InNewbury Magazine (Spring/Summer 2017) - page 7

tradition that has been part of
West Berkshire's theatre culture for over a
century takes place this summer when the
Boxford Masques perform
All at Sea!
26–30 July at Welford Park, just a 15-minute drive from
Newbury town centre.
Masques were first held locally in the nearby village
of Boxford in the early years of the 20th-century, brought
to life by accomplished artist and author Charlotte (Carli)
Peake who lived at Westbrook House with her husband
Harold Peake, the leading archaeologist of the day who,
amongst many other things, was also curator of what was
then the Newbury Museum.
Masques themselves have a much longer history,
the earliest being lavishly spectacular royal entertainments,
staged for kings, queens and courtiers. They reached their
peak in England during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras,
and at the royal courts of 17th-century France, when the
music, costumes and special effects were more important
than the plot, which always placed heavy emphasis on how
marvellous were the monarchs.
Carli and Harold Peake threw open
their Boxford home to an eclectic and
gifted collection of acquaintances.
Carli and Harold Peake threw open their Boxford
home to an eclectic and gifted collection of acquaintances
– amongst them suffragette Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence;
London theatreland restaurateur Robert Hippisley-Cox;
actress, dancer and, later, film star Ina Pelly; and eminent
archaeologists including O.G.S. (Mog) Crawford – who shared
the Peakes’ interests in ancient history, social reform and
folklore. The most abiding memories of visitors to
Westbrook House were of the Cult of Kata – a ‘religion’
invented by the Peakes. It was jokey – but its message
suggested Christianity had overlaid older religions and
customs. Sea-goddess Kata was ‘worshipped’ at Westbrook
House with tongue-in-cheek ‘rites’ not far removed from the
pagan nature-worship and solemn prancing of the masques,
primarily entertainment but with heartfelt meaning.
Joe Soap's Masquerade’ at Welford Park, 2014.
A Little Drama At The Big House’, 2012.
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