A funeral for a Roman-British farmer opens the Axbridge Pageant

Before Axbridge began with Celts and a funeral for a very dead Romano-British farmer

This is an extract from the programme for the Axbridge Pageant 2021 (we hope) written by Harry Mottram. It was originally due to be performed this month but has been put back 12 months due to Covid-19 – we hope.

Axbridge is first recorded in the early 10th century in the Burgal Hideage of Saxon Britain and we know coins were minted here in 977 CE. But what was here before that? Well with a little imagination we start the pageant in the mists of Roman Britain when Axbridge contained a farm, perhaps a hamlet and a graveyard. And before that the area was the hunting grounds of Celts who had replaced earlier inhabitants who lived in the area since the end of the Ice Age.

In the past pageants the Romans were sadistic slave drivers beating the residents with whips

Roman pottery and ditches have been discovered and a Romano British body neatly buried near the school in Old Church Road. We conjure up a new opening scene depicting the moment when Roman tradition met Celtic mysticism.
In previous pageants the Romans were depicted as slave drivers – whipping the down-trodden Celts as they carried the lead from the Mendips off to the cities of Roman. Whether it was the images of Roman domination as depicted in the 1959 movie Ben Hur directed by William Wyler, and starring Charlton Heston that inspired Chris Cowap’s script or the chance of some sado-macochistic drama at the start of the pageant we can only speculate.
Instead, (together with some words from Virgil) we have a funereal start to our pageant to mark the first (if very dead) resident of the town.

A spectacular opening to the pageant with words from Virgil – reminding us that Axbridge residents have spoken various languages in their history including Latin

This and the Saxon sequence that follows are directed by Diane Lukins who wishes it to be known that no Romans were harmed in the making of this scene.

The pageant with a cast of 300 potentially runs from Saturday to Monday August 28-30th, 2021 – having been put back a year due to Covid-19.

For more details of the pageant visit http://axbridgepageant.com/index.html and

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For more from the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk