A Grand Pageant Fayre

Pageant type


This pageant was part of a fete run as a fundraiser for the Waifs and Strays Society. This was a church-led institution whose organisational structure reflected the geographical arrangement of Church of England dioceses. The pageant aimed to benefit branches of the Society within the Manchester and Blackburn Diocese.

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Place: Ashton Hall (Lancaster) (Lancaster, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1935

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 2


1–2 March 1935
This pageant took place on Friday 1 March and Saturday 2 March 1935. The presentation of this pageant was done serially in three parts. It had 15 episodes and these were enacted over three sections of five episodes each. Part 1 was presented at 4.30 pm, part 2 at 6.30 pm and the final part at 8.30 pm. We do not know how long each part took to enact, but this was likely under one hour. This order of presentation was repeated on both days of the fete.
Ashton Hall is a largely rebuilt fourteenth-century manor house, which has had a variety of owners. The last aristocratic owner was the Duke of Hamilton who sold it in 1853 to a private citizen. It has been Lancaster Golf Club's clubhouse since the early 1930s when the course was established there. Following its purchase by Lancaster Council, the hall was also often used as a venue for civic and other institutional events.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Arranger (part 1, episode 1): Miss Woodhouse Smith.
  • Arrangers (part 1, episode 2): Mrs Carrie Outram and Mrs Finch
  • Arranger (part 1, episode 3): Miss Evans
  • Arranger and choreographer (part 1, episode 4 and part 2, episode 2): Miss Edith Rigby
  • Arrangers and choirmasters (part 1, episode 5): Miss Hensman and Miss Illidge
  • Arrangers (part 2, episode 1): Miss Taylor and Miss Wright
  • Arrangers (part 2, episode 3): 'Rev. H and Mrs Robinson
  • Arranger (part 2, episode 4): C.R. Pye, Esq.
  • Arrangers (part 2, episode 5): Miss Betty Gallimore and Miss Nelson
  • Arranger (part 3, episode 1): Mrs Pollard
  • Arranger (part 3, episode 2): Mrs Birney
  • Arrangers (part 3, episode 3): Rev A.J. Jervis and Mrs Rigby.
  • Arranger (part 3, episode 4): Rev T.W. Grange, MA
  • Arrangers (part 3, episode 5): Mrs Shufflebottom and Miss Taylor
  • Stalls Arrangement: J. H. Thurston, Esq.
  • Stalls Arrangement Assistant: Mr Mason
  • Stage Fitting and Lighting: Scenery Hire Service Co. Ltd., Manchester

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

  • Chairman: Rev. B. Pollard, MSc, BD, Rural Dean and Vicar Lancaster
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Ellwood, Richmond House, Lancaster
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Cary Owtram, Newland Hall, near Lancaster
  • Hon. Treasurer: J. Forrester, Esq., Westminster Bank, Ltd., Lancaster
  • Hon. Ticket Secretary: E. Whittle, Esq., New Street, Lancaster
  • Chief Steward: J. M. Cragg, Esq.
  • Other members: Officials, Stall Holders, Episode-arrangers, and their helpers.


Ordinary members of the committee are not named in the pageant programme; this membership consisted of officials of the Waifs and Strays Society, organisers of the fete's stalls and episode producers.1 Committee office holders were likely those who also held office within the diocesan branch of the Waifs and Strays Society. Stallholders were all women and are named in the programme; it must be presumed that female representatives from this group sat on the committee, making women well represented overall in the running of this event, through traditional gender lines of work are clear: all the stewards, for example, were male.

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

  • Kingsley, Charles
  • Carroll, Lewis
  • Shakespeare, William
  • Dickens, Charles


Episode 1 of the first part of the pageant is based on a scene from the children's novel, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley; a dramatisation of an extract from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll forms episode 2. Shakespeare is used in episode 4 of part 1 in the pageant; and extracts from novels by Dickens are dramatised in part 2, episode 3 and part 3, episode 1.

Names of composers

  • Boughton, Rutland
  • Shaw, Geoffrey

Rutland Boughton and Geoffrey Shaw composed music for two of the songs performed in part 1, episode 5.

Numbers of performers


There were some adult performers in this pageant but the majority were children.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Branches of the Waifs and Strays Society, Manchester and Blackburn Diocese.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a


The size of the auditorium is not known.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Admission to the fete cost 6d for adults and 3d for children; there was an additional charge for admission and seats to view the pageant, this was again 6d for adults and 3d for children. It is presumed this charge allowed admittance to all three parts of the pageant.

Associated events

The pageant was part of a fundraising fete; this opened each day at 2.30 pm and closed at 10.00 pm. This consisted of a variety of stalls selling goods including separate stalls for sweets, provisions, art and needlework, fancy goods, baskets and garden goods, stationary and a further stall selling miscellaneous goods each costing 1 shilling and similarly a stall where each item cost £1. Stalls were all served by women. In addition, there was a 'Fun Fayre' and refreshments were on sale in the Hall's banqueting room.3 The fayre had a opening ceremony on each day it was held; officials were as follows:

Friday 1 March at 3 pm
  • Opener: Lady Ashton
  • Chairman: Sir James Travis-Clegg, DL, JP
  • Supported by: His Worship the Mayor of Lancaster (Councillor W. M. Simpson)
Saturday 2 March at 3 pm
  • Opener: The Ven. P. J. Hornby, MA
  • Chairman: Mrs Croft-Helme, JP
  • Supported by: The Rev. Canon Pollard, MSc, BD.4

Pageant outline

Part 1:

Episode 1: Water Babies

The pageant programme provides the following description:

Mrs. Doaswouldbedoneby is a great favourite with all the Water Babies, but she gives special attention to Tom, as ‘he never had a mother’. She gathers all the Babies around her, and tells them a story, and at their request also sings them a song.

Pupils from Springfield School, Lancaster performed in this episode. The episode arranger was Miss Woodhouse Smith.5

Episode 2: Alice in Wonderland

The pageant programme provides the following description:

Alice discovers the Three Card Gardeners painting a rose tree. The King and Queen and their Staff [sic] appear. The Queen is furious with the Gardeners and orders their heads to be cut off, but Alice sides with them and saves them from this fate.

Mrs Carrie Outram and Mrs Finch arranged the episode; a school is not stated but this may have been once again, Springfield School.

Episode 3: The May Queen

Pupils from Middle Street School performed in this episode; the description in the pageant programme is as follows:

This is an Old English May-day scene, in which Alice is crowned Queen of the May. Villagers, Shepherd Boys and Milkmaids all take part, with some delightful old songs and dances.

Miss Evans arranged the performance.

Episode 4: Midsummer Night's Dream

Pupils from Miss Edith Rigby's School of Dancing performed in this episode which is described as follows in the programme:

As the Fairies sing, Titania falls asleep, but is afterwards awakened by another song. She calls upon the Fairies, Peachblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed, to dance.

Episode 5: Part and Unison Songs

Pupils from St Thomas's Girls' Central School performed five songs (see musical arrangement for details).

Part 2:

Episode 1: The Toy Shop

Performers in this episode came from the parish of Caton, a village nearby Lancaster. The programme provides the following description of the episode.

The scene is a Dolls' Shop. The dolls come to life, and Golliwog is required to choose the one he loves best. He chooses the Little Bride; but she is sold, and Golliwog is broken-hearted. Eventually, the shopkeeper exchanges the Little Doll Bride, whose arm has come off, for another one, and she and Golliwog are re-united.

Miss Taylor and Miss Wright arranged the performance of this episode.

Episode 2: The Spirit of the Child

This episode is described as follows in the programme:

A symbolic scene in which Childhood is manifest in all its Innocence. The good influences in life, such as love, kindliness, happiness, sympathy, and trust, offer themselves to the child and are accepted. Evil spirits, such as discontent, greed, and hatred, tempt the Child and, for a time, are received. The Good Spirits eventually prevail and regain their rightful place, surrounding the Child with all the virtues of Joy and Innocence.

Pupils from Miss Edith Rigby's School of Dancing performed in the episode.

Episode 3: Babes in the Wood

The programme describes the following in relation to this episode:

This story has for many centuries been a popular one in England. In our scene, the little children are alone and lost, and, falling asleep, the robins place leaves over them while the fairies protect them.

Children from the parish of St John's, Lancaster enacted the performance; with arrangement of the episode being done by the 'Rev H' (presumably the parish's minister) and Mrs Robinson.

Episode 4: Oliver Twist

The programme description of this episode, which enacts a famous scene from the novel by Charles Dickens, is as follows:

The boys of the workhouse are assembled with Mr. Bumble and his assistant (the workhouse master) for their midday meal. Lots are drawn for the boy who is to ‘ask for more’, and this falls to poor Oliver. The functionaries are horrified at Oliver's conduct, and Mr. Bumble hastens to fetch the President of the Board, and Oliver is severely reprimanded.

Pupils from Christ Church Parish, Lancaster performed; and C.R. Pye, Esq. arranged the episode.

Episode 5: The Fairies' Revels

The summary of this scene provided in the pageant programme is as follows:

This scene concerns the Marriage of the Son of the Fairy Queen to the most beautiful Dancer in the Court of Dreamland. Mary, a little Mortal Child, loses her way in the woods, and, falling asleep, in the Fairy Glade, is awakened by the revels of the Fairies and witnesses the choosing of the Fairy Bride of the Queen's Son.

The performance was given by pupils of the Studio School of Dancing, Lancaster and of Lupton Hall School, Morecombe; the arrangers were Miss Betty Gallimore and Miss Nelson.

Part 3:

Episode 1: Nicholas Nickleby—Dotheboys Hall

The scene is summarised in the pageant programme as follows:

Nicholas Nickleby and Mrs. Squeers are talking, and a disagreement ensues between Mr. and Mrs. Squeers. Smike is called in to find the treacle spoon, and Mrs. Squeers administers a dose of brimstone and treacle to each boy. The boys retire, mercilessly hustled by Mr. and Mrs. Squeers.

Children from Lancaster Parish Church performed and the episode was arranged by Mrs Pollard.

Episode 2: Old English Fair

This scene re-enacted various aspects of the classic holiday fair portraying 'games and fun'; traditional songs and dances were part of the performance which was done by a local Guide troop (Scotforth Guides); the arranger was Mrs Birney.

Episode 3: St Hilda

The programme description of this scene is as follows:

The presentation of the Baby Princess Aelfleda by King Osway and his Queen at the Monastery at Whitby in A.D. 655, St Hilda, Abbess, receives the child, who is to be dedicated to God to fulfil the King's vow on gaining victory in battle.

The episode was performed by parishioners from St Luke's in Skelton and produced by the Rev A. J. Jervis and Mrs Rigby.

Episode 4: Christmas Roses

This episode was presented in two parts; the programme description is as follows:

Part 1

The legend of the Christmas Roses tells how a shepherdess was among the shepherds on the first Christmas night and how she feared to go with them to Bethlehem, having no gift to take. While she is searching in the vain hope of finding something, she discovers the first Christmas Rose, which she carries to Bethlehem as her gift.

Part 2: Bethlehem.

Parishioners from St Anne's Parish in Lancaster performed and the Rev. T. W. Grange arranged the presentation.

Episode 5: The Golden Age of Childhood

The following description is given in the pageant programme:

A symbolical episode, in which Mother Church, supported by Faith, Hope and Charity, receives the ‘Waifs and Strays’. Guardian Angels, representing the good influences in life, are present to give their gifts to the destitute little ones. During the scene the song ‘Children are Beautiful People’, will be sung. This has been specially written for, and dedicated to, the Waifs and Strays Society, and copies (price 1/- each) may be obtained in the Hall.

Members of the Caton Girls' Friendly Society performed and Mrs Shufflebottom and Miss Taylor arranged the presentation.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Ælfflæd [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Oswiu [Oswy] (611/12–670) king of Northumbria

Musical production

An orchestra played live. Some episodes contained singing. In part 1, episodes 1, 3 and 4, and part 3, episode 2, unspecified songs are included.

In part 1, episode 5, pupils from St Thomas's Girls' Central School sang the following songs; Miss Hensman and Miss Illidge led the choir, which performed the following:
  • Song: music and words traditional 'The Jovial Beggar'
  • Song: Rutland Boughton, 'Piper's Song' [words by William Blake]
  • Song: arrangement by A. Moffat, 'twilight Shadows' [words by R. Moffat]
  • Song: Geoffrey Shaw 'Worship' [words by J. H. Whittier]
In part 3, episode 5, the song: 'Children are Beautiful People', which was composed specially for the Waifs and Strays Society [composer unknown] is sung.6

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Lancashire Daily Post
Lancashire Evening Post

Book of words


A book of words was not produced.

Other primary published materials

  • A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook and Programme, 2d . No publication details.

References in secondary literature


None noted.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Lancaster Public Library holds 1 copy of the pageant programme, shelfmark: `H25 CHU

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland
  • Dickens, Charles. Nicholas Nickleby
  • Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist
  • Kingsley, Charles. Water Babies
  • Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer's Night's Dream

These well-known texts, extracts from which formed the basis of some episodes, were often abridged for junior readers and it is possible that such adapted texts were used, however, no specific imprints are mentioned in pageant literature.


In 1935, the Waifs and Strays Society (founded in London in 1881) looked after 4800 children in 106 homes across England and Wales. The Society's branch in Lancashire was established in 1890 with a single home in Rochdale, but by 1935 had seven such establishments across the county, which looked after children perceived to be vulnerable because of parental absence or neglect.7 The model adopted was that of the 'small home' rather than the large institution, and in this way, the Society might be seen as in the vanguard of progress in the care of children. Yet, in other ways, this was a very traditional organisation. Certainly, the society aimed to meet the needs of abandoned and abused children regardless of any ability to pay by the statutory authorities or legal guardians. The children's requirements for shelter were met, their moral welfare was attended to, and education was provided to a minimum standard. All this was with the aim that when childhood ended these youngsters would make their own way in the world as ‘respectable’ members of the working class, with boys taking up a semi-skilled trade and girls entering domestic service. There was no plan radically to transform otherwise blighted lives, but there was ambition to keep these children on the right side of the law and off the poor law register. Work skills 'training' and 'spiritual instruction' were the order of the day.8

It seems likely that the Victorian values that underpinned this charity would not have found favour with all sections of interwar opinion. Alongside a very no-nonsense practical approach to the problem of providing for neglected children, there was also a slightly nauseating sentimentality about the experience of childhood, which coloured the entire approach of this organisation—and which, by the 1930s, was no doubt off-putting to some. Nonetheless, the Waifs and Strays was still very much in business before the Second World War and since all the services the society delivered were paid for out of charitable donation, a lot of fundraising events were needed and these were held on a regular basis. Alongside the usual fetes and themed 'fayres', pageants also came into the frame as an effective means of raising money; and fete and pageant were increasingly combined in a single event. Lancaster's Grand Pageant Fayre was an example of just such an initiative.

In keeping with the Society's roots, much of the organisation seems to have been in the hands of clergymen, with many women helpers also involved. Each episode was organised by a single parish or school though there are some examples of wider community involvement with dance schools providing performance from their pupils; and members of another Church of England institution—the Girls' Friendly Society—enacted the closing episode. There is no note as to whether or not the objects of the society—that is to say the waifs and strays who were housed by the charity—had any part of the performance. The pageant did have a broadly historical theme, but in common with many interwar pageants, the use of allegory and of historical fiction was a key feature of this show. Furthermore, while it is probable that individual organisers were given a free hand in selecting the narratives of each of the episodes, for they are certainly eclectic, an underlying ideology can also be seen and it seems likely that the episode producers were given this particular base line to work with. For many of the enactments provided over the fifteen episodes reflect the experience of the neglected or abandoned child in some way (for good or bad), or depict the lack of charity expressed by uncaring adults towards the child.

Predictably then, the works of Kingsley and Dickens make an appearance in various parts of the drama, as do traditional tales of children left vulnerable and alone in a dark wood. Some episodes reiterate the hideousness of the faceless institution, and some celebrate through allegory the essential innocence of the child—the only unifying themes these dramas have is that the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Most of the players were children and many of the episodes were driven by song and dance, rather than dialogue, though it is probable that some form of narration was provided. Some elements of the pageant would make for uncomfortable viewing for a twenty-first century audience. Episode 2 in the second part of the pageant for example, involves the reuniting of a golliwog with the object of his love—a discarded doll—in a tale about a toyshop. This story was no doubt meant to buttress the Society's message that they would turn no child away, however despised.

Although, when they did make a profit, pageants had always benefited charity, and increasingly were held with this express intention, the Grand Pageant Fayre was singularly aimed at keeping attendees spending over a long period. The local press expressed the opinion that the event had a somewhat unusual format that 'differed from the usual bazaar' and was being held 'on a grand scale'.9 Thus, the performance was split into three parts, no doubt with the hope that most of the public who paid for a pageant ticket would linger, spending money at the fete's stalls and at the refreshment area, in between the performance of each part. The fair and pageant were held in Ashton Hall, a prestigious place of entertainment in Lancaster, and the fee for its hire may well have been waived in order to benefit this charity. Furthermore, the pageant as a charitable endeavour would have been exempt from tax: therefore, it is more than likely that it did make money for its cause. It provides us with an example of a pageant that had moral ideology rather than any burning interest in the past, at its heart, though historical scenes were certainly used to facilitate this aim. Moreover, alongside popular pageant fodder such as the traditional old English fair and the singing of folk songs, much of the material dramatised was (if not exactly highbrow) certainly meant to be improving for the audience. Still, we must remind ourselves that often such enactments really came alive on stage, even if they do not quite manage this on the page, however much the image of fairies floating across the arena and guardian angels descending from on high to bring pious gifts, may raise suspicions that this was an entertainment of dubious virtues. In the end, the affecting scenes presented were meant to tug at the heartstrings and open the wallets of the audience, and, in all likelihood were effective in achieving this.


  1. ^ For names of committee members see, A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook and Programme, 2d (no publication details).
  2. ^ 'On a Big Scale', Lancashire Evening Post, 5 February 1935, 6.
  3. ^ A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Unless otherwise stated all information and quotation in the synopses is from A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook.
  6. ^ Information about music can be found throughout: A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook.
  7. ^ A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook.
  8. ^ See the entry entitled 'Some Noteworthy Features' which described the organisation of the Society, in A Grand Pageant Fayre, Ashton Hall Lancaster: Official Handbook.
  9. ^ 'On a Big Scale', Lancashire Evening Post, 5 February 1935, 6.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Grand Pageant Fayre’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1328/