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History

Some background

In the 1960s the Cheddar Valley Railway (often known as The Strawberry Line) was finally closed after almost a century of use. The railway had taken Axbridge’s people and produce out into the wider world. It had been an escape to the seaside, to the shops of Wells and a means of getting to work for generations of workers. And it had placed the valley’s famous strawberries onto teatime tables from Scotland to Cornwall.

Then the age of steam had come to an end, and the motorcar was now king.

At the time Axbridge was a bottleneck for traffic with its narrow streets – with no alternative route. When the Axbridge bypass opened in 1967, heavy traffic ceased to pour down the High Street and through the Square. The traffic jams had been legendary with long tailbacks to Cheddar in one direction and Cross in the other.

Crowds would gather outside the Lamb Inn to witness the chaos as lorries and buses backed up in order to squeeze past the medieval houses.

Peace descended as the traffic roared past on the new road that ran along the old railway embankment – and the town was able to breath a sigh of relief. To celebrate, the community held a pageant in the Square with hundreds of residents embracing their inner Roman, Tudor and Victorian personas.

The two hour long drama immortalised the community’s history in a moving tableau representing many of the town’s key moments in time. From the era of the Roman Empire to Queen Victoria, the charters, fairs and personalities were brought to life by ordinary members of the public.

It was a huge success prompting further pageants in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Each time the Square was turned into a vast arena and stage – to portray the long and extraordinary story of the town through drama, spectacle and pageantry.

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