Lancaster Historical Pageant

Other names

  • Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930

Pageant type


The status of Lancaster has changed during the twentieth century. At the time of the pageant, Lancaster was formally designated a county town, although it was often popularly thought of as a city. In 1937 it was given city status. Presently, the historic Lancaster has returned to being a county town within a larger municipal city area known as Lancaster but which includes the nearby seaside town of Morecambe and other surrounding districts.

Jump to Summary


Place: Cross Hill (Lancaster) (Lancaster, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1930

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


4–9 August 1930

Cross Hill was situated between Lancaster and the neighbouring town of Morecombe and is presumed to have been parkland. Nowadays, the area appears to have been suburbanised and contains housing.

The pageant was held from Monday to Saturday every day at 3 pm. It lasted for around three-and-a-half hours.1 There was a full dress rehearsal on Saturday 26 July; however, this did not take place at the pageant arena but instead was held in grounds near Lancaster Castle where rehearsals had regularly taken place; it is not known if there was an audience.2

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Hastings, Harold
  • Assistant Pageant Master: Seward, Dorothy
  • Scenery: G.R. Thurstan
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Briggs, MBE
  • Mistress of Ecclesiastical Robes: MrsCroft Helme, JP
  • Master of Music: J.W. Aldous3


In addition to Mistresses of the Robes, each episode had its own wardrobe mistresses.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Named Officials of the Pageant:

  • Hon. President: The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Derby, KG, Lord Lieutenant of the County
  • Vice Presidents: His Worship the Mayor of Lancaster; His Worship the Mayor of Morecombe and Heysham; The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Blackburn; The Rt. Hon. Lord Waring; The Rt. Hon. Lord Richard Cavendish, CB, CMG, TD; The Rt. Hon. Sir Lancelot Sanderson, PC
  • Chairman: Rev. B. Pollard
  • General Secretary: J. Forrester, Esq.
  • Assistant General Secretary: Rev. K.F. Power, BA
  • Treasurer: R. Beeson
  • Assistant Treasurer: F. Ketton, Esq.

Executive and Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Rev. B. Pollard
  • Secretary: J. Forrester, Esq.

Ladies Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs Briggs, MBE
  • Secretary: Mrs Beeson

Book Committee:

  • Chairman: Rev. B. Pollard
  • Secretary: J. Forrester, Esq.

Performers Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs Briggs, MBE
  • Secretary: G.O. Halsall, Esq.

Designing Committee:

  • Chairman: Alderman E.C. Parr, JP
  • Secretary: C. Pearson, FRIBA

Costume Committee:

  • Chairman: W. Procter, JP
  • Secretary: Basil Pickard, MA

Advertising Committee:

  • Chairman: A. Taylor, Esq.
  • Secretary: C.A. Mackey, Esq.

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: G.R. Thurston
  • Secretary: D.A. Hirst, Esq.

Music Committee:

  • Chairman: J.W. Aldous
  • Secretary: C.J. Ball, MusBac, FRCO

Ground and Stand Committee:

  • Chairman: J.H. Thurstan, Esq.
  • Secretary: J. Lever, Esq.

Horse Committee:

  • Chairman: D.P. Sturton, Esq.
  • Secretary: R.T. Sanderson, Esq.

Dancing Committee:

  • Chairman: Miss C.G. Aldous
  • Secretary: Miss A. Fearing


Named officials of the pageant formed an overseeing committee; this committee had 25 members in total including the pageant master and his assistant and the master of music. It also contained five high-ranking army (or ex-army) officers.5 The executive and finance committee had 44 members; this number included its named officials as well the chairpersons and secretaries of each of the sub-committees.6 The largest organising committee was the Ladies Committee. This had over 100 members including all the wardrobe mistresses.7

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

  • Hastings, Harold


The pageant master, the Rev. Harold Hastings, also authored the script of the pageant.

Names of composers



Details of all the music have not been recovered. It is likely that most of the music was original, and some of it consisted of new arrangements of traditional tunes and hymns. The master of music, J.W. Aldous, probably did this work.

Numbers of performers


The number of performers varies across newspaper reports, but around 1200 is the most quoted figure. The Guardian claimed that 1500 were involved. A large number of horses were used as well as a pair of oxen and an unspecified number of wolfhounds.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Profits were intended to benefit a building fund for Lancaster Priory and Parish Church and for the extension fund for the Lancaster Infirmary.9 In the event, however, the pageant made a financial loss (see summary).


The pageant souvenir booklet names around 150 guarantors. Most of these were individuals, but some businesses made contributions. The largest sum was £52. 10s. guaranteed by Lord Waring; other amounts varied between £50 and one guinea, with the largest group of guarantors submitting the sum of £5.10

Linked occasion

The quincentenary of the handing over of Lancaster's parish church from monastic to secular hands in 1430.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3000
  • Total audience: Approx. 26000


A newspaper article details that the grandstand would hold 'almost 3000'.12 There was also standing room for 10000.13 6000 attended the fourth performance on Thursday; this was larger than any of the audiences for the previous shows.14 A record attendance of around 7000 was achieved at the closing performance.15

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 6d.–1s.

Admission to the ground cost 1s. Reserved seats cost 2s. 4d., 3s. 6d., 5s. 9d., 8s. 6d. and 11s. 6d.16

Associated events

3 August 1930 was designated 'pageant Sunday' and two services were held in Lancaster Parish Church. In the morning the Rev. Hastings (pageant master) administered the service, and the evening service was administered by the Bishop of Warrington.
A fancy dress ball was held at Ashton Hall in Lancaster (Friday 8 August).

Pageant outline


St George enters and is followed by child angels who group around him in the centre of the arena. At a signal from the saint, the children form themselves into the outline of a church. The Virgin Mary enters with two attendant women; she takes position in the centre of the outlined church, and St George kneels before her. In verse, St George dedicates the church to Mary and she bows in acceptance of this gift. St Nicholas, St Patrick and St Thomas of Canterbury enter, dressed as bishops and accompanied by deacons; the saints group themselves around Mary. St George once again speaks in verse and asks the three saints if, alongside Mary, they too will stand as sponsors of the church. The three saints bow in acceptance. The prelude concludes with St George offering thanks to god and all in the assembled company also offering their thanks in unison. Ministers of the church played St George and the other three saints; there were around 90 child angels.

Episode I. The Promulgation of the Edict of Constantine, AD 313

This scene is set on Castle Hill in Lancaster. Noise is heard and within a crowd containing Romans, Britons and Christians; a fierce argument is taking place among them. One Roman man—Claudius—breaks free and begins to address the crowd, stating that they are all in danger. A Briton called Galacus counters this allegation, saying that everyone is safe because they are protected by imperial Rome. Claudius goes on to say that the peril is insidious and is in the shape of the new Christian faith, which might 'topple over the empire if it be not checked'. A Christian then comes forward to claim that the emperor is now Christian and soon all the empire will follow his example; this makes Claudius angry, and he says that the gods will strike down the Christians; Galacus replies that 'Your gods have lost their thunderbolts'. Tension rises between the groups but is interrupted by a trumpet call announcing the arrival of Roman soldiers and two envoys carrying a coffer. Inside the coffer is an edict from the emperor, which is read to the crowd by one of the envoys. This proclaims religious liberty and freedom of worship for all, including Christians. The envoy enquires if there are many Christians living in this place and where they worship; he is told, though under sufferance, that they worship in the basilica on the hill. The envoy states that henceforth it is Caesar's will that this be allowed and that the basilica should become their permanent place of worship. An old Christian woman called Blodwen comes forward; she predicts that the basilica will not endure but that it will be replaced by another great church that will stand the test of time. The imperial procession exits and, watched by 'the heathen', the Christians begin processing to the basilica singing 'Te Deum'. Around 85 performers took part in the episode, including 42 women who played female citizens.

Episode II. The Coming of Saint Patrick, Fifth Century

The book of words states that this particular episode is entirely 'legendary and imaginative'. Some serfs set a long table for dinner; this is placed in the middle of the arena. Cynibalth, the Saxon Thegn of Lancaster, his wife Edith and a group of men and women enter and seat themselves at the table. The company discuss the good day of hunting they have had; the conversation becomes competitive. Two men then begin to quarrel, and it appears that a brawl will break out; however, Cynibalth calls for order and tells them to put their weapons away and wait until next 'the Scots are upon us' to exercise such aggression. Lady Edith states that she is tired of hunting talk and calls for music. Cynibalth calls on the minstrel Offa to play and sing. He performs a ballad, and near the end of this song a crowd of beggars appears and draws near to the table. Cynibalth is angry at this, refers to them as 'scum' and shouts at them to leave. From the distance a man approaches; Cynibalth challenges him and asks who he is. The man states that he has recently been shipwrecked and asks for help, whereupon Cynibalth states that he is nothing but another beggar. The stranger asks him to hear him out, but Cynibalth refuses and makes to attack him. The stranger raises his hand and Cynibalth is struck blind. Some commotion then breaks out as the others try to attack the man, but they too are suddenly incapacitated. At this, Edith becomes angry and asks for a weapon so that she can avenge what has been done to her husband, but an invisible force incapacitates her too and the knife she holds falls from her hand. The stranger announces that he is Patrick and 'a servant of the white Christ'. Edith asks him to tell them of this god and then states that they should ask for this god's mercy for he is 'more strong than Thor, more beautiful than Balder'. Cynibalth's sight is then restored, and all assembled cry out to learn more of Patrick's god. The saint says that he will stay awhile before returning to Ireland; they learn that he was shipwrecked at 'Hessa's Headland', and Patrick declares that he will build a church there which will long stand as 'witness to the white Christ'.19 A young man called Wulf then comes rushing in and falls at Patrick's feet to worship him; he states that he saw Patrick arrive on the headland and witnessed him strike the ground and a pool of water emerge. Patrick implores him to worship god and calls for him and all the others to be washed 'in the healing waters'. They all agree and follow Patrick. The episode ends with singing of a ballad called 'Horn'.

Episode III. The Coming of the Normans, AD 1094

This episode again took place on Castle Hill; it had a cast of around 80 (men and women in roughly equal numbers). Ministers played two of the principal roles: Rev. J.C.F. Hood played Cedric and Rev. E. Jackson played Eddi. The other principal character was Roger de Poitou who reputedly had charge of Lancaster following the Norman Conquest. The episode begins with an encounter between the Saxons of Lancaster and the Anglo-Normans as Roger and his troops arrive. Roger approaches Cedric, the Saxon Thegn of Lancaster, and announces that he has come to take over as lord and bring peace and Norman law out of which will 'flow the wine of happiness'. Cedric disputes this claim, and a scuffle between the two sides ensues in which the Normans gain the upper hand. Eddi, a Saxon priest, then enters; he asks Roger if the Normans have come to 'drag our island in the dust of war'; Roger smiles and replies:

Nay, father, curb thy tongue. The war
is lost and won. Nor talk of dust, since Senlac field
hard fought by Saxon carles, and harder won
By Norman blood, shall bind us in a bond
Of brotherhood in peace. So shall arise
A race of men, not Norman and not Saxon now
But English.

Roger announces that he also has overlordship of the church and intends to bring Benedictine monks from Normandy to Lancaster; Eddi is alarmed, but Roger explains that he will not be displaced. The Thegn accepts he is beaten and kneels before Roger. Cedric asks where Roger plans to live since the diplaced Saxon ruler, Tosti, lived on the hill overlooking Lancaster. Roger replies that he too will station himself nearby so that he has access to the sea and will be able to view his enemies if they come. The priest gives a blessing and states his hope that Norman and Saxon will live in 'age-long amity and love'.

Episode IV. King John at Lancaster, AD 1200

In this scene, King John is seen holding court at Lancaster. The episode had around 120 players made up of men, women and a few children. The episode begins with the entry of John and Queen Isobel who are greeted by the mayor and townsfolk. The king enquires as to the fortunes of Lancaster, and the mayor replies that under the charter granted by John the town is flourishing. John says that if this is the case he may look to having some of this good fortune for himself. The mayor urges caution since the barons might not approve of such a move. At this, a herald announces the arrival of ambassadors. Two French ambassadors and their train greet the king who asks if they have brought more than simply their good wishes on his accession to the throne; he reminds them that he is now also Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Earl of Anjou. The Frenchmen shrug their shoulders. Alexander of Scotland is then announced; John asks if he has come to submit to England. Alexander states an emphatic no to this but says he is instead there to do homage in respect of his lands in England. English guards surround Alexander and his men, but John treats Alexander with respect, stating that the Scots king 'is bold' and may go free and 'hold his lands in fief from England'. The Abbot of Furness then asks for an audience; John asks him if he has come in peace or war for he knows the church is against him. The abbot asks to build a bridge across the river Lune and for permission to fell timber in the king's forest at Lancaster. This request is granted speedily for John is keen to take leave for a banquet; however, his plans are disrupted when a messenger suddenly arrives delivering the news that Philip has declared war on Normandy. The king is furious and orders the two Frenchmen to be imprisoned in the castle. He calls for his horse and takes his leave of the queen. As his rides off the queen beckons Alexander to join her. The court all leave, but an archer remarks that he does not like the king's temper and predicts that he will come to a bad end.

Episode V. The Rebuilding of the Church of Our Ladye, and the Laying of the First Stone by John of Gaunt, AD 1359–1369

Clergymen again played in principal male roles, namely John of Gaunt, the Archbishop of York and the Prior of Lancaster. It had a larger cast of around 170 players including 16 children in the roles of pages and the pageant's master of music (J.W. Aldous) in the role of a monk. The book of words introduces the incidents in this episode by stating that they may not be historically accurate since the drama introduces Blanche, even though it was known that John of Gaunt did not visit Lancaster until after her death. Furthermore, though there is no historical record that John of Gaunt did lay the foundation stone of the church, it is nonetheless conceivable that this could have occurred for the church was rebuilt around this time. The episode begins with masons delivering the stone on a truck; a great crowd of townsfolk follows them. Some in the crowd speculate that John will arrive to lay the stone and pledge their support to him as their lord. Singing is then heard, and John Innocent, the Prior of Lancaster, arrives in a procession containing a prior and monks; this is followed by another procession around the figure of the Archbishop of York who is borne in a canopy by four men. The mayor, corporation and representatives of the guilds come next and, lastly, John of Gaunt and 'Duchess Blanch' with an entourage arrive. The mayor greets Gaunt with deference, and Gaunt shows off his wife to the waiting crowd who cheer her. The stone is laid ceremoniously, and the ecclesiastical procession takes its leave to the singing of 'Angularis Fundamentum'.20 The episode ends with John of Gaunt and the Duchess leaving together with their entourage.


There was a half hour interval in the pageant.

Episode VI. Corpus Christi Day, Circa 1370

Around 200 players, including 100 female folk dancers, took part in this episode which dramatised a medieval festival and the Mystery Plays traditionally performed by the guilds during this event. The scene is set at the market place. A hawking party arrives and is served ale; meanwhile, a joyous folk dance is being performed by the townspeople. A youth calls out, 'make way for the pageant', whereupon a procession of the 'Gild [sic] of Holy Trinity and St Leonard' enters led by the master of the gild. The procession contains a car, and all halt in the centre of the arena. The master announces that a play 'of the shepherds and their adoration' will be performed, and the crowd respond enthusiastically. At this a group of pilgrims, on their way to Canterbury, appear and are greeted by the master who invites them to stay a while to see the play. The pilgrims are described as being the same as those who appear in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. When the curtains around the car are drawn aside, this contains three shepherds, their boy 'Trowle' and an angel. The play proceeds, with a narration delivered in verse as the angel urges the shepherds on to Bethlehem. The angel draws the curtain further aside, and the holy family is revealed. At the close of the play, the angel draws the curtains on the car and the townspeople resume folk dancing. The gild performers take their leave followed by the pilgrims who sing 'Iste Confessor'.

Episode VII. The Transference of the Priory Church and Creation of the Vicarage of Lancaster, AD 1430

This episode had around 90 players made up of women and men. It re-enacts the event celebrated in this centenary pageant and was set outside the church. From one side of the arena, Giles Lovell—the Benedictine Prior of Lancaster—enters with a procession of monks; from the other side come the townsfolk. When they meet, the people kneel for the prior's blessing. A woman and a man ask if it is true that 'this holy house shall be despoiled'. A procession of nuns then approach; they are singing. At the rear of the procession is the Abbess of Syon—Dame Joanna North—who walks under a canopy held by four nuns. The prior greets the abbess; he tells her of the rumours circulating about the end of the abbey and states he is waiting for a message from the king. At this, an emissary from Henry VI arrives; men-at-arms and Henry Bowen, Archdeacon of Richmond, accompany him. The Abbot of Furness then rushes in stating: 'We of religion must needs hold together against all spoliation'. The emissary explains to the Abbess that it is the king's wishes that a vicar should take charge of the 'holy oversight' of the town in place of the monks and nuns but that the convent will 'retain the tithe of this church while the vicar will have the lesser tithe'. At this the abbess accepts the arrangement with good grace, but a woman rushes from the crowd to protest that they depend on the charity of the abbey. The episode ends with the Abbess explaining that they must all accept this new arrangement. They all leave and make their way into the church singing.

Episode VIII. The Victory Over the Spanish Armada, AD 1588

Set in the market place, this episode contained around 180 players; included in this number were 44 women maypole dancers, 9 women singers and 80 female citizens. This episode is based on the story that a galley of the Armada was wrecked in Morecombe bay; it depicts the rejoicing that took place when news arrived that the Spanish had been defeated. A town crier announces the good news and the crowd goes wild with excitement. The Earl of Derby with a small retinue arrives and a member of the crowd—William Nutshaw—addresses him to confirm the good news, and this is again repeated by the earl who states that he is come to proclaim an edict from her majesty that there should be a service of thanksgiving on the coming Sunday. A woman called Jennet Woolfall expresses disappointment that the town will have to wait till Sunday, but the earl says that merrymaking may go ahead straight away for 'Sunday is for church, today for games'. Some of the crowd go off to fetch a maypole, and meantime some of the townsfolk dance a pavanne. The earl asks Jennet to dance with him, and she agrees. As the maypole arrives carried on a cart driven by oxen, Robin Hood and his band also come onto the scene. The people are singing as the maypole is set up. A rider arrives and makes to address the earl; he delivers the news that a Spanish ship has been wrecked in Morecombe bay and prisoners taken. An armed guard then rides in with the prisoners in tow; the crowd rushes to attack them, but Derby intervenes. He states that the merrymaking should not be spoiled with bloodshed but the prisoners may be punished by being forced to watch the people of Lancaster rejoicing at their expense. A maypole dance takes place after which Derby and his men take their leave, escorting the prisoners. The maypole is taken down, and the people carry on singing as it is loaded onto the cart and driven away.

Episode IX. The Jacobites at Lancaster, AD 1745

Around 180 players took part in this episode, including 32 highlanders and 120 'ladies'. The scene opens with a conversation between Dr Bracken and the vicar of Lancaster, Dr Fenton. They agree that there is no need to evacuate the town due to the retreat of the Jacobite army for they believe that they will pass by Lancaster. At this, a messenger arrives saying the Jacobites have passed through Preston and are on the road to Lancaster. Bracken tells the messenger to rouse the town, and he rides off. A few townspeople overhear the news, including Mrs Bracken who urges her husband to flee. Another woman—Mrs Livesey—states there is no need to flea for the prince is kind and gentle. Bracken denounces her as a 'false Jacobite'. Mrs Bracken reminds the others that her husband locked up in the castle some of the army's stragglers when they were on their way south and that the Jacobites will exact revenge for this. The two women quarrel; meanwhile, the vicar and Fenton get into a carriage to make their escape. Bagpipes are heard, and a crowd gathers. It is clear that the crowd is divided in its loyalties, with some calling out support for King George. The army arrives with Prince Charles at its head flanked by the Marquis of Tullibardine, Lord Elcho, Lord George Murray, the Duke of Perth and the Chevalier de Johnstone. Mrs Livesey greets the prince who tells her that he cannot tarry in Lancaster but is on his way to Carlisle. He commands Elcho to remain and retake the prisoners. The prince departs. Elcho demands to know the whereabouts of Dr Bracken; Mrs Bracken addresses him, and some in the crowd laughingly tell Elcho that Bracken has flown. Elcho says he will take ransom in his stead and indicates that he will burn down Bracken's house. A quarrel then erupts between Mrs Bracken and Mrs Livesey. This becomes heated, and Elcho, with good humour, intervenes to stop the women fighting. Without disclosing her identity, Mrs Bracken offers ten pounds if Elcho will leave the house alone, making the joke that as he is a Scot he will be open to such bargaining. He asks for twenty pounds, and Mrs Bracken agrees. At this a rider arrives announcing that Cumberland and his army are on their way; Elcho makes a hasty departure, and the highlanders march off to the sound of the pipes.

Episode X. The Parliamentary Election at Lancaster, AD 1802

The cast of this episode was made up of around 100 players with roughly equal numbers of men and women. Some men enter the market square and begin erecting the hustings. A conversation takes place between a Tory supporter and a Whig supporter. Two women tease them and say that things would be different if women had the vote; the men are indignant and say that it will never happen for women 'are not fit for it' and could not fight against 'Boney'. The mayor arrives and enters the conversation but says that, as mayor, he 'has no politics’. The Whig candidates, Lord Douglas and Mr Dent, arrive in a coach; their supporters sing a song. While the singing goes on, the Tory candidate, Mr Cawthorne, appears, and his supporters begin singing a different song. While this commotion goes on, the mayor and candidates mount the hustings. The mayor addresses the crowd and is barracked by the increasingly hostile mob. He calls for order and attempts to count votes by show of hands. There is no consensus as to a winner, so the mayor declares there will be a ballot the next day. A row breaks out in the crowd and fighting ensues, which leads to the mayor reading the Riot Act. The episode ends with the candidates dismounting from the hustings and their supporters carrying them off singing.


All the performers re-enter the arena one episode at a time. St George speaks an epilogue in verse entitled 'On the Making of a Pageant'. The performance ends with the singing of 'O God Our Help in Ages Past', and the performers process out of the arena.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • George [St George] (d. c.303?) patron saint of England
  • Patrick [St Patrick, Pádraig] (fl. 5th cent.) patron saint of Ireland
  • Roger the Poitevin (b. c.1065, d. before 1140) magnate
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Isabella, suo jure countess of Gloucester (c.1160–1217) queen of England, first consort of King John
  • Alexander II (1198–1249) king of Scots
  • 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) wife of John of Gaunt
  • Stanley, Henry, fourth earl of Derby (1531–1593) magnate
  • Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
  • 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
  • Wemyss, David, styled sixth earl of Wemyss [known as Lord Elcho] (1721–1787) Jacobite army officer
  • Murray, Lord George (1694–1760) Jacobite army officer
  • Drummond, James, styled sixth earl of Perth and Jacobite third duke of Perth (1713–1746) Jacobite army officer
  • Johnstone, James [known as Chevalier de Johnstone] (1719–c.1800) Jacobite sympathizer and army officer in the French service

Musical production

The Band of the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) provided live music. There was live singing of the following:

  • A ballad named 'Horn', described as a 'metrical riddle' which had been 'translated from the Codex Exemensis' (Episode III).
  • 'Urbs Beata' and ''Angularis Fundamentum' (Episode V).
  • 'Iste Confessor' (Episode VI).
  • Untitled religious songs (Episode VII).
  • Unspecified folk tunes (Episode VIII).
  • Bagpipe music (Episode IX).
  • Two untitled songs—one in support of the Whigs and one for the Tories (Episode X).
  • 'O God Our Help in Ages Past', specific arrangement unknown (Finale).

The pageant was preceded each day by a programme of music played by the Band of the King's Own Royal Regiment; this commenced at 2.30pm. The music played varied each day as follows:


  • 1. Fletcher. Grand March, ‘Spirit of Pageantry’.
  • 2. Weber. Overture, ‘Oberon’.
  • 3. Gung'l. Waltz, ‘Casino Tanze’.
  • 4. Bendix. Entracte, ‘The Butterfly’.
  • 5. Alford. Pot-Pourri, ‘Musical Switch’.
  • 6. Keith. Galop, ‘Husarenitt’.
  • 1. Cowper. March, ‘The Thin Red Line’.
  • 2. Sullivan. Selection, ‘Iolanthe’.
  • 3. Waldteufel. Waltz, ‘Die Hydropaten’.
  • 4 Capstick. Xylophone Solo, ‘Wally’ [Soloist: Boy Ashley].
  • 5. Friedmann. Slavonic Rhapsody.
  • 6. Fletcher. Suite, ‘Two Parisian Sketches’.
  • 7. Bizet. Selection, ‘Carmen’.

  • 1. Lotter. March, ‘Entry of the Bulgars’.
  • 2. Suppé Overture, ‘Light Cavalry’.
  • 3. Greenwood. Piccolo Solo, ‘Picaroon’ [Soloist: Cpl. P.H. Benham].
  • 4. Mascagni. Selection, ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’.
  • 5. Elgar. Morceau Mignon, ‘Salut d'Amour’.
  • 6. Sibelius. Tone Poem, ‘Finlandia’.
  • 7. Henderson. Selection, ‘New Moon’.

  • 1. Beethoven. Overture, ‘Egmont’.
  • 2. Sullivan. Cornet Solo, ‘The Lost Chord’ [Soloist: Bandsman A. Richmond].
  • 3. Delibes. Suite From the Ballet ‘Sylvia’.
  • 4. Bucalossi. Entracte, ‘The Grasshoppers Dance’.
  • 5. Youmans. Selection, ‘Hit the Deck’.
  • 6. Luigini. Reverie, ‘The Voice of the Bells’.
  • 7. Liszt. Finale, ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ No. 2.

  • 1. Lincke. March, ‘Father Thames’.
  • 2. Fletcher. Overture, ‘Vanity Fair’.
  • 3. Stauss. Waltz, ‘The Blue Danube’.
  • 4. Leoncavallo. Selection, ‘I Pagliacci’.
  • 5. Jessel. Characteristic, ‘Parade of the Tin Soldiers’.
  • 6. Tschaikowsky. Ballet Music, ‘The Swan Lake’.
  • 7. Amers. Patrol, ‘The Wee Macgregor’.

  • 1. Fucik. Overture, ‘Marinarella’.
  • 2. Gung'l. Waltz, ‘Amoretten Tanze’.
  • 3. Sullivan. Selection, ‘Yeomen of the Guard’.
  • 4. Barsotti. Xylophone Duet, ‘Silver Stars’ [Soloists: Cpl. P.H. Benham and Boy Ashley].
  • 5. Von-Blon. Idyll, ‘Blumengefluster’.
  • 6. Saints-Saens. Excerpts From Opera, ‘Samson & Delilah’.
  • 7. The ‘King's Own’ Rhythmic Combination in Dance Music.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Lancaster Guardian
Lancashire Evening Post
Burnley Express
Manchester Guardian
Yorkshire Post

Book of words

Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings. Lancaster, 1930.

Price: 1s.

Other primary published materials

  • Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling. Liverpool, 1930.
  • Lancaster Historical Pageant 4th–9th August 1930, Cross Hill Morecambe Road, Programme of Music for 6 Days—Twopence. No publication details.
  • Lancaster Historical Pageant, 4th–9th August 1930, Cross Hill, Morecombe Road. Pageant Brochure. Lancaster, 1930.

References in secondary literature

  • None noted.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The Lancashire Record Office, Preston:
  • One copy of the souvenir programme, one copy of the book of words and a set of 12 postcards. DDX 3046/93.
  • Lancaster University Library Special Collections:
  • Two copies of the book of words. 9MWVB-H.
  • One copy of the souvenir programme. 9MWVB-L.
  • One copy of the programme of music. 9MWVB-L.
  • Lancaster Libraries, local studies section:
  • One copy of the pageant brochure. LY52/LAN.
  • Several copies of the souvenir programme. LY52/LAN.
  • One copy of the book of words. LY52/LAN.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The pageant held in 1930 was the second great civic pageant undertaken by Lancaster under Harold Hastings' direction, the first being in 1913. In the preface to the book of words, the pageant master and scriptwriter, Rev. Harold Hastings, dedicated his work to ‘the memory of those, who, seventeen years ago, played pageantry with us in Lancaster'.25 Here he is referring to the fact that he had been pageant master at Lancaster's first attempt. Yet he was also recognising that the success of the earlier pageant was a lasting memory. A newspaper article commented that it was hoped that the 1930 pageant would, 'as in 1913, help to develop still further that civic pride and patriotism which is such a necessary factor in the national life'.26 As pageant author, Hastings conceived the work to be a sequel to the earlier work rather than a rerun. Most of the episodes included in 1930 were either completely new or, if they did cover the same themes, took a different approach to these from that taken by the scriptwriter in 1913 (the popular novelist Halliwell Sutcliffe). By 1930, Hastings was well qualified for the job of running a pageant. He had cut his teeth on a village pageant in his own parish of Halton in 1912, moved from there to a civic pageant the following year and made a hat trick in 1930. As a long time participant in amateur theatre in Lancaster, he was a natural choice. Furthermore, this was a pageant celebrating a religious anniversary, the employment of a clergyman made even more sense. Joining Hastings as a veteran of Lancaster pageants was the master of music, J.W. Aldous, who wrote and arranged music in both 1913 and 1930.

Hastings stuck with the Romans for the first episode but introduced them in a novel fashion with the drama emerging from somewhat later in the Roman epoch than was usual in pageants in the north-west. In this scene, Constantine's edict was brought to Lancaster, which granted religious freedoms to Christians; in this way, a strong religious theme was established early in the pageant. This emphasis was continued in Episode II, which introduced a saint with local connections, St Patrick, who is remembered by an important shrine in the area—an ancient chapel on the coast at Heysham. The episode told the legend of the origins of the chapel. A new character was introduced in Episode III: Roger de Poitou, who did not feature in 1913 but was clearly a favourite of the scriptwriter for he had turned up in his pageant of Halton held in 1912. The first Norman overlord, de Poitou was the founder of the Benedictine monastery in Lancaster—the same institution that was displaced in 1430 and the 500th anniversary of which the pageant celebrated. Roger was shown as bringing a more civilised culture to Lancaster, where rather uncouth Saxons ruled. The fourth episode was probably the most similar in both theme and approach to its twin in 1913. This told the story of King John holding court in the town. As was usual, this monarch's greed and acquisitiveness was highlighted, but, as in 1913, his portrayal was not wholly unsympathetic and the troubles he had to face as a monarch were foregrounded. Episode V returned to a staple of Lancaster pageants with a drama, admitted to be imaginary rather than factual, about John of Gaunt visiting Lancaster. As with the parallel episode in 1913, some of the limelight was given to Gaunt's wife Blanche, who was the progenitor of Gaunt's association with the town and with the royal house of Lancaster.

After a half-hour interval, the pageant resumed with a lively episode recalling the medieval fair and the important role of the guilds in this commercial town. As was the case with many pageants, there was maypole dancing and folk music. The transferral of ecclesiastical jurisdiction came next, the anniversary of which, indeed, was the reason for holding the pageant in the first place. It is unlikely, however, that the centenary would have been a high-profile one without the aid of the pageant, and there is a suspicion that it may simply have been a good excuse to attempt to repeat the successes of 1913. The monks and nuns had quite a sympathetic hearing in the drama enacted, as had been the case in 1913 when the later and more explosive dissolution of the monasteries had been covered in an episode. In a city where there was a significant Roman Catholic population, this approach may have been considered diplomatic. Episode VIII was this pageant's Elizabethan moment and commemorated victory over the Spanish Armada; again, local legend was incorporated with a retelling of the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon in Morecombe Bay.

In 1913, the Jacobites (always an essential element in pageants in this part of England) had been given two episodes. This was cut to one in 1930 and, somewhat unusually, Bonnie Prince Charlie had little more than a walk-on role. However, this dramatic treatment of the 1745 retreat north clearly showed the divided loyalties in Lancaster where the Jacobites were concerned. Overall, humour was the driving force behind this episode with a classic joke being made about the hard-headed acquisitiveness of the Scots. Again, given the significant presence of Scots and Scottish descendants in the town, this treatment might have been an attempt not to ruffle feathers among local Caledonians. The final episode followed the path of many interwar pageants by moving forward in time to the nineteenth century. The hurly burly of electioneering in the early part of the century, ahead of the enlargement of the franchise, was dramatised in a lively scene that tried to capture the atmosphere of politics in the past. The performance included fisticuffs and general disrespect for politicians. There were repeated references in this scene to the limited nature of the entitlement to vote that doubtless aimed to educate the audience.

Both the prologue and finale of the pageant focussed on St George and included other Christian figures. This was in keeping with the nature of this anniversary pageant, which had a religious raison d'être but also demonstrated the writer's view that pageants were conveyors of patriotic display. The prologue included choreographed spectacle provided by a large group of children dressed as angels. Hastings appears to have done a good job overall in not overplaying religion in this pageant. He incorporated local legends effectively into the narrative and included plenty of elements of popular folk culture. There was no amplification employed, but it is clear that music was a big part of the pageant, and there was live playing and singing; unfortunately, very few details of this have been recovered. In 1913, the master of music both composed original pieces and made new arrangements of traditional music; it is likely he did the same in 1930, which would have helped augment the spectacle. In addition, a half-hour concert preceded the performance each day, and this doubtless created a carnival atmosphere. Indeed, enthusiasm was not in short supply, at least among the performers. All of the costumes were locally made by an army of volunteer women who gathered at Pageant House in the centre of Lancaster to stitch; indeed, women were to the forefront of this pageant and the largest committee was the 'ladies committee'. Men were a bit slow to come forward as performers, and several pleas had to be made in the local press for more volunteers before the necessary numbers were reached.27 However, other types of help were given by men, and it was said that local craftsmen gladly spent their leisure time making the properties that recreated old Lancaster in the pageant arena.28 There was plentiful camaraderie among the cast: the Guardian reported that many took along portable wirelesses and whiled away the time while waiting to enter the arena by enjoying 'modern dances in old time costume'.29 The pageant brought entertaining spectacle to the town; the common sight of Roman gladiators riding bicycles was remarked upon as performers made their way to and from the pageant ground.30

In both 1913 and 1930, the pageant was held during an August bank holiday weekend that also coincided with Lancaster's traditional trades' holiday so that many participants were free to take part.31 The timing also aimed to attract holidaymakers and day-trippers from the nearby seaside town of Morecombe; this had proved an effective piece of planning in the first pageant. The same plan was put in place in 1930, and this time the pageant arena was moved from within the town of Lancaster to a large site that lay equidistant between Lancaster and Morecombe, no doubt in the hope that this would further encourage attendance. The new pageant ground was also said to have ample parking facilities, an important factor as motor traffic increased.32 Though trade depression had begun to bite, Morecombe seemed to be able to weather this storm, and a report at the time stated that the town was having a very 'satisfactory season' in the summer of 1930 and was attracting visitors from further afield, particularly from Scotland and the Midlands.33 There was a minor brouhaha in the press when it was learned that the local regiment, whose band were commissioned to play at the pageant, would not release a further 50 men to attend and take part during the week, but other than this all augured well.34 Indeed, this community event was confidently billed as 'The Pageant of the a Year of Pageants'.35 What could go wrong?

Sadly, it was not second time lucky for Lancaster. Precise financial figures have not been recovered, but it seems the 1930 event made a 'heavy loss'.36 This was a huge indignity for a pageant designed from the first as a fundraiser. The problem, as ever, seems to have been the weather: clearly, people did not book in advance but waited to see how the weather fared. Neither the arena having a covered grandstand nor the fact that—with the exception of the first day—the rain usually held off during performances seems to have helped: heavy rain on and off throughout the week discouraged people. An audience of 7000 did turn up for the closing performance when there was brilliant sunshine; this was larger than at any of the previous shows, but it was too little too late: over the week as a whole, the spectatorship had been firmly under capacity.37 The 1930 Lancaster pageant provides a good example of how fickle pageant success could be. It would be 23 years before the town held another, and for the 1953 coronation pageant the whole show moved indoors.


  1. ^ 'Pageant for Stay-At-Homes', Lancashire Post, 2 August 1930, 7.
  2. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1930, 5.
  3. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 24.
  4. ^ For list of pageant officials and committee members, see Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 1 and Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 24–27.
  5. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 24.
  6. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 25.
  7. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 26–27.
  8. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 11 August 1930, 5.
  9. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant Dress Rehearsal', Yorkshire Post, 28 July 1930, 5.
  10. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 1930: Souvenir Programme, Price One Shilling (Liverpool, 1930), 28–29.
  11. ^ Pageant brochure, Lancaster Historical Pageant, 4th–9th August 1930, Cross Hill, Morecombe Road (Lancaster, 1930), 6.
  12. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', Lancashire Evening News, 19 May 1930, 3.
  13. ^ 'Lancaster's Historical Pageant', Burnley Express, 28 June 1930, 14.
  14. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 8 August 1930, 11.
  15. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 11 August 1930, 5.
  16. ^ Advertisement, Lancashire Post, 26 July 1930, 2.
  17. ^ 'Pageant Sunday', Lancashire Post, 4 August 1930, 2.
  18. ^ 'Fine Display of Historical Costumes', Lancashire Evening Post, 9 August 1930, 6.
  19. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 11.
  20. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 19.
  21. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 11.
  22. ^ The Latin text of these is included in Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 19–21.
  23. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 24.
  24. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant 4th–9th August 1930, Cross Hill Morecambe Road, Programme of Music for 6 Days—Twopence (np).
  25. ^ Lancaster Historical Pageant to Commemorate the Quincentenary of the Secularisation of Lancaster Parish Church of St Mary, 1430–1930: Book of Words by Harold Hastings (Lancaster, 1930), 4.
  26. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', Lancashire Evening Post, 27 May 1930, 3.
  27. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', Lancashire Evening Post, 29 April 1930.
  28. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 8 August 1930, 11.
  29. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 7 August 1930, 5.
  30. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 6 August 1930, 2.
  31. ^ 'Pageant for Stay-At-Homes', Lancashire Post, 2 August 1930, 7
  32. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant: Special Travel Arrangements', Lancashire Evening Post, 24 July 1930, 8.
  33. ^ 'Reports from the Resorts', The Guardian, 2 August 1930, 11.
  34. ^ Questions were raised in parliament as initially it was believed that Lancaster had been slighted by army authorities, but the reason given by the Secretary of War was that attendance interfered with training schedules; see 'Lancaster Pageant: Why Soldiers Are Not Allowed To Take Part’, Lancashire Evening Post, 9 July 1930, 3.
  35. ^ See, for example, the advertisement in the Lancashire Evening Post, 1 August 1930, 3.
  36. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant Loss', Lancashire Evening Post, 24 September 1930, 6.
  37. ^ 'Lancaster Pageant', The Guardian, 11 August 1930, 5.

How to cite this entry

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