Historical Pageant of Claverley and Its Neighbourhood
Place: Chyknell Hall (Claverley) (Claverley, Shropshire, England)
Number of performances: 1
23 July 1931 at 2.30pm
‘Between Bridgnorth and Wolverhampton’
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Deviser and Producer [Pageant Master]: Gage, Yvonne
- General Organiser: Mrs Legh
- Mistress of the Robes: Miss Hull
- Property Manager: Rev. Christopher Perowne
- Property Makers: Messr T. Carter; J. Courtman
- Designer and Producer: Hon. Yvonne Gage
- Assistant Producer: Miss Rhona Byron
- Fayre of Olden Times: Claverley Dorcas Society
- Orchestra Conductor: Mr J. Turton Smith, FRCA, LRAM, ARCM
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Patron: Marquess of Cambridge; Marchioness of Cambridge
- Chairmen of the Committees: Rev. Ralph Guy; H. Goodson, Esq.; G. Green, Esq.
- Hon. Treasurer: Mr Swift
- Hon. Organising Secretary: R. Manby, Esq.
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Gage, Yvonne
- Milton, John
An excerpt from Milton’s Comus was performed.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers500
Object of any funds raised
Fundraising for Claverley Church School.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Associated eventsA Fayre of Olden Times, Dancing, Illuminated Grounds.
Episode I. A Celtic Scene, AD 51
A human sacrifice is in progress interrupted by the Romans under Osterius Scapula who defeat the Celts under Caradoc at Caer Caradoc.
Episode II. The Founding of the Abbey at Wenlock, and the Coming of Christianity to Shropshire, AD 680
St Milburga, grand-daughter of Penda, King of Mercia, converted to Christianity and laid the first stone of Wenlock Abbey in 680AD. Her father, Merewald, King of Mercia, also converted and founded the Priory of Leominster. This scene involves St Augustine, nuns, monks and a tableau of angels.
Episode III. Norman Scene: The Founding of Quatford Church, AD 1083
Adelissa, second wife to Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, being in danger on the sea, while crossing from Normandy, vowed that she would build a Church whenever she first met her husband on landing in England. After many months, she chanced to meet him at Quatford while he was hunting; and there they built the Church, and with its endowments they added the and tithes and lands of Claverley and other neighbouring villages.
Episode IV. Edward II’s Tournament at Shrewsbury, 1322
No information, but the scene features soldiers, wrestlers, archery contests, knight competitors on hobby horses, a jester, country dancers and greyhounds
Episode V. Funeral Procession of Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, 1453
Talbot, the great Earl of Shrewsbury, was killed in battle in France, where he fought for Henry VI against Joan of Arc. His body was brought back to Whitchurch and, at his own request, it was carried to the grave by his bodyguard of Whitchurch men.
Episode VI. The Wedding of Edward Farmer to Elizabeth Potter, 16th Century
Elizabeth was heiress to the Chicknal Estates in Tudor Times. The episode features a wedding party, a masquerade of Robin Hood, a witch, a bull and hobby horses (each with two people in a horse/bull costume).
Episode VII. Milton’s Masque of Comus, 1634
Written at Ludlow Castle and performed there for the first time in 1634 before John, Earl of Bridgewater, then President of Wales and owner of the castle
Episode VIII. Just Outside Boscobel, 1651
Charles II, escaping after the Battle of Worcester, gets to Boscobel where they meet Captain Careless, and they both conceal themselves in an Oak Tree. While they are hidden in the branches they hear many people discussing what they would do with the King if they caught him.
Episode IX. The King’s Visit to Shrewsbury in 1685
The King cures people of the King’s evil.
Episode X. The Battle of Plassey, 1753
The eve of the battle of Plassey when Robert Clive (born in Shropshire and afterwards Lord Lieutenant of that Country) defeated the Nabob Surujah Dewlah with 3000 men as against the Nabob’s 70000. This took place about 1753.
Episode XI. A Scene From the Life of Fanny Burney, 18th Century
Episode XII. Charles Darwin, 19th Century
‘Darwin, author of ‘The Origin of Species’ &c, was born in Shropshire. The following is a fantasy that we are descended from apes.’2
Key historical figures mentioned
- Ostorius Scapula, Publius (d. AD 52) Roman governor of Britain
- Mildburg [St Mildburg, Milburg, Milburga] (d. in or after 716) abbess of Much Wenlock
- Augustine [St Augustine] (d. 604) missionary and archbishop of Canterbury
- Montgomery, Roger de, first earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094) soldier and magnate
- Edward II [Edward of Caernarfon] (1284–1327) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Isabella [Isabella of France] (1295–1358) queen of England, consort of Edward II
- Henry VI (1421–1471) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Margaret [Margaret of Anjou] (1430–1482) queen of England, consort of Henry VI
- Milton, John (1608–1674) poet and polemicist
- Egerton, John, first earl of Bridgewater (1579–1649) politician and lawyer
- Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
- James II and VII (1633–1701) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
- Mary II (1662–1694) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland
- Clive, Robert, first Baron Clive of Plassey (1725–1774) army officer in the East India Company and administrator in India
- Coote, Sir Eyre (1726–1783) army officer
- Burney, Frances (1776–1828) governess and poet [also known as Burney, Fanny]
- Darwin, Charles Robert (1809–1882) naturalist, geologist, and originator of the theory of natural selection
17-piece orchestra conducted by Mr J. Turton Smith, FRCA, LRAM, ARCM.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
- Historical Pageant of Claverley and its Neighbourhood. Shrewsbury, 1931.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- A digitized copy of the pageant programme is available, sharehistory, accessed 7 January 2016, http://www.sharehistory.org/janes/uploads/8255-historical-pageant-claverley.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Milton, John. Comus, A Mask. London, 1634.
The village of Claverley lies at the extreme east of the county of Shropshire on a road some ten miles from Wolverhampton and around four miles from Bridgnorth. In 1931 its population was 1215, this being 74 less that that recorded at the previous census in 1921.3 It is striking that a village (with few settlements of note in its surroundings) could mount a pageant on this scale, with 500 performers over 12 episodes. Its venue, Chyknell Hall, was a large Georgian manor and estate owned by Edith Selina and Hubert Cornwall-Legh.4 The organiser and producer, the Hon. Yvonne Gage (daughter of the Sixth Viscount Gage), was a noted socialite from East Sussex. Born in 1902, Gage was involved in a number of local organisations and worthy causes, including the Girl Guides and the local hunt.5
In many ways, the pageant anticipated the much larger 1934 Shropshire Historical Pageant, held in Ludlow, which featured a performance of John Milton’s masque ‘Comus’ on a grand scale. In fact, Claverley’s pageant was more extensive in its presentation of Salopian history, including Edward II’s visit in 1322 and the funeral of Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, who fell at the Siege of Castillon in 1453, a battle which effectively ended the Hundred Years’ War. In fact, the pageant is slightly inaccurate here, as only Talbot’s heart was buried in Whitchurch Church (at his request), although to represent this in a pageant might well have been confusing or macabre!6 The pageant also includes Charles II’s miraculous escape from Roundhead soldiers by hiding in the subsequently named ‘Royal Oak’ at Boscobel House, and Clive of India (a famous son of Shropshire). Episode XI, featuring the eighteenth-century writer Fanny Burney, mistakes her birthplace for Shrewsbury (where her father Charles Burney was born); in actual fact she never lived in the county.7
The introduction to the pageant made clear that ‘however much the Nations of Europe may differ in their aims and aspirations, they all agree as to the paramount importance of Education in the present world crisis and unrest. The Children of to-day will be the citizens of to-morrow’. Moreover, it went on to argue, ‘Although the State now assumes the responsibility of National Education, we, believing in the principles of the Church of England, are anxious to preserve our Schools, especially when they are linked to the immemorial past and enshrine the true Faith which alone can enable England to fulfil her destiny in the World.’8
Yet despite these words, the actual content of the pageant included relatively scant mention of the place of the church in society. Perhaps the strangest scene featured Charles Darwin, a prominent Salopian, and was ‘a fantasy on his theory that we are descended from apes.’9 The bizarre episode featured Darwin, ‘A Leading Ape’, ‘the Ape’s Wife’ and a ‘Mechanical Man’, though sadly the programme does not go into further detail. On the face of it, the scene appears to be ridiculing Darwin’s work, which is surprising, since pageants tended to avoid pillorying famous locals, however contentious their ideas or doings. Indeed, so far as the science of evolution was concerned, pageants typically left out the prehistory of man entirely, or else accepted Darwinian theories.
For a pageant held in a remote village it was surprising that the event should have been covered by the Times, which mentioned but passed over the Darwin scene without comment, pointing out that ‘the incidents drawn from the corners of Shropshire were effective’ and praising the tournament of Edward II as ‘one of the spectacular scenes’, alongside the ‘gay’ Tudor wedding, which was ‘sombre’ in contrast to Talbot’s funeral.10 By a strange quirk of fate, as noted by the Reverend C.H.D. Grimes in a letter to the Times, a monument to the battle of Castillon, known locally as the ‘Talbot Monument’, had been erected in France four days previously.11
The Historical Pageant of Claverley was an example of a village pageant attempting to demonstrate its county heritage. The attempt to put a religious, even anti-Darwinian spin on the pageant, must be judged as incongruous at best.
- Times, 24 July 1931, 12.
- Historical Pageant of Claverley and its Neighbourhood (Shrewsbury, 1931), 41.
- Census 1931: England and Wales: Series of County Parts, Part I. County of Shropshire, Table 3: ‘ Population, Acreage, Private Families and Dwellings’, accessed 7 January 2016, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/census/table_page.jsp?tab_id=EW1931COU1_M3&u_id=10350797&show=DB.
- ‘Exceptional Country Houses for Sale in Shropshire’, Country Life, accessed 7 January 2016, http://www.countrylife.co.uk/news/exceptional-country-houses-for-sale-in-shropshire-18654.
- Sussex Agricultural Express, 10 January 1930, 5; Leeds Mercury, 19 April 1912, 4.
- ‘Whitchurch’, Shropshire Tourism, accessed 7 January 2016, http://www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/whitchurch/.
- Burney [married name D'Arblay], Frances [Fanny] (1752–1840), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Entry, accessed 7 January 2015, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/603/?back=,4078
- Historical Pageant of Claverley and its Neighbourhood (Shrewsbury, 1931), 3.
- Ibid., 41.
- ‘A Shropshire Pageant’, The Times, 24 July 1931, 12.
- C.H.D. Grimes, ‘Letters: A Shropshire Pageant’, The Times, 1 August 1931, 6.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Claverley and Its Neighbourhood’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1034/