Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees

Pageant type

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Place: Pageant Field adjoining Kirklees Park (Hartshead) (Hartshead, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1928

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


30 June 3.30pm, 4 July 7pm, 7 July 3.30, 1928

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Chairman and Pageant Master: Pobjoy, H.N.
  • Secretary: M. Holdsworth
  • Treasurer: F. Norcliffe
  • Properties Committee Secretary: E.R. Carr
  • Field Committee Secretary: W. Carr
  • Armourer: E. Rogers
  • Ticket Secretaries: Miss A. Carr and B. Rogers
  • Music and Dancing: Mrs. Pobjoy
  • Mistress of the Robes: S.H. Townend
  • Handbook Secretary: Mr C. Naylor

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • A.E. Dodsworth
  • S. Brook
  • G. Harrison
  • C. Holdsworth
  • R. Hutchinson
  • E. Ingham
  • J.A. Jackson
  • N. Rogers
  • Mrs. Collins


  • Bishop of Wakefield
  • Archdeacon of Pontefract
  • Dean of Birstall, Vicar of Dewsbury

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

Pobjoy, H.N.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised

The Pageant aimed to raise £2000 for the enlargement of the Sunday School building.

Linked occasion

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: Approx. 700
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline


The Spirit of History, leading the Spirits of Hartshead and Kirklees, accompanied by Children of the Nineteen Centuries, heralds, etc.

Episode 1. Roman Fort at Kirklees, 79 AD

Sentries and soldiers of the Fort are seen. The villagers are engaged in druidical worship. Agricola arrives, inspects the fort, and orders its abandonment. The soldiers move to a more advantageous position.

Episode 2. The Erection of Walton Cross, 900 AD

Ethelbert is superintending the erection of the Cross as a memorial to his father, killed by the Danes, and to serve as a preaching cross. The Abbot of Dewsbury arrives to dedicate it in the presence of the inhabitants.

Episode 3. The Norman Conquest, c.1070 AD

Gerneber, who refuses to submit, is, with his tenants, fleeing before the Norman soldiers, who are laying waste to the village. Elsi meets them and unsuccessfully attempts to persuade Gerneber to submit. Baron de Lacy and his soldiers arrive. Elsi submits and receives from his new overlord the Manor of Hartshead and is given rights and duties pertaining to it.

Episode 4. The Chapelry of Hartshead, c.1120 AD

The Earl addresses the inhabitants. The village sword dancers give an exhibition of their skill. The prior and his monks enter. The Earl reads and signs the Charter by which he grants to the Priory of Lewes and the advowson of Dewsbury and Hartshead, together with those of other Churches in the Calder Valley.

Episode 5. Foundation of Kirklees Priory, c.1135 AD

This scene is set outside the New Priory. The Service of Consecration has just ended, and all come forth from the Priory Church. The Archbishop addresses the villagers outside. Reiner reads and signs the charter granting lands to the priory, which is confirmed by the Earl of Warren.

Episode 6a. Robin Hood and His Merry Men

Robin Hood, Allan-a-Dale, Will Scarlet and Little John meet George-a-Green, Pinder of Wakefield, who after exhibiting his skill with the sword is received into the Company. While Robin Hood’s men are dancing with the villagers of Hartshead, the Abbot of St Mary’s, accompanied by monks and sheriff’s men, approaches. His aim is to entrap Robin Hood, but in attempting to do so he finds himself entrapped by the Merry Men.

Episode 6b. Death of Robin Hood

Robin Hood, now old and ill, makes his way to Kirklees Priory to be bled by his kinswoman the Prioress. In league with Sir Roger of Doncaster, and recognizing in Robin an enemy of the Church, she bleeds him so as to cause his death. In his weakness, he is just able to summon Little John with a weak blast on his horn, who is present when Robin shoots his last arrow to indicate the place of his burial. The funeral procession is shown, accompanied by the peasants of Hartshead.

Episode 7. May Day at Hartshead 1461

The scene is Hartshead, after the Battle of Towton Field (near Tadcaster, 29 March 1461), when the White Rose of York heavily defeated the Red Rose of Lancaster, and the position of Edward IV as King was assured. May Day festivities are in full swing and the May Queen is crowned. Some village men who have served on the Yorkist side return wounded and are feted.

Episode 8. Suppression of Kirklees Priory, 24 November 1539

The ‘Angelus’ is heard at Kirklees Priory. The Clerk of the Chancery and Commissioners enter, and send for the prioress and her nuns with their deeds and valuables. With difficulty the prioress is prevailed upon to sign the deed of dissolution. After the nuns have been evicted and their property seized, the estate is leased to James Rokeby, who receives the keys.

Episode 9. Skirmish between Royalists and Cromwellians at foot of Kirklees Wood. Summer of 1643

Cavalier officers and troopers on their way to Wakefield have called upon Sir John at Kirklees to drink to the Royalist cause. After their departure, Colonel Lambert and Roundhead officers come from Bradford. A scout announces the approach of the Cavaliers. Lambert, who is heavily outnumbered, orders part of his troops to march in the direction of the Cavaliers, and the rest of his men to wait in ambush along the side of the road. The skirmish takes place off-stage. Col. Lambert and his men re-enter with the Cavalier officers as prisoners.

Episode 10. The Commonwealth and the Restoration, 28 June 1660

The village lads and lassies are intent upon making merry and on putting up the Maypole (forbidden during the Commonwealth). They break off in the midst of a country dance, startled by the advance of some Puritan gentlemen. The village bellman enters announcing a public holiday in honour of the Restoration. Old mariners and soldiers have a singing competition. The priest returns and the maypole is set up once again.

Episode 11. The Hal of Kirklees, 1730AD

‘Hal’ Pierson, a half-witted innocent, was befriended by Sir George Armytage, who employed Hal as his family jester. Scenes from Hal’s life, such as taking snuff and falling in the river, skipping sixteen miles in a day, etc., are depicted, culminating in his murder of Robby the Carpenter, his trial and subsequent release due to insanity, and his premature death aged just 30.

Episode 12. Hartshead’s First Sunday School, 1796

The first Sunday School Festival, at which Mr R[obert] Raikes is the guest. The local Mummers produce their ‘Peace Egg’ for his benefit.

Episode 13. The Destruction of Mr Cartwright’s Machinery on Hartshead Moor, February 1812

The Croppers of the district who, through the introduction of the machinery, have been losing their work, meet at the Shears Inn led by a young Hartshead man, William Hall, who is employed at Longroyd Bridge, a hot-bed of Luddite conspiracy. He brings two ring-leaders to stir up the Spen Valley Croppers. The result is the destruction of Mr Cartwright’s new machinery on its way to Bradford. The empty wagon is sent back to Rawfolds and Mr Cartwright’s men rescue the victims.

Episode 14. Charlotte Bronte and ‘Shirley’, Spring 1850.

An imaginary meeting at Hartshead to celebrate the publication of Shirley in 1849.

Episode 15. Final Tableau: St. George for Merrie England

The procession of the ages advances, Charlotte Bronte is crowned by the spirit of history. St. George enters and speaks the epilogue. Then comes ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘O God of Earth and Alter’, ‘Jerusalem’, and the National Anthem

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Julius Agricola, Gnaeus [known as Agricola] (AD 40–93) Roman governor of Britain
  • Warenne, William (III) de, third earl of Surrey [Earl Warenne] (c.1119–1148) magnate and crusader [also known as Warren, William de]
  • Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
  • Layton, Richard (c.1498–1544) dean of York and agent in the suppression of the monasteries
  • Lambert [Lambart], John (bap. 1619, d. 1684) parliamentary soldier and politician
  • Raikes, Robert (1736–1811) promoter of Sunday schools
  • Brontë, (Patrick) Branwell (1817–1848) writer and painter
  • Brontë [married name Nicholls], Charlotte [pseud. Currer Bell] (1816–1855) novelist

Musical production

2.30-3.30 Music by Mirfield Baptist Military Band under G. Brearley performing music from
HMS Pinafore; Henry VIII Dances by Edward German; Yeoman of the Guard and Merry England.

The Pageant contained the following:
  • Prologue: Old English Fanfare
  • Episode 2: Hymn of S. Patrick, Plainsong melody
  • Episode 3: Sleight’s Sword, trad, Psalm 23 and Nunc Dimittis Plainsong
  • Episode 6a: Summer is icumen in, Ballad of Pinder of Wakefield, In Somer when the shas be sheyne, How shall I my true love know (all trad. folk songs – no mention of arrangement)
  • Episode 6b. Psalm 130 Plainsong
  • Episode 7. Joan to the Maypole, Come ye young men, Poacher’s Song, Greensleeves, There are 12 Months (all trad.)
  • Episode 8. Hymn and Psalm 22.
  • Episode 9. Vive le Roy, Fill Every Glass from Beggar’s Opera
  • Episode 10. Shepherd’s Hey, Hey, boys, up we go, Ye Churchales and ye Morrises, There were three Travellers, Chairs to mend, We be soldiers three, Three poor mariners, Hares on the Mountain, Here’s a health unto his majesty (all folk or trad.)
  • Episode 12. Sweet Nightingale, Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron, Robin-a-thrush (folk songs)
  • Episode 13. Come, Cropper Lads of high renown
  • Episode 15. Land of Hope and Glory, O God of Earth and Alter, Jerusalem, the National Anthem

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words

Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees. Mirfield, 1928.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • ‘A Show to Delight’, Spenborough Guardian, 15 February 2006: http://www.spenboroughguardian.co.uk/news/local/a-show-to-delight-1-1368381#ixzz4AKNHolNN (accessed 1 June 2016).

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of programme in West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, reference c643, and Halifax Central Library, P398.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Archbishop Rolls at York, 1491
  • Traditional Ballads of Robin Hood
  • Piers Plowman
  • Sloan MS
  • Church Registers
  • Hartshead Church Book for 1728
  • Peel, The Rise of the Luddites
  • Charlotte Bronte, Shirley
  • Yates, Father of the Brontes
  • C. Shorter, The Brontes and their Circle


The Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees was the second of three pageants staged at the site by the Reverend H.N. Pobjoy between 1927 and 1929. As Pobjoy wrote in the introduction to the pageant progamme,

The Pageant sets out to be a presentation of the village life of Hartshead through the ages, based upon certain historical events of local interest and importance. Our aim is to awaken in people, for whom history has been but a dull dead thing, a keen interest in the historical associations of our locality. Possibilities of much joy and interest are open to those who can read in stones or old buildings the history of past generations. Perhaps, for most of us it is easier to get a grip on history in such a village as ours, with its bits of evidence here and there of the different ages, than it is in a wonderful city like York.1

The pageant is an example of a relatively elaborate village pageant of the interwar period. Involving about two hundred performers, and staged three times before a grandstand audience of at least 700 people, the pageant narrative presented an extensive account of the history of the locality. As with many pageants, the aim was evidently to demonstrate how the story of a small place intersected with the grander themes of national history; thus the narrative dealt with the Roman and Norman invasion, the dissolution of the monasteries and (in this case, Kirklees Priory), and the Civil War and Restoration. The presentation of the social tensions caused by the Industrial Revolution – one episode dealing with the Luddite destruction of machinery – is unusual, pageants typically avoiding the depiction of inter-community conflict in the relatively recent past. It was not all history in the strictest sense, however: one scene featured an imaginary meeting at Hartshead to celebrate the publication of local author Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley (the backdrop to which was the Luddite uprisings in Yorkshire during the time of the Napoleonic Wars). Another fictional scene, and evidently a highlight of the pageant, was the two-part episode dealing with the legendary outlaw Robin Hood, who was supposed to have died near Kirklees Priory. Pobjoy was evidently a Robin Hood enthusiast as the following year, 1929, he wrote the Hartshead Pageant of Robyn Hode. Pobjoy was also involved in the Pageant of Thornhill (1952).


  1. ^ H.N. Pobjoy, ‘Introduction’, in Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees (Mirfield, 1928), 5.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1088/