The City of Sheffield Centenary of Incorporation, 1943

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: City Hall (Sheffield) (Sheffield, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1943

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 1


24 August 1943, 7pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant master: Peach, Lawrence Du Garde
  • Producer: Laurie Lingard
  • Musical Adviser and Organist: C.H.C. Biltcliffe, FRCO, LRAM
  • Chorus Master: E.H. Taylor, LRAM, ARCM

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • Lord Mayor, H.E. Bridgwater
  • Town Clerk, John Heys

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

  • Peach, Lawrence Du Garde

Names of composers

  • MacMahon, Desmond
  • Verdi, Guiseppe
  • Gounod, Charles
  • Weber, Carl Maria Von
  • Elgar, Edward
  • Linstead, George
  • Longstaffe, Ernest

Numbers of performers

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Centenary of the foundation of the city.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3000
  • Total audience: 3000

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Introduction. The Herald and Vulcan

Episode I. The First Charter

Thomas, Lord de Furnival, grants the First Charter to Sheffield in 1297: ‘To all Free Tenants of this Town and their heirs, to hold in fee and heredity, freely, quietly, well, and in peace, for ever.’

Episode II. The Watch.

History and Legend:

Here, simple men
Made, of their skill,
The implements of peace,
Not edged to kill,
But fashioned to the needs
Of simple husbandry.
Here was quiet living.
Through the mist of years
Little remains
Of the ancient times,
Save where, in old rhymes,
We glimpse romance.

Features: A Man of the Greenwood, A Cardinal Archbishop, A Most Unhappy Queen.

Episode III. The Cutlers of Hallamshire

The men who toiled
With busy hand and brain, from age to age,
To shape more certainly the glowing iron,
Which here, of all the places upon earth,
They most uniquely knew.

Huntsman, Bessemer, John Brown.

Episode IV. The Charter of Incorporation

Sheffield incorporated as a Borough, 24 August 1843:

No more are these
The simple peasants of an earlier age,
But men of substance, sober citizens,
The worthy fathers of the town to be.

Episode V. Constables of Sheffield

Municipal experiments
We greet without surprise,
Elections, floods or burglaries,
We kindly supervise;
And when museums are opened
Or public houses closed,
We’re always somewhere to be found,
Conveniently disposed.

The Herald and Vulcan pass in review. A hundred years of Civic History:

A modern town is born! Incorporate,
Now at long last emerging from the dim
Colourful years of its historic past,
It turns to grapple with a newer age.

Episode VI. The City of Sheffield.

A stately pile is raised, a new civic home
Of those who shape the city’s destiny,
And on the topmost pinnacle shall stand
The brazen figure of a heathen god.
Now is the scene set for the fitting act
Which crowns a century of civic state.
Victoria of England, sixty years a Queen,
Comes to the city.

Episode VII. War. The City of Mighty Forges

Steel and more steel!
The forges wake!
The flames leap up
That who love peace may take
A terrible revenge!
Shells and more shells
To feed the guns
That our sons
May live!

Episode VIII. The Sword of Honour

We who forge steel, are steel! We do not break.
Sheffield, city of steel, greets Stalingrad!
By order of the King: let there be forged
A sword of honour for the citizens
Of Stalingrad, where late the tide of war
Beat for long months against a wall of steel,
And fell back broken.
Men of Sheffield!
Where shall the steel be made but only here?
This is the final honour.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Bessemer, Sir Henry (1813-1898) steel maker
  • Benjamin Huntsman (1707-1776) steel manufacturer
  • Victoria (1819–1901) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India

Musical production

The following pieces were performed:

  • Desmond MacMahon. March, “Pageantry”. 
  • Verdi. ‘Anvil Chorus’.
  • Gounod. ‘Vulcan’s Song’ (Episode III).
  • Weber. ‘Invitation to the Dance’ (Episode IV). 
  • George Linstead. ‘The Constable’s Duet’ (Episode V). 
  • Elgar. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (Episode VI). 
  • Ernest Longstaffe. March, ‘Home Guards’ (Episode VII). 
  • ‘Viking Song’ (Episode VIII).
  • ‘God Save the Queen’.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Manchester Guardian

Book of words

The City of Sheffield Centenary of Incorporation, 1943. Sheffield, 1943. Programme.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Sheffield City Archives: Copy of Programme. CA779/4/10.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



As George Calvert Holland wrote of Sheffield in 1843, the year in which its civic status was granted, ‘there are few manufacturing towns that have advanced more rapidly in wealth and population than Sheffield.’1 The population of the city, including its outlying suburbs, had grown from 14105 in 1736 to 45658 in 1801, reaching 112492 by 1841.2 Like many other northern manufacturing cities, recognition of its preeminent status came relatively late: Sheffield had been at the heart of the metal trade for a hundred year and was renowned the world over for the quality of its steel. Unfortunately, its centenary coincided with the Second World War. Along with most other manufacturing towns and cities, Sheffield had been bombed by the Luftwaffe. Heavy air raids on 12 and 15 December 1940 killed 600 people (seriously injuring a further 500) and destroyed 3000 houses (damaging more than 82000).3 These had been followed by smaller, lower intensity raids, and as a result, the Manchester Guardian told its readers in August 1943, ‘large-scale centenary celebrations this year are impossible because of the war.’4 The Times, in a lengthy article celebrating the city’s prowess, concurred: ‘Had times been normal the event would have been celebrated with a splendour fitting its importance, but it was felt that such a course would be as unseemly as it would be impracticable. Sheffield is proud of its civic history, and the City Council determined that the occasion should not pass unmarked.’5

Generally, when one thinks of pageants, one does not think of small-scale, limited or indoor events. However, as many other cities before the war had celebrated their centenaries through pageantry, including Manchester (1938) and Birmingham (1939), a pageant was the obvious choice. And for all that the exigencies of war meant that the performance would not be on the same spectacular scale as these and other interwar events, The Times welcomed the intention to go ahead at all as proof of the ingenuity and indomitable spirit of the city’s inhabitants, remarking how difficult it would be to fit the entire history of Sheffield (stretching back millennia) into the planned 75 minutes:

It was a happy suggestion that there should be an indoor pageant depicting the history and progress of the civic, industrial and sectional life of the people of the city. There was an immediate response from all sections of the community, and though there was not much time for preparation, the artistic and musical resources of Sheffield were such as to make any outside aid unnecessary.6

The local playwright, author, broadcaster and, perhaps most important, pageant master, Lawrence du Garde Peach (later author of the Adventures from History series of Ladybird Books) was only too willing to contribute the script and direct and produce the centenary pageant of his hometown.7 Peach, whose work on pageantry attempted to modernize the genre, sought to move away from the structure of episodes, which here are impressionistic (in that they seek to convey a particular aspect of Sheffield) rather than dramaturgical (in the sense of representing particular events and characters). The presentation of the narrative in verse across the eight scenes was an attempt to leave behind much of the tradition of previous pageantry, which Peach felt to be largely exhausted. Vulcan, the god of steel, is an allegorical figure representing the city as a whole.

In devising the pageant, Peach was presented with an interesting dilemma. Steel was often associated with war, and the city had turned much of its economy to producing weapons. But Peach was determined to introduce an emphasis on peace to the drama. Thus he suggested that the creation of weapons of war allowed those ‘who love peace’ to ‘take/A terrible revenge!’ As the script stated: ‘To feed the guns/That our sons/May live!’8 The final episode further emphasised the link between steel and peace by means of the Sword of Honour. The sword, designed by the Wilkinson Sword company and made by the craftsmen Tom Beasley and Sid Rouse, had been commissioned by King George VI to commemorate the suffering and courage of the Russian people at the Battle of Stalingrad. It was laid in state in Westminster Abbey before being presented to Stalin at the Tehran Conference in November 1943. The sword commemorated the friendship and equal suffering in a just struggle of the people of Russia and Britain and looked forward to a more peaceful time. The Sword of Honour itself featured in a pageant that was held in Bristol and Taunton in November 1943.

Running to a mere 75 minutes, the pageant was, according to The Manchester Guardian, ‘a fine spectacle’: it ‘described big events from the granting of the first charter to Sheffield in 1297…down to the recent air raids, the activities of Civil Defence services, and the making of the steel for the Sword of Honour which the King is giving to Stalingrad.’9 At the event the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Rt. Hon. A.V. Alexander, CH, MP, spoke, commending Sheffield’s part in the war effort, and the Mayor hailed the locals Sir Henry Coward and Dr Robert Styring, ‘both of whom are only five or six years from their own centenary.’10

Peach continued to stage pageants in Sheffield, including Tomorrow: A Pageant of Youth  and the Co-Operative Centenary Pageant(1944), which was performed in Sheffield as well as in dozens of other cities. Peach would also go on to organise the 1948 extravaganza, the Sheffield Pageant of Production, which aimed at boosting the prominence of Sheffield’s steel industry.


  1. ^ George Calvert Holland, The Vital Statistics of Sheffield (London, 1843), 26.
  2. ^ Ibid., 27.
  3. ^ ‘Sheffield Blitz: 75 Fascinating Facts’, Sheffield Star, 3 October 2015, accessed 28 April 2016,
  4. ^ Manchester Guardian, 12 August 1943, 2; BBC News, ‘Sheffield Blitz: 70 Years on From the Devastating Bombs’, 14 December 2010, accessed 28 April 2016,
  5. ^ The Times, 24 August 1943, 2.
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ E.D. Mackerness, ‘Peach, Lawrence Du Garde (1890–1974), Playwright and Author’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 28 April 2016,
  8. ^ The City of Sheffield Centenary of Incorporation, 1943 (Sheffield, 1943), np.
  9. ^ Manchester Guardian, 23 August 1943, 8.
  10. ^ Ibid.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The City of Sheffield Centenary of Incorporation, 1943’, The Redress of the Past,