Jubilee Festival Historical Pageant
- Monmouth Pageant
English Folk Dance and Song Society
Place: Vauxhaull Fields (Monmouth/Trefynwy) (Monmouth/Trefynwy, Monmouthshire, Wales)
Number of performances: 2
1 June 1935, 2.30pm and 7pm
Monmouth Race Course
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- General Pageant Producer [Pageant Master]: Rathbone, E. Marion
- Chairman: Captain Geoffrey Crawshay
- Hon. Sec.: L.F. Muriel, Esq.
- Hon. Treasurers: Miss M. Cowan and G.L.B. Sharp, Esq.
- Hon. Musical Director: Miss Eustace Hill
- Hon. Organising Director: Miss G.M. Griffin
Mrs E. Marion Rathbone was the 'general pageant producer'.
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- President: Lady Mather Jackson, OBE
- Vice-President and Chairman: The Lady Raglan
- Hon. Sec.: Mrs Trewren Vizard
- Hon. Treasurer and Hon. Assistant Branch Organiser: Miss M. Cowan
- Branch Assistant: Miss V. Wright
- Organiser and Head Branch Teacher: Miss G.M. Griffin
- Mrs Bevan
- Mrs Godfrey
- Mrs Ellis Jones
- Miss Newman
- Mr T.G. Cowan
- Mrs Graham
- Mrs Lewis
- Dr W. Rhys
- Miss Fletcher
- Miss Harrold
- Miss Monahan
- Mr A.C. Smith
- Miss Ford
- Miss Jenour
- Rev. T. Morgan
- Miss B. Tyson
General Purposes Sub-Committee:
- 66 women, 11 men
- Chairman: Lt. Col. David, DSO
- 9 men, 0 women
- Chairman: J.R. Gabriel
- Hon. Sec: Miss G.M. Griffin
- 5 men, 9 women
Episode 2 Committee:
- Chairman: Miss Baker-Gabb
- Hon. Producer: Mr Alick Morgan
- Producer of the Miracle Play: Miss Gethin-Davis
- Hon. Secretary: Mrs Robert Godfrey
- Hon. Treasurer: Miss Cadle
- 8 other women, 2 other men
Episode 3 Committee:
- Hon. Producer: Lilian A. Mills
- Hon. Secretary: Helen Gordon
- Mistress of Robes: Doris Freeman and Joan Searle
- Property Mistress: Mrs Ireland
- Announcer: Hilda F. Treharne
- Finance Committee: Miss B. Tyson, Miss Chard, and Mrs Trigg.
Episode 4 Committee:
- Hon. Producer: Huw J. Huws
- Hon. Stage Manager: Ken Fishwick
- Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Watts
- Chorus Leader: Fanny Shibko
- Chairman: Mr Caely
- Hon. Secretary: Miss S. Rogan
Episode 4 Pageant Committee:
- 17 women, 3 men
Episode 5 Committee:
- Hon. Producer: Rev. Owen Jones
- Hon. Secretary: J.E. Norris Beattie
Episode 5 Pageant Committee:
- 4 women, 3 men
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
- Lewis, W.M.
- Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da
- Bach, Johann Sebastian
- Byrd, William
W.M. Lewis, MA, MusBac
Numbers of performers500
Object of any funds raised
The English Folk Dance and Song Society in aid of Branch Funds.
Linked occasionSilver Jubilee of King George V.
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Seats: 7s. 6d.; 5s.; 3s. 6d.; 2s. 6.
Standing enclosure: 1s.; Children 6d.
Associated eventsSide shows and stalls
Tea tents and buffet
Prologue. 1 June 1935
An announcer describes how: ‘We stand beneath the shadows of a tower wherein a might King was born—Henry of Monmouth. Although we shall not see him here depicted, his spirit is alive to-day. We come to honour another King, as great as he, our own Blessed Monarch. Unity and loyalty have bound us all too him and to our country. In the first scene behold the ties of kinship, in the second a whole townspeople united in a common aim, [in] the third we shall see a mighty prince who represents the King, [and] the people honour him. Next behold how the rich will help the poor, and lastly shall come one of our great Heroes whose sense of duty is a guiding star.’
Scene I. The Baptism of Roger Mortimer at Usk in 1374
The opening of the scene is the people gathering together, waiting to see the procession pass to the church. Mummers come, a Monk rides through, a Knight and his Squire pass on their way to the Castle, some young people join in a dance. A minstrel tells in a ballad of the old victories of the Black Prince, compared to the current general belief in his physical weakness. They are seldom seen in the country, and the minstrel reminds the crowd that ‘What’s seldom seen is soon forgot.’ He also tells, however, how all shall come again when the child is grown to a man. The procession, with people of importance such as Bishop of Llandaff, Roger Cradock, the Benedictine Abbot of Gloucester, and John de Hastings, enters the church and music is heard. Outside, the common folk entertain themselves with song and dance until the procession emerges and goes back to the Castle. The people cheer for St George and Merrie England, and kneel for the Bishop’s Blessing. Gradually everyone disperses.
Scene 2. The Story of the Bells of St Mary’s [Abergavenny] 1500–56
Part I. 1500
In front of the church, the arrival of the Bailiff with two heralds causes excitement. Prior and Monks appear from the Priory. The Bailiff asks for alms for the purchase of the bells, which are given. John Powell and his band of Miracle Players perform Noah and the Ark, and are given further alms as payment.
Part II. Fifty Years Later
The Prior and his Monks are gone, their orders suppressed, and their revenues appropriated by the Crown. John Powell has been to London to bear testimony before the Court of Augmentation, in order to save the Bells. Groups of people wait for his return, nervously. A metal merchant appears from Caerlon, here to fetch the bells, and escorted by armed attendants. The crowd begins to turn ugly, before Lord and Lady Neville of Bergavenny arrive and call for amusement while they wait. Children dance the Llanover Reel. John Powell now appears with the Bailiff and Attorney of Bergavenny; they announce the bells have been saved, to great rejoicing and more dancing. All exit to the sound of the bells.
Scene III. The Duke of Beaufort’s Visit to Ruperra Castle, 1684
On the occasion of his tour through Wales, the Duke of Beaufort, accompanied by his two daughters, daughter-in-law, and Lord and Lady Somerset, are entertained by Sir Charles and Lady Kemys at Ruperra Castle. The ducal ‘Progress’ has as its motive the persuasion of the towns of Wales to give up their Charters and buy new ones. At Ruperra the Duke meets Colonel Proger, who presents the names of a number of loyal citizens willing to serve when the charter is granted to Abergavenny. The Scene takes place on the lawn in front of the Castle. While the Duke discusses the matter with Colonel Proger, the rest of the party amuse themselves, some with a game of ‘Shovel Board’, and the maids-in-waiting entertain the crowd by dancing ‘Oranges and Lemons.’ The guests catch the happy mood and perform the stately ‘Pavanne’, followed by ‘Draper’s Maggot.’ The Duke and his party leave for Newport with a fanfare and the good wishes of the assembly.
Scene IV. ‘Cwrw Bach’
This scene presents the old Welsh custom of ‘Cwrw Bach’, which means small beer. This custom was the means of keeping aged widows in peace and comfort in rural Glamorgan. The widow would request from the Master of the Hounds that a hunt meet would begin outside of her cottage. She would then gather ingredients to make beer from local farmhouses, and make beer ready for the great day. The meet would be informed that it was in aid of a widow—they would all turn up and then give donations to the widow.
Scene V. The Visit of Admiral Lord Nelson to Monmouth, August 1802
A family party led by Lord Nelson visit. The people of Monmouth turn out to welcome them, including the Corporation and County Militia Band: ‘Nelson, this Great and Darling Son of the Ocean.’ In the evening Nelson is entertained by the Mayor and the Corporation. Nelson and his party stroll about Monmouth making friends with all and telling amusing anecdotes.
[Seems to be an address to the crowd:]
Thus far, with rough and unable pen
Our unwilling author hath pursued the story,
In little space confining mighty men,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.
‘Take the spirit of the pageant as a willingness to serve and a sense of enjoyment, for happiness and health are next of kin, and from true faith in a Creator, comes willingness to help a neighbour, content of mind and peace to men.’
‘Abide with Me.’
Key historical figures mentioned
- Courtney, William Leonard (1850–1928) philosopher and journalist
- Bolingbroke, Henry (1785–1855) author
- Rumsey, John (fl. 1660–1686) conspirator
- Somerset, Henry, first duke of Beaufort (1629–1700) nobleman
- Somerset [née Capel], Mary, duchess of Beaufort (bap. 1630, d. 1715) gardener and botanist
- Nelson, Horatio, Viscount Nelson (1758–1805) naval officer
Musical productionBand of the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment and also gramophone records loaned by the Welsh National Council of Music.
‘Summer is Icumen In’.
XIV Century Ballad (words modernised by J.R. Gabriel), ‘What’s seldom Seen is Soon Forgot’.
Music specially composed by W.M. Lewis, MA, MusBac, ‘Plainsong with early organum’, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Mira Lege.
‘Sanctus and Hosanna’ from Palestrina’s ‘Missa Papae Marcelli’.
‘Divisions on a Ground’, Norcombe.
‘The King’s Hunt’, Bull.
XIV Century Ballad in praise of the generosity of the men and women of Gwent (Welsh, words modernised by J.R. Gabriel).
Music specially composed by Mr. W.M. Lewis, MA, MusBac.
Between scenes: ‘Sing Me and Chant it’, Morley.
‘Concerto (1st Movement) E Major for Violin and Strings’, Bach.
‘Rondeau from Suite in B Minor for Flute, Strings and Harpsichord’, Bach.
‘The Earl of Salisbury’s Pavanne’, Byrd.
‘Hunting the Mare’.
‘Land of my Fathers’.
‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’.
‘Castleton Garland Dance'.
‘If All the World were Paper’.
‘The Welsh Reel’.
‘Jenny Pluck Pears’.
‘Speed the Plough’.
‘Oranges and Lemons’.
‘The Circassian Circle’.
‘Haste to the Wedding’.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- National Library of Wales: Monmouth 1935 Pageant Book. 1935. J3/6/1.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Jubilee Festival Historical Pageant. 1935. Leaflet. J3/6/2.
- National Library of Wales:
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The Monmouth Pageant of 1935, created by the English Folk Dance and Song Society of Monmouthshire, was staged twice in one day at a racecourse on Vauxhall Fields. It was in recognition of the nationwide Silver Jubilee celebrations for George V, and was also titled the Jubilee Festival Historical Pageant on some promotional material. At the same time as celebrating the Jubilee, the pageant operated as a fundraising and public relations tool for the Monmouthshire branch of the society, which had been formed in 1927 from three existing groups of dancers in Monmouth, Newport, and Crulin, and expanded to become the Monmouthshire and Glamorgan Branch in 1934. 1935 saw more growth, with classes started in five new centres early in the year; yet further expansion was limited by ‘the amount of the annual income’ which it was ‘the aim of this Pageant to increase.’1 As was made clear in the programme, the context of the continuing effects of the Great Depression on this expansion were important; the society hoped to use some of the money to subsidise dance teachers for the societies in ‘Distressed Areas’.2
The pageant was organised primarily by the women of the society, who took the majority of the important roles, such as musical director, organising director, and pageant producer—though the secretary and chairman were men. The dominance of women in the pageant reflected the gender balance of the Branch Officers, who were all women—headed by Lady Mather Jackson and Lady Raglan as President and Vice-President/Chairman, respectively. The 500 performers, drawn from the society, paid their own expenses. Branches of the Society from different towns took individual episodes—again, the episode committees were dominated by women. For the most part, the scenes portrayed related to the town of the branch—such as ‘A Glamorgan Rural Scene’, portrayed by Cardiff and other Glamorgan centres, and ‘Admiral Lord Nelson’s Visit to Monmouth’, portrayed by Monmouth and District.
Professor William Nicholas Roseveare, an elderly historian from the county, provided a surprisingly frank but detailed history of the Borough in the programme. Noting that ‘Monmouth, so unimportant nowadays compared with the sister towns of South Wales which coal, the industrial 19th century, and railways and shipping have made great’ was still, however, ‘rich in the beauty of its life, its history… and the goodness of its houses’.3 The production and narrative of the pageant, however, was simple, lacking a lot of the razzmatazz of many 1930s pageants, while also avoiding the intense historicity of Edwardian pageants. There were only five scenes, plus a simple spoken Prologue and Epilogue. The Prologue began with a welcome address to the audience invoking the spirit of King Henry of Monmouth in celebrating the current ‘Blessed Monarch’. Helpfully, for those watching, it then summarised what the lessons of the episodes would be. The first episode, ‘the Baptism of Roger Mortimer at Usk in 1374’, showed the ties of kinship—and ended with the people cheering for St George and Merrie England. The second told the story of the saving of the Bells of Abergavenny, a lesson about the importance of a whole townspeople uniting in a common aim. The third scene showed the visit to Ruperra Castle by the Duke of Beaufort during his tour of Wales in 1684. Next was a simple episode portraying a rural custom of Glamorgan, ‘Cwrw Bach’ (Small Beer), where aged widows were kept in peace and comfort by local charity. This showed, said the Prologue, how the rich helped the poor. The final scene portrayed the visit of Admiral Lord Nelson to Monmouth in 1802—wildly welcomed by the people of the region who turn out to celebrate his ‘sense of duty’ as ‘a guiding star’. The Epilogue was a simple short verse to the audience, followed by an encouragement of civic duty: ‘Take the spirit of the pageant as a willingness to serve and a sense of enjoyment, for happiness and health are next of kin, and from true faith in a Creator, comes willingness to help a neighbour, content of mind and peace to men.’
The pageant’s themes were non-confrontational; there was no place for Owain Glyndwr, for example, the fourteenth-century hero-rebel. Indeed, there was little Welsh nationalism of a political variety at all, reflecting the complexities of the border county more generally. The Wars of the Roses or the English Civil War, popular in many other Welsh and indeed English pageants, did not feature. Perhaps it would have seemed uncouth, considering the pageant was to celebrate a King, to show the deposing of Charles I. It is perhaps worth noting that Sir Henry Mather Jackson, the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire and husband of the Branches’ President, would state unequivocally two years later that ‘Monmouthshire is not in Wales... We are in England, and I am not going to be added to Wales for any purpose whatsoever.’4 Local community and rural tradition was more to the fore. The avoidance of a provocative narrative probably also reflected the rural tradition and non-confrontational active community citizenship of some women’s organisations in this period (though the society was mixed gender).5 Of course, the motive of the pageant was simple—to raise funds and attract dancers. So, unsurprisingly, in the place of much dialogue or historical reflection, there was a lot of folk dances—most of which had been collected by the pioneer of the society, Cecil J. Sharp.
There seems to be little surviving press coverage of the pageant.6 It is likely that it was one of thousands of events being held to commemorate the Jubilee in the county. It was, in any respect, a fairly small-scale affair, with only two performances, and organised by a small institution rather than a town government. Correspondingly, its aims were also fairly limited, being to raise a bit of money and encourage more dancing in the region. In this aspect, the Monmouth Pageant displayed the adaptability of the pageantry form. Conversely, by paying little attention to the more challenging and nationalistic aspects of Welsh history, it underlines just how patriotic many Welsh pageants in the mid-twentieth century could be.7
- ‘History of the Branch’, in Monmouth 1935 Pageant Book (1935). No page numbers. National Library of Wales. J 3/6/1.
- Julia Raglan, ‘Introduction’, in Monmouth 1935 Pageant Book (1935). No page numbers.
- Professor W.N. Roseveare, ‘Summary of the History of the Ancient Borough of Monmouth’, in Monmouth 1935 Pageant Book (1935). No page numbers.
- Chris Williams, ‘Who Talks Of My Nation?’ In The Twentieth Century (eds. Chris Williams and Andy Croll), vol. 5 of The Gwent County History (Cardiff, 2013), 342-362.
- M. Andrews, The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The Women’s Institute as a Social Movement (London, 1997); C. Beaumont, ‘Citizens not Feminists: The Boundary Negotiated between Citizenship and Feminism by Mainstream Women’s Organisations in England, 1928–39’, Women’s History Review 9 (2000), 411-429.
- ‘Pageants in Wales 1909–1949’, Dr. D.R. Davies Collection, National Library of Wales. 23/1.
- See, for example, the Conway Pageant of 1927, Land of Our Fathers in 1951, and the Pageant of Anglesey in 1951.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Jubilee Festival Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1131/