Historical Pageant of Bradford

Pageant type


Additional information drawn from 'Survey of Historical Pageants' undertaken by Mick Wallis; with thanks to Carol Greenwood of Bradford Central Library.

Jump to Summary


Place: Peel Park (Peel Park, Bradford) (Peel Park, Bradford, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 12


13 July–22 July 1931

13 July 2.30pm, 14 July 8pm, 15 July 2.30pm and 8pm, 16 July 2.30pm, 17 July 8pm, 18 July 2.30pm and 8pm. The pageant was continued on 20 July 8pm, 21 July 8pm and 22 July at 2.30pm and 8pm.1

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • President: Lord Mayor, Alfred Pickles, JP
  • Vice-President: Deputy Lord Mayor, Alderman Kathleen Chambers
  • Chairman: Ald. William Illingworth
  • Vice-Chairman: J. Russell Rose
  • Chairman of the Finance Committee: Councillor J. Stringer, JP
  • Hon. Secretary: N.L. Fleming
  • Hon. Treasurer: C.R. Theaker, Acting City Treasurer

Episode I Committee:

  • Chairman: F.R. Thurlow

Episode II Committee:

  • Chairman: Venerable Archdeacon Canon Wilson

Episode III Committee:

  • Chairman: G.H. Brook

Episode IV Committee:

  • Chairman: G.H.A. Bailey

Episode V Committee:

  • Chairman: G.E. Welch

Episode VI Committee:

  • Chairman: Captain Bursey

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

  • Wright, Herbert L.
  • Alban, Rev. E.B.
  • Bentley, Phyllis
  • Hambledon, Phyllis
  • Brown, Alfred J.
  • Southwart, Elizabeth


Each author wrote an episode (Wright, Episode I; Alban, Episode II; etc.).

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Printing, Stationery, Postage: £877. 1s. 5d.
Publications: £2111. 19s .9d.
Advertising: £2242. 9s. 2d.
Pageant Expenses: £4395. 10s. 7d.
Luncheons, Receptions, etc.: £295. 1s. 6d.
Street Decorations: £285. 5s. 6d.
Entertainment Tax: £1871. 8s. 8d.
Pageant Master Fees: £1569. 1s. 0d.
Total: £15643 (this was reduced by £1995. 16s. 2d. from tax remissions).

Admissions: £12094. 14s. 0d.
Sale of Publications: £2175. 5s. 8d.
Advertising: £859. 0s. 3d.
Concessions: £379. 6s. 0d.
Bank Interest: £77. 8s. 0d.
Miscellaneous: £57. 19s. 0d.

Total profit: £1995. 16s. 2d.
Plus donations: £4236. 8s. 2d.
Overall Surplus: £62392

Object of any funds raised

In aid of local charities: £3250 to Bradford Royal Infirmary, £1100 to Royal Eye and Ear Hospital, £1100 to Children’s Hospital and the remainder distributed to unspecified institutions.3

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 4000
  • Total audience: 120000


These calculations are based on individual days’ attendances given in newspapers. The Bradford Argus suggested the figure was only 56000.4

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Admissions: 21s., 12s. 6d., 8s. 6d., 5s. 6d., 2s. 6d., 1s. 2d., 6d. (this last was for children attending afternoon performances).

Associated events

  • 13 July: Massed Gymnastics, Scandinavian Dances, Ballet, Grand Carnival.
  • 14 July: Massed Singing, Children’s Games, Sword Dance, Maypole Dancing, Massed Gymnastics, Folk Dances.
  • 16 July: Adult Choirs, Stunt Motor Cycling, English Folk Dancing, Combined Military Tattoo (W. Yorkshire Regiment), Fire Brigade Demonstration, Pageant Film.
  • 17 July: Children’s Choirs, Ballet, Musical Ride.
  • Imperial Wool Industries Fair, Olympia.

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Coming of the Romans

Scene I. A Brigantian Village Settlement

The first episode is concerned with life in a Brigantian village in 71 AD. The opening scene shows the simple occupations of the villagers: the women sewing skins, cooking and making pots; the men making ready to hunt in the forests beyond the river. The way there lies across the broad ford from which Bradford took its name. Attention is concentrated on Leven, the headman’s son, and Greta, the girl to whom he is betrothed, since they bring about the action in the second scene.

Scene II. Triumphal Entry of Petilus Cerialis

This shows the coming of the Roman soldiers, whose rough treatment of the headman incites Greta to hurl a spear at the centurion himself. She is punished, and a disastrous battle follows in which many villagers are killed. The headman is among them. The scene ends with the burning of his body on a funeral pyre and the departure of the survivors into captivity.

Episode II. Paulinus in Bradford Dale

Time has passed, and the second episode takes place in about 627AD, in the reign of Edwin of Northumbria who has been converted to Christianity by Ethelburga, his queen, and Paulinus, the Bishop of York. The Anglo-Saxons are summoned by the winding of a horn to the arena, where they are to hear the message of the new faith. Paulinus enters with Eadfrith of Dewsbury, leading a procession of Augustinian monks. After the missionaries have sung a hymn of creation, Eadfrith tells the crowd how their King Edwin and a great number of his subjects have become Christians. Paulinus then preaches to the crowd, many of whom receive his message and ask for his blessing. A great cross is erected and consecrated. Caedbut is charged with the care of those who have embraced the new faith, and he leads them to Dewsbury to be baptised. Those who cling to their old beliefs depart to their homes.

Episode III. Bradford in Norman Times

Scene I

The third episode deals with the relations between Normans and Saxons and the gradual emergence of order out of chaos. The dominant figure is William the Conqueror, who bestows on Ilbert de Lacy many Yorkshire lands, including the manor of Bradford, as a reward for his faithful service in the Battle of Hastings. The ceremony is witnessed by great Saxon lords, who angrily refuse to do fealty to Ilbert for their own ancient lands. The rebellion that follows is cruelly put down by Norman soldiers who lay waste to the land. The utter desolation that follows is revealed in the sad words of a thane when the Doomsday Book is being prepared. He tells of this fair manor, once rich in wood and pasture under Gamel the Saxon, but ‘Ilbert the Norman hath it now. It is waste.’

Scene II. Kirkstall Abbey

Many years pass; life has become more settled and prosperous, and the second scene opens with Cistercian monks piling up fleeces of wool. The routine of their work is clearly familiar, for the fleeces are counted, placed on wagons and sent off to London to be shipped to Flanders. The incident that follows is in sharp contrast to this scene of rural activity. St Bernard comes among these peaceful monks, urging them to go forth and fight for the Cross in the Holy Land. A procession of Knights Templars shows how wide has been the response to his call to arms. These monks of Kirkstall, too, fall in behind the column to play their part in the Second Crusade.

Scene III

The third scene shows how the town has developed since 1147, for Edmund de Lacy and his seneschal Robert de Bolling appear with a proclamation from the king that Bradford is to have a market by royal grant. Wares are sold at the market cross, and the merriment of the fair is heightened by the arrival of Robin Hood and his merry men. The most dramatic incident, however, is the dispute between William of Wyke and Roger of Manningham, each of whom claims to have killed the wild boar of Cliffe Wood. In this, Roger is victorious since he has the boar’s tongue as proof. As a reward, he is given lands in Horton for which he is to do fealty in the Market Place on St Martin’s Day.

Episode IV. Bradford in Plantagenet Times

Scene I

The fourth episode reveals the steady growth of the woollen industry. The scene opens with a busy, happy community engaged in sorting, combining and spinning the wool from the fleeces. They are not left long in peace, however. From its position, Bradford lies open to invasion, and this time the foes are not Romans or Normans but a band of marauding Scots. After they have gone, a small group of men, women and children gather together, determined to organise themselves for defence against such attacks as this. At this point King Edward II appears on his way to Skipton Castle, and in their distress they appeal to him as their rightful protector. But he rides away, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Scene II

Their efforts are successful, for the second scene shows the woollen industry so far developed that Flemish weavers under John Kempe have come to teach the people how to spin yarn on looms. In the midst of the general merrymaking, the Earl of Lancaster arrives asking for wool to be given to Edward III for the Wool Sack. A red sack is stuffed with wool and placed on a horse to be taken to London. Afterwards, the games are resumed, but by royal proclamation archery takes the place of such pastimes as football and quoits as it will provide training for national defence.

Episode V. Bradford in Stuart Times

Scene I. The Battle of Adwalton Moor

The fifth episode is largely concerned with the part played by Bradford in the Civil War. The city is a stronghold of the Roundheads, so when Lord Fairfax is defeated by the Royalists under the Duke of Newcastle at Adwalton Moor, he retreats to Bradford, prepared to stand a siege.

Scene II. Second Siege of Bradford

Unfortunately the townsfolk are undisciplined and unarmed save for scythe, flails and sickles on long poles. After the bombardment of the town, a Royalist, Richard Tempest of Bolling Hall, comes to demand its surrender. Although he peremptorily refuses this demand, Fairfax is discomforted by the news that there is no ammunition and gives orders to retreat to Leeds. Newcastle, now in possession of the town, gallantly lends his coach to Lady Fairfax so that she may join her husband and then gives orders for a general massacre of citizens to take place the next day. His heart is moved to pity, however, by an apparition which comes to him at midnight imploring him to have mercy. The following morning, to the surprise of all, he commands that the people of Bradford shall go free.

Episode VI. Bradford of the Industrial Revolution

Scene I

The last episode illustrates various phases in the development of the woollen industry. In 1776 the town presents a scene of prosperity and contentment. The Piece Hall is opened by such notable leaders of the trade as Hustler and Garnett. Afterwards, the day is given up to festivity, and a kind of fair is set up with boxing booths, marionette shows, and a May-pole. The village band plays tunes and groups of singers enjoy themselves, trolling forth hymns and glees. As night comes, those from a distance leave in their coaches, for roads outside the walls are dangerous after dark. The last incident is a reminder of this, for a highwayman stops a coach, plunders it and disappears into the night.

Scene II. 1812–1830. [This episode was cut at the last minute.]

The second scene represents the period 1811-1816 when the power of steam has been discovered and machinery invented. Gloom broods over the whole assembly. This is not caused merely by the sight of wretched children, ill-fed and ill-clothed, going off to work in the factories. All know that the new machinery will bring misery and want to many. In their resentment, the crowd burns effigies of the inventors, Cartwright and Arkwright, and as their anger rises, they rush off to break the machinery in the mills. The riots that follow are only suppressed by soldiers who are called in to disperse the mob.

Scene III. The Legend of Bishop Blaize

In the third scene, the procession of Bishop Blaize is revived. In former times this used to take place every seven years in honour of St Blaize, patron of woolcombers. The last celebration had been in 1825, and tradition says it was the most splendid of all because of the high prosperity of the worsted and woollen manufacturers at that time. This is the very procession represented in the pageant. It includes woolstaplers, guards, merchants, shepherds, charcoal burners and forty dyers ‘with red cockades, blue aprons and crossed slivers of red and blue’. Heroes of legend are represented too, for besides Bishop Blaize himself there are Jason and Medea, who stole the Golden Fleece from King Aeetes of Colchis, according to the stories of ancient Greece.

Scene IV

The last scene shows the election of the first Members of Parliament in Bradford. The Reform Act of 1832 has been passed, and the city is now so important that it is allowed two representatives. The election takes place in front of the Piece Hall, and as there are three candidates, excitement runs high. Hardy and Lister are successful, and the pageant ends with their triumph.

Finale and Epilogue

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Suetonius Paullinus, Gaius (fl. c.AD 40–69) Roman governor of Britain
  • Lacy, Gilbert de (fl. 1133–1163) baron
  • Thomas of Lancaster, second earl of Lancaster, second earl of Leicester, and earl of Lincoln (c.1278–1322) magnate
  • Cavendish, William, first duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (bap. 1593, d. 1676) writer, patron, and royalist army officer
  • Fairfax, Thomas, third Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612–1671) parliamentarian army officer

Musical production

Musical performers included:

  • Bradford City Police Military Band.
  • Black Dyke Junior Brass Band.
  • Choir of 500 voices and 100 performers conducted by Mr Laurence Hirst, FRCO, and Mr Wilfred Knight.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Yorkshire Post
Bradford Argus
Bradford Observer
Manchester Guardian
The Times
Daily Mail
Manchester Guardian
Hull Daily Mail
Nottingham Evening Post

Book of words

Historical Pageant of Bradford: The Living Story of Bradford’s Glory. Bradford, 1931.

Other primary published materials

  • Historical Pageant of Bradford: Souvenir Programme. Braford, 1931.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford: Copy of book of words, programme, correspondence, cuttings, photograph, typescripts, scrapbook, etc., under the following references:
  • DB31.
  • 20D99/11/16.
  • 39D81.
  • BBD1/1/50.
  • 93D77.
  • BBC1/57/21.
  • WYB100/3/1.
  • Warwick Modern Records Centre: Copy of Workers and Wool [A Communist Party riposte to the pageant]. MSS.5x/2/44/1.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Tom Hulme has written about inter-war civic boosterism through pageantry, whereby cities competed to raise their profile and, often combined with industrial and trade exhibitions, sought to boost their sales.5 Bradford’s civic boosterism came from a period of extreme crisis, which had seen the steepest depression in the wool and textiles trade since the 1840s. Between 1928 and 1932, 400 textile firms had gone out of business, and in 1931 there were 20833 people unemployed (down from 35000 in 1929).6

In laying out the formal plans for the pageant in January 1931, Bradford’s Mayor Alfred Pickles declared his view that ‘Other cities and towns had found them [pageants] highly successful, and he hoped that everyone really interested in the restoration of the textile industry in Bradford would give a helping hand in connection with the proposed wool pageant.’7 He declared that at the time ‘there existed a pessimistic feeling in the city. There had been such feeling before, but, like measles, they had passed away (Laughter). It was possible to banish that pessimism, and it was possible for the citizens of Bradford to rise to the occasion and make the wool pageant as great a success as the pageants in other parts of the country had proved.’8 Pickles claimed that the Stoke Pageant the previous year had resulted in £500000 in orders for the Potteries, and this, to his mind, more than justified the ten percent contingency fund of £2000–£3000 which he asked of the Chamber of Commerce.9 Indeed, much of the support for the pageant came from its prospects for promoting the town. W. Roberton, the honorary secretary of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, declared that ‘in view of the present acute economic conditions in the wool textile industry, there should be hearty support for the pageant’.10 Pickles, the pageant’s main proponent, wrote many articles over the coming months promoting the economic benefits of the pageant: ‘When trade is bad in any industry… I am one of those who believe that advertising is a very useful thing, and I feel that in our Bradford trade we have something which is worth making known to the rest of the world.’11

While the numbers signing up as performers were sluggish at first, with only 800 (out of a required 7000) having done so by the start of March, people did gradually come forward.12 Behind-the-scenes help was also forthcoming. Newspapers wryly reported ‘armaments’ being made for the pageant in local schools.13 Indeed, the pageant seemed genuinely to be catching the popular imagination, with the Bradford Argus remarking that ‘it is a long time since Bradford people were so enthusiastic about an event as they are about the historical pageant…The idea has caught the imagination of young and old alike, the staid business men are anticipating the affair as eagerly as the thousands of school children in the city.’14 Even so, there was a considerable shortage of males, with the Observer recommending that municipal clerks be drafted in.15 The Argus proudly declared that 30000 yards of Bradford cloth were required to clothe the performers, which rose to 50000.16 Rudyard Kipling was asked to write an opening verse for the pageant (he ultimately withdrew), and the Bradford Observer asked ‘is Mr Rudyard Kipling a Yorkshireman’, concluding that he had honorary status conferred on him by his two Yorkshire aunts.17

Class remained a perennial issue throughout the planning of the pageant. There were complaints that recruitment was slow because there was a considerable number of business men who were ‘reluctant to allow their employees time off to take part in the performances’.18 The question of finding a suitable Pageant Queen added further problems, with many, including the Bradford Observer, demanding that a mill girl be found: ‘Where is the girl suitable for the honour? In the stately drawing-room of a mansion or in the tiny living room of a cottage? In one of Bradford’s high-class shops or in a textile mill?’19 Ultimately this tension was solved by electing Miss Freda, ‘a hazel-eyed schoolgirl of 17, with dark brown hair’, though no mention was given of her social status.20

More divisive still was deciding which scenes to include in the pageant. One aspect which all sides felt should be included was the Industrial Revolution and the nineteenth century in Bradford, with the Argus suggesting that ‘particular emphasis should be given to the conditions of factory life at this period of our town’s history—and should act as a strange contrast to the conditions of the present time’.21 The Yorkshire Post remarked that ‘the industrial cities owe their rise to the industrial revolution of the 18th century…I am sure that, as a form of civic celebration, an historical pageant is well-fitted to inspire the pride of citizens in the achievements of their city, and I hope that by means of this pageant a deeper sense of their heritage and of their debt to the past, as well as their responsibility towards the future, will be impressed upon your citizens.’22

The sixth episode was written with notes from and performed by members of the Bradford Workers’ Educational Association.23 Yet, even this gesture of including the working classes was received poorly in some quarters. The records of the historical subcommittee show that a number of changes were made to the episode, initially titled ‘Industrial Revolution 1780–1832’, which in its original format was deemed to be incendiary.24 The focus of the scene was shifted to focus on the positive benefits brought to Bradford by industrialisation, presenting the Luddites as opponents of progress.

Shortly after the scene was announced, a pamphlet entitled Workers and Wool was published by the Bradford Charter Committee, an organisation run by the Communist Party. This excoriated the pageant for its presentation of the Industrial Revolution as a coming-together of capital and labour through the progress towards democracy.25 The pamphlet remarked:

A Pageant Week is being held in Bradford…Scenes will be enacted alleging to tell ‘the Living Story of Bradford’s Glory’. In this little booklet we have sought to give a compressed yet valuable sketch of the real history of Bradford and the surrounding area during the rise of the woollen industry. We can be sure that the well-paid historians who have twisted the events of the past to make them palatable to a capitalist financed Pageant Committee will have passed over most of the material contained here-in and distorted that which they have used. We offer this outline to our fellow workers firm in the belief that in days to come we shall repeat the stirring deeds of our forebears in conditions which in future will bring success and the final emancipation of our class from capitalist thraldom.26

The pageant, the pamphlet contended, was a further attempt to instil in the workers a false consciousness and to blind them to the truth, which was that they were being oppressed and degraded to ever-greater degrees. The pamphlet proceeded to lambast the work of the ‘false historians of to-day who try to represent the ILP as carrying on the banner of militant struggle handed on by the Chartists’. It effectively rewrote the pageant’s depictions of the Industrial Revolution and went on to describe Bradford’s subsequent twentieth-century history (not featured in the pageant), including the strikes of 1925, the General Strike of 1926 and the present economic crisis. It declared:

There is only one path for the woollen workers; the last strike showed us the way. This is the path of the Minority Movement, the building of a Committee for action at every mill, to organise the struggle against the employers’ attacks, and for higher wages and better conditions. Either we go down to slavery, or we take this path. There is no other way…WORKERS UNITE! WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS.27

One of the pamphlet’s major complaints was that the Bishop Blaize scene set in 1825 made no mention of the terrible strike across Bradford during the same year. The pageant, effectively controlled by the ruling class, attempted to rewrite history as it saw fit. 1931 was likewise a year overshadowed by strikes. The global economic recession continued to depress prices, and the Bradford mill owners continued to respond with lay-offs, reducing working hours and severely depressing wages in the factories. Despite Pickles’s attempts to conciliate both sides, the Woolcombing Employers’ Federation posted a belligerent notice on the Friday before the pageant opened, announcing an 11.8 per cent wage reduction.28 On 13 July, the day of the opening of the pageant, work ceased at fifty mills in Shipley and Bradford, involving 9000 workers.29 The mayor, afraid of a repeat of the strike of the previous year, attempted to conciliate both sides: ‘I am anxious to see both sides make a real effort to reach a settlement, and a short postponement of the notices will not only help the pageant but will also afford an opportunity of bringing about peace by negotiation.’ He stated that he had ‘no desire to prejudice either party’ and that the pageant was ‘entirely non-political’, emphasising that the event was for the entire city and that the profit was ‘to be distributed amongst charitable institutions in the city’.30

One employer told the Daily Mail that ‘I cannot see that it would help the pageant if we postponed the notices one week. Rome is burning, and neither pageant nor exhibition will put our industry on its feet if it is not on a proper economic basis’.31 On the side of the workers, the Communist Party, which had only 300 local members (up from 58 in 1929),32 poured activists into the city, seeking to promote a ‘violently offensive movement, a worker’s attack on capitalism’ and hoping for a rerun of the strikes of the previous year.33 The Daily Worker saw the pageant and the employers’ action as linked: The employers ‘obviously hoped that organised strike action would be impossible, [and] that many of the workers would be overcome with the patriotic glamour of a royalty patronised pageant.’34 The Pageant Organisers hastily cut the scenes featuring the Luddites from the pageant, ostensibly on the grounds of timing. On the day before the pageant, William Temple, the radical Archbishop of York, preached a sermon in Leeds, appearing to take the side of the workers. ‘[W]ith the development of the world’s trade and commerce’, Temple declared, ‘there had grown up an international fellowship which our political machinery was entirely failing to represent’.35

Everyone, it seems, was nervous about what would happen with both the workers and employers spoiling for a fight. Indeed, the local newspapers avoided all mention of the strike throughout. In many ways it is a miracle that the pageant did not instigate major social unrest. The Daily Mail claimed on the first day of the pageant that only six out of forty-eight wool-combing concerns were on strike, representing only seven hundred workers, while ‘thousands of textile workers joined in giving Prince George a very hearty welcome’.36 In actual fact, this was because the other factories had, at the mayor’s suggestion, decided to take a week to ballot their 150000 members on strike action rather than striking with immediate effect.37 Mr Shaw, the union representative, claimed that ‘this decision had been taken without reference to the Bradford Pageant…but if the decision was of advantage to the pageant the unions welcomed the fact’.38 The Daily Worker castigated union executives for their lukewarm response to the strike (in part because their funds remained depleted from the previous year), and also for their decision to extend their ballots to non-union workers believed to be less militant. In its view, the leaders of the National Association of Textile Workers were ‘thrown in a state of panic’, choosing the pageant over the rights of their workers and thus delaying strike action until after a ballot.39 It was this wavering, above all else, which saved the pageant.

Pickles opened the pageant with a decidedly hesitant note:

All of us…lament the fact that so many of our splendid working folks engaged in the wool textile industry are having to suffer because of the times through which we are passing. We also regret that the folks who are in charge of this industry are also suffering very considerable worry. At any rate, we are glad that Prince George has so heartily and willingly consented to do what little bit he can toward assisting us in our efforts to advertise the city and to improve the trade upon which so many of our people are dependent.40

In fact, the greatest threat to the pageant would not be that of strike action but rather that of the weather, which even a strange gesture of fealty in the form of an Anglo-Saxon woman presenting her baby to the Prince could not overcome.41 Sudden downpours kept attendances low, with only 3200 attending the second performance, down from 1400 the previous day.42 The city newspapers kept careful track of receipts and attendances, noting that after the first three days the pageant had only covered half its costs.43

David Lloyd George attended the pageant on 15 July and gave an impromptu speech, with frequent references to the atrocious weather, which sought to promote unity:

I am a great believer in these historical pageants…it is a good thing for communities and nations to become acquainted with their past, and there is no better way of doing that than by a presentation which in itself excites interest and appeals to the eye as well as to the ear. It is a good thing now and again to dig up communities by the roots to show how deep they are in the ground, how widespread and how numerous the ramifications are, and that explains why they weather so many storms and why, in spite of the worst weather, they still go on bearing a certain amount of fruit.44

Stretching the metaphor to its breaking point, Lloyd George compared the rain to the economic crisis which had beset Bradford and, drawing on biblical allusions to the flood, suggested that Bradford would emerge triumphant: ‘Never mind, the waters will subside. It will be all right…you will find that when the waters have cleared away nations like ours and communities like yours, that have built their business on sound principles and laid the foundations well and truly in the ground, when the waters have gone they will be there, those industries, as firmly established as ever.’45 He praised the pageant’s episodes that showed ‘how all the centuries you have encountered trouble but surmounted it all, in spite of your tribulations, you have gone on from strength to strength, building up from small things to greater, from greater to the greatest, until you are the most famous centre in the world for one of mankind’s most famous industries’.46 He later told the Bradford Observer that ‘I have seen a great many pageants, but I have never seen a finer. The colouring is brilliant and the whole thing is admirably organised’.47

The silver-tongued Welsh Wizard apparently had the desired effect, sufficiently placating the weather over the next few days that the crowds once again packed Peel Park. Despite a Cavalier falling heavily from his horse, a sword wound which turned septic, requiring hospitalisation, and a horse stampeding and eventually having to be put down, the pageant went well.48 Around 13000 people attended on 20 July, which was to be the final performance, and there were a further 50000 people at a thanksgiving service, with another 100000 lining the route of the procession.49 There was a unanimous decision to continue the pageant for three days during the following week with reduced admission, which would hopefully bring the proceeds up to the required £120000.50 The final two performances were seen by a combined audience of 33000, meaning that the attendance over the run of twelve performances was around 120000.51

The financial takings, however, were far lower than expected due to high costs and £1800 being charged in entertainments tax.52 Overall, indeed, the pageant itself made a loss of a couple of hundred pounds, and it was only thanks to generous donations of £4000 that there was any money at all to donate to charities. The publication of the financial statement of the pageant caused Frank Lascelles to write to the town clerk protesting about the effects ‘of the balance sheet in the form which it was published’, which ‘has not only much disheartened Leicester, but has caused three north country towns to withdraw entirely from negotiations which they were making for pageants next year’.53 The clerk wrote back in agreement, listing the various things which ‘resulted in financial losses to the pageant’. He wisely omitted mentioning the large expenditure on the pageant, the lavish publications, the advertising, and, for that matter, the pageant master’s not inconsiderable fee of £1569.54

The prospects of Bradford’s wool industry were certainly not lifted by the pageant, which showed that the employers would stop at nothing to force wage cuts on workers. The striking woolcombers returned to work on 24 July, blaming the lack of financial support from the union (which had depleted its funds on the previous year's strike).55 While a narrow majority of 52.6% voted in favour of strike action (there were even reports of employers confiscating ballots to prevent them being counted), it was felt that the vote indicated that ‘there is no resisting power on the part of the operatives as a whole’. Although the unions refused to accept the 11.8% pay cut, they were willing to enter talks with employers.56 In fact, trade revived (partially) when the government was forced to abandon free trade and the gold standard, which had depressed exports. Had the pageant been held in the preceding year or had the unions possessed larger fighting funds (or merely less cowardly leaders), the Bradford Pageant would probably have been ruined. The pageant survived disaster by the barest of margins. Lascelles’s conclusion in his final letter of protest neatly encapsulated the Bradford Pageant as a whole: ‘Now we have finished, and in future will only remember the happy and joyous occasions connected with Bradford, and will forget from this time on, the unfortunate mistakes and troubles that we had.’57 Bradford held a further pageant in 1947.


  1. ^ Manchester Guardian, 20 July 1931, 16.
  2. ^ For financial details see records of C.R. Theaker, Hon. Treasurer, West Yorkshire Archive Services [March 1932], Bradford 13 BC1/57/21; also Hull Daily Mail, 4 March 1932, 7.
  3. ^ Hull Daily Mail, 4 March 1932, 7.
  4. ^ Bradford Argus, 23 July 1931, np, in Pageant Cuttings Book, West Yorkshire Archive Services, Bradford, Case 1, no. 6.
  5. ^ Tom Hulme, ‘“A Nation of Town Criers”: Civic Publicity and Historical Pageantry in Inter-War Britain’, Urban History (forthcoming).
  6. ^ GB Historical GIS, University of Portsmouth, Bradford MB/CB through Time, Work & Poverty Statistics, Census Unemployment by Sex, A Vision of Britain through Time, accessed 14 June 2016, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10220440/cube/CENSUS_UNEM; Alan Hall, The Story of Bradford (Stroud, 2013), 156–159.
  7. ^ Yorkshire Observer, 21 January 1931, np, cuttings book, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Ibid. The council also pledged a guarantee of £1000, deemed to be inadequate by many: Bradford Argus, 30 January 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  10. ^ Bradford Observer, 22 January 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  11. ^ Bradford Argus, 12 February 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  12. ^ Bradford Argus, 27 February 1931 and Bradford Observer, 12 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  13. ^ Yorkshire Observer, 17 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  14. ^ Bradford Argus, 14 February 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  15. ^ Bradford Observer, 20 May 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  16. ^ Bradford Argus, 23 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  17. ^ Bradford Observer, 31 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  18. ^ Bradford Argus, 27 February 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  19. ^ Bradford Observer, 1 May 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  20. ^ Bradford Observer, 24 May 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  21. ^ Bradford Argus, 18 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  22. ^ Yorkshire Evening Post, 13 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  23. ^ Hilda M. Snowden, ‘Founders of the Workers' Educational Association in Bradford’, The Bradford Antiquary 3 (1987): 21–26.
  24. ^ Historical Subcommittee Notes, 6 and 10 March 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. 39D81/10/.
  25. ^ On the Workers’ Charter and National Workers’ Charter Committees, see Matthew Worley, Class Against Class: The Communist Party in Britain Between the Wars (London, 2002), 253–254 and Matthew Worley, ‘Class Against Class: The Communist Party of Great Britain in the Third Period, 1927–1932’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Nottingham, 1998), 175, 191–193 and 201, accessed 14 June 2016, http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/11061/1/285474.pdf.
  26. ^ Workers and Wool (Rawtenstall, 1931), unpaginated, Modern Records Centre, Warwick University. MSS.5x/2/44/1.
  27. ^ Ibid.
  28. ^ Daily Mail, 13 July 1931, 12.
  29. ^ Manchester Guardian, 13 July 1931, 13; Ayako Yoshino, ‘The Bradford Pageant of 1931’, accessed 14 June 2016, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/featured-pageants/bradford-pageant-1931/.
  30. ^ Quoted in Ibid.
  31. ^ Daily Mail, 13 July 1931, 12.
  32. ^ Worley, Class Against Class, 35.
  33. ^ Sue Bruley, Leninism, Stalinism, and the Women's Movement in Britain, 1920–1939 (New York, 1986), 195–197; Worley, Class Against Class, 171; Michael Walker, ‘Felix Walsh’, accessed 14 June 2016, http://www.grahamstevenson.me.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=608:felix-walsh&catid=23:w&Itemid=124.
  34. ^ Daily Worker, 17 July 1931, 4.
  35. ^ Bradford Observer, 13 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6. See also Manchester Guardian, 13 July 1931, 13.
  36. ^ Daily Mail, 14 July 1931, 7.
  37. ^ Manchester Guardian, 13 July 1931, 13; Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, 15 July 1931, 8.
  38. ^ Manchester Guardian, 13 July 1931, 13.
  39. ^ Daily Worker, 17 July 1931, 7. The newspaper suggested that the number on strike had risen to 2500.
  40. ^ Manchester Guardian, 14 July 1931, 6.
  41. ^ Observer, 14 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6. There is a film of Prince George’s speech at the pageant, British Pathé, accessed 29 June 2016, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/hrh-prince-george/query/Bradford.
  42. ^ Bradford Observer, 15 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  43. ^ Evening Post, 16 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  44. ^ Manchester Guardian, 16 July 1931, 14.
  45. ^ Ibid.
  46. ^ Ibid.
  47. ^ Bradford Observer, 17 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  48. ^ Bradford Argus, 20 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6.
  49. ^ Ibid.
  50. ^ Manchester Guardian, 20 July 1931, 16. It was then around £10000. Suggestions that the pageant be revived in September were later dropped.
  51. ^ Bradford Observer, 23 July 1931, West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. DB31 Case 1 Box 6. The Bradford Argus, 23 July 1931, suggested that the figure was 56000, but this seems far too low.
  52. ^ Yorkshire Post, 29 August 1931.
  53. ^ Letter from Frank Lascelles to the Town Clerk, 22 March 1932, in West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. 39D81/2/10.
  54. ^ Letter from Town Clerk to Frank Lascelles, 23 March 1932, in West Yorkshire Archives Services, Bradford. 39D81/2/10.
  55. ^ Manchester Guardian, 22 July 1931, 11.
  56. ^ Manchester Guardian, 6 August 1931, 11.
  57. ^ Letter from Frank Lascelles to the Town Clerk, 22 March 1932; see also Jim Greenalf, ‘Memories of the Pageant Recalled’, Bradford Telegraph and Argus, 28 June 2012, accessed 14 June 2016, http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/tahistory/featuresnostalgiapasttimes/9787265.Memories_of_the_pageant_are_recalled/ and Jim Greenalf, ‘Memory Jogged by Bradford Historical Pageant of 1931’, Bradford Telegraph and Argus, 9 July 2012, accessed 14 June 2016, http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/tahistory/featuresnostalgiapasttimes/9805713.Memory_jogged_by_Bradford_Historical_Pageant_of_1931/.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Bradford’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1000/