Clifton Parish Church Centenary Pageant
Place: Grounds of Callandar House (Clifton) (Clifton, Gloucestershire, England)
Number of performances: 4
20–22 July 1922
20 July 7pm, 21 July 7pm, 22 July 3pm and 7pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Master of Ceremonies [Pageant Master]: Erble, George F.
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Hon. Treasurer: Mr. S.C. Rashley
- Hon Secretaries: Mr F.M. Fry; Mr. G. Tryon
- Hon. Secretary of the Hospitality Committee: Major Herapath
- Hon. Secretaries of Pageant Committee: Mrs. Soames Thomas; Mr. J.H.W. Wheeler
- Steward Secretaries: Mr. G.E.S. Fursdon; Mr. F.M. Fry
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
Funds in aid of Church Appeal to raise £12000.
Linked occasionCentenary of the current church.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Associated eventsVarious services and centenary services, a ‘beating the bounds’ around the pageant and a garden party.
Scene I. Clifton Before the Christian Era
The scene shows a Druidical ceremony of thanksgiving for harvest, interrupted by a raiding party which is beaten off while the women and children escape to take refuge in Clifton camp.
Scene II. Sewin Receives Homage as Lord of the Manor of Clifton, AD 1065
Scene III. Thomas de Cantia, Curate of Clifton, AD 1268
Scene IV. Prince Rupert at Clifton, AD 1643
At the time of this episode, civil war was raging between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. Bristol was for the moment held by the Parliamentarian party who placed it in a state of defence on the approach of the King’s forces under Prince Rupert. The latter advanced by way of Westbury and over the Downs to Clifton where he attended divine service on 23 July 1643.
Scene V. John Wesley at Clifton, AD 1739
The great preacher visited Hotwells and preached in Old Clifton parish Church, a building of which several engravings are extant and which stood a few feet to the south of the present Church, its position being marked by a privet hedge edging in the Churchyard. It may well be supposed that the great evangelist could not come on the scene without taking the opportunity of addressing the miscellaneous groups he saw before him and this is represented in the scene.
Scene VI. Hotwells as a Fashionable Health Resort
The Hotwell spring was known as far back as the 15th century, but it was not until 1680 that, a remarkable cure having been effected by the use of the waters, its virtues became generally known and strangers began to visit the well. The waters were considered efficacious in feverish and consumptive conditions, and large quantities were sent out in bottles for distant customers. The greatest vogue of the Hotwells as a fashionable resort was in the latter half of the eighteenth century when ‘everybody who was anybody’ paid a visit.
Scene VII. Consecration of the Present Parish Church, 12 August, 1822
The popularity of the Hotwells and the recognition by many visitors of the natural beauty and healthy position of Clifton, looking out over a most delightful prospect and open to sunshine and fresh breezes, led to a steady increase in population. The old Parish Church, which had probably replaced an earlier one, was enlarged but was far too small for the congregations attending it. The problem was attacked boldly and an entirely new church was built. It was consecrated on 12 August 1822.
Concluding March Past
Key historical figures mentioned
- Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer
- Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
Musical productionPsalms 26 and 100 were sung during the performance.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Bristol Times and Mirror
Western Daily Press
Book of words
No book of words was produced.
Other primary published materials
- Clifton Parish Church Centenary Pageant and Programme. Clifton, 1922. Price: 3d.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Bristol Record Office: Programme. 40190/1-3.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Domesday Book.
- Order of Service from the consecration of the Parish Church, 12 August 1822. Held at Bristol Central Library.
There had been a church on the site in Clifton Parish, to the north of the centre of Bristol, since 1154 AD. During the early nineteenth century, Clifton became a fashionable area of Bristol. In the first census of 1801 its population was 4457, not including the many seasonal visitors.2 This vastly increased population far outstripped the provision of churches, and St Andrews was built as a wholly new church in 1822 with Christchurch built in 1842 and All Saints in 1872.3 After only 100 years, however, St Andrews was in a state of disrepair and the Centenary Pageant and associated celebrations, which included a beating of the parish bounds, aimed to raise £12000 to meet the costs of renovation. Rather than being held in the crowded churchyard, the pageant was in the grounds of the Palladian Callandar House, adjacent to the larger Clifton Hill House, which had been taken over by the university in 1909 and became the first hall of residence for women in the South West of England.4
The pageant itself told the story of Clifton through the ages. The Druids in the first episode are for once portrayed sympathetically and their particular form of worship is treated with a surprising level of respect. Prince Rupert is presented attending a service in Clifton on 23 July 1643 after personally reconnoitring Bristol’s ramparts before storming the city two days later. This scene confirms the parish’s independence from the city itself, presenting Royalist loyalties in contrast to the city’s generally Parliamentary leanings. The Western Daily Press recalled that the episode with the Cavaliers ‘was one of the gayest and most picturesque of the series’—hardly what one would expect to hear of the portrayal of the siege of the city!5 (The Bristol Pageant, two years later, was to present the storming of the city from the Parliamentarian side, with Prince Rupert as the attacker.)
Oddly, the pageant only supposes that John Wesley preached a sermon at St Andrew’s church, despite there being historical records of the event. Invited by George Whitefield, Wesley preached a number of sermons throughout Bristol in April and May of 1739, founding the Wesleyan Chapel of ‘New Room’ in Broadlands.6 Moving to more recent times, the pageant made full acknowledgment of the appeal of Hotwells, which turned Clifton into a major tourist resort during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, the touristic appeal of Clifton loomed large in the programme: each page featured quotations from Victorian visitors including Nathaniel Hawthorne, F.D. Maurice, T.B. Macaulay, Thomas Carlyle (‘The rocks of the Avon at Clifton excel all the things I have seen’), and John Ruskin (‘I don’t wonder at your admiring Clifton’).7
The pageant was a success, with the Western Daily Press noting that ‘The picturesque costumes, the dancing, and other features were thoroughly appreciated by the large company of spectators.’8 The newspaper went on to remark that the ‘many taking part can be warmly commended for the realistic and spirited portrayal of incidents, which must have stirred the imagination of all present.’9 Though there are no records of the amount of funds raised, it is unlikely the church would have made £12000 from such a small pageant. Sadly, St Andrews Church was destroyed by the Luftwaffe on 24 November 1940 and Christ Church became the Parish Church for Clifton.10
- Clifton Parish Church Centenary Pageant and Programme (Clifton, 1922)
- About Bristol, accessed 18 December 2015, http://www.about-bristol.co.uk/clf-00.asp
- About Bristol, accessed 18 December 2015, http://www.about-bristol.co.uk/clf-08.asp
- ‘Clifton Hill House’, University of Bristol, accessed 18 December 2015, http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cliftonhillhouse/about
- Western Daily Press, 21 July 1922, 6.
- ‘History of the New Room’, The New Room Bristol, accessed 18 December 2015, http://www.newroombristol.org.uk/History.
- Clifton Parish Church Centenary Pageant and Programme (Clifton, 1922), np.
- Western Daily Press, 21 July 1922, 6.
- ‘St Andrew, Clifton’, ChurchCrawler, accessed 18 December, http://www.churchcrawler.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/clftand.htm.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Clifton Parish Church Centenary Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1035/