St. Albans Pageant, 1907: Queen Elizabeth at Gorhambury.

Courtesy of St. Albans Museums.

Blog

  • In Search of a Pageant

    Last weekend, the pageant team joined KCL students and historians in a tour of various pubs in along the Thames in East London, starting from Greenland Docks and heading towards Tower Bridge. To our surprise, we came across two surprising street names – Pageant Crescent and Pageant Steps – in the Borough of Rotherhithe. Of course, we had to get these 'ace' photos.

     Pageant Steps

    The obvious question for us was what Pageant did these street names refer to ...

  • Murder at another pageant!

    By Mark Freeman

    We have blogged before about the appearance of pageants in novels and short stories of the twentieth century. Virgina Woolf’s Between the Acts is perhaps the most widely-read literary account of a historical pageant, though she might be run close by Richmal Crompton’s story ‘The May King’. Others include Victor L. Whitechurch’s Murder at the Pageant (1931) and Rosemary Manning’s Dragon in Danger (1959), which I blogged about ...

  • Pageants and the Weather

    Last week I blogged about the do’s and don’t of pageantry. One thing which all pageant organisers feared and could do very little about was poor weather spoiling a pageant.

    It might sound obvious, but British summers can be unpredictable. The ideal weather for pageants, almost invariably held between late May and mid-September, was warm (though not too hot), and without wind. Countless pageants were disrupted by rain, with premieres capriciously ruined by ...

  • How (Not) to Run a Pageant in six easy steps!


    Edward P. Genn, Pageant Master for the Wakefield Historical Pageant (1933), declared in a promotional article that ‘If you want to go into an uncrowded profession try that of Pageant-Master! There are only three practising in this country, and as historical and industrial pageants are yearly increasing in popularity there is no competition and we are fully engaged and booked up years in advance, so there is a considerable amount of room for anyone who ...

  • A pageant in contemporary fiction

    By Mark Freeman

    I have just finished reading Kate Atkinson’s novel A God in Ruins (2015). This is an epic life story of a Second World War bomber pilot, Teddy Todd, and his life before and after the war. The setting shifts from the 1920s to Teddy’s death in 2012 at the age of 98. Among other things, there are detailed accounts of bombers and bombing raids (Atkinson provides an author’s afterword ...

  • ‘Like Rotten Sticks’: London 1666

    by Mark Freeman

    On Sunday 4 September I and several thousand others witnessed a spectacular fire in the middle of the river Thames between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. Organised by the Artichoke Company and created by the ‘burn artist’ David Best, this event marked the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

    Fire 1

    Above: David Best’s representation of London in 1666, ready to be set alight

     The project was the culmination of a number ...

  • Field Notes

    Chloe Ratcliffe, our King's Undergraduate Research Fellow who is working for the project over the summer, writes about her experience of archival research and the importance of history in local communities.

    For the last three weeks I have been spending more time than I thought humanly possible in archives across the south of England, immersing myself in the world of historical pageantry and eavesdropping on many conversations about finding out family history, or tracking ...

  • An Interview with Chloe Ratcliffe


    Chloe Ratcliffe is our King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow (KURF), who is working on our project this August-September and will be assisting with our Historical Pageants conference at the Institute of Education in September. King’s provides funds every year for students to gain experience on projects such as ours, and given how soon we are launching the database any help is greatly appreciated! I caught up with her and asked her about her experiences ...

  • Here be Dragons, or Strange News out of Essex: (More) Giant Lizards at the Pageant!

    Last December I wrote about Egbert the sixty-foot fire-breathing dinosaur, a sixty-foot, ‘as large as a church’, who stole the show at the Birmingham Pageant of 1938. Other pageants included dinosaurs in scenes such as St. Wilfred’s in Sussex (1965) to commemorate the discovery of the first positively identified dinosaur fossils nearby in the 1820s.

    Many pageants included dragons, proving that Historical Pageants are at least as cool as Game of Thrones (probably more ...

  • A Visit to Kynren

    By Mark Freeman

    On Saturday 9 July 2016, several members of the ‘Redress of the Past’ team set out for Bishop Auckland, County Durham, to see an event called ‘Kynren’. Subtitled ‘An Epic Tale of England’, this event was not billed as a historical pageant, but it carries many echoes of the pageant tradition.

    Kynren 1

    Above: A scene from Kynren

    Kynen runs for much of the summer, on Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 9.30pm ...