Heritage: A Pageant in Six Episodes
- A Pageant of Youth
Presented by ‘The Youth of Leeds’
Place: Roundhay Park (Roundhay, Leeds) (Roundhay, Leeds, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)
Number of performances: 3
24-26 June, 1946
[22 June at 3pm, 24 and 26 June at 7.30pm]
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Howard, Edward
Mr. C. Frank
Mr. S. Fearnley and Mr. C. Brown
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Jukes, H.R.
Jukes was formerly producer of BBC Talks.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers3000
Object of any funds raised
The Pageant was also celebrating Peace and Victory
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
10s. to 2s. 6d.
Episode I. The Wapentake of Skyrack, 850
The empty stage fills up with a crowd of Anglo-Saxon peasants with tools, oxen, plus warriors, children playing around etc. A youth enters and plays a harp. Wilfrid of Ripon enters and pats the boy on the shoulder. The crowd acclaims him. Wilfrid asks the boy to take holy orders. Elders enter and discuss. A woman accuses a man of theft and demands justice, with the elders arbitrating. Suddenly Saxon soldiers enter in flight, followed by a herald telling of a raid by the Danes who have sacked Ripon and are harrying the countryside. The herald collapses and dies and all are afraid. Alfred enters disguised as a minstrel. Alfred reveals himself to be the King and all acclaim him. Alfred explains he has wandered through their camp in disguise and heard their plans. Alfred foretells of the unification of England and the need to build a navy and become great, as well as churches and schools: ‘Peace do I love, but this dear England love I more. Free must she be from every holocaust of war. We must build ships, I say.’1 Sailors dressed in naval costume of the past 1000 years enter in order and process across the stage to music then exit. The Saxons come charging out, ready for battle and all exit.
Episode II. Kirkstall Abbey, 1152-1540
Chanting is heard offstage, over which the commentator is heard narrating the march of history. Monks enter, chanting and file past followed by the abbot. An elderly, crippled beggar and poor children follow and are given food at the Abbot’s command and then leave. The Abbot sits surrounded by his attendants. Lights are switched on behind windows. The Abbott goes about business, dealing fairly with peasants who offer him gifts (i.e. venison, fish, fruit, a lamb, wrought iron). The scene shifts and the commentator describes austerity becoming pride and pomp. The Abbot is now dressed splendidly, the old robe thrown aside. A Knight enters and asks forgiveness and the Abbot fines him 35 oxen and 200 sheep. The Abbot puts on an even more sumptuous gown. A noblewoman is distraught at her husband’s death in a crusade. The Abbot persuades her to leave her lands to the church and enter a nunnery.2 The Abbot becomes Lord of Shipley. The commentator announces: ‘But at last arose a King who was greedier of wealth and power even than they. Henry the Eighth.’3 Henry’s emmisaries enter from the side and present the Abbot with a parchment signifying the dissolution of Kirkstall Abbey. A noise is heard as workmen enter with crowbars, spades, etc and jeer at the monks, taking the censer and dislodging stones from the walls. A workman seizes the Abbot’s crozier and breaks it. The Abbot moves to the front of the stage, now empty and says: ‘Farewell, farewell, O Kirkstall, thou prayer in stone./In thee a dream came true, just for a while;/Just for a little while./In humbleness we built thee, with humbleness and love.’4 The Abbot goes on to repent of his greed and avarice. The monks chant and move off in a sad procession.
Episode III. Tourney at Temple Newsam, 1200 AD
Trumpeters enter the stage and play a fanfare. A colourfully dressed crowd of lords and ladies enter, followed by young pages and peasants, servants, soldiers, minstrels, clowns, etc. Workmen put up shields of heralding devices and a tilt rail. Twelve mounted knights arrive, dividing into two parties. The herald announces each contest as the knights charge and fight. Some of the losing knights are apparently killed and carried off by attendants, with the victor taking the other’s helm and receiving a garland and the ladies’ favour. Knights move into a line facing the stage, their spears raised in salute. There is another fanfare, then exit followed by the whole party. The Knights reappear dressed as crusaders. Florence Nightingale then enters with two Crimean soldiers carrying a third, wounded. The knights have now become Red Cross orderlies.
Episode IV. Charters of Freedom. 1215 to the Present
Workmen erect a canopy, and discuss the scene of Runnymede. A knight enters and starts haranguing one of them. More groups enter, followed by Archbishop Langton and the King, who reluctantly signs the charter after reading it disparagingly, declaring ‘Freedom!’ repeatedly in anger.5 The year is 1626 with Charles I giving his Charter to the Borough of Leeds, read by John Harrison who proclaims the freedom of the borough. Two Leeds MPs are sent to Parliament in 1654. Thomas Danby receives a renewed Charter in 1661. In 1681, Judge Jeffries at the Bloody Assizes gives Leeds a new, worse charter. Mayor William Massie destroys it in 1689. In 1867 three workmen ‘of the better class’ enter.6 In 1931 the Statute of Westminster on the sovereignty of the Dominions is depicted, followed by Churchill and the Atlantic Charter. The whole dramatis personae of the scene reassemble. Churrchill declares: ‘Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion. May Almighty God bless and preserve our Cause.’7
Episode V. Carnival at Temple Newsam, 1545 to 1567
Scene 1. 1545
Lennox and nobles enters awaiting the birth of his firstborn, Lord Darnley. Servants rush on stage in joy and churchbells are rung. Lennox is presented with his child. An old witch enters and foresees Darnley’s sad fate before leaving. Merrymaking begins again.
Scene 2. 1565
A handsome couple – Darnley and Mary – walk in before leaving and the narrator tells of his assassination but not before producing the future James VI and I.
Scene 3. 1567
Mary enters with her infant son in black. The witch enters and looks at Mary, accusing her of Darnley’s murder, her own death and then her son’s coronation. Men at arms and a nobleman enter and arrest Mary. The bell tolls.
Episode VI. News of Victory 1815-Present
Leeds in 1815: fair folk enter and set up a circus. A prize fighter, Battling Benson, challenges locals. He is knocked out by the Leeds Unknown. There are further acrobats, etc., cooks, a freak show, a circus and gipsy dancers. A further boxing match continues before the Mayor enters to announce the great Victory of Waterloo. ‘God Save the King’ is sung.
Episode VII. 1914-1939
The scene shifts to 1914 with soldiers in battle-dress marching across the screen, followed by those from 1939. The commentator announces: ‘But the Price of Freedom and Peace has been heavy. All down the ages have Britons paid the price of Freedom. Now for a moment let us remember those men and women who laid down their lives that others might be free.’8
The Last Post is played, followed by lines by Rupert Brooke.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Alfred [Ælfred] (848/9–899) king of the West Saxons and of the Anglo-Saxons
- Wilfrid [St Wilfrid] (c.634–709/10) bishop of Hexham
- Langton, Stephen (c.1150–1228) archbishop of Canterbury
- John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
- Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
- Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
Music performed by a choir of male voices and the Band of the Lancaster Regiment including:
- God Save the King.
- The Last Post.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Yorkshire Evening Post
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- Heritage: A Pageant in Six Episodes (Leeds, 1946). Copy in Leeds Central Library Local Studies Collection, LP 822 JUK.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of programme, Leeds Central Library Local Studies Collection, LP 822 JUK.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Rupert Brooke, unspecified poems.
The first major pageant in Leeds, the Tercentenary Pageant in 1926, had been a children’s pageant. Whether through lack of interest among the adult people or otherwise, the city held more pageants of youth than adult pageants, in 1929 and 1938.1 The Leeds Heritage Pageant was announced in January 1946 a Pageant of Peace and Victory, described as ‘1,000 years of Britain’s story in the fight for freedom’ performed by a variety of Youth Organisations.2 Tenders were invited to submit bids to provide up to 7000 yards off material for the Pageant, ‘preferably coupon free’, an acknowledgment of the continuing rationing.3 Suits of armour, along with weapons were produced by youths at the Leeds College of Technology, under the close supervision of two teachers there, Mr. S. Fearnley and Mr. C. Brown.4
Despite Princess Elizabeth declining an invitation owing to prior commitments, the Pageant was reasonably successful in spite of the Pageant Master, Edward Howard, possessing no prior experience, telling an interview ‘“I have read and studied the work of other producers, but I do not know what has been done in other pageants…Apparently I am doing things quite differently.’5 Despite some showers, there was ‘a fair crowd’, leading the Yorkshire Post to remark, in slightly underwhelming tones, that: ‘One was impressed by the added polish and the general tightening up in the sequence of the various historical episodes since the first performance on Saturday.’6 Howard concluded the proceedings with a celebrated, and evidently hilarious, impression of Winston Churchill, thanking all who had taken part and declaring his hopes to make the pageant an annual event. In the event, and particularly after the fiasco of the nearby Bradford Centenary Pageant the following year, this was to be one of the last pageants held in Leeds.
- Heritage: A Pageant in Six Episodes (Leeds, 1946), 5.
- Ibid, 10-11.
- Ibid, 12.
- Ibid, 21.
- Yorkshire Evening Post, 25 June 1938, 7.
- Yorkshire Evening Post, 11 January 1946, 8; Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 19 June 1946, 6.
- Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 26 February 1946, 4.
- Yorkshire Evening Post, 6 April 1946, 6.
- Yorkshire Evening Post, 6 June 1946, 8.
- Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 27 June 1946, 6.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Heritage: A Pageant in Six Episodes’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1093/