Pageant of Church History

Other names

  • Winwick Deanery Jubilee Pageant and Festival

Pageant type


The pageant was part of a larger festival hosted by 28 Church of England parishes in the deanery.

Jump to Summary


Place: St Elphin's Church (Warrington) (Warrington, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1930

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


13 September 1930, at 3pm.

Warrington has been a unitary authority since the 1970s. It is within the ceremonial county of Cheshire. Historically, it was part of Lancashire. The pageant was processional; the procession commenced in Crossfield Street. Thereafter it moved 'along Sankey Street passing the Town Hall Main Gates through Springfield Street, Palmers Square (South), Suez Street, to Rylands Street and Church Street, up Bridge Street...' It then arrived at the church.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Plant, O.R.
  • Festival patrons: The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Liverpool, Albert Augustus David, DD The Right Honourable The Earl of Derby, KG, GCVO, CB
  • The Right Honourable Lord Lilford
  • The Right Honourable Lord Daresbury, CVO
  • Lady Daresbury
  • His Worship the Mayor and Mayoress of Warrington
  • Lieut.-Colonel A. P. V. Piggott
  • A. T. Hallaway, Esq.
  • Chief Marshal: Colonel Brereton Fairclough, CMG, DSO, TD, JP.


The Pageant Master, O. R. Plant, wrote a foreword for the programme.2 He was also a member of the organising committee where his listing indicates that he was a clergyman.3

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Deanery Committee

  • President: The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Warrington, Herbert Gresford Jones, DD
  • Vice-President: The Rev. Canon F. E. d'A. Willis, Rector of Warrington
  • Chairman: The Rev. Frank Stone, MA, MC, Rural Dean of Winwick,
  • Honorary Treasurer: J. H. Smethurst, Esq. , JP
  • Hon. Organising Secretary and Pageant Master: Rev. O. R. Plant, Newchurch Rectory


The committee membership was also made up of 64 non-office holders; of these, 25 were clergymen. The remaining members were, 24 men, 10 unmarried women and 6 married women. All office holders were male.4

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


In a foreword to the programme of the pageant, the Bishop of Liverpool states that the pageant master—O. R. Plant—was responsible to selecting the episodes. It is almost certain that these carried no dialogue.

Names of composers



Bands accompanied the pageant, but no note of the music played has been recovered.

Numbers of performers


The programme notes that over 2500 performers took part; all were members of local parishes and included men, women and children. Press coverage stated around 3000 performers. A large number of horses were involved, both to pull the lorries which carried the episode tableaux, but also for use by many individual performers who processed on horseback.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Bishop of Liverpool's Jubilee Building Fund.


The building fund aimed to raise £50000.

Linked occasion

50th anniversary (Jubilee) of the Liverpool diocese.

Audience information

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


There was a raised dais in front of the Town Hall, from which the Mayor and invited dignitaries viewed the pageant.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

This was not a ticketed event, although it is likely that collections of donated money were taken on the day.

Associated events

In Warrington, the jubilee festival included the following events:

  • Saturday 13 September at 1 pm: official reception at the Town Hall hosted by the Mayor of Warrington, with guests including: the Lord Bishops of Liverpool, Warrington, the Rector of Warrington, festival patrons and 'other Church Dignitaries and Representatives of the State and of the Civic Life of Warrington and the Deanery'.
  • Sunday 14 September at 10.30 am: A Jubilee Service at each place of worship in the Deanery, attended by representatives of public bodies within each parish.
  • Sunday 14 September at 6.30 pm: A Jubilee Message at churches in the Deanery, with special collections devoted to the building fund.
  • Thursday 18 September at 3.00 pm: A mass Jubilee Service for women and girls in Warrington Parish Church - preacher the Lord Bishop of Warrington.
  • Thursday 18 September at 7.45 pm: A mass Jubilee Service for men and boys in Warrington Parish Church - preacher the Lord Bishop of Warrington.
  • Sunday 21 September at 3.00 pm: A Grand Jubilee Organ Recital in Warrington Parish Church by Harold Dawber, FRCO.
  • Wednesday 24 September at 7.30 pm: A Grand Oratorio, Mendelssohn's 'Elijiah' with a chorus of 200 voices [from parish choirs] conducted by G. W. Harris Sellick, in the Parr Hall, Warrington (tickets: 5s, 3s. 6d., 2s 6d. and 1s 6d.)
  • Friday 26 September at 7.30 pm: A United Deanery Thanksgiving Service in Warrington Parish Church - preacher the Lord Bishop of Liverpool.6

Pageant outline


The programme indicates that this took place, but provides few details. The Pageant Master wrote that the prologue 'endeavours to show the Holy Spirit illuminating all Church history.'7

Episode I: The Founding of the first Christian Church at Glastonbury, AD 64

Around 40 parishioners of St Elphin's Parish Church in Warrington performed in this episode; the producers were Miss M. Jolley and Miss C. Morrison. The main characters in this tableau are King Arvirargus and Joseph of Arimathea. The scene shows Joseph planting his staff in the ground at Glastonbury, indicating this is where he will build a church. Arvirargus, who according to legend has granted this land to Joseph, is shown in deep awe of 'the sign of divine acceptance' that appears when the staff bursts into flower and a heavenly host appears. The scene contains 4 women in the roles of angels (carrying instruments), 12 children as cherubs and around 20 other performers playing 'a devout group of men and women of the period'.8

Episode II: S. Alban, the first British Martyr, June 22nd, AD 303

Around 40 parishioners of St John's Mission Church in the parish of Warrington performed in this episode which was produced by Mr F. S. Massey. The episode has two tableaux. In the first of these, a Roman altar is seen and standing before this is a Roman 'judge' who is preparing a sacrifice. Walking alongside the tableau are twenty 'Roman maidens' carrying flower garlands which are attached by ribbons to 'pylons above the altar' (presumably forming a canopy to the tableau). Behind this, a second tableau shows St Alban; the saint wearing 'the caracella over his monkish gown, which fails to conceal his military garment underneath', and with his hands bound. Also in this scene is an executioner, who holds a sword above Alban's head, and two Roman soldiers who scourge the saint for his refusal to offer sacrifice at a Roman altar. Eleven further performers playing Roman soldiers surround the tableau.

Episode III: The first Christian Mission. S. Augustine is sent by Pope Gregory to establish Christianity in Britain, AD 596

This episode was performed by 44 members of St Clement's Mission Church in the parish of Warrington, and produced by Miss M. Jolley and Miss C. Morrison (who also produced Episode I). The scene in this tableau depicts the baptism of King Æthelberht by St Augustine while the king's Christian wife, Bertha, looks on. Other performers take on the roles of ladies-in-waiting, male royal attendants and monks.

Episode IV: The Establishment of the Northern Church and the Monastic Foundation at Lindisfarne, AD 635

Around 50 members of St Oswald's Parish Church, Winwick, performed this episode; this number included 10 women and 10 children. The producer was the Rev. E. Patrick. The programme is unclear about the nature of the tableau, but it is deduced that it shows Oswald meeting with St Aidan, following Oswald's triumph over Cadwallan. A number of monks and women and children 'of the period' support the two main performers in the roles of Aidan and Oswald.

Episode V: The first National Church Conference at Whitby and the first English poet Caedmon, AD 664

This episode involved a large number of performers from three churches; these were St Barnabas Church in Warrington, Golborne Parish Church of St Thomas and St Margaret and All Hallows Church, Orford. The producers respectively were Miss Singleton, Mr H. Stuart Rimmer and the Rev. C. T. Allwork (vicar at All Hallows). Three tableaux are presented. The first, features parishioners from St Barnabas, and shows a seated King Oswy surrounded by his son, Alchfrid and four bishops (Colman, Cedd, Agilbert and Wilfrid). Beside this group, are two monks—one carrying a book, the other a 'banner, emblazoned with the Arms of St Peter. In the second tableau, done by members of St Thomas's church, the poet Caedmon features, surrounded by a standard bearer and 19 'jovial companions' dressed in period costume. In the final tableau, presented by parishioners from All Hallows, a seated St Hild is surrounded by 4 nuns; a further 8 nuns walk alongside the scene.

Episode VI: The Danish Invasions and their effect upon the English Church, AD 787-910

This episode was performed by an unspecified number of parishioners of St John the Baptist Church in Earlstown. The tableau features King Alfred, his queen and courtiers. No details of any dramatic content are provided in the programme, but an accompanying illustration shows Alfred seated on a throne; in his hand is a piece of parchment. This was presumably meant to indicate Alfred's plans for restoring the fortunes of the church. The producer was Mr R. Lee.

Episode VII: National Unity helped forward under Dunstan, AD 925-988

Around 20 members of St Phillips Church, Earlestown, performed in this episode, meant to represent the career of Dunstan at different stages in his life. The producer was Miss M. Ball. This episode is presented in two tableaux. The first shows a youthful Dunstan on horseback and carrying his harp. In the second, he is older and seated on a throne; in this scene, bishops and monks surround Dunstan.

Episode VIII: Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, re-establishes the spiritual power of the Church, AD 1162-1170

Around 40 members of St Helen's Parish Church, Hollinfare, performed this episode. The producer was Mr E. Hankerson. Two tableaux are presented. In the first Becket is seen in the company of Henry II, 2 royal pages (played by girls) and a standard-bearer. It is presumed to represent the friendship between the king and Beckett. The second tableau has Becket about to be murdered. He is seen kneeling and is surrounded by his servant Edward Grim, Sir William Tracy, Sir Reginald Fitz-Orson [sic] and two kneeling monks. Alongside the tableau are Henry II (with his hands bound), a royal servant carrying a whip and a group of 'mourning citizens.

Episode IX: The Church, the Champion of English Liberty. King John, Archbishop Stephen Langton and ‘Magna Charta’, AD 1199-1216

Parishioners from St Michael and All Angels Parish Church, Burtonwood performed in this episode. The producer was Mr Hugh Mitchell. The tableau features an enthroned King John and alongside, Archbishop Stephen Langton in the act of reading Magna Carta. Around twenty supporting players were in the roles of male and female courtiers, pages and a standard-bearer.

Episode X: The growing vitality of the National Church and the coming of the Friars, AD 1219

Around 100 members of St George's Mission Church (Warrington Parish) performed in this episode. The group included men, women and children in roughly equal numbers. The producer was the parish vicar, Rev. C. Winsland. Two tableaux are presented: in the first of these, St Dominic is the central character and he is seen surrounded by monks; in the second, St Francis features. In the company of Francis are 'happy children carrying garlands of flowers', a group of 'poor people' and a group of grey-clad monks.

Episode XI: Wycliffe and the Reform of the National Church, AD 1368

Twenty-nine parishioners of St Mary's Church, Great Sankey performed in this episode; all of the performers were men. The producer was Mr Frank Simpson. The tableau presents Wycliffe seated at a desk. In his company are peasants 'poor priests' and 'Burghers carrying Bibles and Devotional Books'. It is presumed that Wycliffe is seen in the act of writing to the pope.

Episode XII: The Reformation and the New Learning, AD 1535

Four churches were involved with this episode. Ten members of St Peter's Parish Church, 11 from St Luke's Mission Church and 23 from Holy Trinity Church (all in Warrington); also, 19 parishioners from St Luke's Parish Church, Lowton. The groups were made up of 4 adult men and 6 boys (St Peter's), 6 men and 5 women (St Luke's) 5 adult men, 3 boys and 11 female performers (St Luke's, Lowton) and 16 men, 6 women and 1 boy from Holy Trinity. The producers respectively were Mr E. H. Reddesh, Mr G. Ellison, Mrs Frances Smith and Mr L. R. Rowson. The four tableaux are as follows: in the first (performed by St Peter's), Dean Colet is seen seated at a desk in his schoolroom; he is showing a book to a group of young scholars. Several of the boys are kneeling with hands clasped. Secondly (performed by St Luke's), a pioneer 'of the New Learning' features: this is Erasmus who is on foot and followed by a group of 'happy, contented men, women and children, citizens of Utopia'. All carry implements - some representing learning such as books and compasses others tools of manual labour; Erasmus carries a book entitled 'Praise of Folly'. Luther and his followers (played by members of St Luke's Mission) come behind this, also on foot: Luther is clad in black and carrying a bible. The final tableau, performed by worshippers from Lowton, is displayed atop a lorry, and features 'Martyrs of the Reformation' in the shape of Bishop Fisher, Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cranmer and Bishop Latimer. All are 'roped with cords'. Also on the platform is 'a stake and piles of faggots'. Two soldiers stand on either side of this, and a third carries a torch (ready to set the fire alight). A back-cloth behind the stake bears words attributed to Latimer: 'We shall this day light such a candle by God's Grace in England, as I trust will never be put out'; and Latimer, 'who has struggled to get one arm free, holds aloft a large candle'. Walking alongside are 'citizens and sympathisers in period costume'.

Episode XIII: Through Conflict to Victory, 1588-1611

Three churches contributed to this episode. Twenty-five performers were from St Paul's Church, Warrington (10 men and 15 women), 23 were from All Saints Mission Church (17 men and 6 women) and around 14 actors (this number including 8 small girls) were from Christ Church Parish, Croft. Mrs Downham was producer for both St Paul's and at All Saints, and at Christ Church, the parish vicar, Rev. H.I. Wadeson, performed this task. Each of the three tableaux are presented on lorries. The first, performed by St Paul's, represents Elizabeth I's entry into London in 1558. Arranged on the lorry is 'the Cave of Ignorance' with Father Time standing beside it in the act of 'leading out his daughter, Truth, who presents a bible to Queen Elizabeth'. Two Pages carry cushions and on each is placed the Book of Common Prayer and a 'Book of Devotions'. In the second scene (presented by St Paul's), King James I at the 'Convocation of Canterbury' is depicted. He is seated alongside a group of bishops. Lastly, Christ Church depicts a domestic tableau featuring a mother reading from the authorised version of the bible to a group of children who are gathered round her knees.

Episode XIV: The Tragedy of King Charles I. and Archbishop Laud, AD 1625-1649

In this episode, the performers were from St Peter's Parish Church, Newton-Le-Willows. The group consisted of 29 men and the producer was Mr E. E. Mason. The representation presented in this tableau is a little unclear. However it involves Archbishop Laud's relationship with Charles I in some way, and both appear in the drama; the end date for this scene is 1649 (the year of Charles' death) and a 'masked executioner' is represented, therefore it is assumed the tableau also depicts the execution of Charles. Also appearing are 12 acolytes, Bishop Juxon, a captain of the guard and 12 roundhead soldiers.

Episode XV: The Rise of the Commonwealth and Puritan England, AD 1649-1658

Performers in this episode were from Newchurch-Kenyon Parish in Culcheth-With-Risley [sic]. Around 30 took part and the producer was the Pageant Master and vicar of this parish, the Rev. Oscar Reginald Plant. This presentation was headed by a procession featuring Oliver Cromwell (in armour and mounted on a white charger), Colonel Blood and Thomas Holcroft (both on horseback), a mounted standard bearer and 9 roundhead soldiers - mounted on 'Black Belgian Horses, with Scarlet Plumes and Scarlet Saddle Cloths'. Following this cavalcade is a car on which the blind poet Milton is seated, his hand resting on a Bible. His three daughters surround him: one 'holds a viol, and one a copy of "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained". The third daughter is writing down her father's words at Milton's dictation. At the rear stands the 'Angel of Judgement, her trumpet to her lips'. Ladies in period costume walk alongside the car.

Episode XVI: The Trial of the Seven Bishops, AD 1688-1714

Performers in this episode were from All Saints Parish Church, Newton-Le-Willows. The group consisted of around 50 players made up of men and women in roughly equal numbers. The producer was Miss R. Yates. The dramatic action is centred on a car on which are the seven bishops (of Canterbury, Peterborough, Bath and Wells, Ely, Bristol, Chichester and St Asaph) all with bound hands. The programme states that a 'crowd of townspeople surround them, some of them climb on to the lorry and cut the ropes which bind the Bishops' hands, typifying their freedom'. In addition, the banners of the SPCK [Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge] and the SPG [Society for the Propagation of the Gospel] were in evidence as part of the display.

Episode XVII: The Religious Revival and Modern Church Work, AD 1714 to 1930

This was the second episode contributed by parishioners from Newchurch-Kenyon Parish in Culcheth-With-Risley; once again, the producer was the Rev. Oscar Reginald Plant. The group consisted of 11 male performers and 1 woman. On display in a series of tableaux are 12 'Pioneers' as follows:

  • 'Of Religious Thought': John Wesley, [John] Keble and [Edward] Pusey
  • 'Of Social Service': William Wilberforce, Matthew Arnold and Hannah More
  • 'Of Science': [Charles] Darwin, [Thomas] Huxley and [?Herbert] Spencer
  • 'Of Industry': [Richard] Arkwright, [George] Stephenson and [James] Watt.9

A Pageant of Youth

2000 young people from a variety of organisations were included in this procession which came after the 17 episodes. Examples include the Girls' Brigade, Scouts, Sea Scouts and Sunday school pupils. No information of their demonstration is provided in the programme.10 However, some illustrations indicate that historical dress was used. For example an illustration showing a tableau entitled 'The Era of Peace' presented in the youth pageant shows figures in ancient Greek robes.11

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Alban [St Alban, Albanus] (d. c.303?) Christian martyr in Roman Britain
  • Æthelberht I (d. 616?) king of Kent
  • Bertha (b. c.565, d. in or after 601) queen in Kent, consort of Æthelberht
  • Augustine [St Augustine] (d. 604) missionary and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Áedán [St Áedán, Aidan] (d. 651) missionary and bishop
  • Oswald [St Oswald] (603/4–642) king of Northumbria
  • Oswiu [Oswy] (611/12–670) king of Northumbria
  • Alchfrith [Ealhfrith] (fl. c.655–c.665) sub-king of Deira
  • Colmán [St Colmán] (d. 676) bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Cedd [St Cedd] (d. 664) bishop of the East Saxons
  • Agilbert (d. 679x90) bishop of the West Saxons
  • Wilfrid [St Wilfrid] (c.634–709/10) bishop of Hexham
  • Cædmon (fl. c.670) poet
  • Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Alfred [Ælfred] (848/9–899) king of the West Saxons and of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Ealhswith (d. 902) consort of Alfred, king of the West Saxons from 871 and of the Anglo-Saxons from 886
  • Henry II (1133–1189) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Becket, Thomas [St Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London] (1120?–1170) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Grim, Edward (fl. 1170–c.1186) biographer
  • Tracy, William de (d. in or before 1174) one of the murderers of Thomas Becket Sir
  • Fitzurse, Reginald (d. 1173x5) one of the murderers of Thomas Becket Sir
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Langton, Stephen (c.1150–1228) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Wyclif [Wycliffe], John [called Doctor Evangelicus] (d. 1384) theologian, philosopher, and religious reformer
  • Fisher, John [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535) bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr
  • More, Sir Thomas [St Thomas More] (1478–1535) lord chancellor, humanist, and martyr
  • Cranmer, Thomas (1489–1556) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Latimer, Hugh (c.1485–1555) bishop of Worcester, preacher, and protestant martyr
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Juxon, William (bap. 1582, d. 1663) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Laud, William (1573–1645) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658) lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Blood, Thomas (1617/18–1680) adventurer and spy
  • Sancroft, William (1617–1693) archbishop of Canterbury and nonjuror
  • White, Thomas (1628–1698) bishop of Peterborough and nonjuror
  • Ken, Thomas (1637–1711) bishop of Bath and Wells and nonjuror
  • Turner, Francis (1637–1700) bishop of Ely, nonjuror, and Jacobite conspirator
  • Lake, John (bap. 1624, d. 1689) bishop of Chichester
  • Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
  • Keble, John (1792–1866) Church of England clergyman and poet
  • Pusey, Edward Bouverie (1800–1882) Church of England clergyman and theologian
  • Wilberforce, William (1759–1833) politician, philanthropist, and slavery abolitionist
  • Arnold, Matthew (1822–1888) poet, writer, and inspector of schools
  • More, Hannah (1745–1833) writer and philanthropist
  • Darwin, Charles Robert (1809–1882) naturalist, geologist, and originator of the theory of natural
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825–1895) biologist and science educationist
  • Spencer, Herbert (1820–1903) philosopher, social theorist, and sociologist
  • Arkwright, Sir Richard (1732–1792) inventor of cotton-spinning machinery and cotton manufacturer
  • Stephenson, George (1781–1848) colliery and railway engineer
  • Watt, James (1736–1819) engineer and scientist

Musical production

Details of musical pieces have not been recovered. Two bands accompanied the pageant:

  • The Band of the 4th Battalion the Prince of Wales Volunteers
  • The Penketh Tannery Band.12

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Buckingham Advertiser
Manchester Guardian
Warrington Guardian

Book of words


It is unlikely that dialogue was a part of this pageant.

Other primary published materials

  • Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, Winwick Deanery Jubilee Pageant and Festival to be Held at Warrington. Warrington, 1930.

References in secondary literature


None noted.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Cheshire Record Office holds 1 copy of the programme, ref: P316/6000/9

Sources used in preparation of pageant


None noted


The Pageant of Church History was an unashamed fundraiser and was part of a larger initiative to raise money for those perennial problems of bishops the world over—namely, stopping the church roof from leaking and providing enough space for worship. In 1930, the Bishop of Liverpool's cathedral building fund was in need of £50000, a considerable sum at this time. Given the status of this church, which was built in stages but eventually became the largest place of Anglican worship in the world, the need for cash is not surprising. Thus, when the Liverpool diocese celebrated its golden jubilee year in 1930, this occasion provided a good reason to offer some festivities that might add to the coffers of the building fund. The festival held in the Winwick Deanery incorporated many special religious services at which collections were taken towards the building fund, and a ticketed concert was held in its aid; but a pageant was also deemed necessary. No doubt, given that this particular pageant needed to raise money rather than risk losing it, the form chosen was for a procession of tableaux. In this way, a large-scale production could be staged without the expense entailed in using a specific venue. Yet the parade put on was elaborate and huge in scale; and the fact that it wound its way for two miles through the streets of Warrington meant that the whole thing turned into something of a civic occasion.13 The Mayor held a reception for a coterie of bishops and other members of the local great and good; and this group processed at the head of the pageant until the point where it reached the Town Hall; here Mayor and bishops departed the parade and watched it unfold from a specially erected raised dais.14

So far as can be assessed, no dialogue was included but some tableaux did include dramatic content alongside scene-setting. The seventeen episodes included told the history of Christianity in England, with the accent on the establishment of the church. Saints and clergymen abounded of course in this narrative, but so too did monarchs and a host of other, non-clerical historical figures. The majority of the tableaux were mounted on horse-drawn lorries, and each of these was guided by one or two grooms, with these guides dressed in costumes appropriate to the period of their respective scenes. Some tableaux, however, moved on foot (or on horseback), and this entire parade of up to 3000 men, women and children, must have taken several hours to make its way by a route through the centre of the town that ended at St Elphin's Parish Church. At this destination, brief services were then held both inside and outside of the church before all the performers dispersed.15 Members of individual congregations performed their own exclusive episode, with each having its own producer. However, some of the smaller rural parishes worked collectively with others; and as some episodes entailed several tableaux arranged on separate lorries, this allowed more than one church to take a role in a single episode. Putting the whole thing together must have been quite a feat, and this was left in charge of a vicar from one of the rural churches, the Rev. Oscar Plant, who acted as overall Pageant Master.

Given that this was a pageant on the move, and took place in the town centre, it is clear that it was not a ticketed event, but more than likely there were attendants collecting donations. According to press reports, the costumes used were impressive, and every effort was made to achieve authenticity.16 Accompanying this huge display of historical characters were two bands, suggesting that this was a display designed to make both a visual and an aural spectacle. As to the history on display, this began with the legend of Joseph of Arimathea. It then moved through the development of religion coming under Roman influence, including periods of pagan invasion, as by the Vikings. It glided across the Reformation, placing emphasis on those who had suffered for the establishment of a church under English authority, largely avoiding the subsequent growth in non-conformity, before ending by aligning the established English church with great figures of scientific and philosophical thought. The person responsible for this selection was the Pageant Master and he justified his choices by stating that:

My aim, throughout the whole of our celebrations, is to teach the great lesson of Unity and to show how the Church of England has always taught her children, first by Symbol, and then, as they advanced in understanding, by and through the power of their own rationality and self expression.17

This sounds very laudable and worthy, but it is also clear that the Rev. Plant had an eye to how the whole convoy would look and he took care to achieve plenty of 'contrast' as he put it, so that the lengthy presentation would keep people's attention. Many of the favourites of pageantry such as King Alfred, King John and Queen Elizabeth made appearances alongside many angels, saints and bishops; Charles I was shown approaching his grisly end alongside a masked executioner—certainly an attention-grabbing device and reported as the outstanding tableau of the entire day.18 Overall, the tableaux were top-heavy with martyrs to the cause, from Thomas Becket to Thomas More, but even so, to judge from existing press coverage, the scenes were far from mournful, but rather were thought to be full of vibrancy.

Moreover, although this was at heart an ecclesiastical history, the basic patriotic tenets of pageantry were accounted for, and as the Bishop of Liverpool commented, alongside church history this was also an account that included 'landmarks in the history of the Country to which we all belong'.19 Even Magna Carta was depicted as the gift of the clergy! In Episode IX, the programme states that 'had there been no Stephen Langton, perhaps there would have been no "Magna Charta"'.20

Sadly, the vivid colour of the parade was probably rather more muted than had been intended because the weather was very wet indeed. The Manchester Guardian reported that this did give rise to the comic spectacle of 'Saxon yeomen carrying umbrellas and Elizabethan ladies protecting their brocade with rubber mackintoshes'.21 Many details of this pageant have not been recovered: alas, we do not know how much money was raised, or how many people turned out in the rain to see it.22 The programme contained a great many advertisements, so some income would have been guaranteed even before the event and even if only the family and friends of participants turned out, this would have amassed a significant crowd. The pageant was a tremendous local effort towards a wider church cause, so it did deserve some success; and as an example of this genre, it demonstrates that pageantry done by enthusiastic volunteers continued to be infinitely adaptable and imaginative in the interwar period.


  1. ^ Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, Winwick Deanery Jubilee Pageant and Festival to be Held at Warrington (Warrington, 1930), 11.
  2. ^ Ibid., 9.
  3. ^ Ibid., 3.
  4. ^ Ibid., 3.
  5. ^ See respectively, ibid., 11 and untitled note in the Buckingham Advertiser, 20 September 1930, 4.
  6. ^ See Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 12-15.
  7. ^ See O.R. Plant, 'The Pageant of Church History', in Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 9.
  8. ^ Unless indicated otherwise, all quotations in synposes text are taken from Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930.
  9. ^ In the programme text, in many instances surnames only are provided: see Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 70.
  10. ^ The pageant programme mentions that a supplementary programme for the Pageant of Youth was produced. However, a copy of this has not been recovered: see Winwick Deanery Jubilee Pageant, 72.
  11. ^ Illustration in Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 67.
  12. ^ For mention of the bands see Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 11, 72.
  13. ^ 'Pageantry in Rain', Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1930, 4.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 11.
  16. ^ 'Pageantry in Rain', Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1930, 4.
  17. ^ Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 9.
  18. ^ 'Pageantry in Rain', Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1930, 4.
  19. ^ Foreword by the bishop, Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 7.
  20. ^ Liverpool Diocesan Jubilee 1880-1930, 43.
  21. ^ 'Pageantry in Rain', Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1930, 4.
  22. ^ On page 30 of the programme there is a note stating that the Warrington Guardian would carry a full report and pictures in the issue published on 30 September 1930; this text has not been available to consult but may carry such information as audience size.

How to cite this entry

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