Like most towns and villages, Chipping Campden has a number of customs, events and activities which are unique. Other towns may have similar events, but each is unique in its relationship to the location where it takes place.
In Campden, traditions include:
An ancient form of folk entertainment, evolved over the centuries from its roots in pagan fertility ritual. The play is performed at Christmas in pubs and private houses, remuneration received in cash and refreshments – liquid or otherwise!Tom Benfield re-established a Mumming troupe in Campden after the First World War; the tradition upheld for decades by members of the Buckland family, descendants of Tom Benfield. For a number of years Campden has been without its Mummers. However, in 2010 Bill Buckland, who had performed with the Mummers as a youngster, re-formed the troupe.
The Morris Men
Morris dancing apparently disappeared from Chipping Campden after the closure of the Dover’s Games in 1852, but in 1895 Denis Hathaway revived them. The outbreak of World War I brought an end to regular performances, but in 1919 a ‘Jazz Band’ was formed to raise money for the war memorial and morris dances were performed as part of the entertainment. The band disbanded in 1921 but morris dancing gained strength. Denis died in 1926, but brother Fred and son Bert continued in his wake and there were Hathaway musicians and dancers until the death of Alf Hathaway in 2007.
Robert Dover’s “Olympick Games”
Dover’s Games were formerly held at the end of Whit Week but are now held on the Friday after Spring Bank Holiday, on Dover’s Hill, a natural amphitheatre above Chipping Campden.
Robert Dover was a lawyer who, in 1612, transformed a small local gathering into the Cotswold ‘Olympicks’, a popular and fashionable event, celebrated in verse by contemporary poets, including Ben Jonson and Thomas Heywood, in Annalia Dubrensia, published in 1636.
The sports comprised horse racing, hare coursing, wrestling, shin-kicking, tossing the hammer, fencing with cudgels, all interspersed with dancing, feasting and bouts of drinking! The Games’ fortunes varied over the years, a casualty of war or local objections. The Games were discontinued in 1852 because of the drunk and disorderly behaviour of the huge crowds it attracted. In 1966 Dover’s Games were revived and continue to the present day.
An annual fair (wake) has been held on the day following the Dover’s Games for at least two centuries. It seems highly likely that there was some kind of fair in earlier times. Hiring Fairs often included a variety of entertainments.
There was a revival of the Wake in 1886 after a hiatus of around seventeen years. At the same time three showmen asked if they could bring fairground rides and amusements to the Wake. It is thought that the showmen suggested calling it after the stream that ran through Leasebourne, the Cattlebrook or Scuttlebrook. With the opening of the recreation ground in 1928, the Wake was under threat but Leasebourne was the popular choice and in 1940 the showman George Hatwell claimed the continuance of the fair under ancient rights, gaining the gratitude of the Wake’s supporters, and George and his family kept Scuttlebrook alive through the war years.
As well as the fairground, Scuttlebrook includes the crowning of the Scuttlebrook Queen, a fancy dress parade and morris, maypole & country dancing.
To learn more about Campden Customs, buy our leaflet by Tess Taylor and Diana Cooper Smith.