Lancaster Pageant

Other names

  • Lancaster Historical Pageant

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Springfield Park (Lancaster) (Lancaster, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1913

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


4–9 August 1913, daily at 2.30pm.1

Full dress rehearsals were held on Saturday 12 July and Saturday 26 July 1913.2

Several months before the pageant, the Committee Minute Book specifies that there was no intention to allow the public to attend dress rehearsals and a comment was made that the general public had proved 'rather a nuisance' when they turned up at ordinary rehearsals.3 However, they seem to have relented on this point, as the accounts suggest income from the rehearsals.

The performance lasted almost four hours.4

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Hastings, Harold
  • Master of Dancing: A. Willis
  • Master of Music: J.W. Aldous, MA5

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee: the Pageant Council:

  • President: H.L. Storey, Esq., JP, DL
  • Vice-Presidents: C.F. Seward, Esq., JP (Mayor of Lancaster) and E. Cardwell, Esq., JP (Ex-Mayor of Lancaster)
  • Treasurer: R. Stanton
  • Hon. General Secretary: J.R. Stanton, JR, HistS

Ladies' Committee:

  • Hon. Secs.: Mrs Briggs and Mrs W. Croft Helme

Executive and Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Very Rev. Canon Billington
  • Hon. Sec.: J.R. Nuttall

Performers Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor W. Briggs
  • Hon. Sec.: W. Procter

Properties and Heraldry Committee:

  • Chairman: C. Ripper, ARCA
  • Hon. Sec.: J.J. Gilchrist

Music Committee:

  • Chairman: J.W. Aldous, MA
  • Hon. Sec.: C.H. Mamer

Ground and Stand Committee:

  • Chairman: J.H. Thurston
  • Hon. Sec.: T. Baines

Advertising and Press Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor C.W. Seward, Mayor
  • Hon. Sec.: T. Gill

Designing Committee:

  • Chairman: Very Rev. Canon Billington
  • Hon. Sec.: G.L. Austin

Horse Committee:

  • Chairman: Alderman G. Jackson
  • Hon. Sec.: J.B. Robertson


The pageant had a senior executive body—the Pageant Council—which included representatives from ten separate sub-committees, as well as the Pageant Master and Masters of Music and Dancing.7

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Sutcliffe, Halliwell
  • Billington, Richard N.
  • Stocks, G.A.
  • Benson, Joseph


Excepting the Prologue, which was written by Canon Richard N. Billington, the script was authored by Halliwell Sutcliffe (1870–1932).8 Sutcliffe was at the time a well-known and prolific author of fiction, including historical romances.9

The lyrics of ‘The Song of Lancaster’, sung at the conclusion of the pageant, were written by G.A. Stocks.10

Extracts from Joseph Benson’s poem, The Battle of Flodden Field, were used in Episode IV.11

Names of composers

  • Aldous, J.W.

Aldous had the title of 'Master of Music'.

Numbers of performers

1800 - 2000

The performers included 'hundreds of children'. A large number of horses were used. The exact number of performers varies across newspaper reports; however, the book of words specifies 2000.

Financial information

Donations: £6. 1s.
Subscriptions from Guarantors: £173. 10s.
Grand Stand Tickets: £2276. 8s. 11d.
Rehearsals: £84. 3s. 6d.
Gate Receipts: £900. 11s. 9d.
Premium for Souvenir and Photographic Rights: £88. 15s.
Sale of Books of Words: £168. 12s. 2d.
Sale of Music Programmes: £29. 7s. 6d.
Advertisements in Pageant Booklet: £33. 12s. 6d.
Refreshment Stalls: £24. 4s. 8d.
Sale of Timber, &c.: £33. 3s. 4d.
Sale and Hire of Costumes & Properties: £260. 15s. 8d.
Bank Interest and Sundries: £18. 15s. 4d.
Total: £4095. 2s. 4d.

Grandstand, Cloakrooms and Hire of Chairs: £643. 19s. 2d.
Costumes, Properties, Screens, Banners: £1020. 17s. 8d.
Halliwell Sutcliffe, Esq.: £105
Pageant Master: £100
Master of Music: £20
Master of Dances: £5
Bands and Pipers: £205. 4s. 3d.
Services of Police and Firemen: £24. 19s. 7d.
Wages of Attendants and Workmen: £74. 2s.
Printing and Stationary: £136. 0s. 8d.
Printing Booklet: £36. 13s. 8d.
Printing Book of Words: £77. 12s.
Sketches for Souvenir Book: 314. 10s.
Printing Music Programmes: £14. 15s.
Advertising: £74. 1s. 7d.
Hire of Tents, &c.: £55
Hire of Horses, 7c.: £43. 16s. 8d.
Insurance: £12. 5s. 6d.
Carriage of Goods: £31. 2s.10d.
Telephones on Field: £9. 15s. 11d.
Rent, Lighting and Water—Pageant House: £21. 12. 8d.
Sundry Disbursements: £43. 19s. 7d.
Postages: £46. 6s. 4d.
Repairs: £2. 16s. 9d.
Bank Charges and Cheques: £1. 2s. 6d.
Subscriptions Returned: £173. 10s.

Balance (cash at bank): £1100. 18s.14

Object of any funds raised

No precise recipient was specified, but profits were distributed to local charities.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 2000
  • Total audience: 47500


The pageant programme specifies that the stand held 'almost 2000' spectators.15

5000 spectators attended the second performance on Tuesday.16 At the Friday afternoon performance, reserved seats were sold out and more seated accommodation was provided in the uncovered area to meet demand.17 According to the Yorkshire Post, an audience of around 7000 attended the final performance of the pageant on Saturday 9 August.18 However, the Burnley Express reported that around 10000 attended and gave total audience figures for the week of between 45000 to 50000.19

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Reserved covered seats: 2s. 6d; 3s. 6d; 5s; 10s. 6d; 21s.
Reserved uncovered seats: 1s. 6d.
Standing only: 1s.20
The vast majority of tickets sold must have been standing only and this may account for the variable numbers quoted for the overall attendance.

Associated events

Pageant Ball (Friday 8 August 1913).

Pageant outline


Mr A.T. Gallaway spoke a short prologue in verse introducing the pageant.22

Prelude. The Coming of the Romans, AD 79

This was a short piece of drama containing dialogue and described in the programme as a 'prelude'. The scene depicted the arrival of Agricola within the hilly territory where Lancaster would later stand. It opened with a group of Britons waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the Romans. Agricola arrived in a chariot accompanied by Decurions and foot soldiers; he asked after his wife who was journeying to meet him but was told she had not yet arrived as she was travelling by another way. Agricola declaimed: 'Is there fairer land in Albion than this vale, with its crooking stream?' Various references were made to other parts of the territory, for example 'Burrow' (presumably meaning Barrow), and Agricola then went on to name the place of arrival as 'Adalaunum'. His wife Domitia and daughter Lucilla then arrived, transported in a litter. Domitia conversed with Agricola and spoke of her terrible journey through 'waste and watery bog'; the scene ended with Agricola stating his intent to 'lay foundations here'. The episode had six speaking parts and formed the introduction to the pageant.

Episode I. King John, 1199–1206

The Book of Words states that before becoming King, John had granted a Charter to Lancaster; in 1199, this was replaced with a Royal Charter after he ascended the throne. The episode depicted the visit made by King John to Lancaster on 26 February 1206 when he granted the favour of a royal charter to the city. Around 150 performers took part. His wife, Queen Isobel [Isabella], and several bishops and lords accompanied the King. The drama consisted of the encounter between the Bailiff, corporation and townspeople and the King and his entourage. The King addressed the Lancastrians and was chided playfully by his jester, for which the jester earned a couple of blows from the monarch. John implied that payment would be required for the charter. The King and Queen then exited, and a few townspeople bemoaned the price that they would doubtless have to pay in the future for being in receipt of this royal favour.

Episode II. John of Gaunt, 1359–1369

The episode had a large cast of at least 200 performers including around 70 women and 40 men playing the parts of townspeople but without speaking roles. Principal roles included, John of Gaunt, Blanche of Lancaster, twenty-five attendants, around twenty lords and knights, the Mayor of Lancaster, the Constable of Lancaster, fifteen men-at arms (eight of them mounted), six named townspeople with small speaking roles and an unspecified number of child dancers. The drama took place in the Market Square and began with two townspeople (a man and woman) discussing the forthcoming marriage of John and Blanche; the conversation was meant to be light-hearted and bemoaned the fate of married women. Blanche then entered in a litter; followed by John and his retinue. The Mayor addressed Blanche stating that he wished to present a pageant. She welcomed this show, which consisted of children performing a Morris Dance. John of Gaunt was depicted as kindly towards the children. The Book of Words comments that John reputedly introduced the Morris Dance to England from Spain.

Episode III. Midsummer Revels, 1470–1480

A locally famous figure—John Gardyner of Bailrigg—featured in this episode. The drama began on the 'Moor, Lancaster' with the news that Gardyner had announced his intention to leave provision in his will for an almshouse, chantry and free school. The people discussed this development and the scene was merry with children running around at play. Gardyner, his friend Edmund Hornby and the Mayor of Lancaster then arrived, chatting together. Gardyner's appearance was remarked upon by townspeople and he was described favourably as 'a trim proper figure of a man'. Boys in the company became less enthusiastic for Gardyner's plans once he had announced the school hours—six in the morning until six at night. However, he defused the disgruntlement by throwing pennies after which the crowd scrambled. Onto this scene, 'a charlatan' appeared selling magic love charms; he was pushed aside by the crowd as the revels continued, and a 'herbalist' selling cures then came forward to be generally welcomed by the townspeople, some of whom confirmed that his cures had worked in the past. The episode ended with the assembled crowd making way for a 'laughing company' of entertainers, some on hobbyhorses and some performing a Morris Dance; finally all exited the stage. A large cast of around 350 men, women and children took part.


An interval of twenty minutes took place during which time the Band of the Yorkshire Hussars played a selection of music.

Episode IV. The March to Flodden Field, 1513

This episode had around 120 performers and featured the soldiers, Sir Edward Stanley of Hornby and Lord Dacre of Halton. A popular local knight, Brian Tunstall of Thurland Castle, was also included. The episode depicted the early morning muster of troops of the Lonsdale Archers and Lunnesdale Levies ahead of the Battle of Flodden, which took place on 9 September. The scene opened with the ringing of church bells while townspeople all rushed towards Lancaster Castle in search of news. At the front of the castle, several conversed about the call to arms which had been issued during the night. A soothsayer then appeared on the scene, and those conversing asked the old woman, described as 'fantastically dressed', to 'tell us what's to come'. She proceeded to predict the death of Tunstall. Sir Edward Stanley and his company then arrived at the scene; the old woman foresaw his survival, after which Dacre appeared and received a similar positive prediction. Lastly, Tunstall entered the scene, but the soothsayer then refused to say more, to the disgruntlement of the assembled crowd, but Tunstall urged them to leave her be. The excitement rose as all were told by a messenger that the Scots had crossed the border. Lady Dacre then suddenly arrived and pleaded with her husband not to go to battle, but he insisted that it was his duty. At this, Tunstall separated himself from the assembly as his own wife came into view moving slowly 'as if in pain of body'; she admitted that she was 'near to death' but foretold that 'you and I will not be parted long'. The episode concluded with the troops, Stanley at their head, marching off and singing 'The Song of Flodden' lustily.

Episode V. Dissolution of the Monasteries, 1536

The suppression of the Dominican Friary at Lancaster was enacted in this episode. The drama was set at the Friary in 1536 as 'the poor, the lame, the diseased' were being admitted through the gates. As Friars gave out food and alms and babies were 'lifted to have their ailments doctored', a conversation between Friar Dominic and a sick man named Simeon took place and a 'shrouded figure' (a leper) rang a bell. Within 'the hubbub' the Prior arrived through the gateway; the bell rang again and the Prior took the initiative and approached the leper—all looked on 'awe-struck' as the Prior gave his blessing to the dying leper and then moved off. Silence descended on the assembled crowd, but just as the business of administering to the poor and sick resumed, men came running to the gate. One announced that a Commissioner sent by the King was on his way. More conversation took place among some of the men for and against the actions of the king. The Commissioner and his party then arrived on horseback and the crowd moved as if to attack them, but they were quelled by the Prior who they reluctantly obeyed. The Prior, the Commissioner and his men then exited leaving the crowd angry; they returned soon afterwards with the Prior and his friars processing with 'infinite pathos and dignity, blessing the folk' as they passed by. As the monks left the priory, the people sang the funeral song, 'A Lyke-Wake Dirge'.

Episode VI. The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536

The northern rebellion that followed the dissolution of the monasteries was dramatised in this episode. It took place at the Market Cross of Lancaster and included the characters of John Paslew, the last Abbot of Whalley, and William Trafford, Abbot of Sawley, and eight further players with speaking roles. Around 100 performers in non-speaking roles acted as the 'army of the pilgrimage'. All the characters in this episode were male. The scene opened with a group of townsmen discussing the terrible times that had befallen the district since the dissolution and rejoicing that the Pilgrimage was to begin. Trumpets sounded and heralded the entrance of the Abbots and a company of monks, and a local leader named Captain Atkinson accompanied by soldiers. The crowd moved back and Atkinson read out the oath. Townsmen rushed to take the oath. At this, messengers from the Earl of Derby's army at Preston arrived and urged all to 'submit to his Majesty'. Following refusals to submit, the messengers offered a battle between 'twelve picked men of yours' with twelve of the King's forces. This too was refused, and the messengers left defeated. Atkinson then told all to make their way to a meeting at Clitheroe where they would commence 'on this stern pilgrimage'. The Abbot of Whalley then gave a blessing telling all that 'there was high adventure waiting for you at dawn'. The episode ended with the company dispersing while singing 'Vexilla Regis'. The musical director, J.W. Aldous, played the role of a townsman in this episode; he may have directed the singing.

Episode VII. Trial of the Lancaster Witches, 1612

The cast of the episode numbered around 100 performers. Described as 'a representation' of a famous trial that had taken place at Lancaster Castle in 1612, the episode included the Judge—Sir Edward Bromley, various clerks and magistrates, and a jury of 10 men. On trial were four women. Additional characters included Will Truelove, a poet, and Richard Haygarth, an apothecary. The scene began with the judge taking his seat in the court. In turn, each of the alleged witches were brought in and charged while an excitable crowd looked on. Each pled not guilty to witchcraft. The final woman to be accused, Alice Nuttall, managed to win the sympathy of the crowd with her testimony of innocence; however, they were all found guilty and ordered to be hanged. The scene ends with the poet and the apothecary discussing the likely consequences of this verdict; the poet predicts that this will bring an end to witch trials, declaring that 'by their deaths they will light the fire of freedom on our Lancashire hills'.

Episode VIII. Charles II, 1651

This episode depicted the arrival of Charles—described as the King of the Scots in the Book of Words—at Lancaster. The King and his Scottish army were on a journey from Scotland to Worcester where they would be defeated in battle by Cromwell. The scene was set at Lancaster's Market Place and opened with townspeople listening to 'a roistering Cavalier' singing a drinking song. Several men from the crowd argued with one another over the relative merits of royal rule or Cromwell's Commonwealth. A man named Edmondson stated: 'Magna Charta's gone. We've set up tyrant Cromwell'. A Herald then announced the arrival of 'King Charles of England, Scotland and Ireland'. In the company were the Duke of Hamilton and Major-General Leslie. Charles asked who would support him and most were non-committal except Edmondson who gave his allegiance to a grateful Charles. Others then began to warm to the King and rushed to be recruited. Another townsman named Wogan asked the King if he would release the prisoners in the local gaol; the King agreed to this and he and his army then went off to their barracks at Ashton Hall. The townsmen left discussed this development with one stating: 'A Stuart comes and he glamours folk. Then they follow him; and the next happening is heads dropping into buckets of sawdust'. Other men jumped to the defence of the King, and one declares that he intends to be off directly to the tavern to 'drink a bumper to the Stuart'. Around 130 performers took part including about 50 women playing the part of townspeople. Men took all of the speaking parts and included a number of servicemen (mostly privates) in the roles of royalists.

Episode IX. The Jacobites, 1715

Around 150 performers took part in the episode of which number at least half were women playing the roles of townspeople. Soldiers were played by servicemen, including a number of non-commissioned officers and privates. The main characters with speaking roles included the Jacobite Officers—General Forster, the Earl of Derwentwater, Lord Widdrington, and Brigadier Mackintosh, as well as some fictional characters including a Quaker businessman. Lancastrian Jacobite supporters also made an appearance including, John Dalton, Edward Tyldesley and Richard Butler.23 The drama was situated at the Market Place in Lancaster and included a great deal of dialogue. The scene opened with the entry of local leader, Sir Henry de Hoghton, supporter of King George, Colonel Francis Charteris and the Mayor of Lancaster. They discussed the imminent arrival of Forster at the head of a Jacobite army; the townspeople made clear that they were hostile to Charteris; and de Hoghton, who agreed with much of the common dissent, was therefore placed in a difficult position. A messenger brought news that an advance army of 1000 men was nearby; de Hoghton then advised withdrawing the militia to Preston and he and Charteris left the scene. Some Jacobite 'ladies of quality' then appeared on the scene and were given the news that Charteris was leaving. Forster then entered accompanied by Derwentwater and Widderington at the head of English Jacobite forces: Conversation between the last two made it clear that they had little faith in Forster's leadership considering him too free with drink and a womaniser. Forster then began recruiting and succeeded in persuading some local men. Other local supporters then arrived but, rather than make haste, Forster ordered two local recruits (whom he had immediately appointed as quartermasters) to fetch drink. Derwentwater protested the urgency of the situation and Forster reluctantly accepted his point. The Jacobites then all left but not before Forster had indulged in badinage with the ladies. The scene ended with Derwentwater and Witherington bemoaning their likely fate.

Episode X. The Second Jacobite Rising, 1745

In this episode, which was performed in two parts, a large cast of around 200 men women, boys and girls took part. In part one, the principal character of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was depicted arriving at Lancaster's market square at the head of his army of Highlanders. In his company were prominent Jacobite supporters: The Marquis of Tullibardine, Lord George Murray, Lord Elcho and Cameron of Lochiel. The scene opened with a bustling crowd and even more people arriving from the countryside, amid which was a farm wagon on which were seated 'rustic women'. Some of the men joked that such women would have no interest in local men once Prince Charles and his army arrived. During this humorous exchange a well-known and popular figure—Mrs Townhope of Burnley—arrived in a coach; she asked on the progress of the Prince and was told that he was a league away from the town. Mrs Townhope then offered to entertain the crowd with a song while they waited and proceeded to sing a ballad in support of the Jacobite cause ending with cries from the crowd such as 'Luck to Loyne' (Lancaster's traditional motto) and 'the Prince, God bless him'. The Prince arrived and was greeted enthusiastically by Mrs Townhope who also declared her husband's loyalty to the Prince. Charles noted a few black cockades in the crowd that was otherwise mostly supportive of his cause and cried out 'who in Lancaster is for the usurper?' One of the wearers of the black cockade challenged him stating: 'None in Lancaster is for the foreigner. It is England we stand for—England against the Scots. It was always so since Flodden and before. We cannot abide the Scots'. The Prince replied that he was for both the Scots and English. Following this exchange, the Marquis of Tullibardine introduced the Prince to a local man—Dr Bracken. The two conversed before Bracken moved off to speak with another townsman. Another in the crowd noted this exchange and warned the Prince that the man speaking with Bracken was a known Whig and supporter of the Hanoverian King, and he predicted that trouble might be brewing. Meanwhile the Prince asked the Mayor to show him to his lodgings. It was made clear that the Mayor was a reluctant host. The scene ended with another song from Mrs Townhope, again celebrating the Jacobite leanings in Lancaster.

The second scene depicted a reversed scenario at the market cross with only a few white cockades visible among the crowd that was now mostly sporting black cockades. Discussion among the townsmen indicated that there was fear locally about the behaviour of the defeated Highland army, and rumours abounded that the Highlanders were cannibals who would eat local children. Bagpipes were heard in the distance playing 'Flowers of the Forrest' and locals speedily moved to leave. The Prince and his companions including Mr Townhope arrived at the rear of the army, and one woman challenged the Prince on the rumours, which he denounced stating that the Highlanders had 'bairns of their own, waiting for them among the misty shielings some of them will never reach'. Mrs Townhope asked the Prince why he had returned from Derby when he could and should have pushed onwards to London, and he replied that it was his supporters who had urged caution. At this, a wounded Highlander rushed onto the scene warning that the 'Sassenachs' were soon to arrive to take the Prince and declaring his enduring love for the Stuarts, after which he fell 'into a muddled heap'. It was made clear that the sympathies of the crowd were again shifting towards the Jacobites and Townhope raised the question of Bracken's probable betrayal. Uproar then ensued as Hanoverians arrived and tried to capture the Prince but were beaten back. The Prince, accompanied by the Highlanders and Townhope and his regiment, then departed to the sadness of all, with one townsman declaring that the prince 'carried himself like a man, no fairweather dandy, he'.

Grande Finale

This featured a march past by all the performers and a grand entrance by 'Lancastria' who sang the 'Song of Lancaster'. The pageant ended with collective singing, led by Lancastria, of the hymn 'O God Our Help in Ages Past' and the national anthem.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Julius Agricola, Gnaeus [known as Agricola] (AD 40–93) Roman governor of Britain
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Isabella [Isabella of Angoulême], suo jure countess of Angoulême (c.1188–1246) queen of England, second consort of King John
  • John [John of Gaunt], duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399) prince and steward of England
  • Blanche of Lancaster (1346?–1368) noblewoman
  • Stanley, Edward, first Baron Monteagle (c.1460–1523) soldier
  • Dacre, Thomas, second Baron Dacre of Gilsland (1467–1525) magnate and soldier
  • Paslew, John (d. 1537) abbot of Whalley
  • Leslie, David, first Lord Newark (1601–1682) army officer
  • Hamilton, William, second duke of Hamilton (1616–1651) politician
  • Forster, Thomas (bap. 1683, d. 1738) politician and Jacobite army officer
  • Radcliffe, James, styled third earl of Derwentwater (1689–1716) Jacobite army officer [also known as Radclyffe, James]
  • Widdrington, William, fourth Baron Widdrington (1677/8–1743) Jacobite leader
  • Mackintosh, William, of Borlum [called Uilleam Dearg] (c.1657–1743) Jacobite army officer
  • Hoghton, Sir Henry, fifth baronet (1676x9–1768) landowner and politician
  • Charteris, Francis (c.1665–1732) gambler and rake
  • Charles Edward [Charles Edward Stuart, styled Charles III, known as the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie] (1720–1788) Jacobite claimant to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones
  • Murray, William, styled second duke of Atholl and marquess of Tullibardine (1689–1746) Jacobite leader and army officer
  • Murray, Lord George (1694–1760) Jacobite army officer
  • Cameron, Archibald (1707–1753) physician and Jacobite conspirator
  • Wemyss, David, styled sixth earl of Wemyss [known as Lord Elcho] (1721–1787) Jacobite army officer
  • Bracken, Henry (bap. 1697, d. 1764) writer on farriery and surgeon

Musical production

J.W. Aldous had the title of 'Master of Music' and was responsible for all original music used in the pageant. Most of the music was specially commissioned and composed by him, including music for the 'Song of Lancaster' (Grande Finale) and the arrangement of ‘A Lyke-Wake Dirge’ (Episode V). Pieces included:
  • Unknown composer, 'Song of Flodden' (Episode IV).
  • Venantius Fortunatus (530–609), 'Vexilla Regis' (Episode VI).
  • Traditional tune, 'Flowers of the Forest' (played on bagpipes in Episode X).
  • Hymn, 'O God Our Help in Ages Past' (Finale).
  • National Anthem.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Lancaster Observer and Morecombe Chronicle
Lancaster Guardian
The Yorkshire Post
The Burnley Gazette
Manchester Guardian

Book of words

Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington. Lancaster, 1913.

The Book of Words cost 1 shilling or 1s. 3d. if sent by post from Pageant House in Lancaster.26

Other primary published materials

  • Daily Programme of Music [leaflets]. Lancaster, 1913.
  • Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park Lancaster [souvenir programme]. Lancaster, 1913.
  • Lancaster Historical Pageant 1913, Souvenir, Price 1/-. York, 1913

Two examples of the Daily Programme of Music have been examined (for Monday 4 August and Friday 8 August 1913); it is assumed that this was printed for every day the performance took place and that different selections of music were played at each performance.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Lancaster Museum: Many pageant documents and artefacts, including the original watercolours which were replicated in the pageant booklet. A small selection can be seen online at the museum's website.27
  • Lancashire Archives, Preston: The Book of Words and copies of the Souvenir book and souvenir programme.
  • Lancaster Central Library: The local history room holds a large amount of material catalogued under shelfmark LY52. The material includes multiple copies of the pageant programme, the Book of Words and examples of the daily programmes for music; as well as postcards, photographs, assorted tickets and news cuttings all included in a large scrapbook. The library also holds one copy of the pageant souvenir and a copy of the sheet music arranged for the 'Lyke-Wake Dirge'. The souvenir contains a large number of photographs as well as postcard-sized colour reproductions of watercolour paintings of pageant characters and scenes.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Tacitus. Life of Agrippa.

When interviewed about the meaning of the prologue, the author, Canon Billington, stated that he had used Tacitus' work 'as the basis of the scene'.28


The Lancaster Pageant was a somewhat late addition to the bout of pageant fever that swept England in the early part of the twentieth century. Being so far north probably accounts for this tardiness. The similar county town of Chester had held its pageant in 1910, and there had been a small pageant in the nearby Lancashire town of Halton in 1912. These successful events perhaps persuaded Lancaster Council that entering the pageant fray was necessary to promote the town. Local government was very much at the organisational helm for this event, which involved the Mayor and many councillors on the executive committee. It is clear that, as well as being an encouragement to civic pride, there was a commercial element involved. The city chose to stage the pageant during the August bank holiday weekend when visitors flocked to the adjacent seaside town of Morecombe. No doubt many such holidaymakers, particularly if the weather was good, might not have considered leaving the many attractions of the coast in order to make a visit to the fairly staid town of Lancaster; however, the pageant provided the draw required. This strategy worked and many performances over the week had capacity audiences.

The organisers also opted to engage a well-known writer of historical fiction—Halliwell Sutcliffe—as scriptwriter. Sutcliffe used all the usual tropes of historical pageantry: Setting scenes at well-known landmarks, dramatising visits by monarchs, exposition through the casual conversation of townspeople, the inclusion of an episode set at a traditional county fair, and a grande finale that brought the entire cast back to the arena. Spectacle, music and dancing were to the fore and, with no amplification, the dialogue that was included almost certainly involved elaborate stagecraft wherein a large cast of non-speaking supporting players responded to the ongoing conversations by gesture and movement, all of which must have helped keep the audience on track. Sutcliffe gave due attention to pageant traditions in these respects, but in other ways he also stepped outside of them. For example, the Roman 'prelude', which began the pageant, seems to have been something of an afterthought and was written by a local clergyman rather than Sutcliffe. However, no Druids made an appearance in this. The remaining ten episodes penned by Sutcliffe began with a scene depicting the perennial historical bad guy of the British monarchy, King John; and the show ended in the eighteenth century with the Jacobites, who got more than their fair share of exposure in this pageant, commandeering the final two episodes. No Christian saints put in an appearance either, but, like many pageants in the north of England, religious strife was a principal theme; for example, Episodes V and VI dealt with the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII and the brutal consequences of this measure, which famously resulted in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Yet, despite such weighty themes, overall, Sutcliffe seems to have tackled local history with quite a light touch. In Episode I, King John's visit recalled the origins of Lancaster's Charters, and, perhaps unusually in a scene that commemorated such civic history, it was played for comic effect. John was depicted as something of a humourless buffoon, and the local people were shown to be well aware of his greed. Episode II, which dramatised the creation of Lancaster's famous monarchical connections, was similarly affectionate to local loyalties. In this, John of Gaunt came to the town to be married to Blanche of Lancaster (and in doing so established the House of Lancaster); this episode had Morris dancing, equestrian display, and plenty of pomp and ceremony, but of the troubles that were to follow between the houses of Lancaster and York, there was never a hint. Instead, the pageant went straight to a depiction of a late medieval fair featuring a locally well-known benefactor—John Gardyner of Bailrigg—and presenting yet more music, dancing and merriment. An interval followed, after which, Merrie England was no more as Episode IV introduced the Battle of Flodden. However, this particular debacle for the Scottish nation was dealt with in an even-handed and pro-Unionist manner. English vagabonds who roamed on the border got a mention alongside their Scottish counterparts—the border reivers—with each group being declared as much of a threat as the other. Overall, there was little triumphalism evident as troops rallied to go off to battle. Indeed, collective Lancashire grief was recalled with the death of a local landowner—Sir Brian Tunstall of Thurland Castle—and there was no depiction of the return of the victorious English forces.

The religious strife of the reign of Henry VIII was the subject of Episodes V and VI and featured local responses to this as well as historical figures remembered for their association with the Pilgrimage of Grace. There was no let-up in such grim historical fare for Episode VII depicted the trial of local women accused of witchcraft, although the end of this mania was foretold at the close of the performance. Episode VIII introduced Charles II and the weighty question of monarchical rule. The episode suggested that opinion on the latter was divided in Lancaster. The concluding two episodes depicted the Jacobite rebellions and, as was customary in pageantry, the glamorous figure of Bonnie Prince Charlie (and his many female admirers) made an appearance in the depiction of the 1745 uprising. General support for the cause in Lancaster was the underlying theme and, overall, the episodes portrayed a romantic picture of the Jacobite movement even during the retreat north by the Highland army. Notably, the Pageant Master took the star role of the Prince.

The Lancaster Pageant obtained royal patronage.29 It also attracted large audiences and turned in a substantial profit. Critically, it had less supportive reviews, with the Manchester Guardian damning the spectacle with faint praise when it stated that although the pageant presented pictures from the past that showed 'brilliance and technical precision', these were somewhat 'cold and unconvincing'.30 This was at variance with opinion locally, however, and the President of the Pageant Committee publicly proclaimed that the pageant had brought out a huge esprit de corps for all who had been involved and that performers had experienced 'the time of their lives'.31 Certainly, although the pageant may have been aimed at an audience of summertime visitors, the history displayed was intensely local in its orientation while still making sure to include nationally well-known figures from the past. This particular event provides a good example of the fact that the most successful historical pageants were those which blended local loyalties with national patriotism in a winning and populist way.


  1. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park, Lancaster [Souvenir Programme] (Lancaster, 1913), np.
  2. ^ 'Pageant Rehearsal at Lancaster', Yorkshire Post, 14 July 1913, 11 and 'Lancaster Pageant: A Promising Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1913, 6.
  3. ^ Newspaper cutting pasted into minute book which reports on the committee meeting held on 15 January 1913, Lancaster Historical Pageant 1913, Minute Book of Pageant Council, Lancashire Archives. DDX2743/MS8048.
  4. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: A Promising Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1913, 6.
  5. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 3.
  6. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 3.
  7. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 3.
  8. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 2.
  9. ^ See article in Craven Herald and Pioneer published 18 December 2010, available online, accessed 26 Octoebr 15,
  10. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: A Promising Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1913, 6.
  11. ^ Joseph Benson, The Battle of Flodden Field (Lancaster, 1805). The extracts used are included in the Book of Words; see Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 25.
  12. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: A Promising Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1913, 6.
  13. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: A Promising Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1913, 6.
  14. ^ 'Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Treasurer's Statement of Receipts and Payments to 23rd September, 1913', copy held in Lancaster Central Library Local History Section in uncatalogued box of material relating to pageant.
  15. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park, Lancaster [Souvenir Programme] (Lancaster, 1913), np.
  16. ^ 'The Lancaster Pageant', Manchester Guardian, 6 August 1913, 10.
  17. ^ 'The Pageant', Lancaster Observer and Morecombe Chronicle, 15 August 1913, 6.
  18. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: Capital Attendance at Final Performance', Yorkshire Post, 11 August 1913, 8.
  19. ^ 'Pith and Point', Burnley Express, 13 August 1913, 5.
  20. ^ Advertisement, Yorkshire Post, 2 August 1913, 1 (and elsewhere).
  21. ^ 'The Pageant', Lancaster Observer and Morecombe Chronicle, 15 August 1913, 6.
  22. ^ All information and quotations in the synopsis are taken from Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), or from Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park, Lancaster [Souvenir Programme] (Lancaster, 1913), in which performers’ names are listed.
  23. ^ See Jonathan Oates, The Last Battle on English Soil: Preston 1715 (Farnham, 2015), for discussion of many of the local Lancastrian supporters.
  24. ^ Daily Programme of Music of Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park, Lancaster: Friday August 8th, 1913 (Lancaster, 1913), np.
  25. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, 1913: Book of Words by Halliwell Sutcliffe with a Prologue by the Very Rev. Canon Billington (Lancaster, 1913), 1.
  26. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant, Springfield Park, Lancaster [Souvenir Programme] (Lancaster, 1913), np.
  27. ^ See ‘Celebrating Lancaster’s History: The 1913 Pageant’, Lancaster Museum, accessed 27 October 2015,
  28. ^ 'The Pageant: First Dress Rehearsal', Lancaster Observer and Morecombe Chronicle, 18 July 1913.
  29. ^ 'King and Lancaster Pageant', Burnley Gazette, 18 January 1913, 8 and elsewhere.
  30. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: Pictures From History', Manchester Guardian, 8 August 1913, 8.
  31. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', Yorkshire Post, 11 August 1913, 8.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Lancaster Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,