The Pageant of Thornhill

Pageant type

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Place: Old Rectory Park, Thornhill (Dewsbury) (Dewsbury, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1952

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 8


5–12 July 1952

[5 and 12 July at 2.30pm and 7.15pm; all other dates at 7.15pm.]

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Coney, H.R.H.
  • Pageant Mistress [Pageant Master]: Nutall, B.H.
  • Deputy PM: Waddington, F.
  • Writer of the Script: H.N. Pobjoy
  • Property Master: P.A. Lund
  • Assistant Property Master: J.W. Ayles
  • Field Secretary: Norman Rigg
  • Musical Director: M. Pobjoy
  • Mistress of the Robes: M.E. Gledhill
  • Mistress of Dancing: S. Gledhill
  • Publicity Manager: Leonard Shaw
  • Master of the Horse: Claude France and C.A.E. Horton
  • Chorus Master: W. Croft
  • Composer of Fanfares: F.W. Peace
  • Art Director: R.C. Burfield
  • Scenic Artist: Charles Newton
  • Car Park Superintendent: E. Young
  • Photographer: G.E. Austin
  • Musical Accompanists: Mrs Ellis, Miss Y. Harper, A.J. Francis

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

  • President: Hon. Lord Saville
  • Chairman: Rev. Canon HRH Coney, MA (Rural Dean of Dewsbury)
  • Treasurer: L.V. Hampshire
  • Secretary: H. Threlfall
  • J.W. Auty, J.W. Ayles, Claude France, L.V. Hampshire, P.A. Lund, Norman Rigg, W. Robinson, L. Shaw, F. Waddington, K. Woodhouse, Rev. K.M. Wiley, Eileen Fenton, M.E. Gledhill, S. Gledhill, B.H. Nutall

Episode Producers

  • D. Eastwood, M. Walker, M. Sunley, H.R.H. Coney, Rev. K.M. Wiley, P. Hinchcliffe

Casting Committee

  • B.H. Nuttall

Robes Committee

  • E. Gledhill

Publicity and Handbook Committee

  • Leonard Shaw

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

  • Pobjoy, H.N.

Names of composers

  • Pobjoy, Rev. H.N.
  • Handel, George Frideric
  • Gay, John
  • German, Edward
  • Gilbert, W.S.
  • Williams, Ralph Vaughan
  • Parry, Hubert
  • Sullivan, Arthur
  • Morley, Thomas

Numbers of performers


Financial information

It was estimated that the Pageant made a profit of £200. [Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 26 July 1952, 8].

Object of any funds raised

Profits were distributed among local charities.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 12000 - 13000

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

The following people opened performances of the pageant

  • 5 July. Mayor of Dewsbury
  • 6 July.Bishop of Pontefract
  • 7 July.J.E. Tolson
  • 8 July. W.T. Paling
  • 9 July. W.E. Gundill
  • 11 July. Bishop of Wakefield
  • 12 July (afternoon). Sir Alfred Mowat
  • 12 July (evening). Lady Saville

Pageant outline


The Spirit of Thornhill enters with children, standard bearers and heralds and delivers a short speech.

Episode I. Erection of the Anglican Crossses 9 and 10th Centuries

The body of Osberht is brought for burial. Angles bear the body and are met by monks at the Minster. Later we see crosses erected and dedicated. Monks sing plain-song.

Episode II. The Norman Conquest, 11th century.

Gerneber, with his household and parish priest, hand over the deeds of his manor to Ilbert de Laci. To compensate his disappointment at losing other estates, Ilbert resolves to make Thornhill worthy of his previous position.

Episode III. The Granting of the Charter, AD 1321

A medieval market with villagers dancing. Sir John de Thornhill announces the granting of a charter and, with his friends, witnesses the blessing of the cross. They witness another dance before leaving.

Episode IV. The Marriage of Elizabeth de Thornhill to Henry Saville, AD 1370

A team of morris dancers from the villagers (with a hobby horse) entertains the crowds. After the dancing, the marriage party come from the Manor and drink to the happiness of Bridge and Groom. The villagers start to dance and the wedding party joins in. The Bridegroom throws coins amongst the crowd.

Episode V. The Dedication of the Jesse Window and Other Additions to the Parish Chuch, AD 1498.

Robert Frost and William Saville talk about the church additions with glaziers and builders, and with others from the Saville family. People gather for the dedication. ‘We have imagined that Prince Arthur honoured the event by his presence, and, not unlikely, that the Archbishop of York performed the ceremony.’ They enter accompanied by Lord Savile and his family, the Vicar of Dewsbury and others. Sir John addresses the company and the Archbishop praises the church. All leave in procession.

A Reformation Interlude, 16th Century

Thomas Alyne holds a Latin breviary, whilst he is given new prayer books for the years 1549, 1552, 1553 and 1559 by choir boys.

Episode VI. The Hey-day of Thornhill Hall, AD 1634

A day of merriment for the coming of age of Sir William and the christening of his heir. Men perform a sword dance, after which the house party appears. Villagers sing a madrigal and gifts are given to Sir William by the tenants; Edward Rolston presents a map. Further dancing.

Episode VII. The Destruction of Thornhill Hall, 1648

Paulden and Bonifant are considering plans for the defence whilst they are brought news of Fairfax’s arrival. We see Fairfax and Cholmeley surveying the hall. The third part shows intermittent firing and Paulden’s capitulation. We see the reaction of Sir Thomas Savile (a Parliamentarian) that his house has been destroyed.

Episode VIII. The Restoration of the Monarchy, AD 1662

The village is in a gay mood once more. A drunk is put in the stocks and the maypole is set up. The villagers dance the Circassian Circle. Sir George Savile laughs and frees the man from the stocks before introducing the new Rector.

Episode IX. Eminent Men of Science at Thornhill Rectory, AD 1781.

Herschel, Priestley and Cavendish are playing bowls at the Rectory when George Savile and Barbara, Countess of Scarborough join the game. The scientists discuss their work and discoveries. Mrs. Mitchell grows tired and encourages them to dance which all but Cavendish (a recluse) do.

Finale. 19th and 20th Centuries

There are allusions to the Industrial Revolution, which brought coal-mines and textile mills; the Reverend William Walsham How; the disaster at the Combs Pit, which killed 139 in 1893; the World Wars; and scientific discoveries—all leading up to the pageant itself. How and Canon Brooke walk across the stage, thinking of the past and dreaming of the future—as characters from previous episodes enter. The chief occupations of people are shown. Tragedy stalks but is driven back by Faith, Hope and Charity. St Michael enters and is acclaimed, the present Rector and Choir enter in procession and all sing.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Osberht (d. 867) king of Northumbria
  • Rotherham [Scot], Thomas (1423–1500) archbishop of York
  • Savile, Sir William, third baronet (1612–1644)
  • Fairfax, Ferdinando, second Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1584–1648) parliamentarian army officer
  • Paulden, Thomas (1625–1702x10) royalist army officer
  • Savile, George, first marquess of Halifax (1633–1695) politician and political writer
  • Herschel, William (1738–1822) musician and astronomer
  • Cavendish, Henry (1731–1810) natural philosopher
  • Priestley, Joseph (1733–1804) theologian and natural philosopher
  • Savile, Sir George, eighth baronet (1726–1784) politician
  • How, William Walsham (1823–1897) bishop of Wakefield

Musical production

Thornhill Prize Band under A. Hemingway and a string quartet performed the following pieces:

  • Hymn 437, Vaughan Williams
  • Jerusalem, Hubert Parry
  • Now is the Month of May, Morley
  • Beggar’s Opera, Gay
  • Water Music, Handel
  • Henry VIII Dances, German
  • Tom Jones, German
  • Selection of Gilbert and Sullivan

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Book of words

None noted

Other primary published materials

  • The Pageant of Thornhill [Programme]. Stanley Press, Dewsbury 1952.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Programme held in West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield. Reference WDP14/9/2

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Pageant of Thornhill was an elaborate example of a post-war village pageant. It was one of the last pageants performed in West Yorkshire after the fiasco of the Bradford Centenary Pageant (1947). Performed eight times in July 1952, it benefitted from the support of local Yorkshire notables, including the major of Dewsbury and the Bishops of Pontefract and Wakefield, each of whom opened a performance. A raft of committees supported the pageant organization, and the local vicar H.N. Pobjoy - who had produced and written the Pageant of Hartshead (1928) and Robyn Hoode (1929) - wrote the script. The well-conceived narrative told the story of the village from Anglo-Saxon times to the present. There is a good deal of emphasis on merry-making: morris dancers and maypoles feature prominently in scenes of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cheer (the restoration of the monarchy in 1662, significantly enough, providing the context for one of these). A further interesting feature of the action is the episode featuring a visit of ‘eminent men of science’ to Thornhill Rectory. Scientific figures appear relatively infrequently in village pageants, but the fact that the local Savile family were important patrons of the sciences gave ample justification for their inclusion here. Celebration of science and scientific discoveries also feature in the epilogue, which ends on a hopeful, forward-looking note. 

An estimated 12000 people saw the pageant, which made a profit £200.1


1. ^Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 14 July 1952, 6 and 26 July 1952, 8.

How to cite this entry

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