Shebbear Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Grounds of Shebbear Church (Shebbear) (Shebbear, Devon, England)

Year: 1954

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


November 1954

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Martin, Ernest
  • Narrator: Victor Bonham-Carter

Names of executive committee or equivalent


Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Martin, Ernest
  • Hardy, Thomas

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Opening of the new village hall

Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Celtic Festival of Samhain

Writing of the Domesday Book

The Black Death

The Rebellion of 1549


Civil War

Visit by John Wesley

Epilogue: Verses from Thomas Hardy’s ‘Only a man harrowing clods’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant


Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • There is a film of the pageant ‘Shebbear Pageant 1954’, accessed 29 March 2017,

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Hardy, Thomas. ‘In Time of “The Breaking of Nations”’.


The Shebbear pageant was a small event. It was performed by locals and staged by Ernest Martin, social historian, adult education lecturer and author of The Secret People (1954), a study of the history of English village life. Martin enlisted the support of his friend Victor Bonham Carter, the prominent writer and agriculturalist who narrated the pageant and wrote about it for the Sphere, who saw the pageant in elegiac terms, declaring that

There was a time when everyone made their own amusements in the country, but times have changed and it is now all too easy to turn on the wireless or stare at television or make an expedition to the cinema. We shall, of course, continue to amuse ourselves in this way, but to do so exclusively will inevitably result in mental atrophy, and in the villages we shall lose for ever the pageantry of local custom and the heritage of peasant culture, which for aesthetic reasons alone is well worth keeping. At Shebbear they don’t propose to let this happen, and I shall not easily forget the scene under the oak, lit by flaming torches, to the accompaniment of the bells of the parish church.1


1. ^ Sphere, 13 November 1954, 276.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Shebbear Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,