The Manchester Historical Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Bandstand Amphitheatre, Heaton Park (Prestwich) (Prestwich, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1926

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


2 October and 9 October 1926, at 6.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Doran, F.E.
  • President: The Lord Mayor, Miles Ewart Mitchell
  • Chairman of Committee: Councillor A.P. Simon
  • General Secretary: Rev Leslie Artingstall, BA
  • Assistant Secretary: Mr W.M. Wharton
  • Musical Director: Mr W. Arthur Lomas
  • Choir Conductor: Mr R.H. Wilson, MusBac (Oxon), FRCO
  • Director of Lighting: Mr L.H. Marlor
  • Stage Manager: Mr L.T. Howard
  • Properties of Manager: Mr J. Lomas
  • Director of Costumes: Mr A. Paxton Chadwick
  • Chief Marshal: Mr G..L McMillan
  • Chief Stewards: Messrs A. Milburn and M.C. Callis
  • Press Secretary: Mr P.J.T. Carter
  • Assistant Producers: Mr J.G. Birkby, MA; Mr F. Garnett, MA; Mr T. Gray; Miss B. Hindshaw; Captain A.H.K. Jackson, DSO, MC; Mr J.H. Langridge; Mr E. Mawdesley; Mr F. Atkinson; Mrs Harry Williams
  • Assistant Costume Designers: Miss Moira Raeburn; Miss R.M. Reynolds; Mr W. Carr; Mr F. Makin; Mr J.C.L. Malpass; Mr Marcus H. Newton
  • Heraldic Designs and Banners: Miss B. Hindshaw
  • Poster Designed by: Mr A. Paxton Chadwick
  • Folk Dancing by Scholars of Plymouth Grove Council School

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Committee:

  • Mrs Councillor Alker
  • Miss J. Eyden
  • Miss M. Nicholls
  • Mr E.C. Altree
  • Mr D.L. Forsyth
  • Mr H. Owen
  • Mr C. Anderson
  • Miss D. Henshall
  • Mr S. Pemberton
  • Mr N.V. Baines
  • Miss D. Hilton
  • Mr C. Railton
  • Mr S. Bell
  • Mr R.S. Hodgson
  • Miss E. Reiss
  • Mr C.H. Birnage
  • Miss F. Hollings
  • Miss A. Simpson
  • Mr E.P. Brownhill
  • Mr H.J. Jackson
  • Mr A.R. Smith
  • Miss D. Cliff
  • Mr J.A. Jones
  • Mrs A.R. Smith
  • Miss J. Collinge
  • Miss K. Lancashire
  • Mr W.H. Walker
  • Mr H.F. Collins
  • Miss D. Mitchell
  • Mr H.G. Walker
  • Miss C Conway
  • Mr T. Mitchell
  • Mr S. Williams
  • Miss N.B. Crichton
  • Mr F.M. Moores
  • Mr S. Wilton
  • Mr C. Eastwood
  • Miss M.I. Nash
  • Mr J. Bristow Young


  • 5 women, 2 men


  • 6 men


  • 1 woman, 5 men


  • 6 men

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


Not listed, but it seems very likely that it was F.E. Doran, the pageant master.

Names of composers

  • Sullivan, Arthur
  • Goss, John
  • Farrant, Richard
  • Wilson, R.H.
  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Manchester Civic Week

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 2000
  • Total audience: n/a


Grandstand capacity: Advertised at 2000 for seating, plus space for 30000 more standing, but the Manchester Guardian estimated that between 70000 and 100000 saw the first performance.1

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Spectators could also just buy a programme for 6d, which gave admission to the standing space of the arena.

Seating accommodation for 2000:
Reserved and numbered: 5s. 9d.
Reserved and numbered: 2s. 4d.
Unreserved: ½d.

Associated events


Pageant outline


The synopses are taken directly from the programme.

Tableau. The Building of the Roman Fort, 1st Century AD

A Roman general is shown examining a plan of the camp, which a centurion is holding up before him, and giving orders with respect to its construction. His wife, well-protected against the cold northern climate, has come on to the half-finished wall, and their little son is kicking, but only in a playful way, one of the Nubian slaves whose work it is to carry the lady’s ‘cathedra’ or litter. The actual work of building is shown as being done by Roman legionaries; the stone and cement needed are carried by local Britons.

Episode I. The Legend of Sir Lancelot of the Lake and Sir Tarquin the Giant

A crowd of men, women and children enter. Tarquin comes from his castle, and on his approach screams of terror are heard. All attempt to escape, but the giant captures and kills some. Sir Lancelot, attracted by the shouts, enters. He challenges Tarquin and they fight. The giant is slain, and then Lancelot unlocks the door of the castle and leads the prisoners forth. All surround him in gratitude and accompany him with cheers as he departs.

Tableau. The Baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria, 627

King Edwin is shown being admitted into the Christian church by Paulinus. The King has thrown aside his crown, sceptre and royal robe in the presence of the Christian God, the King of Kings. The Queen, with whom is her little daughter, is shown thanking God for the conversion of her husband in answer to her prayers. In the background some of Edwin’s subjects are to be seen.

Episode II. The Coming of the Danes. Paganism versus Christianity, 10th Century

Anglian women are seen spinning, weaving, etc. Some sit on the base of the Cross in the background. Groups of children appear. The men and youths of the little settlement (c. 911) prepare their weapons. An atmosphere of fear and suspense prevails. A messenger enters with news of the Danes’ approach. The women and children attempt to flee, but the enemy rush in. A fight ensues, in which many are killed and wounded. The Danes overthrow the Cross and depart. Then enter personifications of the pagan deities: Odin, the God of War; Thor, the God of Thunder; the Goddess Freya, the wife of Odin; and Loki, the Spirit of Evil and Fire. Their presence symbolises the reign of heathenism, soon to give way to a revival of Christianity. After a space Edward the Elder’s Mercians enter, accompanied by a crowd of Anglians and Danes, now living together in amity. They are followed by the King himself. The Cross is set up again, and as ecclesiastics enter and the pagan deities disappear, the people gather around it to receive a blessing before dispersing to begin the work of restoring their homes.

Tableau. The Establishment of Flemish Weavers in Manchester, 1363

Philippa of Hainault, Queen of Edward III, who with her attendants is supposed to have been out in the woods ‘Maying’, is shown visiting a band of weavers from her native country of Flanders. They are showing her specimens of their cloth, which she examines with interest. On the right an old weaver is seated at work at a loom and looking at the Queen of England, but his apprentice prefers to gaze at his daughter, the Queen of his heart.

Episode III. The Romance of Kersal Cell, Time of Third Crusade

The first scene shows a company of knights setting out for the Crusade, taking leave of their ladies and children, their relatives waving farewell. Sir Hugh de Byron is the last to go and bids an affectionate good-bye to his wife, the young and beautiful Lady of Clayton. The knights ride off amid the cheers of the pages, and the ladies wave their handkerchiefs. In the second scene the Lady of Clayton is seen with her maids engaged on a piece of embroidery in which all take a share of the work. Strolling players seek to divert her, but her thoughts are with Sir Hugh, and she is unable to concentrate on her needlework. A page sings a ballad to distract her thoughts, but in the middle of this a messenger comes in with the news of Sir Hugh’s death. The Lady swoons in the arms of her attendants. The last scene shows the funeral procession of the Lady, who has died of grief at the news of her lord’s death. As the procession wends its way along, it is met by a knight returning from the war. The knight proves to be Sir Hugh de Byron, who had been falsely reported killed. On learning who is being buried that day, he casts away his sword and shield and seeks comfort from his confessor, afterwards adopting the monkish garb and taking the vows of Holy Church in the seclusion of Kersal Cell.

Tableau. The Trial of Wyclif, 1377

Wyclif is shown standing, although the Earl Marshal ordered a stool to be brought for him with the words, ‘And you must answer from all these books, Doctor, you will need a soft seat.’ John of Gaunt is seen in the centre brandishing his sword and arguing with the judges, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, while his wife, Constance, is plucking his mantle, lest in his excitement the Duke might inflict actual physical injury on the ecclesiastics.

Episode IV. The Grant of the Charter, 1301

A crowd of townspeople enter headed by their leading men. Then a procession arrives, including the lord of the manor, his steward, clergy, representatives of De Trafford, Hulton, Prestwich, Pilkington, Moston, and other local families. The Charter is shown to the people, the baronial seal is attached, and the document is witnessed amidst much cheering. As the lord of the manor and his party leave, some of the town officials find opportunities for work in restraining the too-exuberant rejoicing of certain individuals in the crowd.

Tableau. The Proclamation Regarding Weights and Measures, 1556

The bellman is shown going his rounds and announcing that on a certain day in the reign of Philip and Mary ‘the Burgesses and others of the Town of Mancestre shall send in alle manere of Weights and Measures to be tried by their Majesties standard.’ The proprietor of a small general provision shop displays much indignation at the summons, while his wife is busily engaged in wiping off some butter which—curiously enough—is adhering to the underside of one pan of the scales. Their young son is seen at the side carrying his bow and arrows, and a beggar girl with a well-fed baby, a cripple, and another boy complete the composition.

Episode V. The Founding of the Grammar School, 1515

A group of rowdy boys appear kicking a football. Trouble arises with a group of revellers, one of whom draws a dagger. The boy’s companions fall upon the assailant and beat him to the ground. At this moment the Watch arrive and several boys are arrested. Bishop Oldham and his friends appear and sadly watch the scene. The Bishop intervenes and speaks to the boys, who kneel and receive his blessing. The Bishop then offers prayer, as the crowd kneels around him, afterwards signing the Foundation Deeds of the school. His sister, Joan Berwick [Bexwicke], provides the revenue by purchasing certain corn mills on the Irk. The episode concludes with a glimpse of the schoolmaster and his scholars at work.

Tableau. William Crabtree and the Transit of Venus, 1639

In the tableau the draper [William Crabtree] is seen at the supreme moment when the shadow of Venus appears on the paper illuminated by the sunlight admitted through a suitable aperture. Mrs Crabtree is holding back their little son, lest he should disturb his father during the occurrence of the long-anticipated phenomenon.

Episode VI. The ‘Young Pretender’, 1745

The old bellman enters, followed by children. A crowd from various parts gather round as he announces the coming of Prince Charles’s troops. The vanguard now arrives, consisting of Helen Carnegie, Sergeant Dickson and Sandy Rolls, drummer, to obtain recruits from the crowd. ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ enters with a crowd of men, women and children. The band of bagpipers play and the church bells ring merrily. Shouts and cheering are heard and a general proclamation is made. The subsequent retreat of the Prince towards Scotland marks the conclusion of the episode. As he and his men depart, the crowd stand aloof, some displaying active hostility. The band plays ‘Farewell, Manchester’ as the scene closes.

Tableau. Humphrey Chetham’s Life Dream, c. 1640

Chetham is shown in a reverie, filling as it were in imagination the ruined halls and deserted gardens of the old College with the boy-life which was so near to his heart. The educational interests of the scholars of the future Chetham’s Hospital are symbolised by the children with the books (a charming group which may also serve as a reminder of the Library housed in the same building), and the physical side of their life is indicated by drilling, leap-frog, wrestling and other games.

Episode VII. The Luddites, 1750–1820

In this episode we glimpse part of an early Manchester cotton factory. The machinery is working and it is night time. An overseer grimly urges on the flagging energies of the operatives, comprising men, women and little children. The intermittent red glare from the right denotes the stoking of the steam engine. Above the hum and rattle of crankshafts and shuttles, murmurs of approaching Luddites from the left increase as they draw nearer. They clamour for entrance, and the overseer anxiously regards the safety of the machines. The enraged Luddites force an entry, the now terror-stricken operatives cease work, and the overseer is seized. Observing the red glare, some of the rioters move off and wreck the engine-house. The machinery stops, and in the turmoil of attack the inadequate lights are extinguished. In the semi-darkness the overseer is forgotten, and the revengeful mob attack and destroy the visible machine. The engine-room wreckers return, giving warning of the approaching militia. Their work accomplished, the Luddites make their escape, shouting and singing their marching song, leaving behind amidst the wreckage one of their number entrapped—a victim of the falling framework.

Tableau. The Siege of Manchester, 1642

In the foreground, on the Salford side of the bridge over the Irwell, near the site of the present Victoria Bridge, a group of Royalists is represented. To the left a soldier is standing outside the building which, founded as a bridge chantry, was later used as a prison. On the bridge a Parliamentary soldier is seen firing a musket from a gun-rest, such as was needed for accurate and long-continued firing, owing to the excessive weight of the weapon.

Episode VIII. The Launch of the Emma, 1828

A crowd enters. Cheers are raised as the Misses Grime are given the bottle of wine which is to be used at the launch. All pass on towards the New Quay. Soon cries of lamentation are heard [the boat hit the side of the river and sank, with as many as 47 people drowning], and the episode closes with this reminder that the progress of the community has once again brought about experiments that have involved the sacrifice of the individual.

Tableau. John Kay and the Fly Shuttle, 1753

John Kay is imprinting what may be a last kiss on his wife’s cheek before being carried to a cart in which it is hoped he may be got away before the rioters who are seen in the background break in. His son, on the bench, indicates how near the danger is, and his two daughters are weeping in fear for their father’s safety. The epoch-making invention, the fly-shuttle itself, the cause of all the disturbance and ill-feeling, is represented on the floor.

Episode IX. The Cotton Famine, 1861–1865

Distressed operatives enter. Some too weak to walk far sink on benches on the way. At one side, a soup-kitchen carries on its beneficent work. Some of the poor sufferers will not avail themselves of this ‘charity’, and go proudly away. Lorries laden with bales of cotton enter amidst general rejoicing. Some of the women even kiss the cotton, the symbol that ‘hard times’ are now at an end, the relief of the people being so great that they spontaneously break into singing the ‘Doxology.’ All go off with the lorries as they proceed on their journey to the factories.

Tableau. The Opening of the Bridgewater Canal, 1761

The first barge is shown starting for a load of coal. The bargee’s wife is steering, and her twin babies are also on board. The great Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton, who spearheaded the scheme to construct the canal to transport coal from his Worsley mines to Manchester and Salford, is in the centre of a group on another barge. With him is James Brindley, the canal engineer, and on the banks trumpeters sound a fanfare as the coal barge leaves.

Episode X. The Great War Effort, 1914–1918

All that can be attempted here is to introduce representatives of the various military and civil elements of the population, and to indicate in some slight measure the great services rendered by each during the period of the war. The finale is symbolic of the unity of past, present and future. All episodes of the Pageant will combine to show this unity. The Pageant will conclude with Elgar’s ‘Epilogue’ and ‘It Came from the Misty Ages.’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Sir Lancelot du Lac (fl. c.500AD) legendary Knight of the Round Table
  • Eadwine [St Eadwine, Edwin](c.586–633) king of Northumbria
  • Paulinus [St Paulinus] (d. 644) bishop of York and of Rochester
  • Æthelburh [St Æthelburh, Ethelburga] (fl. 664) abbess of Barking
  • Edward [called Edward the Elder] (870s?–924) king of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Philippa [Philippa of Hainault] (1310x15?–1369) queen of England, consort of Edward III
  • Wyclif [Wycliffe], John [called Doctor Evangelicus] (d. 1384) theologian, philosopher, and religious reformer
  • John [John of Gaunt], duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399) prince and steward of England
  • Oldham, Hugh (c.1450–1519) bishop of Exeter
  • Crabtree, William (bap. 1610, d. 1644) astronomer
  • Charles Edward [Charles Edward Stuart; styled Charles III; known as the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie] (1720–1788) Jacobite claimant to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones
  • Chetham, Humphrey (bap. 1580, d. 1653) financier and philanthropist
  • Kay, John (1704–1780/81) inventor of textile manufacturing machinery
  • Egerton, Francis, third duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803) canal promoter and colliery owner
  • Brindley, James (1716–1772) civil engineer

Musical production

A choir of 1000 voices drawn from various church choirs and choral societies, accompanied by massed bands.

Conductor: Mr R.H. Wilson, MusBac (Oxon), FRCO

Incidental music was played by the bands during the various tableaux, and the choir sang:
  • ‘O Gladsome Light’, Sullivan.
  • ‘O Give Thanks’, Goss.
  • ‘St George and the Dragon’, Old English.
  • ‘Lavinian Air’, Old English.
  • ‘Lord for Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake’, Farrant.
  • ‘When the King Enjoys his Own Again’, Old English.
  • ‘Ye Mariners of Engalnd’, 18th century.
  • ‘In Summer Time’ (Sellinger’s Round), Old English.
  • ‘Out of the Shadows’, Wilson.
  • ‘It Came from the Misty Ages’, Elgar.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Manchester Guardian
Manchester Evening Chronicle
Manchester Evening News
Daily Express

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.

Price 6d. (Including ticket of admission).

References in secondary literature

  • Hulme, Tom. ‘Civic Culture and Citizenship: The Nature of Urban Governance in Interwar Manchester and Chicago’. PhD Thesis. University of Leicester, 2013.
  • Wildman, Charlotte. ‘The ‘Spectacle’ of Interwar Manchester and Liverpool: Urban Fantasies, Consumer Cultures and Gendered Identities’. PhD Thesis. University of Manchester, 2007.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Newspaper Cuttings, Manchester Civic Week, vol. 1, 1926, F942.7389 M173. Manchester Local Studies Library).

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Francis Archibald Bruton. A Short History of Manchester and Salford. Manchester, 1924.
  • Woods, J.F. The Story of Manchester.


The Manchester Historical Pageant of 1926 was the first major pageant held in the city, staged as part of wider Civic Week celebrations. The pageant was performed only twice, the second time being a disaster due to terrible weather, but it was still, nonetheless, an impressive success in terms of attendance—with as many as 100000 being reported for the first performance. In many respects it was a classic 1920s urban pageant (for example, Glasgow 1928). It had a fairly large cast, though not as large as the later pageants in Manchester and many other cities in the 1930s (see entries for Bradford 1931 and Wakefield 1933); the production focused largely on spectacle, and scenes were speedily shown with less dialogue than in the Edwardian pageants; it was still mostly historical, but it did also contain the fantasy elements that crept in more obviously in the 1930s; and it also contained glimpses of the industrial and modern narrative that came to be so important during the Great Depression. The organisers were drawn from the municipal, ecclesiastical, and industrial elite. The 2000 amateur actors reflected every level of society, coming from the general populace of the city. The organisers split Manchester into districts, each responsible for a different episode. Interested district residents—many of them younger people—were then mobilised by local church leaders.12 A choir of 1000 and three massed bands also took part.13 It was public, popular, yet also participatory, and the press argued that it fashioned a local consensus of civic feeling. As the Manchester Evening Chronicle cried: ‘You’re in it! We’re all in it! You may not be acting the part of Sir Lancelot, or defending Manchester from the Roman marauders at Heaton Park, but you’re in it!’14

Manchester’s Civic Week in 1926 was spread over the entire city, with citizens being invited to tour municipal buildings, factories and warehouses, and visit a special textile exhibition. Before the beginning of Civic Week, a twenty-foot long banner was hung from the Town Hall, proclaiming: ‘The City keeps open house and provides a wealth of attractions. Invite your friends and tell them to bring their curiosity.’15 The Mayor argued that Civic Week would stimulate industrial expansion by attracting attention to the city’s manufacturing and distribution facilities.16 Sir Percy Woodhouse, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Civic Week Committee that Manchester’s trade was ‘rather like the Curate’s egg, only good in places’, providing ‘all the more reason why every possible step should be taken to bring our manufactures before the world.’17 As well as the revival of trade and industry, it was clear that the aim was also to create civically minded citizens. In the Official Handbook of Civic Week, the Mayor addressed the everyday inhabitant: ‘You are asked to look at Manchester, posed openly before your eyes, and to see how it does the trick of leading the world industrially’, adding that ‘the real wish of all concerned in this week is that you should see the customary conduct of the establishment.’18 Citizens were to be shown the city from both the front and behind the scenes, to see how the city council governed.

The pageant took place in the Bandstand Amphitheatre in Heaton Park and was an attempt to show the importance of the city—both historically and in the present. A giant backcloth of towers, steeples and warehouses was silhouetted, and four great pedestals supported floodlights that illuminated the stage. Many episodes and tableaux were performed simultaneously, creating a complex and constant visual spectacle. Between the episodes, a curtain was closed and unclosed by a group of Boy Scouts marching with banners.19 An episode that showed the launch of the ship Emma was particularly novel. Reflecting a lack of inclination to deal with the ‘difficulties of production’ of working with water theatrically, the episode was shown symbolically. Rows of striped cardboard waves and the mast of the ship were visible above the stage, with human passengers aboard. But the Manchester Guardian was rather disconcerted that the sinking of the ship was met with raucous laughter from the crowd—who, its reporter suggested, had assumed ‘that something had gone amiss, not in history but in their pageant.’20 The souvenir would have put right this assumption—since, as well as describing the episodes, it put a lot of effort into explaining their historical context, perhaps not least because much of this would have been missing in the pageant due to its lack of dialogue.

Lasting about three hours, the pageant featured a rich selection of historical material. Many of the episodes were based on the murals of significant events in the city’s history painted by the Victorian artist Ford Madox Brown and which decorated the Town Hall. This device had close affinities with the approach of Frank Lascelles, probably the most famous pageant master of this period, who also used historical and narrative paintings of pre-Raphaelite artists.21 As with the earliest pageants in the twentieth century, the focus of the narrative was at least partly about connecting the local to the national, and even the imperial. In the introduction to the souvenir, the story was described as showing how Manchester ‘plays its part—a manifold part—in the gradual development of our land, and becomes what the world knows it to-day—one of the foremost cities of the Empire.’22 As F.E. Doran, a local theatre producer, clergyman, and the pageant-master (who went on to produce the Manchester Co-operative Pageant of 1944), put it, Manchester’s history was ‘rich in episodes that have affected the development not only of England but of human progress’.23 But the pageant was mostly a grand and introverted tale of civic power—both the industrial rise of Manchester and the historical importance on which that was built. Doran concentrated on balancing these two narratives in both his preface to the souvenir as well as the actual episodic narrative. As he explained, Manchester was both a ‘synonym for all that is modern and industrial’, while also having a history ‘as old as that of any sleepy village that has not been awakened by the tramp of progress.’24

Certainly, more than anything, the pageant was about celebrating Manchester as a proud community. As Doran argued, the pageant aimed to

symbolise the growing power of the people through the centuries, to indicate the part played by Manchester people in moulding the thought, institutions and commerce of the country, to emphasise that beyond the veil of smoke and the forest of chimneys our civic life is based on heroic and romantic incidents, the endeavours and struggles of the common people, [and] to recall forgotten glories so that we may appreciate Manchester’s contribution to world progress.25

The educational purpose of the pageant was to project these values forward. As Doran concluded: ‘The future is in the hands of you who look on this pageant.’26

The pageant began, as was common, with Roman times, and specifically the building of a Roman fort in the 1st century; it ended, as some other pageants in the 1920s and 1930s also did, with a recognition of the sacrifice of local soldiers in the First World War—a symbolic show of ‘the unity of past, present and future.’27 The inclusion of the First World War, as the Guardian put it, ‘ended the pageant on a page as near up to date as need be.’28 In between, the episodes can be seen as split into several themes. First, there was the association of both locally and nationally famous and important figures with the city—such as the (fictional) battle between Sir Lancelot and Tarquin the Giant, who lived in Manchester Castle; the baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria in 627 AD; the Romance of Kersal Cell, which featured the tragic life of Sir Hugh de Byron during the Third Crusade; William Crabtree, an important figure in the development of astronomy; the visit of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, in 1745; and a dream of Humphrey Chetham, a renowned local philanthropist. Second, there was the inclusion of large and exciting scenes that were dominated by crowds, fighting, and danger. These included the Coming of the Danes in the tenth century, which also included depictions of Norse gods such as Odin, Thor and Loki; the Siege of Manchester in 1642; the destruction of factory machinery by the Luddites in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the launch and capsize of the ship Emma in 1828. Third, the pageant portrayed the growth of industry and commerce in the city. Doran claimed that it was not the purpose of the pageant to show the city’s industrial development, but many of the later episodes did just that. For example, the Establishment of Flemish Weavers in Manchester in 1363; the end of the Cotton Famine in 1865; the development of the Fly Shuttle by John Kay in 1753; and the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. A final, fourth, theme was the attention given to the growth of municipal power and regulation in the city—shown through episodes dealing with the Grant of the Charter in 1301, and the Proclamation regarding Weights and Measures in 1556.

The first performance of the pageant was undoubtedly a success, with attendance estimates of between 70000 and 100000—greatly outnumbering the seating space of 2000 and the originally envisioned standing space of 30000. As the Manchester Guardian said, it could ‘truthfully be called a mammoth audience.’29 More generally, the Guardian gave the pageant a positive write-up, arguing that ‘the outstanding success of the pageant lay in its decorativeness—in the beauty of shifting colour in the scenes that were acted; in its concentrated harmonies in the tableaux.’30 For the second showing, however, the crowd numbered a paltry 5000—the poor turnout being due, it seems, to that scourge of pageantry: bad weather.31 But the elite of Manchester, at least, must have thought that the pageant was a successful contribution to the industry and civic culture of the city and a fitting type of celebration for the commemorations. In 1932, for example, there was a huge Lancashire Cotton Pageant staged at Belle Vue. And in 1938, during the city’s charter centenary, a Historical Pageant of Manchester much more ambitious than the Civic Week show was staged in Platt Fields. F.E. Doran was again involved, though not as the main pageant master, and many of the episodes and themes were drawn directly from the 1926 effort.


  1. ^ ‘Memorable Spectacle at Heaton Park’, Manchester Guardian, 4 October 1926, 11.
  2. ^ Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  3. ^ The programme also notes “according to a fanciful legend, which Malory narrates, ‘Manchester Castle’ was one inhabited by a Saxon giant named Tarquin, who was the terror and scourge of all the country round, until the gallant knight, Sir Lancelot of the Lake, challenged him to single combat, and, assisted by the Fairy Vyvyan and the Magic Tree, vanquished him. Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  4. ^ The programme notes, referring to the paintings on which the pageant was based (see summary), “This tableau must be taken as symbolising the early days of the textile industry in our district and not as a representation of an actual incident in local industry, for although Flemish weavers may have settled here, there is no evidence of it nor of such a royal visit as the painting shows.” Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  5. ^ The programme notes, [Although this incident took place in the chapter-house of old St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the fact that Wyclif’s great protector was John of Gaunt, the powerful Duke of Lancaster, and the possibility that the reformer had certain sympathisers in these parts may serve to justify the inclusion of this subject in the Manchester series of historical pictures. Its inclusion here may also call to mind certain landmarks in the general ecclesiastical history of Manchester.” Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  6. ^ The programme notes “We should also bear in mind that though it seems a far cry from the simple methods of the Court-Leet to the present elaborate system of municipal government, yet the one is but the natural outcome of the other.” Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  7. ^ The programme notes “William Crabtree, who was a draper in Broughton in the early 17th century, was as an amateur greatly interested in astronomy, and he had been able to help a young curate of Hoole named Jeremiah Horrox, who had similar tastes, in his calculations relating to the passing of the planet Venus between the sun and the earth—a phenomenon which would provide them with important data for further study. Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  8. ^ The programme notes “In the long line of Manchester benefactors no name is held in higher honour than that of Humphrey Chetham, the founder of the Hospital and Library which bear his name.” Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  9. ^ The programme notes “This episode may be taken as symbolic of the growing importance of Manchester in commerce and of the leading part our city has played in the provision of improved means of transport by road, water and railway.” Historical Pageant of Manchester. Manchester, 1926.
  10. ^ The programme notes “Manchester’s share in the Great European War was worthy of her historic past and of her importance as one of the great cities of the British Empire. The enthusiasm at the outbreak of hostilities, the recruiting of the ‘Pals’ and other regiments, the wonderful heroism displayed by her soldiers, the sacrifice by so many of them of life and health for the cause of their country, the noble efforts to ‘carry on’ by those left at home, the local support of relief funds and war loans, the hospitality shown to Belgian refugees—all these and many other details of the years 1914 to 1918 are for ever in our memories. The rejoicings at the Armistice, the commemorative services held each November 11th, the erection and unveiling of the Cenotaph, and the problems resulting from the conflict—many still awaiting solution—will also, it is safe to say, never be forgotten.” It is unclear what the episode actually depicted.
  11. ^ It is likely that the pageant was also reported in most local newspapers in the North-West.
  12. ^ ‘Manchester World’, Christian World, 2 September 1926, 77.
  13. ^ ‘200 Years of Manchester in a Night’, Manchester Evening Chronicle, 3 August 1926, 5.
  14. ^ ‘Sunshine Smiles on Glorious Send-Off’, Manchester Evening Chronicle, 2 October 1926, 69.
  15. ^ ‘City’s Open House’, Manchester Evening News, 7 August 1926, 8.
  16. ^ ‘Report of the First Meeting of the Civic Week Advisory Committee’, 23 March 1926, 3, Miscellaneous Souvenirs of Manchester Civic Week, Manchester Local Studies Library. MSC 942.7391.
  17. ^ Ibid., 4–5.
  18. ^ Manchester Civic Week Committee, Manchester Civic Week: Official Handbook (Manchester, 1926), 27.
  19. ^ ‘Memorable Spectacle at Heaton Park’, Manchester Guardian, 4 October 1926, 11.
  20. ^ Ibid., 11.
  21. ^ Deborah Sugg Ryan, ‘”Pageantitis”: Frank Lascelles’ 1907 Oxford Historical Pageant, Visual Spectacle and Popular Memory.’ Visual Culture in Britain, 8, no. 2 (2007), 68.
  22. ^ Historical Pageant of Manchester (Manchester 1926), 3.
  23. ^ F.E. Doran, ‘Producer’s Preface’, in Historical Pageant of Manchester (Manchester 1926), 4.
  24. ^ Ibid., 4.
  25. ^ Ibid., 4.
  26. ^ Ibid., 4.
  27. ^ Historical Pageant of Manchester, 18–20.
  28. ^ ‘Memorable Spectacle at Heaton Park’, Manchester Guardian, 4 October 1926, 11.
  29. ^ Ibid., 11.
  30. ^ Ibid., 11.
  31. ^ ‘Shivering Dancers’, Daily Express, 11 October 1926, no page number (cutting in Newspaper Cuttings, Manchester Civic Week, vol. 1, 1926, F942.7389 M173. Manchester Local Studies Library).

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Manchester Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,