West Dorset Historical Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Local field, joined to village church (Bradpole) (Bradpole, Dorset, England)

Year: 1911

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


20–22 July 1911, 3pm and 6.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Langford, C.F.
  • President: A.M. Broadley
  • Pageant Master: Lloyd, Edward
  • Assistant Pageant-Master: Worrell, George
  • Secretary: Mr T.H. Beams
  • Treasurer: Mr A.F. Pearce
  • Official Photographer: Mr E.C. Hare


Edward Lloyd was a second Pageant Master, brought in once preparations had already got underway; he was Manager of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Travelling Companies.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Pouncy, H.
  • Broadley, A.M.

Names of composers

  • Huntingdon, George

Numbers of performers



Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Church Bell Fund

Linked occasion

The pageant was linked to the coronation of George V, but only in a minor way. It was certainly not billed foremost as a coronation pageant; the primary aim was to raise money for the local church.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3000
  • Total audience: 16000


The figure of 16000 is an estimate. ‘All records were eclipsed at the sixth and last performance, on Saturday evening, when all accommodation was greatly exceeded and the populace, who stood from eight to ten deep in the space allotted for standing room overflowed into the arena, where they were allowed to line the hedges. It was computed that no less than 3000 were present.’1

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

School children were admitted at special prices for the afternoon performance on Friday 21 July.

Associated events

During the daily interval between the two performances a sale of work was held on behalf of the bells and organ fund, and on Saturday evening there was a show of ‘Coronation Year Babies’.
There was a Thanksgiving Service on the Sunday of pageant week, and bells were rung in celebration. A special pageant hymn was also sung.

Pageant outline

Episode I. May-Day Merry Making at Bradpole in Tudor Times; A Royal Visit to West Dorset on May-Day, 1548

Peter Hussey, the Master of the Revels, enters in his finery and jokes with the landlord of the King’s Head pub, Job Taverner, and the Parish Beadle, Gregory Snook, while making sure that the preparations for the Queen’s arrival are underway. After Hussey exits, Giles Dunn, the village blacksmith, enters with two local women. In rough vernacular they talk about the death of King Henry VIII and the visit of the Queen, ‘hitched up again.’ A small group of countrymen enter, in holiday garb, along with their families; they tell Dunn that they had to come from the countryside to Bradpole to see the Queen’s visit. Dunn then tells one of the ladies about the ‘Bra’pole bitterscal’—an apple used to make cider, before launching into a jolly song about the orchard. Dunn and the women then reminisce about the local cider. All of a sudden children run in, followed soon after by the Beadle and the Constable, puffing and blowing, leading in Larrance Scadden—the ‘parish n’er-do-well, lurching half drunk.’ The Beadle and Constable put him in the pillory, along with his friend who attempts a rescue attempt, as the children tease him. Scadden slurs that he was drinking the Queen’s health, but this does not convince his captors, as mischievous boys begin to throw missiles. Some ‘sturdy Bridport ropers’ enter, carrying new rope, along with some sailors and fishermen from Bridport Harbour, and declare that the rope is for the Queen and her husband. The ropers and other locals discuss and praise the merits of Bridport rope. A countryman and his wife enter, and ask for some cider—the landlord obliges, and all become jovial, as Dunn sings another song ‘in Praise of Cyder’, accompanied by the rowdy locals. Peter Hussey re-enters and warns that the Queen’s arrival is near. Sir Roger Newburgh and Lady Newburgh then enter with their daughters, Phyllis and Doris. They talk to the crowd, telling them how to behave when the Queen arrives—before Sir Roger spies Scadden in the pillory, warning him that he’ll come to a bad end, ‘stabbed with a Bridport dagger.’ Lady Newburgh reacts with shock, stating that she did not realise they made daggers in Bridport; the crowd laughs, aware that Bridport dagger is a local euphemistic term for the nooses made out of rope. Influential townsmen, such as the Bailiffs, MPs, and Rector, then enter. Sir Roger welcomes them, they in turn expressing gladness to be away from politics and in the town instead. All of a sudden the Beadle reappears with the Constable, dragging a decrepit, wizened old woman dressed in black who has been caught fortune telling. The Beadle declares her a witch, while another woman claims that her pigs were cursed. To the curiosity of the crowd, Sir Roger asks the old woman to predict the future; she tells him that, in about a hundred years, a young King will come tearing down the lane on horseback to escape his tormentors (obviously referring to the escape of King Charles II). She then also predicts the failure of the harbour and also the rise of Lord Bridport. She is then taken away, as the children surround her singing, while Scadden and his friend are released. Cheers are then heard as the ropers, sailors and labourers enter hauling a richly decorated wagon in which Queen Katherine and Princess Elizabeth ride, accompanied by Lord Seymour on Horseback. Sir Roger bows and offers salutations. The Queen, now at the dais, thanks Sir Roger and the people of Bradpole for their warm welcome, before Sir Roger introduces her to the MPs and other notables. Master Lister then bumblingly reads out a proclamation officially welcoming the Queen. Princess Elizabeth expresses her wish to dance, as music is heard in the distance. ‘Wait for the Wagon’ is then performed. The Maypole is then erected, and the children dance around it. The May Queen enters and kneels before the Queen as a May Queen song is sung; Katherine crowns the May Queen. The song ‘Come, Lasses and Lads’ is then sung. At the conclusion they are applauded heartily. Queen Katherine again thanks the villagers of Bradpole, before she is carried away on the floral car to much cheering and applause.

Episode II. The Flight of King Charles II through Bradpole on Tuesday 23 September 1651

King Charles enters, along with Julia Coningsby (riding pillion), Lord Wilmot and Colonel Wyndham. Charles makes sure Julia is all right following their daring escape, as the King expresses relief that he did not taste ‘in person the temper of the Bridport dagger’. At this point Will Waddon, a local farmer, approaches from his farm gate and doffs his hat. He bids them good day and then hints that he realises they are King’s men, ‘staunch and true like m’zelf’. Wyndham admits this is the case, as Wilmot declares that ‘These are honest folk; the West breeds no traitors.’ Waddon affirms that his family has been loyal since the visit of Queen Katherine over a hundred years ago [a reference to the previous episode]. Waddon, suspecting that it is indeed the King, invites them in for cider and rest. While the King and Julia express interest in this offer and would like to stay, horsemen can be heard in the distance. Waddon instead brings his cider out to the runaways, and then sings a Royalist Song—‘Here’s a Health Unto his Majesty’, a humorous song that wishes ‘confusion to his enemies’. As the song’s word’s put it, may the enemy of the King ‘grow thin and his spirits sink, May his wife be cross and his moneys shrink, May he never again have a chance to drink.’ The King doffs his hat in pleasure, commending Waddon for his loyalty, before declaring that they must continue their escape. The fugitives then ride away.


The performers of the second episode line up in front of the grandstand with the Royal Cavalcade of the first episode on their right and the Bradpole and Bridport villagers, citizens and merry makers on the left. The musicians play the National Anthem, and the whole assembly, players, and spectators alike, led by Mr T.H. Beams, join in signing the West Dorset Pageant Hymn, a combination of the National Anthem and George Huntingdon’s ‘International Hymn.’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Seymour, Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley (b. in or before 1509, d. 1549) nobleman
  • Katherine [Kateryn, Catherine; née Katherine Parr] (1512–1548) queen of England and Ireland, sixth consort of Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Wilmot, Henry, first earl of Rochester (bap. 1613, d. 1658) royalist army officer

Musical production

Bridport Territorial Band and Mr Albert Stone’s orchestra.

  • ‘Here’s a Health Unto his Majesty’ (Episode II)
  • George Huntingdon. ‘International Hymn’ (Finale).
  • National Anthem (Finale).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Dorset County Chronicle and Somerset Gazette
The Times
Nottingham Evening Post
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Lichfield Mercury
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette

Book of words

Broadley, A.M. and Pouncy, H. The West Dorset Historical Pageant: Book of Words. Bridport, 1911.

A copy of the book of words can be found at Dorset History Centre, complete with performer signatures and photographs. D.2317/5.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Broadley, A.M. and Pouncy, H. The West Dorset Historical Pageant: Book of Words. Bridport, 1911. Dorset History Centre: D.2317/5.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Barnes, W. ‘A Witch’, poem in Barnes, W., Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, London, 1844 (Episode One).
  • Hycke Scorner. Temp. from the time of Henry VIII (Episode One).


The West Dorset Historical Pageant of 1911 was a fairly small event, performed six times over three days to crowds of around 3000. Its leading proponent was Alexander Meyrick Broadley, described by the Dorset County Chronicle as the ‘architectonic genius of the whole enterprise’. The script was written by Broadley and the local historian and lecturer H. Pouncy.2 Born in Bradpole, and son of the village vicar, Broadley had returned to the small village in later life following a notable international career as a barrister and Times correspondent.3 Now enjoying a second career as a widely published historian, Broadley saw the pageant as an opportunity to combine his love of locality with his former experience of pageantry (he had written two episodes for the 1909 Bath Pageant).4

The West Dorset Pageant was not overly ambitious in its scale, consisting of only two hundred performers and two episodes (the second much shorter than the first, involving only a handful of characters). Even this was a larger task than the organisers had anticipated; part way through the preparations Mr Edward Lloyd, Manager of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Travelling Companies, was brought in as another pageant master to assist the Rev. C.F. Langford with the increasing amount of work.5 In the Book of Words for the pageant, the new pageant master’s name was pasted on top of the existing page, suggesting that this enlisting took place rather soon before the actual event. Though the pageant was organized and produced by these four men, each performance was opened by a leading local woman. Among those who served in this capacity were Lady Seymour, the Mayoress of Bridport, Lady Watts, and Mrs Hans Sauer (of Parnham Manor).6

Billed as a West Dorset event, it was, in essence, mostly a brief history of the small village of Bradpole, where the pageant took place. Like the other Dorset pageants a great effort was exerted in maintaining local vernacular modes of speech, terms and sayings. In the first episode, for example, the term ‘Bridport dagger’ was used; this was an old euphemism meaning ‘to be hanged’, which originated from the town’s reputation for producing hangman’s ropes.7 Indeed this staple industry cropped up a few times in the pageant, foreshadowing its prominence in the Bridport Coronation Pageant of 1953. As the Book of Words was at pains to point out, Bridport was, in 1548, ‘a borough of great importance’, with the ‘Bridport “corvisars” or rope makers [having] the privilege of making the whole of the cordage for the English Navy’ due to Royal statute.8 Also prominent in the pageant were tributes to the cider made from the ‘Bra’pole bitterscal’, a local apple. As was also common in other pageants at this time, the West Dorset Pageant celebrated the relationship of the locality to royal figures, thus carving out a space for the village in the national life. As if to underline this point, newspaper articles promoting the event also made reference to the coronation of George V, which took place in the same year.9 This emphasis on royalty was most obvious in the choice of the second scene, the passing of Charles II through Bradpole. According to the Book of Words, this was ‘one of the most important and interesting events in the annals of our native village’—especially since it was ‘in this way that Bradpole played an important part in what has been called the “most remarkable romance” of English history.’10 Dissimilar to many pageants pre-1914, however, the tone of both episodes was mostly jovial and non-moralising, based on a carnival atmosphere in the first episode and drama and humour in the second.

For the local press the West Dorset Historical Pageant was a continuation of the spirit that had been inaugurated at Sherborne, ‘Little Dorset’, six years earlier and would, ‘[w]hen the history of modern pageantry comes to be written’, require acknowledgement as such.11 Newspapers from outside the local area, such as the Nottingham Evening Post and the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, also made the connection between Sherborne and the pageant staged at Bradpole.12 Indeed, as well as actors from the Bath pageant, the Rev. R.B. Goodden, lauded for his performance as William the Conqueror in the Sherborne Pageant, took on the important role of Colonel Wyndham, ‘one of his ancestral kinsmen.’13 Lloyd, as an outsider, paid tribute to the response of the locals in staging the pageant, ‘charmed with their histrionic aptitude and ability, their eagerness and enthusiastic determination’ and the costumes ‘so correct in detail and so beautifully made that I at once concluded that they had been procured from some professional costumier… [rather than] made in the immediate neighbourhood.’ All in all, the people of West Dorset were a ‘credit to themselves and to the locality.’14 Yet, while the pageant was a thoroughly local event, it did also attract former residents of the county from as far away as Sydney, Australia and St. Louis, USA—as well as the expected ‘elite of West Dorset’.15

As far as the public response went, The Dorset County Chronicle was highly complimentary in its assessment, declaring the pageant to have been a ‘triumph’ and a ‘great success’ that had added ‘Fresh laurels… to the reputation of Dorset as the mother county of modern pageantry.’16 While not having a huge capacity, seemingly around 3000, crowds filled the pageant ground—especially on the last performance, when ‘accommodation was greatly exceeded and the populace, who stood from eight to ten deep in the space allotted for standing room overflowed into the arena, where they were allowed to line the hedges.’17 As was common with pageants in this period, the press declared a reinvigorated ‘esprit de corps’, which pervaded both Bridport and Bradpole with ‘that common spirit of just pride and enthusiasm which constitutes the best of all driving power’, creating ‘between the players of all social status, that sense of personal relationship which is one of the choicest fruits of the revival of pageantry.’18 According to Broadley, as he told the cheering crowd following the final performance, all had rallied to the cause of the pageant: ‘from the President himself down to the factory girl from Bridport who, but for the public spirit of her employers, had been prepared if need were to sacrifice half a week’s wages to take part’.19

In many senses the West Dorset Historical Pageant heralded the cementing of pageantry as a popular fashion in the county. While not capable of garnering the same press coverage as Sherborne had done in 1905, the event was still popular and well-attended. Most importantly, perhaps, it was profitable. Indeed, the organisers seemed well aware of the commercial potential of pageantry. Official photographs, taken during dress rehearsals, were on sale as souvenirs during the week of performances, for example.20 The revenue thus generated, combined with that raised from tickets, meant that the pageant was successful in its aim of clearing the debt upon the church bells—and this news, when delivered to the crowd at the final performance by Broadley, received great cheers.21 Many of the themes that were evident in later pageants—particularly the use of humour, fun, and local traditions or slang—were first seen in this pageant, rather than in its lengthy and impressive predecessor staged at Sherborne.


  1. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette, 27 July 1911, 6.
  2. ^ ‘Notes and Topics’, Dorset County Chronicle, 20 July 1911, 2.
  3. ^ ‘Death of Mr A.M. Broadley’, The Times, 18 April 1916, 5. 
  4. ^ ‘The Bath Pageant’, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 11 March 1909, 5.
  5. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette, 27 July 1911, 6.
  6. ^ ‘Notes and Topics’, 2.
  7. ^ Alexandra Richards, Slow Dorset: Local, Characterful Guides to Britain’s Special Places (Chalfont St Peter, 2012), 111.
  8. ^ A.M. Broadley and H. Pouncy, The West Dorset Historical Pageant: Book of Words (Bridport, 1911), 6.
  9. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, 6.
  10. ^ Broadley and Pouncy, The West Dorset Historical Pageant, 25-7.
  11. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, 6.
  12. ^ [no title], Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 17 March 1911, 9.
  13. ^ [no title], Lichfield Mercury, 30 June 1911, 4.
  14. ^ ‘Notes and Topics’, 2.
  15. ^ Ibid.
  16. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, 6.
  17. ^ Ibid.
  18. ^ Ibid.
  19. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, 6.
  20. ^ ‘Notes and Topics’, 2.
  21. ^ ‘The West Dorset Pageant’, 6.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘West Dorset Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1239/