A Pageant of Kimbolton, Depicting the History of the Castle and of the School

Pageant type

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Place: Kimbolton Castle (Kimbolton) (Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, England)

Year: 1957

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


25, 26 and 27 June 1957, at 8pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Writer, Director and Pageant Master: Burkett, P.R.
  • Assistant Director: C.A.P. Smout
  • Costume Designer and Supervisor: Peter Leach
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Jean Yull
  • Stage Constructors: G.P. Parker, F.J. Tippett
  • Stage Managers: W.O. Copland, H.F.G. Floate
  • Lighting and Sound: T.H. Pierce
  • Property Master: C.F. Fowkes, A.H. Gray
  • Construction of Properties: W.G. Stringer
  • Musical Director: P.L. Dale
  • Programme Editor: J.D. Roberts
  • Business and Advertising: K.W. Laflin
  • Heraldic Adviser: I.R.P. Green
  • Art Adviser: D. Hood-Cree


Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

Burkett, P.R.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline


Heralds enter and greet the concourse with fanfares of trumpets. Geoffrey Fitzpiers tells of the first building of the Castle and summons Oswald, the last Prior of Stonely Priory, to read some pages in the Chronicle of Kimbolton.

Scene 1. Tudor Politics

Part I.

The King’s messenger enters and announces that the Ambassador’s party is on its way. Gaily-dressed Spaniards appear and swagger up the moat. Katherine Blanche de Vargas comes to greet them and they offer her presents. As they leave Don Pedro, the Ambassador’s fool, pushes forward and ridiculously tries to cross the moat, but falls in. Meanwhile, the Queen’s servants lower the drawbridge, and allow the Spanish to enter, which they do with swords drawn.


Katherine of Aragon’s funeral procession leaves the Castle.

Scene 2. Sir John Popham, after a youth of crime, rises to be Lord Chief Justice (1559-1607)

Part I. At St. Bartholomew’s Fair, Smithfield, 1559.

Stall-holders are nosily selling wares and the Mayor’s procession arrive. Two champions wrestle and the market is declared open. When trade is at its height, a small party of Gentry appear and are assailed by drunken youths, including Popham. Popham picks a fight with Dorset while his friends cut the ladies purses. They escape, pursued by the watch.

Part II. The Star Chamber, 1607.

The learned and bulky Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice, deals with a case at St. Bartholomew’s Fair and passes a sentence.

Scene 3. The New Learning

Part I. Sunday Morning, 1660. A road in Kimbolton

A gang of scruffy boys enter, munching stolen apples, and pursued by the irate Farmer. A rival gang enters and plays “mob” football. When the bells ring, they hide and jeer at the townsfolk. One of the boys throws a mud pie and they run off.

Part II. The Next Day: a meeting of the vestry

The townsfolk complain about the children, and Henry Bayle suggests founding a school to keep them occupied, and offers them land for the purpose.

Part III. One Year Later

The same boys, scrubbed and tidy, with satchels and slates are going to school. They go into church, though a few boys still play truant.

Scene 4. Civil War. The Earl of Manchester Raises His Forces at Kimbolton and Captures Bolingbroke Castle

Prologue. Kimbolton Castle, 1642.

Lord Kimbolton returns after an attempt to impeach him.

Part I. August 1643.

Lionel Welstead’s company of volunteers marches in and is instructed in pike drill. The Earl of Manchester and Cromwell come and inspect the men and addresses them. They march off to battle, full of fervour.

Part II. Before Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire (October 1643)

The Royalist Sir William Langton prepares to defend the castle against the attacking army who calls on them to surrender. A first attack is repelled, but the earl brings up ordinance which is victorious.

Scene 5. A Mansion for an Eighteenth Century Nobleman

Much activity is going on and workmen complain about having to work under a gentleman architect. Lady Manchester comes out with Coleman to view the building and her son brings a letter telling of the Earl’s return from abroad. His procession arrives and he presents Pellegrini. Vanburgh, the aforementioned gentleman, enters with Hawksmoor and discusses his design for the Soouth Front and Portico.

Scene 6. Old King Cole of Kimbolton.

Part I. 1815. The Schoolroom in the old building.

Boys rush in and play, imitating Cole. They freeze in terror when he enters and the boys are set to work. One is sent to the local basket maker to find a cane, which he is subsequently beaten with. The headmaster announces the victory at Waterloo and a holiday is declared.

Part II. The Graveyard, Kimbolton

Cole returns, rather drunk, from a days’ shooting. Two villagers try to play a joke on him. [No information, but presumably something to do with the location?]

Part III. The 1840s.

Fewer boys now work under Cole’s eye. At the slightest movement they are caned. A stream of parents remove their children until only five remain. Cole dismisses them and writes to the trustees for a salary, since teaching no longer pays.

Scene 7. The Last Labourers’ Revolt, 1830.

Scene I. The bar of the Half Moon, 1 November 1830

A small group of labourers discuss their miserable condition and decide they will ask Charles Horsford, a prominent local Radical, to lead a petition for higher wages to Mr. Moor, the Duke of Manchester’s agent.

Scene II. The Portico, Kimbolton Castle, 5 November 1830.

As Guy Fawkes celebrations are in progress a servant rushes in to tell of the labourers’ riot. The labourers march in with flaming torches and are addressed by Horsford. Mr. Moor refuses to listen to their petition and is pelted.

Scene 8. Kimbolton Castle in Army Occupation (1939-44)

Part I. 1940.

An RAMC squad marches in and rooms within the castle are allocated. A lorry drives up and hoists stores through the window.

Part II.

Four men have been out to the pub ad are returning home. They reluctantly give the password to the sentry. Peter Hawker goes upstairs whilst the others chat. Hawker screams and runs past saying he has seen a ghost. The others investigate and are startled by the ghost of Katherine of Aragon. The men decide to spend the night outside.

Scene 9. Finale 1944-50

The castle is deserted as newspapermen announce its dilapidation and spread rumours about its destruction. It is announced that the castle is to become a school. The castle becomes alive and a junior form rushes out and plays sports. The bell sounds the first lesson, history, and the boys complain. Suddenly the ghost of the first builder, Geoffrey Fitzpiers, appears before them and reproves them. He summons spirits of the past who re-enter and assemble on the Portico steps where they sing the school song.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Popham, Sir John (c.1531–1607) judge and speaker of the House of Commons
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII
  • Montagu, Edward, second earl of Manchester (1602–1671) politician and parliamentarian army officer
  • Montagu, Charles, first duke of Manchester (c.1662–1722) diplomat
  • Vanbrugh, Sir John (1664–1726) playwright and architect
  • Hawksmoor, Nicholas (1662?–1736) architect

Musical production

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials


A Pageant of Kimbolton, Depicting the History of the Castle and of the School: Souvenir Programme. Rushden, 1957.

References in secondary literature

  • Copy of programme in Huntingdon Archives, Acc. 3992.

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



This pageant opened with the Tudor, Stuart and Civil War periods and also contained scenes set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was staged in the grounds of Kimbolton Castle, which had housed the senior school since 1950 (the preparatory school was and is at the other end of the village of Kimbolton). The traditional date given for the establishment of the school is 1600, and the Norman castle itself was rebuilt as a stately home in the Tudor period, before undergoing more changes in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The pageant was a mixture of military and social history, focusing on the immediate locality. There is little information about the size, finances and reception of the pageant, but the list of staff – which included a ‘heraldic adviser’ as well as the usual collection of props, stage and costume managers – suggests that this was a significant event.


How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Pageant of Kimbolton, Depicting the History of the Castle and of the School’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1107/