A Dream of Old Bulwell
Place: Bulwell Olympia (Bulwell) (Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, England)
Number of performances: 4
4–7 December 1929, 7pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Wheeler, Rev. Stanley M.
- Pageant Master: Carey, Norman
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Hon. Secretary: R.C. Jennison, Esq.
- Manager: F. Dudman Bromwich, Esq.
- Rev. W.H. Reeman-Crewe
- Mrs W.H. Reeman-Crewe
- Mrs N. Carey
- Miss Crippin
- Miss Fyson
- Miss F. Large
- Miss C. Partington
- Mrs Peters
- Mrs Riggall
- Mrs Nock
- Mrs Thornton Simpson
- Miss Warrington
- A. Boyfield
- A.R. Clarke
- J. Hancock
- A. W. Reeve
- J. Stanley
- F. White
- G. Taylor
- 10 men, 11 women = 21 total
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Wheeler, Stanley M.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
Bulwell Parish Church Organ Renovation Fund and the Bulwell Nursing Association
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Front stalls or Balcony: 2s. 6d.
Orchestral Stalls: 1s. 9d.
Lounge Stalls: 1s. 3d.
Oyez! This Pageant is to show
Some Local History, all should know:
Your interest we shall try to hold,
As ages past we now unfold;
And bygone deeds we shall enact,
All based on sure historic fact:
We show you men of rank and fame—
But first, how Bulwell got its name.
Episode I. The Origin of the Name Bulwell
A mighty forest, stretching wide
Across the Leen on either side:
Our early fathers hunt their food
Within the glades of Sherwood’s wood.
Their weapons, made of flint and thong,
To early British days belong.
But legend, more than History’s fact,
Narrates the scene we now enact.
[This episode is based on the legend which relates that ‘once upon a time an infuriated bull rushed upon a rock striking it with his horns, from whence a stream flowed, which has flowed ever since, and is now known as the Bull Well.’]
Episode II. Godric the Saxon and Peverel the Norman, Late 11th Century
Ten Sixty-Six—a well-known date—
Decided Saxon Harold’s fate;
King William having won in fight,
Considered all the land his right.
At Bulwell, Godric held the land,
But he was then obliged to hand
To William Peverel, home and field,
And all his loved possessions yield.
So Peverel thus became the Squire;
The King from him did this require,
That he when need arose should bring
A horse and halter for the King.
Episode III. Foundation of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Bulwell
On yonder hill above the Leen
At least three Churches have been seen.
Who built the first we cannot say,
No trace of it remains to-day.
But sure it is some Saint did raise
A sanctuary in far-off days;
Eight hundred years ago at least
Saw Bulwell with a Parish Priest.
Episode IV. Philip Marc Lord of the Manor, Early 13th Century
When King John reigned upon the throne,
No man could call his soul his own.
The Bulwell people, much distressed
By Philip Marc, were sore oppressed.
He was the Sheriff of the Shire,
And from the people did require
Increasing payments more and more;
He spoiled the rich and ground the poor.
In Magna Carta, sealed and signed,
The name of Philip Marc we find,
As one the people would not stand
To hold his office in the land.
[Philip Marc was Sheriff of Nottingham from 1212 to 1225 and had a bad reputation for extortion.]
Episode V. Bulwell Wood [date unclear; medieval]
We now present a hunting scene,
Where Sherwood’s men in Lincoln green,
With bow and arrow, knife and spear,
Start out to chase the fallow deer.
Bold Robin Hood and Little John,
With Friar Tuck have come along,
And village maidens trim and neat
Turn out to see the huntsmen meet.
Episode VI. Some Bulwell Trades
And now, dear friends, you’ll see displayed,
Examples of our Bulwell trade,
Each one, some indication giving,
How men in Bulwell earn their living;
And how our local trade extends
E’en to the world’s remotest ends.
For Sankey’s pots, or Bromley’s dyes,
Or Carey’s curtains, each supplies
Some useful purpose for mankind,
Where ever goods may be consigned,
To north, or south, or east, or west,
We’ll strive to send them Bulwell’s Best.
[In this episode the following gave demonstrations of their work: Basket and Wicker Work by Mr Hedley Buxton; Colliery working by the Babbington Coal Co.; Pottery by Messrs R. Sankey and Son; Dyeing by Messrs S.J. Bromley and Co.; Curtains and Lace by Messrs Carey and Sons.]
Episode VII. Choosing a Rector, 1223
In twelve hundred and twenty-three,
An interesting scene we see:
The right to choose a Rector then
Was vested in the Bulwell men.
At Newstead there were Priests galore,
At Lenton there were plenty more;
But Bulwell folk could not agree
Which man their Parish Priest should be,
Until the year twelve thirty-four,
We find the King appoints once more,
And gives the Church with right to preach
To Henry Medicus or Leech.
Episode VIII. The Court Leet
For many centuries there did meet
The Great Court Baron, or Court Leet.
Much power they held in bygone day,
When ancient custom still held sway;
And they assembled in due state,
To punish, fine, and judicate.
But one by one their powers decreased,
Until three years ago they ceased.
Episode IX. Lord Byron at Bulwell Wood Hall, Early 19th Century
Lord Byron, ere his famous ride,
At Bulwell Wood Hall did reside.
Great was the feat that wager won,
From London Town, ere rising sun,
To Bulwell Wood Hall rode his steed
In stated time, he did the deed,
But in the doing killed his horse,
And chafed his spirit in remorse.
[This episode depicts the poet’s famous wager and was included because a large picture of a white horse is still shown at the Hall, reputed to be the one ridden by Lord Byron.]
Episode X. The Strelley School
The house is standing to this day,
Where Joseph Calladine held sway,
And ruled with rod his scholar band,
One of the earliest in the land.
He read the Bible day by day,
And taught his boys to work and play,
Reading, writing, arithmetic,
Impressed by whackings from his stick.
Ben Collins, lamed in foot and hand,
Assisted them to understand.
If walls could speak, we know full well,
Strange yarns the Strelley House could tell.
Episode XI. Bulwell Wakes (Ancient)
Through many centuries we can trace
A Fair in Bulwell Market,
Providing such a splendid chance
For merriment and Morris dance.
It also made excuse, I’m told,
For ducking of the village scold.
And anyone who caused a fight
Was put into the stocks till night.
This episode featured a Morris Dance.
Episode XII. Bulwell Wakes (Modern)
And still in Bulwell year by year,
The din of jocund noise we hear,
When sprightly youth its pleasure takes
In merriment at Bulwell Wakes.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
- Tuck, Friar (fl. 15th cent.) legendary outlaw
- Byron, George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron (1788–1824) poet
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Nottingham Evening Post
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- A Dream of Old Bulwell: Historical Pageant Presented in Twelve Episodes (Bulwell, 1929). Copy available at Nottingham Local Studies Library.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Brown, Cornelius. History of Nottinghamshire. London, 1891.
- Domesday Book.
- Magna Carta.
- Mellors, Robert. Old Nottingham Suburbs: Then and Now. Nottingham, 1914.
- The Parish Registers and Ancient Vestry Meeting Minute Books.
- Throsby, John. The History and Antiquities of the Town and County of the Town of Nottingham; Containing the Whole of Thoroton’s Account of that Place and all that is Valuable in Deering. Nottingham, 1795.
‘A Dream of Old Bulwell’ was a small indoor pageant-play that took place in 1929 at the Bulwell Olympia, a struggling local theatre.2 It was masterminded by the Rev. Stanley M. Wheeler, who acted as author, arranger, and pageant-master, the profits (if there were any) going to the Bulwell Parish Church Organ Renovation Fund and the Bulwell Nursing Association.3 Beyond a small piece in the Nottingham Evening Post and a souvenir programme, it has left very little evidence of its staging.
In terms of its production and staging it was an odd mix of the original themes of pageantry and the evolution the format had undergone in the interwar decades. True to the ideals of Parker and Lascelles, the episodes that depicted historical episodes had been properly researched, using both the work of local historians as well as original documents such as parish records, Magna Carta, and Domesday Book. It took, however, only a loosely chronological approach. Some events, such as Episode VIII (the Court Leet) and Episode X (The Strelley School), were seemingly not dateable. However, the first five episodes utilised the common pre-1914 narrative of depicting the town’s founding, the Saxons, the Normans, and the foundation of the local church. In the final two episodes, chronology was abandoned altogether, the narrative instead presented as a comparison between ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’ wake traditions. Of course, being a Nottinghamshire pageant, there was the obligatory Robin Hood episode. Reflecting the strength of local industrial concerns on the list of patrons, there was an episode dedicated to showing the contemporary production of wares in the district, featuring pottery by the notable company R. Sankey and Son, colliery working by the Babbington Coal Co., and curtains and lace by Messrs Carey and Sons. It was, in this sense, an obvious example of local economic boosterism.
Indeed industrial concerns also had an important representative in the pageant’s organisation through the intriguing figure of the second pageant-master, Norman Carey, presumably one of the aforementioned sons. In the souvenir programme he was depicted in a striking portrait sketch by local notable artist Marjorie C. Bates. Dressed in formal wear, he seems mischievous and strikingly younger even than his actual age of 29. Part of an old and established Nottingham family, his father, W.H. Carey, was a former city council member, Sheriff of Nottingham, and founder of the Bulwell Finishing Company in the 1880s—a large employer locally of labour.4 An important civic figure, W.H. Carey was also a patron of the pageant. His son was seemingly a bit of a tearaway; earlier in the same year of the pageant he was summoned to court and fined for declining to move his car when requested by a policeman. Allegedly, when told by the officer that he would be reported if he refused, he replied ‘’Oh, that’s all right. My father is a J.P., and I will phone Colonel Lemon [the Chief Constable of the County] and report you for not moving these three [other] cars.’ Already having bemused the court by claiming that he had obstructed the road ‘for ten minutes while the Prince of Wales was going up in an aeroplane’ during a regal visit, he further ‘surprised’ the magistrates when asked if he had anything to say to the bench: ‘Nothing, except to ask why he [the officer] does not carry a pencil. He had to borrow mine to take down my name and address.’5 Norman Carey tragically died at the age of 33, four years later and before the death of his elderly father; 150 employees of the Bulwell Finishing Company attended his funeral and over 60 wreaths were given, but no information was given on the cause of death.6 Difficult to recover now, he remains faintly visible as an example of an interesting and seemingly eccentric minor pageant master.
The one report of the pageant, in the Nottingham Evening Post, was positive. Declaring that the pageant was ‘A reminder that Bulwell has a history of its own’, it also stated that:
The pageant has been rehearsed and produced with commendable care and thoroughness. The great majority of the performers who are called upon to speak are delightfully clear, and a good deal of ‘business’, much of it quietly humorous, is taken full advantage of.7
Difficult to recover now, ‘A Dream of Old Bulwell’ can still show the historian several things. Firstly, its small and unrecorded nature paradoxically displays just how common and widespread historical pageants had become by the interwar years. Secondly, it shows how the format of the narrative had developed from the Edwardian period, keeping some of the essentials of Parker’s original vision, yet departing quite clearly in others—the result being a peculiar mix of local history, myth, and obvious industrial promotion. Finally, its staging indoors offers an early example of the move away from spectacular outdoor displays, more commonly seen in the post-Second World War period.
- A Dream of Old Bulwell: Historical Pageant Presented in Twelve Episodes (Bulwell, 1929).
- ‘Bygones: Bulwell Olympia's Chequered History’, Nottingham Post, 24 March 2009, http://www.nottinghampost.com/Bygones-Bulwell-Olympia-s-chequered-history/story-12196488-detail/story.html Accessed 4/8/2015.
- A Dream of Old Bulwell: Historical Pageant Presented in Twelve Episodes (Bulwell, 1929).
- ‘Death of Mr W.H. Carey’, Nottingham Evening Post, 27 January 1936, 9; ‘64 Years in Nottingham Curtain Trade’, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 28 January 1936, 5.
- ‘Watching the Prince’, Nottingham Evening Post, 19 June 1929, 1.
- ‘An Arnold Funeral’, Nottingham Evening Post, 18 April 1933, 8.
- ‘Dream of Old Bulwell’, Nottingham Evening Post, 5 December 1929, 8.