The cast comprised members of Combe Women’s Institute, assisted by inhabitants of local villages, but the pageant does not seem formally to have been a WI-organised event.
Place: Vicarage Lawn (Combe St Nicholas) (Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, England)
Number of performances: 7
14–18 June 1932
[14, 16, 17 June at 7pm; 15 and 18 June at 2.30pm and 7pm. There was also a dress rehearsal.]
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Trevilian, Major M.F. Cely
- Pageant Manager: Rev. G. de Y. Aldridge
- Stage Manager: Fred H. Wheaton
- Business Manager: H.J. Mills
- Properties: Mr. T. Winter
- Scenery: Mrs Wheaton and Miss G.H. Madge
- Mistress of the Wardrobe: Mrs Wyndham
- Hon. Architect: Major D.R. Nichols
- Builders: A. Bailey, S. Symes
- Master of Properties:
Mr H. Barrett
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Aldridge, G. de Y.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers250
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 4000
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
10s 6d–1s 9d
The Spirit of Combe rolls back the veil of 30 centuries.
Scene I. Prehistoric
The burial of a chieftain in prehistoric days. An aged Druid and mourners follow the funeral procession. Attacking British warriors pass by, but the anger of the gods is heard through the sound of thunder. The druid tells the attackers of the coming race from across the sea will conquer the world, driving people before him and telling of a great God who was crucified.
Scene II. The Murder of Eadward the Martyr, AD 979.
‘God’s anointed was struck down in Combe’: Eadward is murdered by his stepmother Aelfryth so Ethelred the Unready might succeed to the throne. [This actually happened at Corfe Castle]. Eadward and his stepmother are shown apparently burying their differences; they embrace, but she then accuses him of attempting to ravish her, before stabbing him.
Scene III. The Manor of Combe
Bishop Giso buys the Manor for Wells Cathedral, attended by men at arms. The bishop is presented with the entry from Doomsday book and other parchments; he then gives the records to his chaplain to keep at the Cathedral. The Bishop declares the ruined church must be rebuilt by his own master builder.
Scene IV. 12th Century Dedication of Church, August 9 1239.
The Choir enters followed by the Bishop, Chaplains and the Vicar. The Steward declares he has fulfilled his duties and commissions Stephen, Bishop of Waterford, to dedicate the church to the Holy Nicholas of Myra. A villager asks the Bishop to grant them a fayre, which he does.
Scene V. A Medieval Fair.
Combe Fair in medieval times with a maypole and country dancing.
Scene VI. A Combe Parish Council
A parish council during the middle of the eighteenth century. The members discuss various matters, including the problem of an unlicensed inn and the question of improving educational facilities.
Scene VII. The Awakening
The scene is flood-lit and the ‘Song of the men of Combe’ is sung by the whole cast as the characters from the episodes file by in procession.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Edward [St Edward; called Edward the
Martyr] (c.962–978) king of England
- Ælfthryth (d. 999x1001) queen of
England, consort of King Edgar
- Giso (d. 1088) bishop of Wells
Orchestra conducted by H. Hugh Fowler, ARCO
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Western Morning News
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
Combe was one of a number of pageants held in the West Country during the interwar period. The Rev. G. de Y. Aldridge, who played St Nicholas and wrote the book of words, employed the services of the notable West Country Pageant Master, M.F. Cely Trevilian, who had produced pageants at Bridgwater, Taunton, and Mulcheney. In an era in which pageants most commonly featured kings, queens and other notables, the small Combe Pageant stood out for portraying few such characters. This was not lost on local opinion. The Taunton Courier remarked somewhat sceptically that the book of words ‘makes no mention of Arthur, Alfred, or Duke Monmouth’, three national figures with particular local resonance, but instead ‘just tells the happenings of village life through many centuries.’1 Despite the absence of such celebrities, however, the Courier subsequently decided that ‘Such a village has indeed a story which is worth repeating’, proceeding to note that ‘The pageant will rank as one of the most notable carried out by a village community and the chances of spectacular success were heightened by the fact that Combe was so enthusiastically united in its inspirational venture.’2
The Pageant told the story of the village, and was one of relatively few at the time to feature a ‘prehistoric’ scene (although the characters in this scene seem surprisingly similar to Celts!). The second scene, featuring the murder of Eadward the Martyr by his stepmother, transposed events which in fact took place in nearby Corfe Castle, and the rest of the scenes dealt with the founding of the church and granting of the local market, with the almost ubiquitous medieval fair (and also, interestingly, a village Parish Council meeting), suggesting the place of both the church and people in the everyday life of the village. This sentiment was echoed by the present Bishop of Taunton, Bishop de Salis, who declared in a sermon held at the parish church that ‘One of the things a village pageant might do…was to teach co-operation.’3
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, 1 June 1932, 10.
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, 22 June 1932, 4.
Western Morning News, 14 June 1932, 5.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Combe Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1509/