This film is part of Free

Shebbear Pageant

Shebbear villagers act out a play

Non-Fiction 1954 5 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Shebbear villagers act out scenes from history and the Bible beginning with the Turning of the Shebbear Devil Stone, perhaps one of the oldest rituals in Europe. On November 5 bellringers ring out in discord to confuse spirits and then turn the stone to keep the devil buried underneath. The stone is an erratic and not local to the area. Legend has it that it fell from the sky during St Michael's fight with the devil. It may be linked to a pagan ritual and their love of boulders.

The play is written and directed by Ernest Walter Martin who, born in 1913, attended the independent Methodist school Shebbear College. Living in Black Torrington and friends with poet Ted Hughes, he and his wife hosted Shebbear College sixth formers. The son of a postman, Martin was a socialist and a pacifist and wrote about the rural poor and a book entitled The Case against Fox Hunting published in 1959. For the record, the turning of the boulder was only missed once and this during the Second World War although rumour has it that a villager turned the stone, just in case.