Axbridge Pageant 2010

Pageant type

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Place: Town Square (Axbridge) (Axbridge, Somerset, England)

Year: 2010

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


28, 29 and 30 August 2010, at 3pm

August Bank Holiday weekend. 3–5pm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Chairman: Pete Harding
  • Design: Juliet Maclay
  • Production: John Bailey/John Kendall
  • Costumes: Jackie Fowler

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Steering group:

  • Chairman: Pete Harding
  • Publicity and Marketing: Kevin Browne
  • Fund raising (grants): Paul Hughes
  • Fund raising (events): Janie Gray
  • Additional events: Sarah Berry
  • Operations: Janet Homewood
  • Design: Juliet Maclay
  • Production: John Bailey/John Kendall
  • Costumes: Jackie Fowler
  • Treasurer: Dave Peakall
  • Secretary: Pauline Ham
  • 4 men, 6 women = 10 total

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

  • Cowap, Chris
  • Mottram, Harry


Harry Mottram provided updates to the script, which had been written in 1967 by Chris Cowap, and updated by directors (such as Anne Griffiths and John Bailey) in 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Income: £53742
Grants received from:

  • The Big Lottery Funds for all: £9544
  • Somerset Communty Foundation: £1000
  • Donations of £6516 from:
  • Bristol Water: £3000
  • Butcombe: £500
  • Progressive Supper: £2000
  • Among others: Axbridge Carnival, Stopcocks, Choirs

Other events which raised funds of £4197:-

  • Eighty Eight Straight
  • Ax Factor
  • Auction
  • Wine and Cheese and Barbeque
  • Pamper Evening

For the first time evening events were held. Ticket sales for these:

  • Brass in the Church: £525
  • Sheelanagig: £2810
  • The Choirs: £1553
  • Total: £4888

Ticket sales, programmes and CDs, etc., for the main event: £24337
Event sponsored by Oak House Hotel: £3258

Expenditure: £47372
Main areas of expense:
Costumes: £11968
Seating: £9543
Operational Costs: £6458
Stage: £5120
Production of the programme and video and other events: £6799

Profit: £6369

Object of any funds raised

St John’s Hunting Lodge Museum: £750; the Town Trust (Town Hall): £500; St John’s Church: £250.


About 20% of the profits were donated.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 600
  • Total audience: 1800


Total sell-out (so, presumably, at least 1800 over the three days).

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Tickets: £15 per person; £8 children/concessions; £40 family ticket (2 adults 2 concessions).

Associated events

  • Evening Concert at St John the Baptist Church (27 August 2010).
  • Walking Tour and opportunity to see historic documents (28 August 2010, £5).
  • West Country based Sheelanagig: folk, jazz and world music.
  • Singing in the Square (Sunday). Choirs from around the South West singing gospel, traditional, popular and contemporary songs to entertain the crowds.

Pageant outline

Scene I. Roman Conquest

‘We were also keen to introduce a certain amount of historic accuracy to the script. Romano-British remains (including a grave) have been found in the town suggesting some form of life took place here two millennia ago—so it made sense to reflect those early beginnings with Diane Lukins re-imagining of a Romano-British Funeral.’1

Scene II. Saxon and Danes Skirmish

‘Axbridge was not recorded as a town until the 10th century but somehow this had not been dramatized previously so we introduced a skirmish between Saxons and Danes to remind the audience that the first known borough was a fortified town built during an era of warlords and conflict borrowing some words from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle to add authenticity.’2

Scene III. King and Saint, 943 AD

A fifteenth-century Axbridge Chronicle tells the story of King Edmund’s quarrel with St Dunstan and how, having narrowly escaped death on Cheddar cliffs, he made his peace.

Scene IV. A Royal Hunt, c.1207 AD

Like many early monarchs King John relaxed by hunting on Mendip. The Axbridge musuem, a fifteenth-century Merchant’s House, has long been called ‘King John’s Hunting Lodge’.

Scene V. Elizabethan Charter, 1599 AD

Axbridge has many Royal Charters (the first from Henry III in 1229). Elizabeth I granted the Charter by which Axbridge was governed until 1883.

Scene VI. A Queen’s Visit, 1644 AD

Twelve shillings were paid to ‘Richard Stroude for beere for the Ringers at the coming of the Queen to Axbridge’. The queen in question was Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.

Scene VII. Monmouth’s Rebellion, 1685

Seven Axbridge men joined the Duke of Monmouth’s doomed attempt to claim the throne.

Scene VIII. Come to the Fair, Mid-18th Century

Ancient Charters granted four annual fairs at the Feast of St Blaixe, Lady Day, St Bartholomew, and St Simon and St Jude.

Scene IX. Hannah More, 1891 AD

The great feast on Callow Hill was part of Hannah More’s attempt to reform the poverty-sricken children of Axbridge.

Scene X. The Bull Anchor Scene of 1820

This scene no longer featured a real bull, as in the 1990 pageant (see entry for 1990 Axbridge pageant).

Scene XI. The Iron Horse, 1869 AD

The hundred years between 1869 and 1969 saw the coming and the going of the railway at Axbridge.

Scene XII. The Twentieth Century: 1914–1918; 1939–1945; Basle Air Disaster of 1973

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Edmund I (920/21–946) king of England
  • Dunstan [St Dunstan] (d. 988) archbishop of Canterbury
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Henrietta Maria [Princess Henrietta Maria of France] (1609–1669) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consort of Charles I
  • More, Hannah (1745–1833) writer and philanthropist

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

Weston and Somerset Mercury
Western Daily Press
Mendip Times
Cheddar Valley Gazette
Venue [magazine]
Bath Chronicle
And online news websites including the BBC

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Bartie, Angela, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme and Paul Readman. 'Performing the Past: Identity, Civic Culture and Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Small Towns'. In Small Towns in Europe and Beyond: 20th-21st Century, edited by Luda Klusakova. Prague, forthcoming.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Photos. Accessed 23 June 2016
  • Pageant website. Accessed 23 June 2016

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Axbridge Pageant of 2010 was the sixth outing for the event first staged in 1967 to commemorate the opening of the A371 Axbridge bypass. As had been the case for some time, the Axbridge Pageant was still cemented as an enduringly popular local event, staged every ten years, in which most of the town took part in some way. Again the pageant was performed three times, now with a larger associated events programme than in previous years. As with the 2000 pageant, the 2010 event was supported by a comprehensive planning and publicity campaign—also enabled with sources of outside funding. It was, like the other pageants, a great success—both in terms of support and profit—and has continued to inspire a commitment to local theatre and community in the town, with other public pageant-like events staged in recent years.3

The director was again local man and drama teacher John Bailey.4 The pageant script was developed to a certain extent, reflecting the continued involvement of Harry Mottram, who had seemingly joined the team in the run-up to the 2000 pageant. He told the local press that the committee was ‘keen to introduce a certain amount of historic accuracy to the script’ and so, following the finding of Romano-British grave remains in the town, the first Roman episode was adapted to imagine a funeral of the period. A new second episode was inserted as well, based on the Anglo Saxon chronicle—a ‘skirmish between Saxons and Danes to remind the audience that the first known borough was a fortified town built during an era of warlords and conflict’.5 Indeed, history was still the focal point. As a BBC reporter declared, ‘the whole of Axbridge oozes history’.6 It was, then, important, Mottram argued, that the pageant continued to evolve. As he told BBC Somerset:

It’s something of a debate actually as to how you reflect recent history and how you view history. I think when looking at the earlier scripts it was very much based on that sort of post-Empire post-war feeling of kings and queens and jolly pageants kind of thing. We’ve tried to bring much more the social side of things into it.7

Of course, the social and community ethos was also still vital. As Mottram further explained to the BBC:

It’s an amazing sort of glue that brings that community together, sticks it together… It brings together the guides, the British Legion, the schools, people from all different walks of life… it’s very good for getting to know lots of people, for newcomers it’s perfect.8

Several initiatives supported this social and voluntary aspect. For the first time there was a series of evening events, which were very successful: ‘Brass in the Church’ made £526, Sheelanagig £2810 and the Choirs £1553—a total of £4888.9 There was now also a pageant website, launched in-between the 2000 and 2010 event. Containing artefacts and details of previous pageants that served to advertise the upcoming event, it also acted as an online box office and shop.10 The older forms of involvement continued, reflecting the power of the Edwardian ethos of pageantry to survive. Over 600 people were involved as volunteers, with at least four hundred as performers—all in all representing a third of the town’s population.11 As usual, the costumes were made locally—unfortunately from scratch after the costumes from 2000 were mysteriously lost.12 The fundraising activities before the pageant were also numerous—from a black-tie fundraising dinner to a CD of music from the Axbridge Singers.13 The fundraising team was also successful in securing grants from organisations like the Somerset County Foundation (£1000), a charity set up to strengthen local communities, and the Big Lottery Funds (£9544). The whole event was sponsored primarily by the Oak House Hotel (£3258).14 As the pageant website declared, the pageant was now ‘an institution and… part of Axbridge’s history itself.’15

Selling out and making a profit of £6369, it was deemed ‘a huge success’ and ‘a testimony to the energy of Axbridge’ by the Pageant Committee, which declared that ‘the 3 standing ovations speak for themselves.’16 One five-star review from the magazine Venue declared the pageant ‘a gripping tapestry of battles, births, charters and fighting rectors’ and concluded:

It shouldn’t have worked—but the slightly embarrassing community charade you might expect ended, in fact, with a standing ovation and tears in this reviewer’s eyes. England can be an unexpected place.17

A collection of comments from visitors and performers on the Pageant Website supports this review.18 Unsurprisingly, then, plans are already underway for the 2020 Axbridge Pageant: clearly, since taking off in 1967, the event has become a vital part of the town’s identity. What, of course, remains to be seen is how the narrative presented will continue to evolve, responding to contemporary social and economic issues. Harry Mottram was philosophical when commenting on this issue, telling the Western Daily Press, in an article called ‘Changing with Times’:

No doubt future generations will add and subtract aspects of the town's social history.… By 2020, some 75 years will have passed since the end of the Second World War allowing a new light to illuminate those key moments in the lives of the post-war generations. Whether it’s the pill, antibiotics, the NHS, the car or equal pay who knows? One thing is for sure: how we view the past and how our views change as time marches on—is almost as fascinating as the past itself.19

Whatever form the pageant takes in 2020, it seems likely that a combination of history, voluntarism, and theatrical re-enactment will remain a key part of the town’s culture for a long time.


  1. ^ ‘Changing with Times’, Western Daily Press, 2 September 2010.
  2. ^ ‘Changing with Times’, Western Daily Press, 2 September 2010.
  3. ^ ‘Axbridge 2014: Commemorating WWI through Historical Pageantry’, Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain (28 July 2014), accessed 28 September 2014,
  4. ^ Harry Mottram, ‘The Axbridge Pageant’, Somerset Magazine 10, August 2000, 29.
  5. ^ ‘Changing with Times’, Western Daily Press, 2 September 2010, Accessed 23 June 2016.
  6. ^ ‘Axbridge Pageant Recreates History’, BBC Somerset, 31 August 2010, accessed 28 September 2014,
  7. ^ Harry Mottram interview with BBC Somerset, accessed 28/09/2014,
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Taken from ‘Axbridge Pageant AGM’, 8 March 2011, accessed 28 September 2014,
  10. ^ ‘New Site for Historic Event’, Cheddar Valley Gazette, 13 August 2009, accessed 28 September 2014,
  11. ^ Mike Dearden, ‘Strong Show of Support for Pageant’, unknown cutting, accessed 28 September 2014,; ‘New Site for Historic Event’.
  12. ^ Juliet Maclay, ‘Stepping Back in Time’, Mendip Times (date unknown), accessed 28 September 2014,; ‘Axbridge Pageant AGM’.
  13. ^ Dearden, ‘Strong Show of Support for Pageant’.
  14. ^ ‘Grant to Enable Biggest Show’, Cheddar Valley Gazette, 27 October 2009, accessed 28 September 2014,
  15. ^ Accessed 23 June 2016.
  16. ^ Taken from ‘Axbridge Pageant AGM’.
  17. ^ Rupert Bridgwater, ‘Review: Axbridge Pageant’, Venue , 12 September 2010, Accessed 23 June 2016.
  18. ^ Visitor and Performer Comments, Axbridge Pageant Website, accessed 28 September 2014,
  19. ^ Changing with Times’, Western Daily Press, 2 September 2010, Accessed 23 June 2016.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Axbridge Pageant 2010’, The Redress of the Past,