Scarborough Historical Pageant and Play

Pageant type


Entry researched and written by Keith Johnston.

Jump to Summary


Place: Scarborough Castle (Scarborough) (Scarborough, Yorkshire, North Riding, England)

Year: 1912

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 9


9 July–31 August 1912 

[9–13 July 1912 at 2.30pm, 28–31 August 1912 at 2.30pm

Saturday 6 July: Full-dress rehearsal (without orchestra) for pageant workers. No tickets sold and public not admitted. 

Monday 8 July: School children’s day. Orchestra present. No tickets sold and public not admitted. This was also the press day. Grandstand crowded. This was the final dress rehearsal.

Tuesday 27 August: Dress rehearsal for repeat performances.]

Name of pageant master and other named staff


  • Master of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Hudson, Gilbert
  • Assistant Pageant Masters: Capt. H.S. Riddell and J.W. Whitbread, Esq.
  • Masters of the Music and Conductors: Messrs. C. Hylton Stewart and A.C. Keeton
  • Mistress of Robes: Mrs. Geo. Rowntree
  • Masters of Heraldry and Armour: Col. A. Winder and Major R.S. Stuart
  • Chairman: Rev. Fred. G. Stapleton
  • Hon. Treasurer: Councillor W.S. Rowntree, J.P.
  • Architect: Mr T.W. Whipp, A.R.I.B.A., F.S.I.
  • Secretary: Mr F.P. Morgan
  • Presidents: The Right Hon. The Earl and Countess of Londesborough
  • Vice-Presidents: The Mayor and Mayoress of Scarborough (Mr and Mrs T.H. Good) [Held office 1911–12]
  • Mistress of Robes: Mrs Geo. Rowntree
  • Assistant: Miss Turner
  • Master of Heraldry and Armour: Col. A. Winder; Major R.S. Stuart

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Committee

All present at meeting on 22 February 1911 and all guarantors and subscribers. Delegated its powers to:

Executive Committee

  • The Mayor and Mayoress (Councillor and Mrs. Rowntree) [held office 1910-11]
  • Mr Conington
  • Mr H.E. Donner
  • Mr Wm. Greenwood
  • Alderman V. Fowler
  • Mr S.P. Turnbull
  • Mr F. Bedwell
  • Councillor Chrimes
  • Councillor Ascough
  • Mr Joshua Rowntree
  • Mr A.M. Daniel
  • Mr E.R. Cross
  • Mr Jas. Dippie
  • Canon Dolan,
  • Archdeacon Lindsay
  • Archdeacon Mackarness
  • Rev. J. Stafford
  • Mr E.M. Horsley
  • Mr C.B. Hylton Stewart
  • Capt. Riddell
  • Dr Ely
  • Mr Wray (Cloughton)
  • Mr B.B. Popplewell
  • Rev. F.G. Stapleton
  • Lady Ida Sitwell
  • Mrs Alderson-Smith
  • Mrs Ross
  • Mrs Conington
  • Miss Wise

General Purposes Committee

  • The Deputy-Mayor (Councillor Ascough)
  • Councillor Chrimes
  • Dr Ely
  • Mr A.M. Daniels
  • Mr Saynor
  • Mr Popplewell
  • Mr H. Rowntree
  • Mr W. Greenwood
  • Mr T.H. Good
  • Mr H.E. Donner
  • Mr G. Rowntree
  • Mr J. Sinfield
  • Mr C.W. Conington
  • Mr Servington Savery
  • Mr S.N. Smith
  • Mr A.S. Tetley
  • Mr R.S. Blaylock
  • Mr D.A. Nicholl (Town Clerk at the time of his appointment to this committee)
  • Mr R. Underwood
  • Mr Frank Mason
  • Mr A. Bailey
  • Mrs Alderson-Smith
  • Miss Sellers
  • Miss Simpson
  • Miss Alice Thompson
  • Mrs Chrimes
  • Mrs Brown Mason
  • Miss Wood (Westlands).

Book Committee

  • Chairman: Rev. F.G. Stapleton
  • Hon. Sec.: H.D. Rowntree, Esq.

Music Committee

  • Chairman: A.M. Daniel, Esq., J.P.
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss M.E. Ellis

Grounds and Seating Committee

  • Chairman: Ald. W. Hastings Fowler, J.P.
  • Hon. Sec.: W.M. Stapley, Esq.
  • Architect: Mr T.W. Whipp, F.S.I.

Dramatic & Performers Committee

  • Chairman: Coun. W. Ascough, J.P.
  • Hon. Sec.: Capt. H.S. Riddell

Dress Committee

  • Chairman: Rev. F.G. Stapleton
  • Hon. Sec.: C.W. Conington, Esq.

Design and Colour Committee

  • Chairman: A. Strange, Esq.
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss E.M. Ellis 

Dress Cutting-out Committee

  • President: Mrs Munby
  • Hon. Sec.: Mrs A.E. Bevan

Dress Sewing Committee

  • President: Mrs. Geo. Seller
  • Vice-President: Miss Verity
  • Hon. Secs.: Mrs Binning; Miss Duckworth

Properties and Accessories Committee

  • Chairman: Major R.S. Stuart
  • Hon. Secs.: C. Colclough, Esq; A.E. Morley, Esq.

Press and Advertising Committee

  • Chairman: Coun. W.S. Rowntree, J.P.
  • Hon. Sec.: Isaac Skinner, Esq.

Flags and Banners

  • President: Mrs G. Handcock


  • Sir Hugh Bell, Bart. (Lord Lieutenant of North Riding), and Lady Bell
  • The Most Hon. The Rev. Marquis and Marchioness of Normanby
  • Edith, Countess of Londesborough
  • The Dowager Countess of Liverpool
  • The Viscount and Viscountess Galway
  • The Viscount Helmsley, M.P., and Viscountess Helmsley
  • The Lord Bishop of Hull
  • The Lord and Lady Middleton
  • The Lord Derwent
  • The Lord Airedale
  • The Hon. Mrs. Butler
  • The Hon. Mrs. Monson
  • Capt. The Hon. George Monckton Arundell
  • Capt. The Hon. H. Vane
  • Capt. The Hon. Ernest and Mrs Willoughby
  • The Hon. Gervase Beckett, M.P.
  • Sir Griffiths Boynton, Bart.
  • Frances Lady Legard.
  • Sir George Sitwell, Bart., and Lady Ida Sitwell
  • Sir William Worsley, Bart., and Lady Worsley
  • Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Charles Hotham, G.C.B., and Lady Hotham
  • Mr W.R. Rea (M.P. for Scarborough) and Mrs. Rea
  • Lt.-Col. Mark Sykes, M.P., and Mrs. Sykes
  • Mrs. Grey (Sutton Hall)
  • Lt.-Col. and Lady Mary Clough Taylor (Firby Hall)
  • The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York
  • The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Leeds
  • The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Bradford
  • The Mayor and Mayoress of Hull
  • The Ven. Archdeacon and Mrs. Mackarness
  • The Ven. Archdeacon and Mrs. Lindsay
  • Mr. and Mrs. Alderson-Smith
  • Lt.-Col. and Mrs. Aitcheson (Whitwell Hall)
  • Mr Bethell (Rise Park)
  • Mrs Blunt (Regent’s Park Terrace, N.W.)
  • Mr and Mrs. Alfred Cholmley (Place Newton)
  • Mr and Mrs. Cooper (Killerby Hall)
  • Mr and Mrs. Wm. Cooper (Aislaby Hall)
  • Mr and Mrs. Coulthurst (Brompton Hall)
  • Mr and Mrs. A.M. Daniel
  • Mr and Mrs. Drew
  • Lt.-Col. and Mrs Gott
  • Mr and Mrs. Illingworth (Wydale)
  • Mr Arthur Machin (Deepdene, Filey)
  • Mr and Mrs B.B. Popplewell
  • Mr and Mrs St. Quintin (Scampston Hall)
  • Mr A. Shuttleworth
  • Mrs Steble (61, Cadogan Place, S.W.)
  • Mr Woodall
  • The Misses Woodall
  • Mr and Mrs Wrigley (Ganton Hall)
  • Mr Oscar Wilkinson
  • Mr and Mrs Wright (Bessingby Hall)

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

  • Hudson, Gilbert
  • Rhodes, Kathryn
  • Radcliffe, Miss
  • Godrey, Violet M.
  • Goodyear, R.A.H.
  • Coleman, Mrs A.M.
  • Cooper, A.N.
  • Tetley, A.S.
  • Whitbread, J.W.
  • Bevan, D.W.
  • Rowntree, Joshua


  • Gilbert Hudson – Chorus of Muses in Prologue; Episode I; Episode XIII; Episode XIV
  • Miss Kathryn Rhodes – most of Prologue; Epilogue
  • Miss Radcliffe – Episode II (words and songs)
  • Miss Violet M. Godfrey – Episode III
  • Mr R.A.H. Goodyear – Episode IV; Episode IX (in which he had some assistance from Mrs A.M. Coleman)
  • Rev. A.N. Cooper, vicar of Filey (the ‘Walking Parson’) – Episode V
  • Mr A.S. Tetley, headmaster of the Scarborough Municipal School – Episode VI. (This episode was recast by the Pageant Master, with the help of Mr J.W. Estill in ensuring that the Yorkshire dialect was as far as possible correct.)
  • Mr J.W. Whitbread – Episode VII; Episode VIII
  • Mr D.W. Bevan – Episodes X and XI (linked episodes)
  • Mr Joshua Rowntree – Episode XII (based on George Fox’s Journal

Names of composers

  • Keeton, A.C.
  • Stewart, C. Hylton
  • Savile, Jeremiah
  • Byrd, William
  • Ravenscroft, Thomas

Music collected by the Very Rev. Father Louis and Clive Carey.

Numbers of performers


Horses appeared in the pageant, a large number of them in episode VI.

Financial information

The July performances made a loss of £1960. Expenditure totalled £6153 9s. 2d, including:

  •      barracks, chairs for grand stand, attendants, etc., £2974;
  •      architects fees, £176;
  •      cost of grand-stand £3163;
  •      dresses, properties, wigs, etc., £843;
  •      advertising, £726;
  •      music and orchestra, £283;
  •      Pageant House, caretaker, etc., £218;
  •      books of words, £137;
  •      Pageant Master’s fees, £325;
  •      Secretary’s fees, £157;
  •      printing and stationery £82;
  •     insurance, £22;
  •     printing, postcards £15;
  •     postages, telephones, etc., £59;
  •     sundries £36;
  •     hire of horses, £16;
  •      meals and conveyance of soldiers £15.

 The total receipts were £4192. The items on the receipts side included:

  • Sale of tickets, £3404; and from rehearsals £109, making total receipts from sale of tickets, £3513; subscriptions, £7; sale of dresses and properties, £175; books of words £188, and advertisements in book of words, £73, making a total revenue from the book of words of £261;
  •      sale of music, £11;
  •      postcards, £8;
  •      advertisements in pamphlet, £53;
  •      souvenir rights, £52;
  •      catering rights, £10;
  •      photographic rights, £16;
  •      postcard rights, £14;
  •      profits on ball, £43.

The August performances made a profit of £202 6s. 5d. Expenditure totalled £623 14s. 1d., including:

  • ·         hire of grand stand, £60;
  • ·         hire of chairs, carting, etc., £93;
  • ·         expenditure on site, fittings, etc., £6;
  • ·         attendance of police, £25;
  •          attendants from Barracks, £10;
  •          property, etc., £19;
  •          wigs, £40;
  •          advertising, £111;
  •          Pageant house, £15 15s.;
  •          orchestra and music, £99;
  •          pageant master’s fee, £28;
  •          secretary, £21;
  •          hire of costumes, £11 11s.;
  •          hire of horses, £9.

The receipts of the August performances were £826 0s. 6d. They included:

  •          sale of tickets, £759;
  •          books of words, £27;
  •          programmes, £14;
  •          profit on Pageant ball, £11.

The final profit and loss account, presented in October 1912, reported a net deficiency of £1711 7s. 10d., necessitating a call upon the guarantors of 10s. in the £. Eventually, in August 1913, it was reported that the deficit had been cleared (Yorkshire Post, 12 Aug. 1913, 9).

Object of any funds raised

No profit was made. However, the pageant was always intended to boost Scarborough as a holiday resort by bringing in extra visitors rather than to make money for any specific charities.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 32000


The total figure of 32000 is an estimate based on the figures below.

The final dress rehearsal on Monday 8 July was witnessed by an audience which included 4,000 school children and also members of the press. The grandstand was crowded.

On Tuesday 9 July the performance was witnessed by a ‘great audience’, but there were hundreds of empty seats (Scarborough Mercury, 12 July 1912, 11). Wednesday’s attendance was large, though the stand was not quite full (Scarborough Mercury, 12 July 1912, 12). On the following day there was the largest attendance of the week, although reports vary, one saying that every one of the 4,500 seats under the covered stand was occupied, while another said that the grandstand was practically full (Daily Mail (Hull), 12 July 1912, 4; Yorkshire Post, 12 July 1912, 10). On Friday 12 July the audience numbered about 4,000 (Scarborough Mercury, 12 July 1912, 12). The attendance on Saturday afternoon at the Pageant was over 3,000, which was said to be the smallest of the week (Scarborough Mercury, 19 July 1912, 3; Yorkshire Post, 15 July 1912, 4). Altogether, according to one report, about 25,000 people witnessed the July performances, though this figure seems rather high given the numbers reported for the individual days (Yorkshire Post, 15 July 1912, 4).

The audience on Wednesday 28 August was variously reported as approximately 2,200 and as about 3,000 (Scarborough Mercury, 30 August 1912, 5; Daily Mail (Hull), 29 August 1912, 4). The shilling accommodation was said to be fully occupied, and the next seats largely favoured. The best seats were not nearly so much in demand. To venture an estimate, the stand was not quite two-thirds full (Scarborough Mercury, 30 August 1912, 5). On Thursday 29 August slightly over 2,000 people attended the performance and on the following day close on 2,000 (Scarborough Mercury, 30 August 1912, 5 and 30 August 1912, 10). The final performance on Saturday 31 August had an audience of over 3,000 (Nottingham Evening Post, 2 September 1912, 6). Altogether the attendance at the August performances was said to be about 9,500. A report in The Yorkshire Post stated that ‘the attendance was not what might have been expected’ (Daily Mail (Hull), 3 September 1912, 3; Yorkshire Post, 3 September 1912, 5).

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


[Prices for first set of performances: 2s. 6d., 5s., 7s. 6d., 10s. 6s., 21s.

Prices for second set of performances: 1400 at 1s.; 1040 at 2s.; 1026 at 3s.; 911 at 5s.; 90 at 10s.]

Associated events

  • On Monday 8 July there was a press luncheon at the Grand Hotel, to which representatives of newspapers of all parts of the country were invited.
  •  Two days later the Mayor and Mayoress (Mr and Mrs T.H. Good) entertained about 30 guests to lunch at the Town Hall, including the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Hull, and the Mayors and Mayoresses of Richmond, Beverley, Bridlington, and Middlesbrough, Lady Ida Sitwell, and the Hon. George Monckton Arundell.
  •  There was a procession through the crowded streets of the town after the final performance of the first series on Saturday 13 July 1912 in which the whole of the performers were said to be involved. It had originally been scheduled for the previous day, but police objections prevented a procession on that day.
  •  At the conclusion of the first of the repeat performances on Wednesday 28 August there was a procession of performers through the principal streets of the town, collections in aid of the Scarborough Workpeople’s Hospital Fund being made. This was marred by rain and not all the pageant performers took part.
  •  A pageant fancy dress ball took place in the Grand Hall of the Spa on Friday 12 July, with performers appearing in their costumes.
  • Well before the first performance of the pageant it was decided to hold a pageant fancy dress ball in the Grand Hall of the Spa on Friday 12 July, with performers appearing in their costumes. About seven hundred attended this event. Another such ball took place on Thursday 29 August in connection with the second set of performances.
  •  On the evening of Wednesday 10 July a party of pageant performers in their costumes attended the concert of the Fol-de-Rols at the Floral Hall and then marched through the streets. This was said to be ‘a novel and good method’ of advertising the pageant (Scarborough Mercury, 12 July 1912, 12). The next evening saw a visit to the Arcadia.
  •  On Saturday night 13 July, after the last of the of the first set of performances, a large number of the performers assembled in pageant costumes and visited the Londesborough Theatre and the Spa Theatre by invitation.
  •  The performance at the Theatre Royal was attended by pageant performers on Friday 30 August.
  • The final social event was on the night of Monday 2 September. This involved attending a performance at the Arcadia followed by a supper and then singing.

Pageant outline


The Pageant proper is prefaced by the entry of Father Time, with hour glass, accompanied by his children. This group afterwards precedes each episode bearing numbers to show the period that is being dealt with. Heralds and jesters appear, the latter making repeated appearances throughout the pageant, playing many irresponsible antics, lending zest to the moving spectacle. Pageantry, escorted by the Nine Muses, the Three Graces, and Mnemosyne, make their appearance in the arena. A chorus of the Muses is followed with an appeal by pageantry ‘To give our Royal Hostess Royal Greeting’.

Another fanfare proclaims the entrance of Scarborough as a queen in a car, with children dressed as cliff-flowers and sea-nymphs, and attendants. The purpose of the pageant—to show a living frieze of pictures from the past—is proclaimed. Scarborough signifying her approval, the procession reforms, and all go off.

Episode I. Prehistoric incidents, c.500 BC.

This purely imaginary episode introduces the Iberians and Gaels in a dramatic scene. An exciting quarrel between two families is represented, ending in a happy union between a young man and a maiden from the respective families. Meanwhile a party of Gaels has entered, and there is a pitched battle with the rude weapons of the period, culminating in some being slain and others taken into captivity. The whole is in dumb show, excepting for the shrieks and din of battle. The Iberians are shown as a dark-haired race and the Gaels fair-haired. The dressing is typical of the rudeness of an uncivilised age, all being in skins, the Gaels carrying more ornamentation with a good deal of jet. Both sides carry axes.

Episode II. Romans and Druids, 82 AD

This entirely fictitious episode represents a scene in which a company of venerable and picturesque Druids and a number of Romans take part. In the pursuit of their sacrificial duties, the Druids, singing a chant in the old Gregorian style of music, come across Agricola and his wife, Domitia, who, along with many Roman soldiers, is also accompanied by their sick child, carried in a palanquin. In return for the release of one of the Druids’ people, the Arch-Druid attempts by the ‘cure-stone’ to heal the child which is sick unto death. He intones a most effective invocation, which, however, is not effective in a material sense, for the child dies, and the Druids incur the anger of the Roman General and his men, who, nevertheless, allow the priests to go scot-free ‘to bless the woeful hour’.

Episode III. The Sack of Scarborough by Harald Hardrada and Tostig, 1066

The scene opens with the entry of the Ealdorman, burghermen, and crowd talking anxiously, some weeping. A wounded burgherman rushes into the arena with the tidings that the band left to defend the huts have all been slain and that Harald with his Viking host, is on the verge of the town, and pressing up the height. The monks commence a chant, and Harald, Tostig, and troops enter uttering war-cries. The burghermen are overpowered, after a brief and exciting struggle. The Vikings next make a movement towards the crowd, the women shrieking, but Harald checks the onset: ‘Hold! hold for shame! What warrior’s deed were this?’

Gyrd, the Viking bard, sings a barbaric song of battle and encouragement to further conquest, concluding amid shouts of approval. Vikings, who have set the town on fire, return to say it burns. ‘Let the red flames rage on’, replies Harold, [sic] as he signals his troops to their ships, and repeating the last lines of their war-song they leave.

Episode IV. King Henry II dispossesses the Earl of Albemarle of Scarborough Castle, 1154

The scene is laid in the Castle Courtyard. William Le Gros, Earl of Albemarle and Holderness, who had prospered under King Stephen, enters with his retainers, accompanied by one of the King’s officers and a detachment of the King’s troops. The Earl bewails Henry II’s command to yield up his Castle, and the officer urges that he must do his Sovereign’s will. It is a dramatic scene, the chief interest resting in the struggle Le Gros has with his proud spirit to obey the command. In the end the keys are delivered up, the King’s men go off into the Castle, and Le Gros and his retainers depart another way, singing a chorus vowing eternal allegiance to the humbled Earl.

Episode V. Cistercian Monks and Franciscan Friars, 1245

This scene opens with Cistercians, who were established in Scarborough, chanting  outside the Cistercian Monastery, on the site of St. Mary’s Church. Two Franciscan Friars, weary travellers on their merciful way, doing good as they went and subsisting on alms, come into the arena. They are followed by a curious half-jeering crowd from the Market. The Cistercian Janitor appears, and harshly refusing them food and water, the crowd takes pity and makes useful presents. Lady Avelina de Fortibus appears with her steward and following, and knowing of the self-sacrificing worth of the Grey Friars gives them ‘house and land where they may dwell and teach and tend the poor’. As the Steward takes charge of the Friars the Cistercians are heard chanting ‘Lucis Creator Optime’.

Episode VI. Edward I holds his Court at Scarborough, 1275

Scarborough’s loyal population come forth to welcome Edward I., and his Queen Eleanor, who arrive here in great state with a noble cavalcade of about forty horsemen and horsewomen to hold his court before setting out for the Scottish Wars. By way of contrast is introduced a motley crowd of townsfolk, and there is much play upon the Yorkshire dialect, and several occasions for mirth in the quaint sayings. Cheers and music hail the entry of the King and Queen, whose brilliant procession winds slowly round the arena and goes off, the chorus resuming with a song: ‘Hail! King who are mighty in word and in will.’

Apart from the amusement provided by the broad Yorkshire sayings of the crowd, the chief interest centres in the procession on horseback, which is of a gorgeous character.

Episode VII. Piers de Gaveston in Scarborough Castle, 1312

This episode, which is very strong in dramatic interest and power, takes for its subject the defence of Scarborough Castle by the royal favourite Piers de Gaveston against the uprising of the Barons. He was compelled at last, through scarcity of provisions, in consequence of which the garrison were reduced to a pitiable plight, to surrender.

The dramatic incident of the capitulation is here represented Gaveston being ignominiously sent off in the end on a sorry-looking pony, and the episode affords scope for some powerful speaking parts, chiefly those of Gaveston, the Earl of Hereford, the Countess of Cornwall, the Earl of Lancaster, and Hugh le Despenser, other speaking parts being those of the Earl of Gloucester and a Friar.

Episode VIII. Visit of King Richard III, 1484

The eighth episode is formed of a visit to the Castle by Richard III., who is said to have had a great affection for Scarborough, granting it repeated favours. It is a particularly bright and pleasing episode. After affording a pathetic insight into Richard III’s relations with Queen Anne it winds up with revelries, in which a hunter’s song is sung, a sailors’ trio is given, a remarkable fishermen’s sword dance, which has survived time and been kept alive by Flamborough fishermen, is gone through, a song is given by a court lady, and there is some charming Morris dancing by beautifully attired children.

Episode IX. The Castle is taken by stratagem, 1554

The ninth episode deals with the incident of the taking of the Castle by stratagem by Thomas Stafford during the reign of Mary I, the event which is said to have given rise to the proverbial Scarborough Warning, ‘A word and a blow – but the blow first’. Stafford and his followers, disguised in the simple habit of countrymen, appear singing ‘We’re Yorkshire lads’, in which appears the well-known phrase ‘And if we’re doin’ owt for nowt, we does it for us’ sen’. They dance about in ungainly fashion, and generally keep up the deception until, at the proper moment, Stafford gives the sign to his men, who overcome the unsuspecting sentries. The erstwhile countrymen throw back their cloaks, disclosing themselves as soldiers armed to the teeth. Men of the garrison rush out, and after a sharp encounter are overcome.

Episode X. Surrender of the Castle to the Parliamentary Forces, 1645

The episode gives the surrender of the Castle under Sir Hugh Cholmley, of Whitby, to the Parliamentary forces in 1645. When the Civil War broke out, Sir Hugh, who represented Scarborough in Parliament, was given the charge of the Castle against the Royalists. He had opposed the illegalities of the King, but was equally dissatisfied with Cromwell’s methods and changed sides. After a siege of several months, Cholmley had to surrender to Sir Matthew Boynton, the town being heavily stricken by the siege. In this episode he is jeered by local people as he leaves the Castle after surrendering, though his wife was better received.

Episode XI. Discovery of Spa Waters, 1620

Mistress Farrow, who discovered the celebrated Spa waters which led to Scarborough’s rise as a health resort, is depicted showing Lady Cholmley the way to the wells. Lady Cholmley is given a cup of the water, the virtues of which are lauded in a song:

All ye who, ailing, droop and pine, –
Or Scarboro’s son, or daughter, –
Whate’er your ails, now cease your wails,
Drink deep of Scarboro’ water.

Episode XII. Release of George Fox from imprisonment in the Castle, 1666

Fox was the last person of note imprisoned at Scarborough Castle. Based on Fox’s own account in his journal, the episode depicts his release after fifteen months’ confinement, he having won the hearts of governors and gaolers alike.

Also featured in this episode is Dr Witty, one of the medical men who promoted the beneficial effects of the Scarborough Spa waters.

Episode XIII. Mr. Mayor is tossed in a blanket, 1688

On the bowling green, John Aislabie, Mayor of Scarborough, is tossed in a blanket by musketeers on the orders of Captain Ouseley. This was because he had had the Vicar of Scarborough, the Rev. Noel Boteler, M.A., caned in St. Mary’s Church as he stood at the reading desk because he had refused to read James II’s declaration which was thought to favour the Roman Catholic religion.

Episode XIV

A miscellany introducing Gablers’ Fair, amusements, the press-gang, smugglers, pirates, fashionable visitors, local celebrities and eccentrics, etc. Set in the second half of the eighteenth century, chiefly 1780-90.

Smugglers, the ‘Quality’, naval commanders, showmen, eccentric characters, etc. meet in Scarboro’ at the Great Fair held on ‘Jablers’ or ‘Gablers’ Day, and various local anecdotes and celebrities are introduced and the episode concludes with rejoicings and revels at the defeat of Paul Jones, the Pirate, and the restoration to health of his Majesty King George III.


The characters of the prologue re-enter, heralding a procession of certain famous persons not included in the previous episodes, preceded by children bearing their names in device. The mass of performers assembles in the arena, the Song of Scarborough, a hymn, and the National Anthem are sung, and the Pageant ends with a march past.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Julius Agricola, Gnaeus [known as Agricola] (AD 40–93) Roman governor of Britain
  • Harald Hardrada [Haraldr inn Harðráði, Haraldr Sigurðarson] (1015–1066) king of Norway
  • Tostig, earl of Northumbria (c.1029–1066) magnate
  • William le Gros, count of Aumale and earl of York (c.1110–1179) magnate
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241–1290) queen of England, consort of Edward I
  • Burnell, Robert (d. 1292) administrator and bishop of Bath and Wells
  • Hengham, Ralph (b. in or before 1235, d. 1311) justice
  • Scardeburgh [Scardeburg], Sir Robert (d. in or after 1348) justice
  • Gaveston, Piers, earl of Cornwall (d. 1312) royal favourite
  • Clare, Gilbert de, eighth earl of Gloucester and seventh earl of Hertford (1291–1314) magnate
  • Bohun, Humphrey (VII) de, fourth earl of Hereford and ninth earl of Essex (c.1276–1322) magnate and administrator
  • Clare, Margaret de, countess of Gloucester (1291/2?–1342) noblewoman and heiress
  • Henry of Lancaster, third earl of Lancaster and third earl of Leicester (c.1280–1345) magnate
  • Despenser, Hugh, the elder, earl of Winchester (1261–1326) administrator and courtier
  • Despenser, Hugh, the younger, first Lord Despenser (d. 1326) administrator and royal favourite
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Anne [Anne of Bohemia] (1366–1394) queen of England, first consort of Richard II
  • Elizabeth [Elizabeth of York] (1466–1503) queen of England, consort of Henry VII
  • Cholmley, Sir Hugh, first baronet (1600–1657) royalist army officer and autobiographer
  • Stafford, Thomas (c.1533–1557) rebel
  • Fox, George (1624–1691) a founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Wittie [Witty], Robert (bap. 1613, d. 1684) physician

Musical production

[The information below is taken, largely verbatim, from various newspaper reports on the pageant.]

  • It has been the aim of the Masters of the Music not only to provide a suitable musical setting to the words of the Pageant, but to introduce into the various Episodes some part of that wealth of ancient music, which for many years gave England a foremost place in music among the countries of Europe.
  • The Pageant opens with the Britannia Overture, by Sir A.C. Mackenzie, giving at once the idea of nationality and of the seafaring element which has always been the chief feature in the history of Scarborough. The Muses’ Chorus which follows has been written specially for the occasion by Mr A.C. Keeton, who is also responsible for the accompaniment to the prehistoric scene where music supplies the place of words in emphasizing the dramatic action.
  • Episode II opens with the Druids’ Chorus by Mr C. Hylton Stewart, the unaccompanied chant and primitive intervals (4th and 5th) suggesting the character of archaic music.
  • In the next scene ‘The Destruction of Scarborough by Harald Hardrada’ an ancient plain-song psalm tune is chanted by Benedictine Monks amongst the terrified Anglo-Saxons, and Hardrada’s Bard Gyrd sings a Saga while the Vikings set fire to the town. The music of the latter has been written by Mr A.C. Keeton.
  • The surrender of the newly-built Castle by William le Gros in Episode IV is followed by a chorus of his retainers ‘King’s men laugh not over much’, by Mr C. Hylton Stewart. The fifth Episode contains only ancient music—two Cistercian hymns set to original plain-chants.
  • In Episode VI King Edward I is greeted by his loyal subjects with a chorus adapted by Mr A.C. Keeton from the ‘Song on the Battle of Agincourt’, which Dr Cummings has suggested was probably founded on a well-known folk-tune, possibly even as old as the date of this scene.
  • The music of Episode VII, where Piers Gaveston is taken prisoner, is by Mr C. Hylton Stewart.
  • An opportunity for the introduction of ancient music is provided by the revels which take place before Richard III and his Queen. Two old tunes—Sellinger’s Round and Packington’s Pound, [sic] of the time of Henry VIII or earlier—are played to open the festivities, followed by a song, ‘Blow thy Horne, Hunter’, the MS of which also dates from the middle of the 16th century. A trio for men’s voices, ‘We be three poor Mariners’, by Ravenscroft, published in 1609, follows. This is succeeded by the Flamborough Sword Dance to the old tune of ‘Row Well ye Mariners’ (c.1570), which has been chosen as being appropriate for a fisherman’s dance after repeated efforts to discover the traditional air had proved unavailing.
  • A folk-song, ‘The Red Rosebud or the Seeds of Love’, collected by Mr Clive Carey, at Whitby, is then sung, followed by the Morris Dance to the traditional tune ‘Shepherds Hey’. The scene ends with the dispersal of the revellers to an old dance tune which is given in Wm. Chappell’s English Airs as dating from the reign of Edward II.
  • In the next Episode Mr C. Hylton Stewart has written a chorus ‘We’re Yorkshire Lads’ for Stafford’s disguised soldiers and the music of the ‘Old Witch’s Warning’ to the conspirators.
  • Episodes X and XI open with Prince Rupert’s March, an old Cavalier tune, while the hymn sung by Boynton’s soldiers was a favourite with the Roundheads. The tune is from Ravenscroft’s Psalter published in 1621.
  • Mistress Farrow’s maidens sing the praises of the newly-discovered Spa water to music by Mr A.C. Keeton.
  • The next two scenes introduce contemporary music—the hymn tune of the time of G. Fox and ‘Here’s a health unto His Majesty’, composed by Jeremiah Savile, originally in honour of Charles II and sung after the tossing of the mayor by the subjects of his brother.
  • The final Episode opens with a procession led by a band such as we may suppose played at Gabler’s Fair in Scarborough at the end of the 18th century. Later in the scene a folk-song ‘Scarborough Fair’ is introduced. This is sung by two voices—a man’s and a woman’s—representing a girl and her dead lover. It was discovered by Mr Clive Carey near Robin Hood’s Bay. Two dances lead to the Epilogue with the ‘Song of Scarborough’, written by Mr C. Hylton Stewart, and the March Past of all the characters to the music of Sir Edward Elgar’s March ‘Pomp and Circumstance No. 1’, brings the Pageant to an end. [Notes on the Music and Dances.]
  • The first dance occurs in Episode VIII., where eight seamen perform the Flamborough Sword Dance before King Richard III. and his Court.
  • Episode VIII also features a Morris dance.
  • Episode XIV includes two dances: the Hornpipe and the Sir Roger de Coverley.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Alnwick and County Gazette
Bath Chronicle
Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic
Daily Mail
Daily Telegraph
Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post
Hull Daily Mail
Leeds Mercury
Lichfield Mercury
Lincolnshire Echo
Manchester Courier
Manchester Guardian
Nottingham Post
Scarborough Mercury
Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph
Sunderland Daily Echo
The Times
Whitby Gazette
Yorkshire Evening Post
Yorkshire Gazette
Yorkshire Post
Yorkshire Telegraph and Star

Book of words

Scarborough Historical Pageant and Play July 9 to 13 Book of Words. Scarborough, 1912.

Other primary published materials

  • Official Programme of Principal Characters and Synopsis of Episodes. Scarborough, 1912.

References in secondary literature

  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture c. 1890–1914’. Past and Present 186 (2005), 147-199.
  • Robson, S. Elizabeth, Joshua Rowntree (London, 1916).

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Scarborough Museums Trust: volume of photographs and memorabilia Scarborough Historical Pageant 1912 – A Pictorial Record of the Scarborough Historical Pageant 1912 Scarborough Library has several volumes relating to the pageant: Book of Words 791.6S; Souvenir Programme, Y.SCA 792N; A volume on the Scarborough Pageant presented to Stoke Newington Library by Pageant Master Gilbert Hudson, containing Book of Words with annotations by Hudson; a booklet advertising both the pageant and Scarborough itself; a plan of the Grandstand, including the prices of tickets in its various parts; and a volume of pageant choral music by Stewart and Keeton.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  • Saga of King Harald Hardrada
  • Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle (1724; 1810)
  • Marlowe, Christopher, Edward II
  • Baker, Joseph B., The History of Scarborough (London, 1823)
  • Hinderwell, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of Scarborough and the Vicinity (1811)
  • Jerrold, Douglas, Black-eyed Susan (1830)

According to Mrs George Handcock, who wrote the chapter on ‘Flags and Banners’ for the souvenir volume, ‘long neglected history books were brought out’ to help them with their work. The same book contains a chapter by Miss Edith M. Ellis on ‘Dresses and Designs’, in which the following appears: ‘The excellent collection of books on costume, armour, and heraldry belonging to the London Library afforded the main basis of information. In most cases drawings or pictures of the time have been copied as the best authority. The designers of the costumes have tried to reproduce where possible a picture of the period as regards colour as well as the manner of dressing. Grateful acknowledgments are due to the College of Heralds and other experts for advice and to those who have generously lent books.’

  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and a prose translation of the Norse Saga of Harald Hardrada for Episode III.
  • Robert of Gloucester’s Rimed Chronicle for Episode VI.
  • Some lines from Marlowe’s play of Edward II appear in Episode VII.
  •  Some words in Episode IX were taken from a ballad of 1577 entitled ‘A brefe Balet touching the traitorous taking of Scarborow Castle’, which had been quoted in Baker’s History of Scarborough.
  • Hinderwell’s History of Scarborough for part of the linked Episodes X and XI. The song at the close of these episodes was based on seventeenth-century medical pamphlets, notably one by Dr Witty.
  • In Episode XIV some speeches by Salmon and the Bo’sun’s Mate were taken from Douglas Jerrold’s Black-Eyed Susan.


‘The verdict upon Scarborough’s Historical Pageant will be that financially it might have been a greater success; in every other respect it could not have been.’1 So the Scarborough Mercury reported in September 1912.

When, early in 1911, it was decided to follow the examples of York in 1909 and Pickering in 1910 and to stage a historical pageant at Scarborough, it was believed that a number of objectives could be achieved. It would be an opportunity to display Scarborough’s history and to educate people about it, to involve townspeople and others in a community project, to advertise the town and to bring in visitors, thereby boosting the holiday season, and to make a profit that could be put to good use.2 There was much success with regard to many of these objectives, but instead of a profit being made, the pageant resulted in a loss financially, in spite of a second set of performances designed to reduce the deficit on the first series.

The pageant, staged between 9 and 13 July 1912, and again between 28 and 31 August, depicted in a prologue, fourteen episodes and an epilogue, events in the history of Scarborough that were, in many cases, connected to the wider history of England. As with many other pageants, the events dealt with began with prehistoric times; unusually for the Edwardian period, Scarborough’s pageant did not stop with Tudor times but contained a number of episodes set in the seventeenth century and even an eighteenth-century scene. Prehistoric incidents in Episode I were followed by Romans and Druids and then by Vikings with the sack of Scarborough by Harald Hardrada and Tostig in 1066. The Earl of Albemarle being dispossessed of Scarborough Castle in 1154 by one of King Henry II’s officers formed episode 4. Cistercian monks and Franciscan Friars were the subject of the next scene, which was written by the Rev. A.N. Cooper, Vicar of Filey, a history graduate and widely known as ‘the walking parson’ as a result of his long distance tramps. Then Edward I held his court at Scarborough, Piers de Gaveston was taken from Scarborough Castle in the following reign and the visit of Richard III to the town in 1484 was depicted in a scene that featured fishermen performing the Flamborough Sword Dance and children a Morris Dance. Episode IX featured the castle being taken by stratagem in 1554, during the reign of Mary, an event that gave rise to the famous Scarborough warning—‘a word and a blow—but the blow first’. 

The seventeenth century was a very important period in Scarborough’s history and it featured in four of the pageant’s episodes. They dealt with the discovery of the Spa waters, vitally important for the town’s development as a resort, the surrender of the castle to Parliamentary forces during the Civil Wars, the release in 1666 of George Fox from imprisonment in Scarborough Castle and the town’s mayor being tossed in a blanket in 1688 as a punishment for striking the minister during a church service.

 Following Episode XIV, set in the second half of the eighteenth century, came the Epilogue, which included, besides the hymn ‘O God, Our Help’  (a firm favourite of Edwardian pageants) and the national anthem, the Song of Scarborough, chosen from entries in a competition:

Now for Scarborough, our Scarborough, and the glory of her days,
For the wonder, beauty, passion, give we humble thanks and praise.
Heed we well her changeful story in our living scroll unfurled,
From her dimly-guessed beginnings in an immemorial world
See Iberian and Gael, Bard and Druid come and go,
Hear the tramp of Roman Legions, battle-cries of friend and foe;
Rebels, traitors, pirates throng her, war-men from a distant land,
Now the Dane, a-rage for ravin, lays her low with fire and brand,
Monarch, lord and knight attending lend their lustre to her name,
Fill the pages of her annals, bright or dark with deathless fame.
Mark how gentler, sweeter spirits mingle with the motley throng,
Men of God and men of learning, singers of immortal song
Lo! they pass; but proudly rising on the hill, twixt bay and bay,
Scarred by tempest, siege and battle, stands her Castle old and grey.
Perished are the arms that held her, all her blazon swept away,
Yet the majesty and glory of the Queen we love to-day,
Hail her “Queen,” our dear and fair one, safe from storm and stress at last;
Guard the wealth of worth she gathered in the far and fateful past
May she, clad and crowned with honour, burning with divine desire,
Ever hide in peace and beauty, and to noblest fame aspire.
So for Scarborough, our Scarborough, and the glory of her days,
For the wonder, beauty, passion, give we humble thanks and praise.

 Although it was desired to educate people—including the children from local schools who attended the final dress rehearsal in July—about Scarborough’s past, it was recognised that entertainment was also very important. With reference to one of the August performances, a local reporter commented: ‘The history of the ancient Castle and of the Scarborough district, which have figured so prominently in English annals, was shown with all the brilliant spectacular effect of successful pageantry, the colour of dress and armour and fluttering flags, the excitement of battle, and the glitter of courtly glamour’.3

The pageant certainly benefited from a fine site. A number of possible locations had been considered, but there was general agreement that the castle headland was the best possible location. At first it was intended to use the inner bailey, near the keep, but when Scarborough Corporation was not in favour of a proposal to make a break in its wall to facilitate the staging of the pageant, it was decided instead to use the main part of the castle yard, with the keep and inner bailey as background. This would allow for a larger grandstand and a considerably larger number of performers, adding greatly to the spectacular effect of the performance.

The pageant had been advertised as ‘admittedly the best dressed pageant ever held’4 and the production of the costumes, armour, weapons, flags and banners involved a great many people. In addition to about 1300 performers, approximately 500 others worked to try to make the pageant a great success. Here the town benefited not only from having an able, enthusiastic and experienced pageant master, Gilbert Hudson, but also from the experiences of others who had worked to make the York and Pickering pageants successful. The aim of having a project that would involve the local community was fully realised, even if at times the producers worried that they would not be able to recruit enough male performers! Political differences were put aside: the local Liberal MP, Walter Rea, supported the pageant and his wife played Lady Cholmley, while the town’s prospective Conservative candidate, Captain the Hon. George Monckton Arundell, took the part of Pageantry. Social events were organised to enable the participants to relax together.

The extent to which the pageant brought people into Scarborough and thus benefited the town’s holiday season is difficult to assess. Certainly the pageant was widely advertised, not only in Great Britain but also in the United States, and a range of accommodation providers, including the Grand Hotel, referred to the pageant in their newspaper adverts. House parties were arranged and excursion trains run. Newspaper reports indicate that organised groups visited Scarborough with the purpose of witnessing the pageant.

After the positive reviews of the pageant performances in July 1912 and the general feeling that the town had done itself proud, it came as a shock to many to discover that a financial loss had been made. Expenses of over £5800 had exceeded revenue by more than £1670 and guarantors were faced with a call of 10s. in the pound. In an attempt to reduce or even eliminate the deficit it was decided to have further performances in August. These, however, only made a small profit and even that was wiped out by extra expenses that had come to light since the original statement of accounts had been drawn up. The guarantors were called upon to honour their commitments. When, in August 1912, it was suggested that Whitby might have a pageant in the following year, some members of the Urban Council thought ‘that the townspeople would be afraid of becoming guarantors owing to the loss sustained by the venture at Scarborough’.5 No pageant was held in Whitby in 1913.

Why had a financial loss been made? Some said the grandstand had cost too much, others that tickets were too highly priced for some would-be spectators. Others had gone to see the royal visitors to Yorkshire in July instead of travelling to Scarborough to witness the pageant. The Mercury blamed bad management, stating ‘the business methods which have been pursued have not been what they should have been.6

In October 1912, while those responsible for the Scarborough pageant were still trying to sort out its finances, Joshua Rowntree, former MP for Scarborough and also a past mayor of the town, gave an address on the subject of the pageant. His message was that rather than focusing on the financial losses, people should have positive memories: ‘Some hundreds of their people had made a great effort to present a lifelike succession of scenes from its history to the public, and for this they might well be grateful’. Amongst the things he hoped would remain from that effort was ‘a strong sense of the value of history, of the links which bound us to the past7

Written by Keith Johnston


1. ^ Scarborough Mercury, 6 September 1912, 10.
2. ^ Scarborough Mercury, 24 February 1911, 7.
3. ^ Scarborough Mercury, 30 August 1912, 5.
4. ^ Daily Mail (Hull), 25 June 1912, 3.
5. ^ Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday 10 August 1912, 3.
6. ^ Scarborough Mercury, 13 September 1912, 10.
7. ^ Scarborough Mercury, 11 October 1912, 6.

How to cite this entry

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