Axbridge Pageant Features

Listen, listen, listen…

Listen, listen, listen… to…

The deafening sound of peace,

The sweeping sky above the square,

And the whisper of flying geese.

Seventy five years since VE day

A generation without a fuss

Wait here by the Oak House Hotel

For the Weston and the Cheddar bus.

They’ve witnessed heated traffic jams,

Before the bypass plans were out

Lorries backed up to Shute Shelve

Encouraged by excited shouts,

The cidered drinkers wave ‘em through:

“On the pavement, plenty rooms.”

Entertainment outside the Lamb,

On hot bank holiday afternoons.

Listen, listen, listen… to…

The deafening sound of peace,

The sweeping sky above the square,

And the whisper of flying geese.

She wore hotpants round the town,

As Axbridge Rural was shut down.

Her parent’s job moved to Sedgemoor DCC

With offices in Bridgwater ‘n’ Burnham on Sea.

She saw the Strawberry rail line close

And the year when the reservoir froze,

And stifled tears when her auntie died

In a blizzard on a mountainside,

The aircrash at Basle,

That left a scar

A family wreath for the funeral at noon

Too many died, too young, all too soon.

Harry Mottram


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.


The Axbridge Anthem

Written for the Axbridge Pageant 2022

Will you come gather,
Cornflowers and lavender?
Hazelnuts and blackberries,
And sweet juicy strawberries?

We’ll hook down the sloes,
Where the dark rhynes do flow,
Take fruit from the apple tree,
And honey from the honey bee.

We’ll splash in the clay pits,
And frighten the linnets,
Scratch our bare knees,
In brambles and trees.

And gather bunches of pinks,
On high Mendip ridge,
Buttercups and rosehips,
In the hedges of Axbridge

And give them to mother,
Aunty and brother,
From the places we roam,
In our blue lias homes.

Celtic, Roman, Tudor, Dane
Saxon, Norman, Worker, Thane
Soldier, Teacher, Farmer, Maid
Servant, Landlord, Mistress, Slave

Mother, Father, Cousin, Bride
Ancient, Baby, Adult, Child
We are Axbridge first and last
We are the future, the present and the past.

Harry Mottram