to the point where people re-created old traditions to display.

This process began as early as the late 19th century but accelerated following the First World War, and, as we will see in V.2, the interwar developments seem primitive by the standard of developments since the Second World War. In the 1930s it was a process that Campdonians could still participate in and exploit, and those who lived without automobiles still lived within an integrated community.

As older boundaries between social groups were superseded or displaced, “Campden” could be seen in a positive light to be developing toward a new sense of community. As Guildsman Will Hart wrote to the Ashbees in 1940:

The parish is growing… and full of new life and I think this has brought new and improved social spirit into the town. The old prejudices it took us years to break down no longer obtain, and this makes life here much more tolerable.(165)

Similarly, Mrs. Cutts, looking back to the post-Great War period from the distance of 1965, remarked:

The WI is the best thing that ever happened to the countryside…When I first came to this area you could walk around the village and no one would ever speak to you, and that is not the case today.(166)

These, of course, are remarks by ‘incomers’, although by 1940 Hart had lived in Campden almost forty years, and Mrs. Cutts nearly twenty. There is evidence in the mumming that not everyone in Campden shared their opinions.


IV.3: Discussion 

A. Why the Revival? 

a. Introduction

Why, after a lapse of at least twenty years, was mumming in Campden revived after World War I? Why, of all of those who knew about mumming and could theoretically have gotten a side together, was it these particular men who did so? What influenced them, why did they bring the mumming out in the way that they did – a drinking, perambulating, money-collecting, big-house and pub-oriented custom. And why, in the mid-1930s. did the custom suddenly shoot from obscurity into fame and virtual civic standing, becoming identified with the celebration of Christmas in Campden?

There is not a great deal of comparative material to draw from: in Marshfield, at the other end of the Cotswolds, the catalyst in the mummers’ revival in 1932 was Violet Alford, a prominent member of the Folklore Society(1). In the revival of the Antrobus. Cheshire, mumming in about 1932 Major A.W. Boyd apparently played an important role(2). In Campden the revival in the early years after the First World War would appear to have been entirely autonomous, constructed within the British Legion by men, two of whom at least, had been in the mummers before the end of the century.

That it was a question of revival has been argued already in Section III; but had a mumming existed unattested by any source of information currently available, it almost certainly would have been curtailed at the beginning of World War One, when men’s sports and perambulating customs generally were suspended(3).

That the mumming was revived in the British Legion is a matter of strong tradition, and this places the revival at the earliest to 1921(4). That it was active by 1924, the year that Christopher Whitfield came to Campden, is implied in his remark to E.C. Cawte in 1962 that he had known the mumming ever since being in Campden. Very soon after it was certainly active(5).

The two men most strongly associated with the revival after World War One are Tom Benfield and George Greenall, who have been discussed in II.3. Tom Benfield does not appear to have served in the war, although he may have been a member of one of the home defense organisations or of the Volunteers in the pre-war period(6). George Greenall spent a number of years in the regular Army with the Liverpool Regiment, re-joining at the start of World War One as one of the Old Contemptibles.,being assigned to the Gloucester Regiment, and being invalided out in 1917 (see II.3). Between the two World Wars the British Legion was his pub(7).

George Greenall certainly, and very probably Tom Benfield, found the post-war period financially difficult. His son recalled that once he recovered from his wounds, Greenall did any job he could find, “he started up window cleaning and – anything”(8).

By implication of the revival in the Legion, the other men who took part in the first years of the revival (the names of few of whom are certain) were also “old soldiers”, as Mrs. Buckland has called them(9). Bill Benfield served in the Boer War and, though fifty years old at the outbreak of the First World War, went back on active service(10). Charlie Chamberlain served in France with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and was wounded twice(11). Several of the Franklins served, and Norman Bennett, who was with the Gloucestershire Regiment in France, was wounded twice(12).

A number of these men, too, appear to have found the post-war period difficult. Norman Bennett, for example, received parochial charity for the first time in 1923, and eventually had to leave Campden to try to find work(13). Charlie Chamberlain also had to leave Campden to look for work in 1924, “and walked many miles until he had to go into hospital…”(14).

This difficulty itself is understandable. The majority of men who appear to have been mummers in the post-war period were labourers or gardeners, the main exception being Ben Benfield, who drove the station bus(15). Jobs were few, housing was scarce, and relief involved a weekly trek to Moreton-in-Marsh and a long wait there(16). Winter was an idle time in any event, especially for building and agricultural labourers. The economic motive will have been a significant one in the revival of the mumming, and may have determined the body of men from which the mummers were drawn.

It would be difficult to argue that this was the only motive or even a sufficient explanation for the revival, and the revival (as far as we know) of only the one team. In any event, according to Ernest Buckland’s 1946 reminiscence Tom Benfield was talking about reviving the mumming well before the war started(17). Given an economic motive among others, then, what was the actual catalyst for revival?

I would argue that the war itself and the immediate post-war reconstruction of “Campden” as discussed in the last chapter created the conditions for the revival of the mumming, and I would go further to argue that the mumming functioned both as a revival of “old Campden”, and as a statement of protest in the spirit of the town maces affair against the appropriation of Campden by outsiders. As is argued later, it is precisely its identification with “old Campden” and the element of protest that was associated with it that catapulted the mummers into prominence later in the inter-war period, and which is still one of its characteristics.


b. Nineteenth Century Model

In his book Cotswold Lad, about his childhood in nearby Broadway at the end of the century and before the First World War, Sid Knight describes a Quack Doctor calling himself Sequah who came selling patent medicines on the green, pulled teeth, and sold pills:

‘Now’, wheezed Sequah, whose throat was by now so hoarse that only a blowlamp, it seemed, would cut away the phlegm that corroded it, ‘I will demonstrate to you the astounding, the miraculous, the unbelievable healing properties of the mixture in this bottle.’ He placed it to his capacious mouth, gave one swallow, then, clearing his throat with a mighty hawk and a spit, he boomed forth in a clear, bell-like voice that could have been heard a mile away, all the hoarseness dispelled by the magic draught: ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I’M NOT ASKING FOR A POUND FOR A BOTTLE OF THIS COUGH MEDICINE, NOR YET A HALF-CROWN, ALL I ASK IS ONE SILVER SIX-PENCE,’ and his black-skinned assistant proceeded to hand out the bottles of life-saver as fast as he could take the money.

Another important part of Sequah’s stock-in-trade and a popular one was tooth-drawing. We had no dentist in the village, and there were generally a few sufferers who were anxious and willing to submit to Sequah’s tender methods in preference to toothache. Up they trooped sheepishly, one after another, as Sequah, wielding what appeared to be a huge pair of rusty pliers, yanked out the rotten molars, while his black stooge, grinning widely, banged away on a big drum to drown the cries of the victims. And did we hear of any cases of blood-poisoning or septic gums afterwards – not on your life.

Sequah’s final gift to diseased mankind in general was contained in a small pillbox. ‘Here’ he cried, holding up a black bottle, ‘is my pharmaceutical, curative, pectorial balsam, made in pill form for easy swallowing, guaranteed to cure coughs, colds, sore throats, chillblains, warts, bunions, milk sickness, glanders, flat feet, and all female disorders common to women. The last woman who swallowed a box by mistake had twins.'(18)

In 1893, a man named Marks was convicted in Campden for being drunk. According to the police constable, Marks was

in the street by the square – he was drunk and interfering with a quack doctor who was drawing teeth and selling patent medicine in the Square. I heard the doctor caution deft, that if he would not be quiet he should have protection – I spoke to Deft who went away – about 10.30 – saw Deft again in Sheep Street – he was drunk and making use of very bad language.(19)

Earlier, in 1881, a Campden Grammar School boy described the Whitsun Fair:

But not thus quietly, for I was immediately after face to face with a specimen of humanity, who with his greasy black clothes rubbed and rubbed till they shone like a beetle’s back, came shouting at me in his shrillest, squeakiest tones.-

‘Three goes a penny O (pompously)
At Old Aunt Sally O
Won’t you have a try? (coaxingly)
Three shies a penny (patronisingly)
At Old Aunt Sally (in a knockemdown
You’d better have a shy.’ manner)

I tried to explain that I had no relation of that name, and even if I had I should have been far too gallant to have followed his advice. I tried to explain this to him as civilly as possible, but for some reason or other, he didn’t seem very well pleased and began to use expressions, of which ‘None of your chaff now,’ was the mildest, and ascending from that in the scale of B flat to things far more terrible. Under cover of the old Market Place, I escaped as quickly as possible, leaving him still anathematising me in no gentle terms, but I seemed somehow to have dropped into the poet’s corner, for on one side was a got-up looking doctor, holding up his box of quack pills, and calling all bystanders to buy with:-

‘Here’s a box of A.1. pills.
As’ll cure all human ills.
If it don’t it always kills,
So give me your shilling
and here are your pills.’

I felt greatly tempted to invest a shilling.,or try if I could get the secret of his recipe from him for a consideration, when pulling out a packet of worm powders, he began again:-

‘Ladies and gentlemen, come an’ buy,
My kill-em-all-quick pain powder.
Only just try, you needn’t be shy.
Oh! Oh! need I shout any louder!
(I should say not, decidedly)
This very same packet
(don’t make such a racket)
If you only just took it, they’d every one hook it,
So pay up your shilling and buy.'(20)

By the 1920s and 1930s such street performers, with their obvious echoes in the mumming, were gone from Campden, and itinerant performers in general were rare(21). Over a period of about 25 years, from the mid 1890s, legislation, regulation, and education had radically altered the local performative field, defining public space and appropriate behaviour into a norm that is recognisably modern, but which the revived mumming – with its heavy drinking, “begging”, noisy performance and intrusion into private homes and parties – functionally contradicted.

The men who took out the mumming in the immediate post-war years were mainly of the generation before this change, and were mainly of the class at whom many of the regulations aimed. In effect, I would argue that the mummers reached past a quarter century of imposed social redefinition to assert the performative field in which they had grown up.

The changes in the performative field in Campden with specific relevance to the mumming can be charted clearly in the areas of drunkenness, charity, and the intrusion into public space which can be broadly defined, in a performative sense, as “noise”, as represented most simply by abusive or threatening language and behaviour.


c. Drunkenness

Tom Benfield, it will be remembered, was involved in 1890 in a case of drunkenness in which Charles Brotheridge was “out with some music he played” (see II.3). In 1895 the Gloucestershire County Council enacted a wide-ranging set of Bye-laws specifically criminalising behaviour which intruded onto the public privacy of others, from the singing of profane songs, to the use of abusive language or behaviour, to playing dangerous or annoying games, to singing or shouting or playing music loudly enough as to be a nuisance to others (see Appendix F). That some of these proscribed behaviours were closely linked with drinking as a performative mode can be seen in various cases brought before the Campden magistrates, and in the statistics in Table 2 involving drunkenness and Bye-law 5 (it became Bye-law 6 in the new set of Bye-laws and Regulations promulgated in 1899), “Abusive, &c. Language or Behaviour”.


date a b c
1885 10 1 11
1886 4 0 4
1887 11 0 4
1888 10 0 10
1889 10 0 10
1890 15 0 15
1891 14 0 14
1892 19 0 19
1893 31 0 31
1894 11 1 12
1895 14 0 14
1896 6 6 12
1897 5 4 9
1898 11 6 17
1899 5 7 12
1900* 2 7 9
1901* 8 2 10
1902* 5 6 11
1903* 2 2 4
1904* 3 2 5
1905* 2 2 4
1906* 4 1 5
1907* 1 1 2
1908* 1 0 1
1909* 2 1 3
1915 0 0 0
1916 2 0 2
1917 0 0 0
1918 0 0 0
1919 0 2 2
1920 0 0 0
1921 1 0 1
1922 0 1 1

Date: Year in which offence occurred.

Column a: Charge related to drunkenness (e.g.: drunk, drunk and riotous, drunk and disorderly, drunk in charge of a horse or cart).

Column b: Charge for threatening or abusive language or behaviour, without an accompanying charge for drunkenness, or as a separate charge.

Column c: The figures in columns a and b combined.

* These figures are unfortunately not entirely safe, due to the sketchiness of the minutes, which do not always give the place the offence occurred, nor even the offence. One entry which could well pertain to drunkenness, for example, reads in its entirety: “15.9.1909, Blakeman guilty”.

Table 2
Cases from Campden in the Petty Sessions Draft Minutes(22) Involving Drinking and Abusive, etc., Language or Behaviour,


In 1893 a man named Cherry was convicted of being drunk. The arresting officer testified:

he was drunk and playing the concertina – he played in tune – previous to this I saw deft, go down street with a man named Wm Harward…I told deft I had had complaints about his playing  concertina – he sd if I can’t play in front I’ll go out to the back. Harward came up to me, at this time, and said don’t take any notice Mr. Simpson he’s only had a drop of drink.(23)

A witness in an 1890 case testified

I should say Defendant was drunk by the language he used. There was a smart bit of noise.(24)

A policeman in an 1886 case was led to a drunken man because

I heard a row against the corner of Sheep Street. I heard deft, howling at the top of his voice, making use of the most filthy language…Def’t was beastly drunk.(25)

As Table 2 shows, with the passing of the Bye-laws in 1895, in which various components of drunkenness as a performative mode were designated separate offences, cases of drunkenness were virtually halved, while the totals of drunkenness and of abusive and/or threatening language or behaviour approximated that of the two years before. If prosecution can be related to incidence, then the table also shows that publicly offensive and drunken behaviour declined rapidly in the first decade of the new century. There are no Campden Petty Session minutes available between 1910 and late 1915, but between November 1915 and December 1922 (the last sitting for which minutes are available) there were only three prosecutions for drunkenness – two in 1916, and another in 1921; and three for abusive and/or threatening language – two in 1919. and one in 1922. Figures for the war years, of course, can be directly related to the absence of men and the difficulty in procuring alcohol(26).

That the ‘noise’ associated with public drunkenness was not simply a matter of offensive language is demonstrated by a case heard in 1899, in which a Methodist evangelist lay preacher was convicted for “shouting” (see Gloucestershire County Council Bye-laws 10 and 11 particularly, in Appendix F) on several nights beneath the Elm Tree. He spoke so loudly that several persons were taken ill in their houses (it was testified), and “it seemed to pierce right thro’ you”. One man said “I don’t object to anything as long as it is quiet…” and another called the preacher “a perfect nuisance”. The man bringing the complaint testified:

I go to church and have heard the preacher warm up to the subject – but this was very different – Deft’s voice was quite as loud as a drunken man.(27)

The implication is that public drunkenness and the features associated with it – particularly loudness (aural intrusiveness), and within that loudness offensive language and behaviour – were largely extinguished by the early years of this century. This constituted a fairly radical redefinition of public and private space in law, and a change in public behaviour to conform with it. It incidentally seems to have brought to an end the use of the old Elm Tree as the equivalent of a place of public speaking and assembly(28), a further change in the performative field consistent with the trend.


d. Charity

The chronological pattern relative to diminishing drunkenness as a public mode repeats in the schools, in the areas of school attendance and charity.

Attendance and charity are linked in the custom of Thomassing, which, until the end of the century, regularly kept large numbers of children out of school for all or part of December 21st (St. Thomas’ Day) begging. The absence on St. Thomas’ day was part of a wider presumption on the part of many parents and children that the claim of the school on the presence of children was secondary, and came after fairs, circuses, spectacular funerals, agricultural jobs or household chores. From the Education Act of 1870 to the turn of the century the available school logbooks chronicle the fact that despite the law the right to decide whether or not a child should attend school at any particular time effectively remained with the parents and children(29).

Following the Education Act of 1902, however, there was a marked change. In reports with parallels in the Church of England school logbooks, the Catholic School headteacher noted at the beginning of 1903, “very good attendance throughout the week” (9.1.1903). This continued during the year: “Attendance very good during week, considering gardens begin to be attended to. Percentage 89” (13-2.1903); “Percentage of boys 91. This is remarkable, because it is the gardening season” (8.5.1903); “Attendance continues remarkably good” (15.5.1903). With the coming of harvest the attendance fell as it had every year, but even during the pea-picking season the attendance was registered as “better than formerly. Percentage this week 81. Last year for corresponding 77” (31.7.1903); and at the end of the harvest holiday, in mid-October, a remarkably good 92% attendance was achieved (16.10.1903). When school reopened after harvest holidays in 1904, formerly a time of straggling absences, 98% of the boys, 97% of the girls and 92% of the infants were present (19.9.1904), and the headteacher noted at the beginning of December: “During the three months just past, half the number of boys on books have not missed more than one half day” (2.12.1904). This standard of attendance became the norm, apart from the years of the First World War.

Over a similar period, Thomassing was eliminated as a custom affecting the Church of England Schools, and as a day on which children begged around the shops and houses of Campden.

The first Infants School logbook, of 1868, recorded “A very small attendance, being St. Thomas’ Day” (21.12.1868). The Boys School logbook noted in 1877 “Attendance very poor in the morning – boys away begging Christmas boxes” (21.12.1877), and in 1881 “Wed. 21st being St. Thomas’ Day many children away from school begging” (22.12.1881).

The first sign of the schools attempting to do anything about the custom, and specifically about the absences it entailed, came in the Boys School logbook in 1881. Thus:

Miss Freeman kindly gave 1d each to those present morning and afternoon in her district. Mrs. D.L. Pitcairn also gave 1d to all present M and A. The Revd. Vicar also sent 1d each to be distributed in the school instead of giving it at the Vicarage. (21.12.1881)

The campaign, if such it was, was apparently not consistently maintained (although the following year the Vicar “gave a bun and orange to all present in the afternoon” in the Boys School (21.12.1882)), and in 1893 the logbook recorded that the Boys School “was closed today (St. Thomas’)” (21.12.1893).

By 1900, however, the Boys School appears to have incorporated the occasion as a set holiday, and the nature of the event had changed. Thus:

Registers not marked this day being St. Thomas’ Day, the Scholars generally go to Northwick Park for a penny and an orange. (21.12.1900)

The custom had been focused on one particular member of the local gentry(30). The registers were not marked as such, and the boys who went were not recorded as “boys” or “children” but “scholars”. In 1909, the wording “Doles were given by Lady Northwick” (21.12.1909), suggests that the venue may have been the Boys School. Lady Northwick died in 1912 and if not then, soon after, St. Thomas’ as a day of doles and begging for children disappeared from the repertoire of customs in Campden(31). When Christmas perambulating and begging returned to the schools it was in the form of carol singing following the First World War for the purposes of local charity. The children’s roles were altered from recipients of charity to collectors and donors(32).

Thomassing was not the only children’s patronage custom which disappeared in the turn of the century. The typical Infants School performance situation involving outsiders from the earliest Infants School logbook in 1868 involved performance followed by an edible reward, as reflected in the entry for 14.11.1884:

The Vicar and Mrs. Bosanquet came in on Thursday afternoon and asked to hear the children sing. Mrs. Bosanquet afterwards gave the children sweets.

Although the entry for 13.6.1902 notes that Mrs. Ashbee visited, heard the children sing, and then “sent buns for children”, the last Infants School logbook entry in which  performance and reward are immediately and directly associated is 3.12.1897 when the Vicar’s wife, daughter and a lady friend heard the children sing and gave the children “a bottle of sweets”. The tendency in the Infants School over the turn of the century was no longer to associate gifts of sweets and food with specific acts of performance, but with presence in the school at the time of giving(33).


e. Charity and Drink: Against the Trend.

Groups of children did go carol singing for their own reward following the First World War(34), and there were perambulating beggars(35), but the institutional and general trend was away from the kind of patronage custom revived by the mummers. The Morris dancers, characterised by C.R. Ashbee before the war as dancing in part for their own gain, came out after for a brief time to help raise funds for the war memorial(36). Since its second revival in the 1930s, the Morris has lent itself primarily to institutional and charitable fundraising, not unlike the Town Band(37).

A correspondent to the Evesham Journal in 1895 urged people to find an alternative to showing “their generosity by giving presents in drink” thereby “checking the unseemly drinking customs which are so unhappily associated with Christmas”(38). By reviving a perambulating money-making custom dedicated to drinking, the Mummers were clearly going against the public trend.


f. Intrusion and Localism:
A Foray Into
Ephemeral Signification(39).

A third feature of the revived custom was coming unexpected to private houses and parties rather than by invitation, and gravitating naturally to those venues which were most profitable. In the interwar years this included pubs and hotels, but also, and perhaps preferably, the big houses occupied increasingly by outsiders who were, by definition, relatively wealthy(40).

The majority, if not all, of the original group of mummers were “old soldiers”, several of whom had served directly with the Gloucestershire Regiment and/or the Volunteer Brigade of the Glosters. Prior to the First World War there was a strong and long-standing association of Campden with the Glosters generally, in the Territorials and Volunteers(41).

The nickname of the Gloucestershire Regiment is “The Slashers”, and there are two stories connected with the origin of the name:

In 1775 it [the Regiment] received orders to sail again to North America to fight the rebellious British colonists in their War of Independence. It was at the Battle of White Plains that the 28th gained another famous nickname – The Slashers – by which it is still known. After crossing a river under a hail of fire the Regiment was faced by a steep cliff: unable to climb this burdened with their heavy muskets, the men were ordered to scramble up without firearms, and at the top they drew their short swords and drove the Colonists from their position. Another story of the origin of this nickname is that when the Regiment was serving at Montreal in Canada in 1760 a Magistrate named Walker took every opportunity to harass the soldiers and their families, and frequently turned them out of their billets without good reason and in the severe cold of a Canadian winter. The feud between the military and Walker grew, and at last a party of soldiers determined to get even with their tormentor, one evening broke into his home heavily disguised: during the ensuing struggle the Magistrate had his ear cut off. The affair caused a great commotion in Montreal, but no one gave the secret away as to who was responsible, and consequently no one was brought to trial. Officially at least the mystery of “Walker’s Ear” continued to be unsolved, but some said that the 28th were responsible and it was thus that the Regiment acquired the nickname of The Slashers.(42)

The housing crisis in Campden was quite acute after the war, with the state of much of the reduced stock, due to shortage of materials and labour during the war, being “very small and dilapidated”(43), with no materials available to build new ones(44), and with the number of houses having been taken as second or weekend homes by outsiders (see discussion, IV.2). The latter provided a convenient target for criticism: The Evesham Journal ran an editorial on “Weekenders”(45), and in a flurry of sometimes bitter correspondence, the rights of ex-soldiers to housing led as far as the argument that largely idle stock, such as that owned by weekenders, ought to be confiscated(46). Council house building began in 1919/1920(47), but as late as 1922 the Campden parish council felt it necessary to send the names of owners of empty cottages to the Rural District Council(48), and the demand for labourers’ housing continued unabated throughout the interwar period as private properties continued to be bought and converted by outsiders (see IV.2).

The pressure by outsiders wanting to buy or rent properties in Campden created a demand for vacant stock which could be met by refusing to extend tenancy arrangements with labourers and, if necessary, by their eviction(49). This was a perennial vulnerability – a number of labourers were turned out in order to accommodate the Guildsmen and their higher rents in 1902(50), and mummer George Greenall and his family had been evicted from a cottage in Back Ends as recently as 1913(51).

This vulnerability was emphasised in 1918 when the local magistrates refused to renew licenses and referred six of the pubs in Campden and Broad Campden to the Compensation Board. Of these six four were explicitly working-men’s pubs, the fifth implicitly, and the sixth was essentially relinquishing its license voluntarily to meet the needs of the Grammar School for more classroom space. One of the pubs, the Rose and Crown, was run by a woman whose husband was still in the Army overseas, and she asked the magistrates to hold their decision until he had returned: she was entirely dependent on the business, which was increasing; there was a strong sick and dividend club; and the owners offered to acquire the property next door to help bring the pub up to standard – they were a brewery, and it was their only pub. With the proposed closures of the Swan and the Live and Let Live, the owners of the George and Dragon argued that its nearest neighbouring licensed houses would be the Noel Arms and the Lygon, which both “catered for a different class of customer”; there was “no fault with the premises”, and the licensee of twenty-two years had maintained a good trade, and had lodged seventeen men on haymaking, etc., through the war. The Plough was the sole means of support for a widow with two daughters. Merit clearly was not the issue: despite their appeals all six of the pubs were shut down(52).

The housing crisis and the vulnerability of labourers were only two aspects of the difficult situation which demobilised soldiers found on return to Campden. Farmers had mechanised during the war, and the economy did not provide many alternatives to agricultural labour(53). Indeed, many homes which had formerly employed maids and servants found they could no longer afford to do so, or to keep so many(54). In these conditions, as we have seen, both Norman Bennett and Charlie Chamberlain left Campden to try to find work, and others relied on relief and the odd jobs that arose.

Against this were the expectations with which the men returned to England, and the new perspectives on life that war service and the massive losses of friends had created. Percy Rushen remarked in 1911 that men returning to Campden after working in the cities brought an entirely new and self-conscious appreciation of her charms with them(55). Service abroad must certainly have had a comparable effect(56). The vacuum created by the deaths of so many men furthermore made post-war Campden an open wound of memories and loss; an experience which was inflamed by the presence of the German field gun, on the one hand, but shared and recognised in the war memorial, constructed by local effort from money raised locally. I would argue that this sense of loss and deprivation manifested itself in the affair of the town maces and in the regeneration of the mumming on the performative model of the mummers’ personal past.

That is, I would suggest that the mumming which had persisted in recollection and reminiscence was revived in the same wave of reconstruction in which the war memorial created visible symbols of old Campden. I would further suggest that the mumming, like the town maces affair, was an assertion against the loss of identity imposed on Campden by the appropriating claims of outsiders, and for this reason reached behind turn of the century changes in the performative field to invest the “Campden” mumming – not Benfield’s mumming or Greenall’s mumming – with an assertion of local belonging. Dressed up and disguised, bursting into incomers’ homes unannounced, “Bold Slasher” killing the civilian “King George” who had failed in his duty and turned the men out of their homes, all re-enacted the Glosters’ unofficial nickname story, and were all part of a protest by rite against displacement and appropriation and the weekenders who, as mummer Ben Benfield is quoted as saying, were “no good to the pla-ace”(57).

Any specific sense of connection with the Slashers very likely faded as the war receded, and the generation which came into the mumming no longer had the same experience of parading Volunteers or Territorials nor the possibility of joining in the local company(58). The newer generation of mummers were also men who had been born and had grown up after the shift in the performative field had begun. Nevertheless, essential elements of the custom were passed along, and included – and still include – drinking, collecting money for self, the surprise visit (in ideal if not always in fact), and the fact that the mumming is an assertion of “Campden” and “Campdenness”.

The mumming revived, that is, out of necessity – the economic motive – but also out of loss and reconstruction, and out of assertion against imposition and the taking away by outsiders of “Campden”. It was, to use recently developed terminology, a way of establishing community boundaries – an act of localism or ethnicity(59).


Although George Greenall remained active in the mummers until his death in 1935(60), and the Benfields remained active until the death of Bill Benfield in 1938 and the onset of the war in the cases of Tom and Ben Benfield(61), a new generation came into the mumming in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ernest Buckland joined in about 1928 or 1929(62); Charlie Blake may have been involved earlier, but certainly by the early 1930s he, Eddie Tomes and Garnet Keyte were mumming(63). George Greenall, jr., went out once sometime in the 1930s, and recalled it as a time of fairly rapid turnover in personnel(64).

In the mid-1930s the mummers lost the Legion as their headquarters, being asked to leave or being thrown out, and about the same time there was an open split between the older generation of mummers and the new(65). The date corresponds roughly with the broadcast of the mumming in 1934, discussed below, and there may therefore be a correlation.

According to Mrs. Agnes Buckland, Ernest Buckland’s wife, when the mummers left the Legion, the costumes were stored in her attic(66).


IV.3 B. Why the Fame? 

a. The Broadcast

The watershed in the history of the inter-war mumming was the broadcast by Tom Benfield, George Greenall and Fred Farman of a selection from the play in 1934, during the course of the first in the series of “Microphone at Large” programmes. Graham Greene does not recall the mummers(67), and they do not appear in his diary for Christmas 1932(68). The only written references to the mummers before 1934 are either vague and inconclusive, like those of Griggs and that of Hannam-Clark, or dismissive, like that of Massingham. All of this changed after the October 1934 broadcast: at Christmas the Evesham Journal reported their performance, and notices of the mummers appeared in the Evesham Journal and Parish Magazine right up to the war, when the TocH Newslettertold Campden service men and women that the mummers had been out in 1939 again.

F.L. Griggs had a strong organising role in the broadcast, if the pre-broadcast publicity can be trusted (see Appendix E), and it took place in the “Big Room” of his home. He and the BBC’s representative, Owen Reed, brought together seventeen men, a fair sample of the local community, whose job was to talk about and perform old customs, and to reminisce about old Campden. Those who appeared in the broadcast were George Groves, an old and skilled tradesman; Harry Keeley, an all-round agricultural labourer of the old school: Garnet Keyte, a coal dealer and market gardener; H.G. Ellis, one-time employer of local basket makers, fishmonger (‘Fishy Ellis’ of the war memorial affair), and recent lecturer about ‘old Campden’; P.S. Dewey, who had given H.J. Massingham a number of the local tales used in Wold Without End, and organised a harvest home broadcast from Broad Campden in the following year; the three mummers, Tom Benfield, George Greenall and Fred Farman; and the eight Morris dancers, F. Hathaway, A. Hathaway, O. Plested, L. Ellis, D. Ellis, H. Hart, L. Harris, B. Benfield, and P. Newman(69).

The producer and presenter was Owen Reed who, for the purposes of the programme, pretended to be an Oxford undergraduate on a cycling tour of the Cotswolds, stopping in a village pub to talk with the locals; many listeners apparently believed the venue really was a pub(70).

Though live and unscripted, there was a rehearsal for the programme on Tuesday, October 16, the day before the broadcast. During this rehearsal Harry Keeley interrupted the mummers during their skit, when he was told that he mustn’t. The publicised “star” of the programme, Polly Waine, whose father had fought at Waterloo, took part in the rehearsal, but failed to show up for the broadcast(71).

The broadcast began at 8 o’clock Wednesday night with the ringing of the curfew bell from the parish church. This was followed by general conversation on rural and traditional topics, such as thatching, walling and cider making. Then the mummers came on, and once again they were interrupted by Harry Keeley, either because he disagreed with the way they were doing the play or because he thought they had got it wrong. The mummers reacted naturally; George Greenall (junior) recalled that

old Tom Benfield, that, he was uncle to the, to Peony [Ernest] Buckland, it was, he was Peony’s mother’s brother, they were saying somewhat, and he hollers out to old Keeley, cause Keeley was interrupting, he [Keeley] says “That’s wrong”, and he [Benfleld] says “shut your bloody mouth”, and our old man [George Greenall] says “That’ll buggered it”, and the next day, on the, on the top of the paper, the Daily Mail. “The Big B of the BBC.” That’s the gospel truth. “Shut your bloody mouth”, and the old man says, “That’s a buggered it”. Ratatat – (72)

Despite the use of the bad word, which couldn’t be censored because the broadcast was live, the programme carried on, the Morris dancers danced, and everyone joined together to end the broadcast with a song.

As the material in Appendix E shows, there had been a considerable amount of pre-broadcast publicity and presumably a large audience on the night, so that it is not surprising that there was a considerable amount of press interest afterward. Apart from a review of the programme as such in the Manchester Guardian, the newspapers concentrated on two stories: the “refusal” of Polly Waine to broadcast even after so much publicity, and the bad language. The Guardian was the only paper, in fact, to ascribe the latter to the mummers, describing the mumming as:

An amusing interlude…in which there were several breakdowns and some kindly prompting from friends.(73)

The News Chronicle of the 18th called it “One of the most hilarious programmes ever broadcast by the BBC”, and mentioned:

On one occasion there came over very clearly a strong expression given with a rustic candour which would have been censored had it not been impromptu.(74)

The Evening Standard headed its front page article “Somebody Who Said —- on the Radio”, and reported

There were hurried conferences of B.B.C. officials to-day. They had had many telephone calls from listeners, most of them ironic, a few indignant, about a dreadful word that went out over the air last night.

The newspaper attempted to find out

Who said it? Chipping Campden will not tell.

The “Evening Standard” sought out Mr. Barnet [sic: Garnet] Keyte, who was present at the function…

“What can you expect,” said Mr. Keyte, “when you have a lot of men enjoying themselves? Something of the sort is bound to creep in.

“There were about 20 of us. So far as I know the broadcast was not rehearsed. They brought me in at the last minute because they wanted a bright chap…”(75)

The News Chronicle also found

…a conspiracy of silence as to who said it.
The “News Chronicle” on the trail of the criminal, rang up the local policeman.
“Do you know who said it?”
“One moment, please.” A weighty moment as the law cogitated. Then, “I don’t know.”
“Are the police taking any steps to find out?”
Apparently not.
The next inquiry was at a local inn – a real one.
“Do you know who said it, madam?”
“I’m afraid not.” “Could you find out?” “Well, I might.” A short interval for inquiries, probably in the bar parlour. “I’m afraid we can’t tell you.”
Campden has suddenly become a silent zone.(76)

The Daily Mail, which had followed the Polly Waine story on Thursday, turned to the other on Friday:

A swear-word in the phrase “You shut thee —- mouth,” broadcast form Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, in the “Microphone at Large” feature on Wednesday night, is to be the subject of a B.B.C. inquiry, following complaints. (77)

Although the BBC now has no evidence of this inquiry, oral testimony reports that the BBC subsequently changed its live broadcast policy (78), and this is given support by pre-broadcast and post-broadcast “Words and Music” columns by Geoffrey Edwards in the News Chronicle. On October 17, Edwards featured that evening’s “Microphone at Large” broadcast from Chipping Campden, but also noted that “the next ‘village broadcast’ will be from Oakham”(79). His October 26th column was accompanied by a photograph of the town band leading the Scuttlebrook Wake procession down Campden High Street, with the caption:

Celebration in Chipping Campden. Is it for the man who put the ‘B’ in the B.B.C.?

In his column he wrote:

The bad word beginning with B which was uttered by an anonymous broadcaster in an inn at Chipping Campden during the last “Microphone at Large” relay has decided the BBC to play for safety next time.

So when the microphone is “At Large” again on November 16 the relay will not be from a pub, not even an imaginary one; it will be from Tewkesbury Abbey, and the programme will be run by an authority on Midland Cathedrals.

The broadcasting of the bad word did not really upset the BBC, but it showed them once again how easy it is for anyone to put out an unauthorised sentence or two. Moreover, it brought a lot of criticism (quite unmerited) upon the chiefs at Broadcasting House.

Therefore an abbey for the next relay, with church organ music, church bells, and a choir as background, instead of clinking tankards and soda-water siphons.(80)

Polly Waine’s “refusal” to broadcast attracted equally strong press coverage. The News Chronicle devoted a quarter of its article on the 18th to the affair:

without a word of explanation she…Just turned out the light in the old almshouse in which she has lived alone for many years and went to bed.(81)

Thursday’s Daily Mail carried the headline “Woman of 94 Defies B.B.C.”, and concluded “All the eloquent speeches of the B.B.C. officials failed to move her and she went to bed”(82). The Sunday Dispatch began its notice of the programme “Why I didn’t broadcast”(83), and both of the local papers, the Evesham Standard and the Evesham Journal, featured Polly Waine’s refusal rather than the language of the mummers(84). The Evesham Journal reported:

Chipping Campden, ancient town of the Cotswolds, is chuckling to itself about how Polly Waine, its ninety-three-years-old senior inhabitant, showed scant courtesy to the Midland Regional Station of the B.B.C. when they sought to present a word-picture of life today among its rural populace.(85)

Chuckling aside, the programme clearly stirred a great deal of interest in Campden. A month later the officials of the town band found it necessary to send a letter to the Evesham Journal: IV.3 P.366

Sir,- We should be glad if you could see your way clear to give this letter publicity in your correspondence columns as we are most anxious to refute statements which are, apparently, being made in the town with regard to the terms and conditions under which it was provisionally arranged that the band should be engaged by the B.B.C. for their recent broadcast from Chipping Campden.

Rumour has it that the band turned down an offer of £5 to £10 hoping thereby to get a better offer.

What actually happened was that Mr. Reed, the B.B.C.’s representative, when he first approached the band offered refreshments in return for their services, but on it being pointed out that the band was still in debt in connection with their instrument fund, he then said he would recommend that the band be paid £5 5s with a possibility of a further engagement at the Birmingham Broadcasting Studio should the band “come over” effectively. This offer the band gladly accepted, but owing to the fact that the B.B.C. then changed their “setting” and decided to broadcast as from a local hostelry it was found impossible to include our band in the programme, much to their disappointment.

A.S. Pyment, Chairman
W.H. Wall, Treasurer
F.C. Hathaway, Secretary(86)


b.The School Mumming

Following a century of near silence, the mumming went into the Second World War with a great deal of publicity and as a cherished Campden Tradition, essential to a proper Christmas. Part of the reason lies with the 1934 broadcast. Another part of the answer of the mumming’s sudden rise into popularity lies in the boys’ mumming side of 1937, which was part of a senior school Christmas pageant organised by headmaster Joseph Hadley.

Hadley became headmaster of the school in May, 1934, six months before the “Microphone at Large” broadcast(87). For his first Christmas in Campden he organised a school concert which he noted in the logbook as a “great success”(88). In the following year he simply noted that the school concert took place in the town hall(89). In 1936 he was more ambitious and noted for December 16 and 17:

School concert in evenings in Town Hall. A dramatised version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol given. Posters, Programmes and Scenery produced in school. Concert was a little bit too noisy and children would have been heard quite as distinctly had they spoken more quietly.(90)

For the school concert of December 15 and 16, 1937, Hadley became even more ambitious and was clearly pleased with the results. As he wrote in the school log book on December 15th:

School concert in Town Hall. Took form of an 18th century Manor House Christmas party. The Headmaster collected local and traditional carols and customs and wrote the dialogue. The Campden mumming play was included. Miss Chamberlain had costumes designed and executed in girls’ sewing class and taught the minuet in organised games period. Mrs. Hadley taught the percussion band Beethoven’s minuet. The pianist for the concert was the Senior Girl, Monica Bunker. Stage properties and screens were made in Boys’ woodwork and handicrafts classes. A sum of about £12 will be realised for the summer outing.(91)

The concert was reported in the Evesham Journal under the headline “Christmas In By Gone Days – Attractive Campden Production”, and it published a photograph of the full cast standing on the stage. The photographer took a second picture, of the eight boy mummers posing alone on the stage. The existence of this second, unpublished, photograph illustrates the degree of interest existing in the mumming (92). The published report noted that:

the mummers, who gave a splendid performance, were trained under the supervision of Mr. Tom Benfield, captain of the Campden Adult Mummers.

It was truly a “Campden” show from beginning to end and the headmaster and his staff deserve the highest praise for the great amount of effective work they must have put in to enable children so young to give such an excellent performance.

It would be invidious to mention names when all did so well, from the tiny tots’ class to the top class. The mummers received quite an ovation from large and enthusiastic audiences and had to repeat their performance each evening, as did one or two other of the episodes.(93)

Following the performance, headmaster Hadley had the oldest of the boy mummers, Fred Benfield, make a copy of the text of the mumming as an art and calligraphy exercise. According to Mr. Benfield, Hadley had spent several nights in the British Legion writing out the play from the dictation of Bill and Ben Benfield, Fred Benfield’s uncles(94). Jack Tomes, another of the boys in the mumming and the current leader, remembers his great uncle Tom Benfield, their brother, as the source of the text, and that the other mummers of the time were utterly opposed to writing it down(95).

The boy mummers were all from the Senior School. The oldest, Fred Benfield, who was 13, played Father Christmas, older boys taking all the major roles: King George by Leslie Bruce, 12; Bold Slasher by Robert Phillips, 12; and Doctor Haro by Fred Benfield’s brother Albert, 12. The Doctor’s foil, Jack Vinney, was played by Billy Wasley, one month older than Jack Tomes, 11, who played the Drummer. Fiddler Crump was played by Berty Hill, who turned 11 the day after the final performance, and Father Beelzebub was played by the youngest member of the cast, Higford Keyte, 10(96). The boys were all Campden residents, and Jack Tomes, the Benfields, and Higford Keyte were all directly related to adult mummers(97). Garnet Keyte’s father delivered coal and was a market gardener, Berty Hill’s father was a postman, Robert Phillips’ was a gardener, the Benfields’ was a roadman, Billy Wasley’s a cowman, and Jack Tomes’ father was an agricultural labourer(98).

The boys’ costumes, as can be seen in the photographs, were fairly literal. Father Christmas was straightforwardly costumed with white beard and red cloak, and a kind of paper wizard’s hat. King George and Bold Slasher were interpreted within the Crusader framework, King George wearing artificial chain mail and the St. George cross, Bold Slasher wearing a Saracen fez and wielding a scimitar. The Drummer wore a military-style drummer’s uniform, Beelzebub a red devil’s suit, the Doctor a top hat and cloak or dark coat, and both Fiddler Crump and Jack Vinney wore the ‘rustic’ uniform of shepherd’s smock and hat. All the characters had distinguishing props: the Doctor an oversized pill bottle (presumably containing a large pill), Beelzebub a club, Father Christmas a broom, Fiddler Crump a miniature fiddle and bow, King George a shield and sword, Bold Slasher a scimitar, and the Drummer, presumably, although it cannot be seen in the photograph, a drum.

The significance to Campden of this entertainment and of the mumming itself is shown by the fact that for the first Christmas of the Second World War the whole programme was repeated. The notice of the concert in the Parish Magazine of December 1939 mentions the mumming in particular:

School Concert

(December 19th and 20th)

We are reviving the Campden Mumming Play again this year in the concert. So many people enjoyed the show two years ago and there are so many who did not see it that we have acceded to the many requests to repeat it. The play will be in the Town Hall at 7 p.m.(99)

This concert was not noted in the school log book. The Evesham Journal, however, gave it a brief notice:

C of E Senior School – The Senior C of E School annual concert was held in the Town Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, when the scholars played to packed and appreciative audiences in attempting to capture the spirit of Christmas of by gone days. Their 18th century costumes, the family gathering, stately dancing, children’s games, boar’s head procession and clownish mumming were history lessons at their best. The headmaster (Mr. J.H. Hadley), thanked all those who helped to make the show a success. The proceeds are in aid of school funds.(100)

The 1937 school performance contributed significantly to the popularity of the Campden Mummers Play because it was the first time that many of the people of Campden had the chance to see it. The adult mumming was a play performed mainly for men, in the pubs; tourists, in the hotels; and the relatively wealthy, many of them incomers, who lived in the larger houses and could afford to throw Christmas parties.

The two performances in 1937, which were repeated each night, and the two performances in 1939 threw the Campden Mumming Play open to Campden generally, making it a genuinely Campden Mumming, belonging to all the people of Campden through their own experience of it.

This answers a large part of the question of how the Campden Mummers came to be so well known and loved: the broadcast drew attention to the mumming, the boy mummers popularised it. But the mumming was included in the 1937 Christmas pageant partly because of the popularity of the adult mummers in the wake of the broadcast. It is this popularity which needs to be explained.


c. Meeting a Need

The full answer to the interwar fame of the mumming, I think, must take into account the various ways in which Campden responded in the 1930s to becoming increasingly a repository of the nation’s heritage while simultaneously losing much of her autonomy to government, to outsiders, to tourists and incomers.

The importance to the local economy of tourism was evident by 1934. The “Microphone at Large” broadcast of 1934 was equivalent to the Whit Monday Fetes of 1895-1897 (see II.2), except that it reached far more people, far more quickly. Both were novel uses of new methods to put across an attractive image of “old Campden” in order to bring visitors and promote trade.

The broadcast concept framed and encouraged a kind of tourism in which outsiders drove, walked or cycled into Campden, came into the pubs or even up to people’s homes, and asked the locals to talk about country life, to reminisce, and to provide a colourful encounter. Local people participated in this tourism, but on its flip side was a passive defiance, a sense of humorous subversion, of tongue-in-cheek, turning the tables and leg-pulling.

Polly Waine was an old hand at this even before the broadcast of 1934. J.B. Priestly, talking – the archetypal tourist – to old Tom Bennett in front of his almshouse home, was told about British Gaumont’s filming in Campden in 1933(101), and of what Polly did then:

Old Polly is over ninety and can still dance when she has a mind to it. A film company came round and took some shots of these almshouses and their old folk. They wanted Old Polly to dance, but she wouldn’t, not, that is, until they’d gone, and then she danced like mad. But they made a great fuss of her, put her in the middle and asked her to say something. This sudden film stardom had the usual results. “Her wouldn’t talk to us for the next two or three weeks,” said Old Bennett grimly. He told us that they had been given for their posing “a ten-shilling paper…”(102)

John Moore described in 1937 going into a hotel bar in Campden to ask about a short-cut to Broadway and – again archetypally – buying an old man a drink and getting into conversation with him. The old man “with a long talon-like finger” traced the route on Moore’s map, brought with him from London. The old local gave the directions, and concluded:

“…then thee turns to the right along what they calls the Postman’s Path – if thee can find it!”

He cackled.

“If thee can find it! I could show it thee, but thee carsn’t find it by thyself, I reckons.”

“What is it? I said. “An ordinary footpath?”


“Well, I ought to be able to find it, then.”

“Ar.” He cackled again. “But it ‘a’n’t been used these twenty years…”(103)

Charles Gardiner recalled an anecdote from the pre-World War Two period which displays a similar quietly humorous subversion-through-character quality; one must bear in mind how many years Campden had been playing host to tourists:

A BBC producer now holding a high position in the Corporation used to tell the story of his first assignment as a newcomer to Midland Region, which took him to Chipping Campden. Unacquainted with the district he wisely wanted to obtain an idea of the local background and particularly the local speech, and he was advised to sit quietly in the bar of a certain inn at Chipping Campden and listen to the natives talking among themselves. The producer introduced himself to the landlord and said, “I’m told that if I sit quietly in here I shall be certain to hear the true rich Cotswold dialect.” The landlord was obviously puzzled; so puzzled in fact that he pushed back his hat to scratch his head. “Dialect? Dialect?” he said. “I dunno about that.” Then he added firmly, “We all talks natchrul in yur.”(104)

In this humour the butt of the joke is both the subject and the teller – the sophisticated outsider who tells the story on the locals, and the local who plays to the outsider’s image of the yokel(105). Both are satisfied, and this to some extent is the reason for the success of the Campden Mummers in the late inter-war period. When Polly Waine, who can dance, pettishly refuses to dance in front of the cameras – or refuses to upset her age-old routine and play to the wireless – she “cocks a snook” at technology and its bureaucrats and personifies the unspoiled, independent-minded countryman. When the mummers burst forth over the wireless with unaffected “rustic candour” with all of Campden and a sizeable chunk of England listening-in – and when the town then closes ranks against outsiders and keeps quiet in the face of questions about who said it – it is as if all of Campden has pulled together and cocked a snook at the outside world and its urban conventions. Campden has vicariously behaved “natchrul” and stirred up a hornet’s nest among the bureaucrats and city folk, and simultaneously fulfilled the cityman’s expectations of the natural and forthright countryman.

The Campden Mummers were thus invested at a stroke with quintessential “Campden-ness” for local people seeking symbols of local identity, and with quintessential “country-ness” for tourists and incomers. The mumming was not only seen in the light of an ancient Campden custom, but as a harbour of forthright speech and honest rural character. The BBC, its bureaucracy and technology, could not awe or suppress the “entirely unaffected and genuine” Cotswold folk. The primary audience for the mummers – the tourists in the hotels, and the residents in local big houses – became suddenly aware of the Campden Mummers, and aware of them as an expression of the irrepressible character of Campden, at a time – witness the formation of the Campden Society and the Campden Trust – when this was considered something to be assiduously cultivated and preserved.

This sudden transformation of the relatively low-profile mummers into both a “Campden” custom and a “countryside tradition”, popular with both local and incomer/outsider elements of the population, must have thoroughly enriched the performance environment and made the last years of the interwar period something of a golden age for the Campden Mumming. Recruitment must have been easier – a leader’s market – and audiences keener, profits more certain. The mumming must have blossomed into the civic role that was suddenly offered, and which was kept open for it during the course of the Second World War.


Section V: 1945-1986