Historical Mayflower Pageant

Other names

  • Plymouth Mayflower Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Millbay Drillhall (Plymouth) (Plymouth, Devon, England)

Year: 1920

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 18


1–13 September 1920

Evening performances at 7.30pm. Special matinees at 3pm on Tuesday 7, Wednesday 8, Thursday 9, Friday 10 and Saturday 11 September.

2 more performances held on 13 September due to ‘the huge success which has attended the production and the fact that hundreds of people have been unable to gain admission’.1

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Parry, Hugh
  • Pageant Master: Richards, Charles G.
  • Music: Ronald A. Chamberlain
  • Secretary: Miss Josephine Chaney, AGSM

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee:

  • Chairman: G.P. Dymond
  • Secretary: A.J. Conibear


The pageant was commissioned by the Mayflower Council of England and the National Council of Evangelical Churches.

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

  • Parry, Hugh
  • Harris, Rendel


Rendel Harris wrote the script of the Council Chamber scene at Leyden, and the John Alden and Priscilla scene in the Epilogue. The rest of the script was written by the Rev. Hugh Parry

Names of composers

  • Lewis, H. Elvet

Numbers of performers


Men, women, children.

Financial information

No exact figures, but it seemed likely it made a profit, since some of the funds were donated.

Object of any funds raised

The profits from the final two performances were given to the Plymouth War Memorial Fund.

Linked occasion

Mayflower tercentenary celebrations 1620-1920.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 2400
  • Total audience: n/a


‘Considerably over 2000’ for first performance.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 9d.–1s. 3d.

11s. 9d., 8s. 6d., 5s. 9d., 3s. 6d., 2s. 4d., and 1s. 3d.
1300 seats were ‘cheap’.3

Associated events

At the place from which the Pilgrim Fathers embarked, a silver model of the Mayflower containing the certificate of freedom presented to the late Dr W.H. Page, American Ambassador, was presented to Mr J. Butler Wright, the American Charge d’Affaires, who received it on behalf of Mrs Page. Lady Astor, for Mrs Page, presented the Mayor with a specially printed and bound copy of the late Ambassador’s speech in Plymouth shortly after the entry of the United States into the war.

Meeting in the Guildhall arranged as a culmination of the commemoration of the nationwide-celebrated tercentenary. Addresses by Lord Reading and Mr Butler Wright.

The English-speaking Union hosted a luncheon at the Guildhall, including the Mayor and Corporation and many other distinguished people.

Opening ceremony of the Sailors’ Hostel at the Octagon.
Opening ceremony of the Sailors’ Home in Vauxhall-street.

Laying of a foundation-stone for the Salvation Army’s Mayflower Hall in Exeter street, using five blocks of granite brought from New Plymouth, and were laid by Mr Butler Wright, Lord Reading, Lady Astor, Mr Francis Powell (president of the American Club), and Commissioner Higgins, of the Salvation Army.
International Conference on “The Call of the Present Situation to International Protestantism” with speakers representing America, Great Britain, France, Holland, and Switzerland.

A Free Church demonstration was addressed in the Guildhall by Dr Meyer, president of the Free Church Council; Dr Parkes Cadman, of Brooklyn, USA; Professor Van Nes, of Leyden; and Rev. Jean Autrand, of Le Vigan, France.

Civic Banquet at the Royal Hotel, with messages from the King; the Prime Minister and others; a cabled greeting from Provincetown, Mass., the first landing place of the Pilgrims; and speeches from the Burgomaster of Leyden and Dr Plooij, also of Leyden. The Mayor was presented with a copy of the resolution of greeting from the Leyden City Council, a medal made in Holland to commemorate the tercentenary, and a bound volume containing copies of documents in the Dutch archive relating to the Pilgrim Fathers and compiled by [ill] Harris and Dr Plooij.’

Detailed Programme of Events

Three destroyers were moored off Drake’s Island, and illuminated at night.

Friday 3rd September, evening
  • Mayoral reception and concert at the Guildhall.
Saturday 4th September
  • Literary and historical conference at George-Street Picture House, Dr Rendel Harris chairing. Papers by Dr D. Plooji and Prof. Eckbog, Leyden, Rev. D. Macfayden and Rev. W.H. Burgess, Plymouth.
  • Swimming gala off Promenade Pier, including competition for the Mayflower Trophy Silver Cup (Americans only).
  • Young people’s gathering in Drillhall.
  • Production of Rev. Carey Bonner’s cantata, “The Ship of Adventure.”
  • Garden party (by invitation of Miss Rooker, Manhamead).
  • Steamer trip up the Hamoaze, to Cawsand Bay, and around the Breakwater.
  • Mayflower festival at Guildhall by massed local choir of 600 voices and special soloists, conducted by Dr Henry Coward.
  • United religious celebrations in Guildhall, the Mayor presiding. Speakers: Bishop of Exeter; Rev. Dr Scott Lidgett, hon. secretary, Free Church Council; President Lynn Harold Hough, North-Western University, America; Commandant E.J. Higgins (representing General Booth); Rev. A.A. Green (representing the Chief Rabbi of England).
Sunday 5th September
  • Service at the Mayflower Stone, Barbican, conducted by Rev. E.P. Powell, Exeter. Addresses by Dr Parkes Cadman, Brooklyn, USA; Rev. Arthur Pringle, Surrey; Rev. E.W. Coltman.
  • Mayor and Corporation attend St Andrew’s Church.
  • Service of praise in Drillhall, Dr Henry Coward, Sheffield, conducting.
  • Men’s mass meeting at Peverell Park Wesleyan Church, speaker, Rev. Dr Scott Lidgett, chairman, Sir. A. Shirley Benn, supported by the Earl of Reading (Lord Chief Justice), Deputy-Mayor (Alderman J.Y. Woollcombe, Revs. W.A. Chettle, T. Wearne; music by Cecilian Male Choir, conductor Mr T. Downing.
  • United Sister and Brotherhood meeting, Charles Parish Church. Subject: “The Message of the Mayflower.” Speaker, Rev. E.S. Lines, Bishop of Newark, USA, a descendant of Elder Brewster.
  • Mayor and Corporation attend Sherwell Congegrational Church; preacher, President Lynn Harold Hough, USA; subject “The Ampler Puritanism.”
  • Service of praise in Drillhall; Mayor to attend, and Dr Henry Coward to conduct. Special services in the churches throughout the borough.
Monday, September 6th
  • International conference at Corn Exchange: “The call of the present situation to international Protestantism”; speakers: USA, Prof. Benjamin W. Bacon, Yale University; Great Britain, Rev. Thomas Nightingale, general secretary, National Free Church Council; France, Rev. Pastor J. Jezequell; Holland, Prof. Van Nes, University of Leyden; Switzerland, Prof. Choisy, Geneva.
  • Opening of Sailors’ Hostel, the Octagon, by the Earl of Reading, supported by Lady Astor, M.P., Sir A. Shirley Benn, M.P., Admiral Sir Cecil Thursday, Sir Chas. Tarring, Messrs. J. Butler Wright, USA Charge d’Affaires, London; Rev. T. Eynon Davies (general secretary, British and Foreign Sailors’ Society), the Mayor of Plymouth to preside.
  • Similar ceremony at the Sailors’ Home, Vauxhall Street.
  • Foundation stone laying, Salvation Army, Mayflower Hall, Exeter-street.
  • Civic Mayflower luncheon at the Guildhall in honour of the Mayor, Mayoress, and Corporation, and people of Plymouth, under the auspices of the English-Speaking union, the Earl of Reading presiding.
  • Pageant procession from Millbay Park to Barbican to join the civic procession to the Hoe.
  • Civic and historical celebrations at Barbican and Hoe. Presentation of freedom casket to representative of late Dr Page and procession to the mass gathering of young people on Hoe. Children’s choir from Plymouth schools conducted by Rev. Carey Bonner.
  • National tribute to the Pilgrim Fathers by the Prime Minister and other recognised leaders of British thought. The Earl of Reading presided, other speakers included Sir Arthur Shirley Benn and Viscountess Astor.
  • Musical Hour in the Guildhall, conducted by Mr T. Martin, Plymouth.
  • Mayoral banquet at Assembly Rooms (by invitation only).
  • Free Church demonstration, Guildhall; chairman, Rev. Dr F.B. Meyer, president, National Free Church Council; speakers, Dr Parkes Cadman, Brooklyn, USA; Professor Van Nes, University of Leyden; Rev. Pastor Jean Antrand, of Le Vigan, France.
Tuesday 7th September
  • Motor charabanc excursion to Princetown, Ashburton, Newton Abbot, Torquay (by invitation only).
  • Lecture by Dr Rendel Harris, at George-Street Picture House, on the finding of the Mayflower; luncheon at Torquay Town Hall; tour around Torquay; and garden party at Torre Abbey (all by invitation only).
  • Depart Torquay, stopping at Totnes, where the party will be officially welcomed by the Mayor and members of the Council at the Guildhall, and ancient monuments will be given by Alderman Windeatt and Mr H.R. Watkin.
  • Public meeting at Plymouth Guildhall. Mr Francis E. Powell, vice-president of the English-Speaking Union, will preside.
Wednesday 8th September
  • Lady Astor’s garden party at Saltram (invitation only).
  • Theatre Royal gala performance
Thursday 9th September
  • Visitor to Devonport Dockyard (by invitation)
  • Opening of St Budeaux Red Triangle hut by Viscountess Astor, presided.
  • New Palace Theatre gala performance
  • Friday 10th September
  • Gala performance of The Mayflower by W. Edward Stirling and Alfred Hayes, at the Repertory Theatre.
  • In addition to the above programme, excursions by road and rail to various places of interest, and plays and items connected with the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth, at various places. Band performances daily on the Hoe.

Pageant outline

Prologue. The Minister’s Study,1920

A girl and a boy are playing with a small toy ship as their father, the Minister, comes in. He announces that it is story time; the children express their hopes that it won’t be something too moralistic, or a tale they have heard before. They ask for a story about the ship instead; he relents, and announces that it will be ‘a story about you, and me, and America.’ Beginning the tale of the Mayflower voyage, he reveals that they must first go back to Nottingham and the little village of Scrooby in 1608, when the people of the village are holding their revel.

Episode I. The Pilgrims in England

Scene I. Scrooby Village, 1608

Raucous dancing and music is in full swing, with drinking and frivolity. Meg, a serving maid, enters and announces a variety of violent competitions that will take place. After colliding with John Robinson after dancing, Meg apologises; Robinson reacts with good humour, though expresses light dismay that the revel is taking place on the Lord’s Day. Robinson’s companion, William Bradford, rejects the offer of a dance from Meg, as he and Robinson make their way to the Manor for more important business with Brewster. Old Tom ruminates on the strange happenings at the Manor, and is humorously chided by Meg. The dance continues until it is broken by the arrival of an armed crowd shouting angrily. William Blanchard, a soldier (Poynes), and Bartholomew, a Catchpole, arrive; they are dragging in the venerable Richard Clyfton—abused as a ‘Brownist’, ‘Separatist’, and ‘Gospeller’. They are taking him to York Castle, much to the anger of Meg and other locals. All of a sudden Brewster, Robinson, and Bradford enter and insist Clyfton be released. Blanchard bids Poynes to read out a proclamation of King James, which confirms the realm’s opposition to ‘certain ministers who, under pretended zeal of reformation, are the chief authors of divisions and sects among our people’, promising that ‘We shall not fail to do that which princely providence requireth at our hands; that is, to put into execution all ways and means that may take from among our people all grounds and occasions of sects, divisions, and unquietness.’ Blanchard manages to persuade the villagers to support the King. When Brewster, despite Blanchard’s mockery, also declares his loyalty to the King, Blanchard announces that they will stay at his house that evening. A toast is drunk to the King, as Blanchard suspiciously watches Brewster and the other alleged separatists.

Scene II. Kitchen in Scrooby Manor, 1608

Blanchard, Poynes and Bartholomew raucously drink Brewster’s ales, while flirting with Meg. After she leaves they discuss their plans to take the Brownists to York to claim the reward, though Poynes puts forward some reservations about the morality of their work. Blanchard is unrepentant, and declares any Brownist as a traitor—regardless of their moral intentions. Blanchard tells Poynes and Bartholomew that he believes Brewster had previously helped Brownists escapes, misusing his powers gained as a representative of the former Queen. He resolves to make good by capturing Brewster and bringing him to justice, promising rewards to Poynes and Bartholomew if they help.

Scene III. The Hall in Scrooby Manor, 1608

The Separatist men and women, together with a few children, are met for worship—with Clyfton and Robinson presiding. They discuss with those attending the dangers they face in the quest for freedom of worship, and the possibility of leaving for a different and more tolerant country, such as Holland. Some react with fear at the idea of leaving and going into the unknown, while others insist it is their only choice to escape persecution. Clyfton states that it is the Lord’s wish for them to leave England. Brewster affirms that it would be hard to leave, but even harder to stay—under suspicion and threat. Meg now rushes in and announces that the Catchpoles are onto them, as loud knocking is heard at the door. Realising it is useless to resist, Brewster lets Blanchard and the others into the hall. Blanchard announces that they are all under arrest, Brewster’s request for a warrant being met with a drawn sword. Just the Catchpoles try to arrest the men, a crowd of yokels, led by Meg, rush in and roughly handle them. The yokels gain the upper hand, announcing that they will take the Catchpoles to be dunked in Scrooby Water, as the Pilgrims escape.

Scene IV. A Tavern near Boston Quay, Three Nights Later

The Captain of the Lion’s Whelp is drinking at a table, before being approached by Blanchard, who announces that he knows that the Captain has agreed to take the Brownists. The Captain draws his sword but is stopped by Poynes and Bartholomew. Blanchard bribes the Captain and encourages his loyalty to the King, explaining that if the Brownists can be caught without a King’s license to leave they can be arrested. The Captain agrees to hand the Separatists over when they arrive at Boston, declaring ‘the larger purse hath ever mine allegiance.’

Scene V. The Quay At Boston, Night Time

Many soldiers are gathered, awaiting the Separatists, who the Captain announces will arrive at any minute. Gradually they arrive, women, men and children, in small groups, weary from the long journey. The treacherous Captain meets Brewster and tells them all is well. Some of the women express their sorrow at leaving England, though Robinson and Brewster remind them of the persecution their mother country has shown them. Clyfton incites them to prayer, asking for God’s support. The soldiers now excitedly enter, and proclaim the Pilgrims under arrest—for their having no license. Robinson expresses worry for the women and children, who cry out in fear.

Episode II. The Pilgrims in Holland

Scene I. The Council Chamber at Leyden, 1609

A Burgomaster presiding over the Assembly explains to the gathered councillors that Leyden has fallen out of favour with the British Ambassador, and thus the King, due to its receiving of fleeing Brownists. They discuss the response that should be given to the Ambassador—whether to assent to sending the Brownists back to England, or whether to tell the Ambassador to ‘go to the Devil’. The clerk of the court reads a previous petition from the English separatists who have settled in Leyden, asking for permission to remain freely, and then a previous reply from the council that affirmed that they ‘refuse no honest persons free ingress to come and have their residence in this city’. The Burgomaster decides that they cannot therefore refuse what has already been granted, and replies as such to the Ambassador. All in the council give their consent.

Scene II. A Street in Leyden, 1620

The street is gaily be-flagged for the anniversary of Holland’s independence from Spain. Captain Myles Standish enters and flirts with a Dutch maiden, before dancing—somewhat awkwardly. Brewster and Robinson enter with their wives—and are surprised to see the Captain dancing. They talk of their plans to sail to Virginia to set up a new community, but lament that they have lost some of their number to temptations like local Dutch women. Robinson affirms that in the new land they will be able to ‘set up a holy commonwealth unto the Lord, and, if so be, find means to spread the Gospel among the heathen of the great Western world.’ Robinson also declares, however, that he will be staying behind to look after those who remain, before telling them that the King’s men are chasing Brewster because of his printing-press activities. Brewster announces that he must return to Southampton, where they will, God willing, meet again. All leave. Blanchard and Bartholomew enter, the latter somewhat inebriated. Bartholomew uncertainly declares that he has captured ‘Brewer’ or Brewster, but angers Blanchard when it becomes clear that he is not totally sure where the prisoner is. Myles Standish now passes by; Bartholomew asks him if he knows where Brewster is, lying that they are friends. When their ruse is discovered, Blanchard threatens Standish, reminding him that he is still a King’s soldier and must obey the King’s will. Standish refuses, and leaves. The bumbling pair of Catchpoles argue further.

Scene III. A Room in the House of Thomas Brewer, Choir Alley, Leyden, where the Pilgrim Press is Kept in Secret, 1620

Thomas Brewer is busy with books, before Standish enters hurriedly and explains that the Catchpoles are onto Brewster. Brewer explains that Brewster has already set sail to Delftshaven. They start to hide the books, the press already stowed away. Loud knocking is heard; Standish leaves for another room, before Bartholomew enters, still intoxicated and amusingly confusing Brewer’s name with Alester, Maltale, Brewhouse, etc. Bartholomew announces that he is under arrest for his crimes in Scrooby—clearly having confused Brewer with Brewster. He fetches Blanchard, while Standish re-enters and hides from their view behind a door. Blanchard angrily realises that Bartholomew has messed up; Standish now reveals himself and declares that Brewster has long gone, ‘far beyond thy reach, Master Catchpole’.

Scene IV. The Deck of the Speedwell, 1620 (Presumed)

The departing Pilgrims are on board, along with those who are going to stay in Leyden awhile, such as Robinson and his wife. A few Dutch are on the Quay, watching the leavers. The Pilgrims sing a hymn before Bradford enters and says his farewells. Mary Brewster and Bridget Robinson bid an emotional farewell, as does Dorothy Bradford. Bridget declares that they will find the liberty of Christ, and perfect freedom—a ‘heritage unto the coming generations.’ The ship’s bell is heard as sailors prepare to embark. John Robinson says an emotional farewell, placing his trust in God, before all finally embrace. Robinson and the Leyden Pilgrims leave the quay onto the ship, before Robinson says a final prayer. Sailors present their muskets and fire a volley, before the ship’s cannon is fired, and the ship leaves.

Episode III. The Pilgrims and the ‘Mayflower’

Scene I. An Inn at Southampton Overlooking the Quay, 12 August 1620

Three days before the leaving of the Mayflower from Southampton. Mary Brewster and Priscilla Mullins talk casually together about the origins of theirs and others’ names—Mary explaining that Brewster, due to tradition, will also be known as Williamson. Brewster enters, soon followed by Standish and John Alden. Standish introduces Alden, who wants to sail with them to Virginia; Brewster consents, before introducing Priscilla to Alden. After Alden and Priscilla leave, Carver, Bradford, Winslow and Weston (the agents of the Merchant Adventurers) enter. They now argue about the cost and conditions of the voyage, Weston being more concerned with making money than anything else. Brewster pleads that they cannot pay such a high cost for the voyage, but Weston is unrelenting and leaves angrily. Bradford, Carver, Winslow and Brewster lament that their journey will not happen, before Mary gives them renewed confidence that God will help them.

Scene II. The Barbican, Plymouth, 6 September 1620

The Mayflower is ready to sail, as the Pilgrims gather in readiness on the Quay. Captain Jones comes forward and tells Brewster that he is set to go. Bartholomew now enters, and explains he seeks Brewster—‘an arch villain’. Jones doesn’t know who he means—since he knows Brewster as Williamson. Bartholomew, amusingly, doesn’t realise that he is now in the company of Brewster—who mocks the useless Catchpole face-to-face. Blanchard now enters with two officials, Myles Standish close behind. Again, they ask for Brewster—who produces the passenger list, showing that there is no-one of that name on the muster. The officers, satisfied, leave. Blanchard argues with Bartholomew, before leaving in a rage. The ship’s bells clang. Brewster addresses the gathered people of Plymouth, thanking them for their hospitality, before bidding farewell to his brethren. The Pilgrims and their Plymouth friends join in singing a hymn as the former board the ship. The flag of St George is unfurled on the ship, and the Mayflower slowly leaves the Quay. Blanchard re-enters, and realises that he has lost Brewster for good.

Scene III. The Cabin of the Mayflower, 6 November 1620

The Pilgrim men, headed by William Brewster and including Bradford, Carver, Winslow, Standish and Alden, are gathered at a table. Brewster announces that they have reached a destination—Cape Cod, rather than Virginia. Due to their charter from King James being for Virginia, he declares that it is ‘expedient that we proceed to combine ourselves into a body politic for our common safety and well-being.’ Bradford thus reads out the text of a document confirming their government under the King and God, and thus establishing the colony. All swear amen on the document. John Carver is proposed by Brewster as the first Governor, and supported by Winslow; all consent, and Carver accepts. They begin signing the compact, as they prepare to go ashore.

Scene IV. The New England Shore, Plymouth Rock, Evening

As the song ‘The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers’ is heard, the storm abates, and the shallop approaches the Rock. Mary Chilton, assisted by John Alden, is the first to set foot, followed closely by Priscilla and some of the Pilgrim leaders. Other Pilgrims have landed elsewhere. They all then gather around Elder Brewster and sing their Song of Thanksgiving.

Episode IV. The Pilgrims in New England

Scene I. A Clearing in the Woods. The First Settlement, 16 March 1621

The Pilgrim men are gathered for a council, over which Governor Carver is presiding. Carver, Bradford, and Winslow discuss the problems of defending the settlement against ‘the Indians’. Alden and Standish favour brute aggression, yet Brewster and Carver prefer to ‘overcome evil with good, and suspicion and hate by love.’ A woman’s cry is then heard, before Priscilla, Mary Brewster, and other women enter—having fled what they thought was a ‘Redskin’ invasion of the camp. It turns out that it is one lone Chief of the Pemaquid tribe: Samoset. He explains in broken English that he comes in peace, and blames previous aggression towards the ‘paleface’ incomers on the Nauset tribe. They all proclaim peace and goodwill, and bid Samoset to inform the Native peoples that they have come in peace.

Scene II. The House of Miles [sic] Standish [date unknown]

John Alden writes at a table as Myles Standish reads. They talk about Julius Caesar, both amazed at his multitude of skills—from military affairs to writing. After reading some more, Standish embarrassedly informs Alden that he has something to tell him. He explains that, since Rose Standish died, he has been sick and lonely. He has, however, grown attracted to Priscilla. He asks Alden, who he thinks to be better at words, to write a letter for him to express his love. Alden is dismayed and embarrassed, and at first refuses. When Standish asks in the name of friendship, Alden cannot refuse, and assents to his request.

Scene III. The Home of Priscilla [date unknown]

Priscilla is seated at a spinning wheel, singing the Hundredth Psalm as she works. John Alden comes in, much to the pleasure of Priscilla. She tells him that she has been thinking of him all day, and how she misses England. He informs her that he brings an offer of marriage from Myles Standish. She reacts with a degree of indignation, asking why he does not woo her himself. Alden is embarrassed and explains that he is busy and has no time. This angers Priscilla further, who gives Standish no chance. Alden pleads earnestly, reminding Priscilla of the Captain’s courage, skill and godliness, not to mention his high-born pedigree. As he goes on his description becomes more intense, much to the humour of Priscilla. Eventually she laughs and declares: ‘Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?’ Completely taken aback, he rushes out of the house as she laughs.

Scene IV. A Clearing in the Woods (as In Scene I)

Some months later. It is now the wedding of John Alden and Priscilla, presided over by Elder Brewster. Priscilla is all of a sudden alarmed by the sight of Standish approaching with Samoset—Standish having supposedly been killed in conflict with the natives some three months previously. Standish explains that he had merely been captured, until set free by the tribe of Massasoit. Alden is embarrassed, having married Priscilla in Standish’s absence. Standish reacts well and humorously, informing Alden that they still have their friendship. He extends his well-wishing to Priscilla and kisses her hand. Samoset now introduces the Chief of the Massasoit, with a number of ‘Indian Braves’, who have come in peace. Brewster welcomes them. Massasoit, humorously, explains that he wants ‘peace and fire-guns’. Governor Carver is fetched. Brewster announces: ‘The marriage of John and Priscilla is the harbinger of another between White and Red; may it be a symbol and a prophecy of yet another union—the union of the old world and the new, in which each shall give its best to the Commonwealth of Man and the Kingdom of God.’ Pilgrim soldiers now enter with Governor John Carver, William Bradford, and Edward Winslow. Carver greets Chief Massasoit, and they both agree to the terms of a peace treaty (Samoset translating). After both signing, they smoke the pipe of peace. A song of thanksgiving is sung.

Epilogue. The Home of John and Priscilla, Some Years Later

Priscilla and John toy with a large round crystal—a gift from the Ancient Medicine Men of the Indians. Priscilla explains that it can supposedly show the past and the future. They look into it and see the sailing of the Mayflower and the blossoming of their own relationship. They then look into the future, and see ‘strange things’: ‘men marching and counter-marching by swift millions… the frontiers and the boundaries of old aristocracies broken… the landmarks of vast Empires removed… the People beginning their own landmarks, and all others… being removed.’ John then sees the old ‘Mayflower’ returning eastward and homeward (presumably signifying America’s coming to the aid of Britain during World War I). The stage darkens, and the Angels of Benediction are seen. They bless the adventurers and discoverers, and the faithful and the Army of God, ending: ‘Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’

The Finale. The Pilgrim Spirit Working its Way through the Life of the Modern World

As the Battle Hymn of the Republic is heard, a large company of male Pilgrims enters singing their paean of triumph, closely followed by female Pilgrims singing in unison. Then come the several nations of the world—Britain and her Colonies, America and her Dependencies, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, China, Japan, Africa, and many others. Finally comes the figure of Liberty, with her torch alight. She takes the central pedestal and invites the Nations to pay homage, each lighting their own torch from hers. When all torches are alight a Pilgrim comes forward and apostrophises Liberty—praising her for her all conquering power of truth, conscience, and just victory. Out of the background the symbol of the Cross flashes, as the Pageant ends with a great chorus of praise.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Brewster, William (1566/7–1644) separatist leader
  • Robinson, John (1575/6?–1625) Church of England clergyman and separatist theologian
  • Clifton, Richard (c.1553–1616) separatist minister in the Netherlands [also known as Clyfton, Richard]
  • Bradford, William (1590–1657) a founder of Plymouth Colony
  • Carver, John (d. 1621) colonial governor
  • Winslow, Edward (1595–1655) colonial governor
  • Standish, Myles (c.1584–1656) soldier and colonist
  • Weston, Thomas (d. 1644x7) merchant and colonial adventurer
  • Massasoit (c.1600–1661) leader of the Algonquian Indians

Musical production

Choir of 250 voices with full orchestra under the direction of Mr David Parkes, ARCO, MusBac.

  • ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.
  • ‘Let God Arise’.
  • ‘There is a Land’.
  • ‘God is our Refuge’.
  • ‘Let us Now Praise Famous Men’.
  • Final song to Liberty, Rev. H. Elvet Lewis, MA 
  • The Hundredth Psalm (Episode IV Scene III).
  • ‘The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers’ (Episode III Scene IV).
  • Song of thanksgiving (Episode III Scene IV).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Western Morning News
The Times
New York Times
Manchester Guardian

Book of words

Parry, Hugh. The Historical Pageant of the Mayflower. London, 1920.

Price: 1s. 6d.

Other primary published materials

  • Whitfield, H. ‘Mother Plymouth’: A Souvenir of the Mayflower Tercentenary together with the Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1620-1920. Plymouth, 1920.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Leaflet: ‘Historical Mayflower Pageant’, Plymouth, 1920.’ Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. 3642/3750.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Herbert, Chas. The Young Pilgrims. London, 1920. The costumes are from illustrations in the book.
  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Courtship of Miles Standish. London, 1859.
  • Shelley, Percy. Hellas. London, 1822.


Taking place inside the Millbay Drillhall in September 1920, Plymouth’s Mayflower Pageant, really a pageant-play, was staged to celebrate the voyage of the famous ship exactly four-hundred years earlier. It was written and produced by the Rev. Hugh Parry, who also took one of the leading roles (Will Blanchard). Parry was Minister of Harecourt Chapel in London and had already produced another play with a religious theme—the Historical Pageant of Non-Conformity in London in 1912. He was commissioned for the Plymouth pageant by the Mayflower Council of England (of which Prime Minister David Lloyd George was president) and the National Council of Evangelical Churches.6 Like Southampton’s large Mayflower pageant the same summer, it was a novel story; much of the action took place in Holland, then at sea, and finally in America. Again, similar to Southampton’s pageant, it mixed a heavy amount of comical farce with the more serious topic of religious freedom, while also hinting at present-day instability. Perhaps most interesting now, and an aspect that also garnered much attention at the time, was the way in which the pageant and the wider celebration of which it was part became an expression of Anglo-American cooperation in the context of wartime and post-war diplomacy, offering a basis for shared interests and outlook, and a corrective to contemporary radical ideologies.

The Observer newspaper went straight to the point when it described how there was a ‘private aspect’—a ‘string of receptions, banquets, conversaziones, garden parties, and excursions through fair Devon, to which a limited number of distinguished American visitors are invited, that they may go home and tell their friends first of the gripping handshake and friendly converse which those things mean’—and a ‘wider aspect’—a ‘series of public functions by which the inhabitants of Plymouth may join touch with the more exclusive inner series of gatherings’. Most ‘effective’ in ‘bringing home to Plymouth people the historical and political significance’ of the Mayflower, the newspaper argued, was the pageant.7

In comparison to the norms of pageantry, where place was the hero, Plymouth actually barely featured in the storyline. It was, instead, a tale of religious freedom across the Western world. The tale began in the present, as a minister’s children played with a toy ship. Using the Mayflower as the basis for the children’s ‘story-time’, the action was then transported back to Scrooby Village, Nottinghamshire, in 1608. This episode set the pace and themes for the first half of the pageant: the curtailing of religious freedoms; the coming together of the ‘Brownists’ or ‘Separatists’ who would eventually become Pilgrims; and the merciless but ineffectual pursuit of the pilgrims by a catchpole and a soldier—whose incompetence provided the comedy. After the pilgrims escaped the catchpole for the first time, aided by the local people, many of their number still came to be arrested at the port after being double-crossed by a ship captain. In the next episode the action transferred to Leyden, Holland, where the Pilgrims (following their release in Britain) had escaped. The Leyden Council Chamber debated whether to refuse the asylum of the pilgrims and, reacting with much more compassion than the British King, they reply to the British Ambassador that they will not return the emigrants. After further bumbling by the catchpole, including mixing up the names of Brewer and Brewster, the Pilgrims succeed in leaving for England. In the third episode the events of Southampton and Plymouth were portrayed—including the introduction of a romantic element in the relationship of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. At several points the journey was threatened, but the Pilgrims place their faith in God. Eventually they evade the catchpole for the final time, and set sail for America—creating a constitution and governmental structure along the way. In the final episode the fortunes of the pilgrims are shown—notably including some peace-making attempts with the Native Americans. Most of the narrative of this final episode, however, focused on the burgeoning relationship of Priscilla and Alden, reflecting the light tone of most of the pageant and perhaps its attempts at lowest-common-denominator popularity.

The epilogue was thus John and Priscilla, some years after, looking into a ‘crystal ball’. At this point the pageant made its most serious points: they saw ‘strange things’: ‘men marching and counter-marching by swift millions… the frontiers and the boundaries of old aristocracies broken… the landmarks of vast Empires removed… the People beginning their own landmarks, and all others… being removed.’ John then saw the old ‘Mayflower’ returning eastward and homeward (presumably signifying America’s coming to the aid of Britain during World War I). The stage darkened, and the Angels of Benediction appeared. They blessed the adventurers and discoverers, and the faithful and the Army of God, ending ‘Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ In the Finale this theme was further heightened, with the Pilgrim Spirit portrayed through the British Empire, Allied and neutral forces of the First World War entering, followed by the figure of Liberty.8 A Pilgrim came forth and praised Liberty for her all-conquering power of truth, conscience, and just victory, as, in the background, the symbol of the Cross flashed; religion, liberty and the Allied victory were thus entwined through the story of the Mayflower.

As well as the pageant, the whole town was turned into a festival. The streets were decorated with flags, and schools and businesses closed on certain days, as thousands of visitors flocked to the town.9 Plymouth’s comprehensive programme of events (see associated events) was part of a wider celebration of the Mayflower commemoration in Britain. As already mentioned, Southampton also staged a large pageant (see entry for Southampton Mayflower Pageant). Beyond these two key towns, there were also conferences, services, excursions and meetings in Scrooby, Austerfield, Sturton, Epworth, Lincoln, Torquay, Dartmouth, Boston, Manchester, Billericay, Chelmsford, Colchester, Norwich, Yarmouth, Cambridge and Harwich.10 Parry’s Pageant was, following Plymouth, also reproduced in London, Manchester, Lincoln, Huddersfield, Norwich, and elsewhere—an example of one of the earliest pageants to be replicated, in contrast to the highly specific early ‘civic’ pageants.11

Civic ceremony, despite the lack of a ‘place’ narrative in the pageant, still animated the whole event. From parades and commemorations to ceremonies and singing, the focus was upon cementing the bond between America and Britain, and the importance of Plymouth to both countries. The First World War, of course, had already brought Plymouth into contact with the USA and her military. In June 1917 the Americans had taken over Victoria Wharf as a base; within two weeks there were two destroyers, sixty submarine chasers, and over 3000 service personnel based in the port.12 In the 1920s it was still very much a services town, with four battalions of infantry with brigaded corps troops, the Artillery in the Citadel, the Royal Marines at Stonehouse, and the shore-based sailors at Keyham.13 One important gesture was the presenting of a silver model of the Mayflower and certificate of freedom to the late American Ambassador, Dr W.H. Page. Received on his behalf by the American Charge d’Affaires, Mr J. Butler Wright, Mrs Page reciprocated with a specially printed and bound copy of a rousing speech the late Ambassador had given in Plymouth shortly before the entry of the USA into the war.14 Wright then spoke to the crowds assembled, and maintained that the silver ship

seems to me to typify the cause which prompts it, and the spirit of recognition which lies beneath it, and expresses the hope that we, like him [Page], and that gallant vessel, may always move forward; bows straight ahead, breasting the adverse currents of misunderstanding, jealousy, and insidious propaganda, until we reach the goal which it had reached, and that we ourselves may be impelled by the same courtesy and impelling winds of understanding and common sentiment which filled those swelling silver sails.15

Such ‘high civic’ events were seemingly popular—as many as thirty thousand gathered on the Hoe for the main day of the celebrations, with ‘tens of thousands’ more fringing the civic procession from the Guildhall to the Barbican and the Hoe.16 For the main Mayflower ceremony on the Quay the civic elite mingled with American and Dutch visitors, before the British National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner were played by the band of the Royal Garrison Artillery. The Mayor then announced to the cheering crowd that telegrams would be sent to His Majesty the King and the President of the United States, expressing ‘the hope that the unity and friendship established may long continue amongst the nations for the furtherance of peace and prosperity throughout the world.’17 Smaller organisations also clamoured to be part of the celebration—with auxiliary occasions, like the opening of a Sailors’ Hostel, shoehorned into the programme.18 At the same time as the celebrations there was also an International Conference on ‘The Call of the Present Situation to International Protestantism’, with a range of international representatives, reflecting the concerns that Protestantism might not maintain relevance in the changed circumstances.19

Speeches given during the celebrations highlighted the importance of the occasion to the general populace. During a speech at a united religious service at the Guildhall, the Earl of Reading (Lord Chief Justice) declared:

To-day the ideals of democracy are being challenged in no uncertain fashion, and the dictatorship of one class of the community is being exalted as the ideal at which civilization should aim. But true democracy knows no dictatorship, nor will tolerate any. The same spirit which animated the Pilgrim Fathers of old animates their descendants and the descendants of their countrymen today.20

He went on to specifically identify class relations, pointing out that, instead of the ‘tyrannical Monarch’ portrayed in the pageant, it would be ‘a class tyranny not less unjust and far more dangerous because so much more difficult successfully to make head against.’ At the same meeting, the Rev. Dr Scott Lidgett declared: ‘The Mayflower went out as an act of separation. We want to see the Mayflower return laden with its treasure as an act of international peace and religious reunion’. Moreover, the Bishop of Exeter ‘impressed on his audience the urgency of unity, national and religious, and the unity of classes.’ 21 These themes circulated widely through the popular portrayal of the celebrations and the speeches of the many British and American civic representatives who orated.

At a large mayoral banquet towards the end of the celebrations the motives of the various participants in the Mayflower commemoration were further made clear. In a reply to the Mayor’s telegram, the King affirmed his ‘fervent hope that the problems arising out of the reconstruction of the world may be solved in a spirit of mutual forbearance and understanding to the advantage of the English-speaking peoples.’22 Prime Minister David Lloyd George also sent his own greetings, highlighting that the Pilgrim ‘spirit’ was ‘just as much needed now’ in order to ‘revive in the minds of the modern world the ideals of which the Puritan Fathers stood so steadfastly.’23 Admiral Sir Cecil Thursby argued that, while the British Navy ‘did not want to monopolise the sea’, it looked to ‘American kinsmen’ for help in securing freedom and commerce on the waves. The American Charge d’Affaires, J. Butler Wright, drew attention to the spectre of a ‘fanatical disease called Bolshevism’—a temptation he thought could be overcome, for example, by the type of fervent civic ‘atmosphere which surrounded the town’ during the celebrations.24 Clearly, then, the Mayflower tercentenary was as much about Anglo-American diplomatic and economic arrangements, and social and political instability, as celebrating either history or religious diversity.

Of course, the whole celebration was still flagged up in the local press as a symbol of Plymouth’s enthusiasm for history and civic pride, doing ‘full justice to itself’.25 The Times was a bit more cynical, ruminating on how there was ‘more anxiety locally on the prospects of the Pageant than respect for the feelings of the vanished Pilgrims’.26 Regardless, the town got well into the spirit of the occasion. As the Western Morning News described, ‘the traders led the way’ in flying ‘flags of all nations, code flags, and streamers’ but ‘private residents [also] responded loyally to the Mayor’s request that they should decorate their dwellings.’27 It was also, undoubtedly, an opportunity for the town to make money—an aspiration of pageantry that had been evident from the movement’s very earliest days.28 Mayflower souvenirs were available across Plymouth, with one crafty deck-chair dealer advertising his wares ‘as used by the Pilgrims.’29

Public opinion seemed to be mostly positive. Strong praise for the pageant predictably came from the Western Morning News, which reported that the first performance was ‘applauded’ with ‘contagious enthusiasm’ by the audience.30 The Times described how the pageant was ‘beautifully staged and well lighted’ and ‘took on a breadth, a power, and pathos’.31 The Observer declared it ‘at present too long’ but still advised that ‘any person who gets the chance to see it should not miss it.’32 Certainly the pageant was a success in attendance terms. While the converted Drillhall only held about 2400, it was staged an impressive 16 times—extended by two performances from its original run due to demand.33 Following what was originally meant to be the final performance, the joint organizer, C.G. Richards, was carried on the shoulders of pageanteers to the stage, where he told the audience that the pageant had ‘achieved success far beyond the most sanguine anticipations’.34 The Mayor added that the pageant had been one of ‘the leading and most interesting features of the Mayflower celebrations, a clean and educational entertainment which had enabled many thousands of Plymothians to become conversant with the history of the Pilgrims.’35 General ebullient celebrating and backslapping followed from all involved.

Following the end of the celebrations the Bishop of Exeter seemed to reflect the general opinion of the press and the organisers when he summarised that the three main outcomes of the events were the promotion of good feeling between the US and Britain, the opportunity of expressing affection for Free Churchmen, and a celebration in an age of ‘miserable quarrelling.’36 In many senses the Bishop was right. While the Plymouth Mayflower Pageant of 1920 may have engaged with the history of the Pilgrims three hundred years earlier, it was certainly a product of its times. The pattern of thought shown in the speeches of civic dignitaries and the pageant ending itself reflected more general fears of instability in the face of perceived threats of industrial and political radicalism in both Britain and the United States—a hangover from the strikes of the late war years, and symptomatic of events both in Russia and at home.37 Celebrations and pageants were an educational measure, then, which sought to shape a certain type of democratic citizen: one that eschewed political radicalism and supported the status quo.38 To achieve this, the celebration was imbued with ideas of both local/civic and national pride, demonstrating the complex nature of patriotism and identity in the inter-war years.39


  1. ^ ‘Pageant Presents’, Western Morning News, 13 September 1920, 8.
  2. ^ ‘Mayflower Pageant’, Western Morning News, 2 September 1920, 3.
  3. ^ ‘Mayflower Pageant’, Western Morning News, 28 August 1920, 5.
  4. ^ ‘Gulf of 300 Years Bridged’, The Western Morning News, 7 September 1920, 5.
  5. ^ ‘Mayflower Fetes’, Western Morning News, 28 August 1920, 5.
  6. ^ Hugh Parry, The Historical Pageant of Non-Conformity, as Produced at the Royal Horticultural Hall, London, February 12th to 17th, 1912 (London, 1912). This pageant was produced in cooperation with the Women’s League of the Congregational Union. Parry went on to write other pageants and plays, such as Oliver Cromwell. An Historical Play (London, 1922); The Historical Pageant of Faith and Freedom (London, 1926); Mayflower Plays. A New Series of Plays for Amateurs (London, 1932–36); and many more in the 1930s.
  7. ^ ‘The “Mayflower” Fetes at Plymouth’, The Observer, 5 September 1920, 11.
  8. ^ For more on League of Nations pageants, which took similar steps in showing the united front of international forces, see Helen McCarthy, The British People and the League of Nations: Democracy, Citizenship and Internationalism c.1918–45 (Manchester, 2011).
  9. ^ ‘Gulf of 300 Years Bridged’, The Western Morning News, 7 September 1920, 5.
  10. ^ ‘Tercentenary of the Pilgrim Fathers’, The Times, 3 July 1920, 49.
  11. ^ ‘Pageant of the Mayflower’, The Times, 26 August 1920, 8.
  12. ^ John van der Kiste, Plymouth (Stroud, 2009), 109.
  13. ^ Crispin Gill, Plymouth: A New History. Vol II: 1603 to the Present Day (Exeter, 1979), 183.
  14. ^ ‘Gulf of 300 Years Bridged’, 5
  15. ^ ‘Imposing Scenes’, The Western Morning News, 7 September 1920, 5.
  16. ^ ‘Notes in the West’, The Western Morning News, 7 September 1920, 5.
  17. ^ ‘Imposing Scenes’, 5.
  18. ^ ‘Gulf of 300 Years Bridged’, 5.
  19. ^ Ibid., 5.
  20. ^ ‘Notes in the West’, 5.
  21. ^ Ibid., 5.
  22. ^ ‘Mayoral Banquet’, The Western Morning News, 7 September 1920, 5.
  23. ^ Ibid., 5.
  24. ^ Ibid., 5.
  25. ^ ‘Imposing Scenes’, 5.
  26. ^ ‘Mayflower Pageant’, The Times, 2 September 1920, 11.
  27. ^ ‘Plymouth Pageant’, Western Morning News, 2 September 1920, 3.
  28. ^ Ayako Yoshino, Pageant Fever: Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England (Tokyo, 2011), 69–92.
  29. ^ ‘Plymouth Pageant’, 3.
  30. ^ ‘Mayflower Pageant’, Western Morning News, 2 September 1920, 3.
  31. ^ ‘The Mayflower Pageant’, The Times, 3 September 1920, 8.
  32. ^ ‘The “Mayflower” Fetes at Plymouth’, 11.
  33. ^ ‘Pageant Presents’, Western Morning News, 13 September 1920, 8.
  34. ^ Ibid., 8.
  35. ^ Ibid., 8.
  36. ^ ‘Big Hearted Britons’, Western Morning News, 13 September 1920, 8.
  37. ^ A. Hagedorn, Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919 (New York, 2007); R.K. Murray, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919–1920 (Minneapolis, 1955); C. Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (London, 2009), 143; J. Lawrence, Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics From Hogarth to Blair (Oxford, 2009), 121; J.E. Cronin, Labour and Society in Britain 1918–1979 (London, 1984), 241–42; Helen McCarthy, The British People and the League of Nations: Democracy, Citizenship and Internationalism c.1918–45 (Manchester, 2011), 21–22.
  38. ^ Peter Brett, ‘Citizenship Education in the Shadow of the Great War’, Citizenship Teaching and Learning 8, no. 1 (2013): 56–64.
  39. ^ Tom Hulme, ‘Putting the City back into Citizenship: Civics Education and Local Government in Britain, 1918–1945’, Twentieth Century British History, 26, 1 (2015), 26-51.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Mayflower Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1166/