From 12th. - 16th. July 1994 the village of Cropredy commemorated the 350th. anniversary of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge.
A play, entitled 'The Bridge' was especially commissioned from local playwright, Sue Neaves.
The play, with music and dance was based on the experiences of ordinary village people during the Civil War years.

Verna was responsible for choreography as well as researching much of the music, assembling a team of musicians and dancers and co-ordinating the recording of a tape of the songs and tunes used in the production.

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The cast approach the acting area at Prescote Manor

On Saturday June 29th 1644 there was a "smart battaile" fought between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces over the crossing of the River Cherwell at Cropredy. As far as the inhabitants of this Oxfordshire village were concerned it was one more desperate chapter in a war which had brought them suffering and privation.
Music and dance were a major element of the play and songs were specially written to tunes of the period. Most of the melodies date back to the seventeenth century or earlier, appearing in manuscripts and published works of the period. Most notable among these is the Complete Dancing Master first published by John Playford in 1651, but incorporating well established tunes of the day. As today, many tunes appeared in a variety of forms, with and without words, for dancing and listening. Several of these were set to new words written for the production, by members of the Cropredy Songwriters Workshop.
A special mention must be made of Rumour of War, written by the Workshop this song is set to a tune that was composed for the occasion by Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention.

The tune Newcastle appears as a song, and also as a May dance. Maypole dancing was popular during the 16th and early 17th century. It seems likely that this may well have taken the form of a simple circle dance. The may dance is based on this form and on the earlier tradition of file dances so popular in the late medieval and Tudor period.
Morris dancing was also commonplace, although rather different from the 19th century revival which we see today. Our dance, to the tune Morisco, draws on illustrations of the period , together with contemporary descriptions, and is accompanied by a calling on song.

The Morris Dance watched by enraged puritans.

The Songs and Tunes:
Slaves of the Soil, Tune: Ploughshare, a traditional version adapted from the singing of the Copper family of Rottingdean in Sussex.
May Day Carol. Tune: Newcastle, published in the first edition of John Playford's "English Dancing Master" in 1651.
Dick's Maggot. Tune only, a maggot was a light whimsical piece of music. This was Dick's!
May Day Pleasures . Tune: Jameko, first recorded on a broadside ballad of 1656 marking the British capture of the island.
No Man May Feel at Ease Parts I, II, III. Tune: Triumph of the Roundheads, from a satirical review written in 1641.
Monck's March. Tune only, known to us today as a morris dance from Sherborne in Gloucestershire.
Blood on the Grass. Tune: Nonesuch, in the "English Dancing Master" but from the previous century, named after the great Tudor Palace.
Cuckolds All in a Row. Tune only, a cuckold: unsuspecting husband of an unfaithful wife.
Rumour of War. Tune: Written especially for this production by Ric Sanders.
Take Up Your Fiddle. Tune: Morisco, from the book "Danserye" by Tielman Susato published in Antwerp.
Dominion of the Sword. Tune: Modern tune by Phil Beer and Steve Knightly of 'Show of Hands'.Words from the 17C, probably an anti-Leveller satire.
The Maid With Auburn Hair. Tune: Kettledrum, a Playford tune for a complex dance which involved much kissing.
Oh Sleep Thou Sleep. Tune: Fortune My Foe, used to accompany the condemned to the scaffold!

The Bridge: Produced and Directed by Liz Atkins. Musical Direction by Rey Lear. Musical research by Verna and Stephen Wass. Choreography by Verna Wass.
Song Writers' Workshop (Thanks to Roger Watson of TAPS): Mike Clempson, Roger Hampshire, Andrew Newman, Stephen Wass.

Musicians: Amanda Barton - Oboe, Mike Clempson - Guitar, Cathy Gray - Bassoon, Paul Hodges - Psaltery/Mandolin, Nina Lear - Tenor Recorder, Rey Lear - Guitar/recorders, Bryan Martin - Violin, Dave Moore - Pipe & Tabor, Michael Thompson - Guitar/Mandolin, Stephen Wass - Bodhran/Tambourine, Verna Wass - Side Drum.

Singers : Oliver Hampshire, Sarah Hampshire, Sue Henn, Oliver Hunt, Andrew Newman, Raf Oya, June Patterson, Stuart Patterson, Diane Pearson, Bill Plester, Chloe Plester, Keith Rolph, Annette Wheeler, Sue Wheeler.

The Songs

(Tune: Ploughshare)

Its away in the morning to the fields for to toil
For we farming boys are the slaves of the soil
From seed time to ploughing all the year round
Until we dig ourselves so deep under the ground

So seed time bein' upon us we sow dawn 'til dark
Be a'bed with the sun and awake with the lark
We'll scatter our seed over fair mother Earth
And we'll harrow and pray for a bountiful birth

Seed time bein' over we'll watch the crop grow
Children pick stones and frighten the crows
We'll strive with the hoe for to keep the earth clean
And we'll watch our seeds growin' straight tall and
Summer coming on and our crop it turns gold
With scythes and with sickles we must harvest
we're told
And then to the barn we must cart it away
To keep it from harm until come threshin' day

With flails we shall beat it or hour upon hour
Then away to the miller who will grind it to flour
Barley we'll send to the brewer without fail
Who, with yeast and with hops will brew us
strong ale..
So our year it has come round full circle right now
And its up with the lark or the follow the plough
I will follow the plough treading furrow and ridge
Then I'll away to meet my true love on Cropredy

(Tune: Newcastle)

A fair morning fine folk and friends
It is the first of May
And we have gathered flowers
And at your door we'll stay

And at your door we'll stay
And at your door we'll stay
Just give us what you can and then
We shall be on our way

Each lad he takes his lass in hand
To dance away the day
With ribbons and bright garlands
Upon this first of May

The flowers we gathered in the dew
Our garlands they are gay
And we should like to wish you
A joyful first of May

So now we've sung our song to you
We can no longer stay
God bless your house the whole year
We wish you a merry May

Final Chorus.
Now we shall be away
Now we shall be away
Just give us what you can and then
We shall be on our way.

(Tune: Jameko)

May day pleasures and joys are done
Spring lies just round a corner
Scent of flowers seems to linger on
But families now stand divided
Two weeks on in the church we meet
Heads bowed quietly praying
But treason burns in the streets of the towns
Our peace and comfort slaying.

( Tune :Roundheads Triumph)

Our wives are scolds their tongues uncurbed
They chide us all they can
No peace no rest within the house
Here's torment for every man
No man may feel at ease nor rest
While on him with a frown
His wife pours scorn, a malcontent
The world's turned upside down!

The priests they rant, the priests they rave
Forbid us all they can
No heaven but hell no hope all's ill
Damnation for everyman
No man may free his soul from sin
Nor call his life his own
The priests will join us all in hell
The world's turned upside down!
(Tune: Morisco)

Take up your fiddle and stick
Take up your pipe and drum
Each lad now bring your lass
Now to the village come

And master bring good ale we pray
Oh bring us out good beer
And we shall dance to the merry pipes
And bring you all good cheer

Bring Sarah and bring Pru
Bring Hannah and bring May
Strike up our dancing tune
And join our dancing day

Sweet mistress bring us cakes we pray
All laid out in array
And we shall dance for you and sing
On this our dancing day

Take up your stick and dance
Sing with the bells and drums
Good cheer be to you all
To each and everyone

(Tune: Nonesuch)

There's a thunder on the wind my friend
Now the rout's begun
There is a ring of iron shot
And a beating of the drum
We hear the prayers on every breath
O Lord let this cup pass
There's shadows on the far hillside
And there's blood all on the grass.

A cry comes from a pale young man
As in the mud he lies
The name of his own dear sweetheart
His last breath as he dies
The pike the sword the musket ball
Perform their deadly task
A lark sings in the clear blue sky
But there's blood all on the grass

There's mist all on the quiet fields
Where the fox and rabbit run
And the glowing sky is growing red
With the setting of the sun
And the blood red river's running by
'Neath the bridge as it does pass
With the lives and loves of all young men
And there's blood all on the grass.

( Tune: Kettledrums )

As I walked out one morning fair
Just as the day was dawning
I spied a maid with raven hair
And she was sweetly singing

Her voice it was so sweet upon the air
She stole my heart clean away
And I shall move the earth for her fair maiden
Fair maid with raven hair

And I shall give to you fine jewels rare
The stars I'll place upon your breast
And I'll tie silken ribbons all in your hair
Your head upon the moon shall rest.

If you will walk with me, I do declare
I'll show you land across the sea
And I shall move the earth for you fair maiden
Fair maid with raven hair

And I shall give to you all my dreams
Which float like leaves on silver streams
And I shall give to you the clouds above
If you will give to me your love.

Your face, so lovely, is beyond compare
Your eyes as bright as springtime day
And I shall move the earth for you fair maiden
Fair maid with raven hair

( Tune :Roundheads Triumph)

The troops march in, the troops march out
And rob us of all they can
No place to hide no safety beside
It's ruin for everyman
No man may call his house his home
While from the city and town
We've Parliament and King's men too
The world's turned upside down!

But when this war's all past and gone
And peace it is at hand
Then we'll rise up and take it back
We'll heal this wounded land
Our families farms our churches our barns
Rebuilt restored renewed
And God will smile on us once more
The world we'll put to right

(Tune: Fairport)

We hear rumour of not so distant thunder
Still we till our strips of land
The tales we gather from Banbury market
Tell of confrontation all around
Our brethren all about the county
Live in fear from day to day
Marauding armies pilfer and plunder
To Parliament soldiers we're easy prey.

They muster the men from hamlets near
To aid the Royalist plight
Promises are made of a handsome reward
If to arms you'll give your might
Four shillings of silver a week they say
If you'll only make a stand
Come and join King Charles's yeoman
Share his victory oe'r the land

All season long we guide the plough
To wrest the yield from honest soil
But what for?
We want no part in the blasphemy of war.

Our lives are built of crops and beasts
From scouring ditches to harvest feasts
Not petitions, enlistments and papist plots
An honest life on the land is all we ask
We work together brother with brother
Our labours never cease
God knows our life is hard enough
Pray leave our hamlet in peace

For two year's past we've been under a cloud
This summer's torrents bear this out
Our pitchforks and our blades are our tools
Not cudgels for the mindless fools
Who threaten the peace of our gentle ways
While we toil through the spring and long summer days
Our lives are simple for we are poor
We want no part in the blasphemy of war


Lay by your pleading
The law lies a bleeding
Burn all your studies
And throw out your reading
Small power the word has
And can afford us
Nor have so much privilege
As does the sword have

It fusters your masters
It pasters disasters
It maketh the servant
More great than the master
It ventures it enters
It sneaks and it centres
It causes apprentice
To spite his indentures

It talks of small things
But it sets up all things
Now this masters money
Though money rules all things
It is not the season
To talk about reason
Nor say it is loyalty
When the sword says tis treason

It conquers the crown too
The grave and the gown too
It raises the presbyter
then pulls him down
This subtle disaster
Turns bonnet to beaver
When down goes the Bishop
And up goes the weaver

No gospel can guide it
No law can decide it
In church or in state
Til the sword sanctifies it
Take books and rant them
For who can invent them
When all that the sword says
Negator argumentum

Your brave college butlers
Must stoop to the sutlers
There's ner a library
Like to the cutlers
But blood that was spilt sir
Hath all of the guilt
And thus have I run
My sword up to the hilt

(Tune: Fortune My Foe )

Oh sleep thou sleep, still be thou sleep
Oh weep not weep in his arms to keep
Death's dark shadow doth on thy face lie
Thy soul bourne by angels through the sky
The perfect peace of heaven above
The perfect peace of our Lord's love
The perfect peace, eternal rest
Draw thee to thy saviour's breast.

( Words by Sue Neave,  Tune :Roundheads Triumph)

The world gone mad's as bad a sight
As ever people saw
The name of God invoked in vain
To justify a war
And Kingdoms come and Kingdoms go
They tusle for the crown
The fever sweeps throughout the land
The world's turned upside down

We walk the fields we dream awhile
Of how things used to be
Of when we knew what fredom meant
Not talk of liberty
When nightmares stopped at break of day
When puritans could frown
Without the need to shake the world
And turn it upside down

The heart of man has been blackened
But his faith is hrad and strong
He must believe there'll be an end
Return to right and wrong
And in the dusk we pray for peace
In village and in town
We'll take our capsised world again
And turn it upside down.