Woodhall Spa Centenary Pageant of Lincolnshire History

Pageant type

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Place: Spa Grounds (Woodhall Spa) (Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, England)

Year: 1911

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


26–27 July 1911

26 July at 3pm and 8pm; 27 July at 3pm and 7pm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Jalland, Harry

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Committee:

  • Chairman: S.V. Hotchkin
  • G. Baggaley; W.S. Crookes; J. Hots; E.E.T. Bolton; O. Cromwell; J. Lee; H. Bourne; W.A. Dickenson; H. Miller; Dr Boys; F. Dunham; H. Page; W. Brooke-Stevens; J.W. Enderby; G. Palmer; Dr Calthrop; T. Enderby; H. Pogson; R.A. Came; G.W. Fairburn; T.P. Stokoe; H. Carradice; S.G. Forster; P. Swan; J. Caswell; A. Goring; J.E. Walter; R.W. Clitherow; Dr Gwyn; C.J. Williams; J.W. Cole; S. Harper; H.H. Williams; T. Williams; Capt. A.G. Weigall, MP

Women’s Committee:

  • Chairman: Grace Weigall


  • The Earl Brownlow (Lord Lieutenant of the County); High Sheriff of the County; Capt. J. Sherard Reeve; Duke of Rutland; Marquis of Bristol; Earl Carrington

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

  • Jalland, Harry

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

The Pageant made £65 Profit

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

100th Anniversary of the foundation of the village.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 8000

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s. 6d.–1s.

Tickets and covered stand: 10s. 6d.

Uncovered stand: 5s. 3d. and 2s.

Promenade: 1s.

Associated events


Pageant outline

Episode I. A Scene of Druidical Worship, Anterior to 50 BC.

People assemble around the Cromlech or Altar Stone. Priests and votaresses enter with mistletoe and sing praises to the sun. The Chief Priest makes an offering of mistletoe upon the altar and the sun rises.

Episode II. A Foray by the Danes Upon the People of Lincolnshire, About AD 870

The scene opens with women going about their daily occupations. Suddenly, the Danes arrive, plunder and set fire to the huts and, in the confusion, further Danes arrive. A band of native men then rally to resist them, finally compelling the raiders to flee.

Episode III. Hereward the Wake, AD 1070-1071

The people are suffering under the oppression of the Normans and longing for the return of Hereward from Flanders to mount further resistance. Hereward is seen returning with a small band of soldiers and re-enters his home. The alarm bell calls the people together, and the flag of Hereward informs them of his arrival (which is greeted with shouts of joy). He comes amongst them and calls on them to resist their conquerors. The people respond to these appeals and bear him on a shield into the Hall.

Episode IV. The Death of King John, 1215 AD

The text is arranged from Shakespeare’s King John, Act V Scenes 6 and 7.

Episode V. The Pilgrimage of Grace, AD 1536

The Pilgrimage of Grace commenced at Louth and Horncastle, and spread throughout Lincoln and Yorkshire; it was an insurrection of the people of these counties against the order of Henry VIII. The scene is outside Lincolnshire Abbey. The people enter rejoicing around the hock cart bearing the last load of harvest, upon which is seen a figure of Ceres— ‘a surviving relic of heathen days’. They sing to it. Warnings are heard to the effect that soldiers are coming; an alarm bell is struck. Soldiers approach the abbey and are resisted by peasants. The abbot tells them to stand down and asks the officer what he wants (it is to take over the abbey). They dispute the difference between the King’s Law and that of God. The Abbot declares ‘Our Lord the King is master of us all it is too true, alas—we must obey…We must obey the law, sad though it may be. It is the Will of heaven that we bear our trials with what patience we possess’. Peasants attack the soldiers as the monks and abbots leave woefully.

Episode VI. A Royal Progress of Queen Elizabeth, About AD 1580

Peasants are seen gathered on the green of an unspecified Lincolnshire town. Elizabeth and her court enter and the mayor greets her. Elizabeth throws money amongst the people. She is given gifts. The town puts on rustic sports, maypole dancing, a mock tournament and a beauty contest.

Episode VII. The King’s Champion at the Coronation of King James I

No information.

Episode VIII. A Dream of Fair Women

Adapted from Tennyson’s Poem. The programme notes that ‘This episode has been introduced to honour the memory of Alfred Tennyson, born at Somersby, near Horncastle, in 1809.’ The episode includes: Helen of Troy, Iphigenia, Cleopatra, Jephthah’s daughter, Rosamond, Margaret Roper, Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Castille.

Final Tableau

This is an allegorical scene relating to the discovery of the Woodhall Spa Waters in 1811.

The tableau includes Hygea, the Goddess of Health, who was played by the German Princess Louise of Thurn and Taxis. Men are working at excavations in search of coal when Hygea appears to them, summoning the Spirit of the Spring, which gives healing powers that pour into the well. The sick are then healed by Hygea.

Hymn: ‘All People That on Earth Do Dwell.’

National Anthem.

March past of all performers.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hereward [called Hereward the Wake] (fl. 1070–1071) rebel
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Cecil, Robert, first earl of Salisbury (1563–1612) politician and courtier
  • Herbert, Henry, second earl of Pembroke (b. in or after 1538, d. 1601) nobleman and administrator
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
  • Cleopatra (c.69bc-30bc) queen of Egypt
  • Roper [née More], Margaret (1505–1544) scholar and daughter of Sir Thomas More
  • Joan of Arc [Jeanne d’Arc] (1412-1431) French military leader and saint
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Aquitaine], suo jure duchess of Aquitaine (c.1122–1204), queen of France, consort of Louis VII, and queen of England, consort of Henry II

Musical production

Band of Royal Marines from Chatham.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Lincolnshire Chronicle

Lincolnshire Free Press

The Times

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Book of words

Official Illustrated Souvenir and Book of Words of the Woodhall Spa Centenary Pageant of Lincolnshire History. Woodhall Spa, 1911.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Lincoln Central Library: Copy of Book of Words.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Kingsley, Charles. Hereward the Wake.
  • Shakespeare, William. King John.
  • Tennyson, Alfred. ‘Dream of Fair Women’.


Edwardian pageants meant a great deal to their local communities, providing a means of narrating the history of a place and people through collective effort. The Pageant of Woodhall Spa bore telling testament to this. Compared to many other spa towns, such as Leamington, Harrogate or Cheltenham, Woodhall Spa, which lies fifteen miles to the south east of Lincoln, did not experience any significant nineteenth-century growth. The spa had been discovered during an abortive attempt to find commercially exploitable deposits of coal in the area, and the spring waters forced up to the surface through the mineshaft had made any further mining exploration impossible. The owner, Thomas Hotchkin, had subsequently built a well, spa complex and several hotels on the site.2 By 1911 (its nominal, though disputed, centenary year) the village’s population was 1484.3 The idea of holding a pageant, in part to boost the tourist season, had been suggested by the Horncastle theatre impresario Henry Jalland at a meeting in April 1911; he anticipated an expenditure of around £300–400 and receipts of £540. Jalland had stressed that a similar pageant, held at Sudbrooke near Lincoln for the Primrose League the previous year, had been a great success; and £200 was guaranteed on the spot.4 In the foreword to the book of words, Jalland remarked:

To produce a pageant at all in so small a town as Woodhall Spa has been a great undertaking—with a normal population of only about 1300, and with but a sparsely populated district to draw upon for performers and audiences, it has been obviously impossible to attempt to produce a spectacle in any way comparable with those already performed in the larger towns, especially in the short space of time (less than three months) that we have had in which to prepare the present performance.5

Jalland expressly asked those attending not to compare Woodhall Spa’s attempt with those ‘witnessed in London or elsewhere, one or other of the magnificent pageants that have been performed in various parts of the country’.6

Nonetheless, the pageant attracted a great amount of enthusiasm in a very small amount of time, drawing performers and organisers from many miles around—and certainly as far as Lincoln. As the Lincolnshire Chronicle reported, with six weeks to go: ‘Everybody in the place, and large numbers in the immediate neighbourhood, are on the tiptoe of excitement and anticipation.’ The paper’s report went on to present a picture of everyone doing their bit: ‘The properties, too, are being made on the spot, including shields, swords, daggers and numerous articles which were in vogue at the times which the various episodes will depict. All the libraries of the district have been ransacked in order that everything shall be done with the must scrupulous regard to fidelity of costume and design [drawing on] local and other scholars, antiquarians and archaeologists’7

As was common for pageants, the script emphasized the development of local society through a scene of druidical worship, a raid by the Danes, the Pilgrimage of Grace, and a royal visit of Queen Elizabeth (practically ubiquitous Edwardian pageantry). The narrative focused on significant events which happened in Lincolnshire or involved Lincolnshire people. The newly elected local MP, Captain Weigall, played Hereward the Wake, with his wife as Torfrida.8 The tableau of famous women (none of whom, sadly, were from Lincolnshire stock) was a tribute to the Lincolnshire poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, as well as a testament to the prominent role played by women in the performance—not least Princess Louise of Thurn and Taxis who played the Goddess of Health, Hygea, in the final allegorical scene which presented the discovery of the spa.9

Like many other pageants, the Woodhall Spa Centenary Pageant was presented as educational as much as entertainment or a performance of local pride, with the Lincolnshire Free Press reporting:

In order to stimulate the interest in the pageant, all the schoolmasters in the district are giving lessons, explaining what a pageant is, and describing the incidents to be depicted, and the influence on the history of their native land. In this way, much useful instruction can be imparted, and when the eye sees representations which give, if only in an imperfect manner, an idea of the thrilling scene which took place in the neighbourhood, these cannot fail to be in the highest degree beneficial in many ways. They make people think, and take more interest in their history than would otherwise be the case.10

The newspaper subsequently went on passionately to claim that:

The incidents of a pageant convey the best idea to the mind of the young what the events portrayed signify. A child will have a better idea of these historical happenings in the course of an afternoon than he will gain from books in a lifetime. School managers should lose no time in making arrangements for prospective parties, as large numbers are expected, and the accommodation is not unlimited.11

As David Cannadine, Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon have stressed, ever since the advent of mass state-funded education in Britain in the 1870s, history was seen as one of the most important subjects to be imparted to the youth of the nation.12 What then might a local schoolchild take from such a performance? The pageant presents a classic Victorian story of the ‘Norman yoke’ put forward by many nineteenth-century historians such as E.A. Freeman and J.R. Green (indeed, the third episode with Hereward the Wake was adapted from a book by the novelist and former Cambridge Regius Professor of History, Charles Kingsley).13 This account claimed that a free Saxon people had been ruthlessly oppressed by a line of Norman Kings; the implication here was that the people’s allegiance to a monarch depended on whether (to use the classic formulation from Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That) they were a ‘good king’ or a ‘bad king’. King John and Henry VIII are presented as bad sovereigns, oppressing the people, whereas Queen Elizabeth and James I wield their authority in a legitimate manner.

The pageant was a great success, with an attendance in excess of 8000, despite an elderly horse dropping dead during one of the scenes.14 The Yorkshire Post deemed the pageant ‘immensely successful’, stating that it was attended by a ‘great audience’ and that it made a creditable, if not stellar, £65.15

One of the most interesting facts about the pageant is that an event to commemorate its centenary was put on in 2011 (when the village’s population had risen to 4003). By extension, this also commemorated the village’s bicentenary under the slightly misleading name The Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011; it was in fact organised by the Directors of the Cottage Museum in Woodhall Spa, led by Jackie Goodall.16 ‘It was felt that the format of the original pageant, which comprised a number of short plays depicting the history of Lincolnshire, was not really suitable for the 21st century. It was essential, however, that the spirit of the first pageant was maintained for the proposed event.’17 Instead, the ‘pageant’ would be an Edwardian-themed fete with locals in costume and featuring period games, a Church flower festival, Edwardian teas put on by the local Women’s Institute and a ‘Woodhall Plinth’ (inspired by the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square), all of which were designed to celebrate ‘life in our vibrant village today. This unique event will bring together the modern aspects of this well-loved Lincolnshire village with its fascinating history.’18 The Horncastle Theatrical Company staged a play written by David Ireland, entitled ‘The Dreams of John Parkinson’, about the man who discovered the natural waters.19

The years since 1911 had taken their toll on Woodhall Spa: the Victoria Hotel burned down in 1920, the Royal Hydro Hotel was hit by a German bomb in August 1943 (the area was home to the famous ‘Dambusters’ squadron), and the baths closed after the well collapsed in 1983.20 Nonetheless, the village continues today as a characterful historic resort, and the 2011 ‘pageant’ reflected the continuation of the deep reservoir of community spirit, attracting 3000 visitors.21 While the event was a pageant only in name, it revealed that the same impulses that had encouraged the community to come together in 1911 were still very much present.


  1. ^ Cottage Museum Woodhall Spa, accessed 2 May 2016, https://www.cottagemuseum.co.uk/historic-woodhall-spa
  2. ^ A.B. Granville, The Spas of England and Principal Sea Bathing Places (London, 1841), 110–114.
  3. ^ GB Historical GIS, Woodhall Spa CP Through Time, Total Population, A Vision of Britain Through Time, accessed 2 May 2016, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10464109/cube/TOT_POP.
  4. ^ Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 22 April 1911, 10; Edward Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011 (Lincoln, 2011), 9.
  5. ^ H. Jalland, ‘Foreword’, in Official Illustrated Souvenir and Book of Words of the Woodhall Spa Centenary Pageant of Lincolnshire History (Woodhall Spa, 1911), 5.
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ Lincolnshire Chronicle, 3 June 1911, 3.
  8. ^ Lincolnshire Free Press, 11 July 1911, 12.
  9. ^ Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011, 12.
  10. ^ Lincolnshire Free Press, 6 June 1911, 3.
  11. ^ Lincolnshire Free Press, 11 July 1911, 12.
  12. ^ David Cannadine, Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon, The Right Kind of History: Teaching the Past in Twentieth-Century England (Basingstoke, 2011).
  13. ^ Christopher Hill, ‘The Norman Yoke’, in Democracy and the Labour Movement (London, 1954), 11–66; J.G.A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (Cambridge, 1957); Marjorie Chibnall, The Debate on the Norman Conquest (Manchester, 1999).
  14. ^ Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011, 12.
  15. ^ Yorkshire Post, 27 July 1911, 7.
  16. ^ Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011, 1; Paul Readman, ‘Pageants and Anniversaries’, accessed 2 May 2016, http://historicalpageants.ac.uk/blog/pageants-and-anniversaries/.
  17. ^ Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011, 1.
  18. ^ Emma Tat, ‘The People’s Pageant’, Lincolnshire Echo, 3 July 2011, accessed 2 May 2016, http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/event/Peoples-Pageant-Woodhall-Spa/event-12872393-detail/event.html.
  19. ^ Mayor, Woodhall Spa People’s Pageant of 2011 (Lincoln, 2011), 1.
  20. ^ Cottage Museum, Woodhall Spa, accessed 2 May 2016, https://www.cottagemuseum.co.uk/historic-woodhall-spa; https://www.cottagemuseum.co.uk/wartime-woodhall; http://www.petwood.co.uk/about/history.
  21. ^ Woodhall Spa Pageant, Twitter post, 10 July 2011, accessed 2 May 2016, https://twitter.com/WoodhallPageant/status/89974836549525504.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Woodhall Spa Centenary Pageant of Lincolnshire History’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1245/