Gower Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Penrice Castle (Gower) (Gower, Glamorganshire, Wales)

Year: 1924

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


14 August 1924

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • General and Musical Director [Pageant Master]: Helme, Ernest
  • Marshall of Episodes: Ashton Bostock
  • Conductor: J.W. Jones


Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

President: Lady Blythswood

Hon Sec: H. Llewelyn Prichard, JP, Penrice

Treasurer: C.C. Vivian

Episode I Committee (Reynoldston)

Chairman: The Rev Ronald Lockyer

Secretary: David Davies

Director of Episode: Miss Violet Howell

Costumiers: 4 women

Armourer: James Harris

Episode II Committee (Penmaen and Nicholaston)

Director and Chairman: Mrs Bostock

Secretary: Miss C Walters

Committee (Penmaen): 7 men, 4 women

Committee (Nicholaston): 5 men, 3 women

Ladies Sewing Party: 22

Episode III (Llangenydd)

President: Mrs Mashiter

Chairman: George Taylor

Vice-Chairman: John Tidy

Secretary: Miss LW Stevens

Members: 5 men, 6 women

Costumiers: 6 women

Director of Rehearsals: CW Wood

Episode IV (Pennard)

Director of Episode: WF Brook

Armourer: Miss Barbara C Brook

Costumiers: 2 women

Hon. Secretary: Miss BC Brook

Working Party: 20 women

Episode V (Port Eynon and Horton)

Chairman: Rev F Atterbury Thomas

Secretary: Miss M Duncan

Director and Treasurer: Miss ME Morgan

Costumiers: 15 women

Episode VI (Llanrhidian)

Chairman: Rev John Davies, Rural Dean

Secretary: Richard Jeffreys

Costumiers: 3 women plus “The Vicarage, and several of the performers”

Episode VII (Ilston and Parkmill)

Chairman: Arthur Thomas, Kilvrough

Director of Episode: Mrs Arthur Thomas, Kilvrough

Episode VIII (Oxrich and Penrice)

Secretaries: Mrs T Edwards and Geo Jenkins

Director: Rev LD Davies

Costumiers: 6 women

Episode IX (Llanmadoc and Cheriton)

Director: Rev HJ Evans

Scene designer (Farmers’ Arms): Rev TB Hankinson

Guarantor: Sir Lancelot Aubrey-Fletcher, Bart.

Costumiers: 16 women

Episode X (Llandewi and Knelston)

Chairman and Director: Rev HW Heaviside

Costumiers: 9 women

Cutter out of Men’s Costumes: W Gamon

Cutter out of Men’s Leggings, etc: Rev HW Heaviside

Episode XI (Rhossili)

President: Mrs WG Beynon

Secretary: Ada Thomas

plus 2 men, 7 women


Patrons included the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort; Marquess and Marhionees of Worcester; Rt Hon The Lord Blythswood; and The Rt Honourable Lady Blythswood.

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

Helme, Ernest

Names of composers

  • Berners, F.
  • Sullivan, Arthur
  • Bishop, H.

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised

In aid of the West Gower Nursing Association

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

Associated Events

Associated events


Pageant outline

Episode 1. Bestowal of Gower on Rheged Ap Urien by King Arthur

Merlin the magician with his familiar is practising unholy rites, when Morgan le Faye, the sorceress wife of Rheged ap Urien, approaches on horseback, and demands whether the fates are propitious. In the meantime a monk steals on the scene, and, unperceived by Merlin, espies his nefarious dealings with the Evil One. The monk hurries away to tell the Abbot of St Cenydd. The Abbot and monks enter and exorcise Merlin, who retires discomfited. Rheged ap Urien now approaches with his wife, bringing a captive Irish chief and prisoners, from whom he has recently liberated Gower. King Arthur enters with Queen Guinevere to trumpets. Rheged presents his captives to Arthur, who in turns crowns him Prince of Gower. At the end of the episode the famous ‘King Arthur’s Stone’ moves supernaturally (according to old tradition; in reality manipulated by a cast member) to drink from the river Burry.

Episode 2. The Taking of the Veil by Nest at the Court of her Father, Cadwen, King in Gower – 7th century.

The scene is the Penmaen Old Church. Cadwen, King in Gower, and his wife Olwain have a beautiful saintly daughter, Nest, of whom Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, is enamoured. Cadwen and Olwain, surrounded by their courts, are visited by the Prince, who asks permission to address the beautiful Nest. Nest averts her eyes and prays to heaven for protection from the Prince. Her father is angry at her perversity in wishing to take the vows and enter a sisterhood. The Bishop of Llandaff, Dubricious, enters, bringing with him Abbess Hilda of the Convent of Llancarvan. Dubricious rebukes the King and tries to persuade Olwain of Nest’s pious motives. They win over the King, who formally presents Nest to the Lady Abbess, who then takes Nest away with her. Her parents are heartbroken.

Episode 3. ‘Hankiman’s Land’ – 9th century

A watchman spies marauding Danes. Abbot and monks come out and open the gates of the great monastery to the terrified villagers who are fleeing. The Vikings, led by Sweyn, advance under shields and try to set fire to the monastery. The inhabitants hurl javelins. A loud clap of thunder is heard, and a flash of lightning strikes Sweyn dead; the form of the great Saint Cenydd appears at the window, his hand uplifted in anger, and his face illumined by a halo of light. The terrified Danes retreat. The inhabitants emerge, and kneeling, sing a hymn of thanksgiving for their deliverance by the Saint.

Episode 4. The Return of Crusaders to Pennard Castle – AD 1272

The scene is outside Pennard Castle. Gruffyth ap Lewelin1 enters with his bow and arrow, which he proceeds to string. William de Arundel arrives and gives his horse to Lewelin, informing him that the crusaders are returning. Arundel then gives this news to the people of the castle, who prepare to welcome the crusaders. The villagers crowd noisily, and surround the younger de Braose and the jester, who have come out to meet the crusaders. The Templars Hymn can be heard in the distance, growing louder. The Crusaders, led by William de Braose and Adam le Bien Scavoire, ride in—joyful reunions take place. The Crusaders take a blessing from the Priest. All then enter the Castle to share in the general rejoicings.

Episode 5. A ‘Bidding’ Wedding – AD 1375

Half-a-dozen villagers and a few children mill around. Tim Hughes, the Bidder, enters, and proclaims the Bidding preliminary address. All exit and there is an imaginary interval, after which there is the return procession from the Church headed by the musician, followed by the bride and bridegroom and their friends of all ages. The procession is momentarily held up by a rope across the way and the bride’s mother receives the guests at the entrance, where there are two long tables with the plates to collect the money. All join together and dance ‘Lumbers’. The Bidding Rhyme is then said by the Bidder—a poem that describes the forthcoming wedding, the tradition of bidding (the giving of contributions at the feast to the bride, which in turn will be given back by the newlyweds on the occasion of the donator also marrying), and how ‘I’ll do all that lie in my power that evening if required, To get you a sweetheart apiece, if I don’t get drunk, but the brides is wishful you should come or send.’

Episode 6. The Arrival of Lady Katherine Gordon at Weobley Castle – AD 1499

It’s Christmastide. Villagers and Castle retainers stand gossiping. Lady Katherine Gordon and her suite enter on horseback, in terror, seeking sanctuary from Sir Matthew Cradoc; they are fleeing with her baby from Henry VII who has recently beheaded her husband Perkin Warbeck (who had claimed the throne). Cradoc assists her and leads her into the castle (in the future, he would become her husband).

Episode 7. Arbitration at Llythrid Between Sir Robert Benet and Sir Peter de Scourlage

An itinerant fortune teller observes the arrival of the arbitrator and importunes him to have his fortune told—to which he consents. Sir Robert Benet and Lady Benet then arrive, accompanied by their jester, men-at-arms and villagers; the village witch also enters. Sir Peter de Scourlage and his retinue then also enter. The arbitrator struggles when the two knights refuse to agree on the terms of the proffered scroll. They fall upon each other in combat – the perturbed arbitrator calls for the Monks, who duly arrive with the sacred bones of St Cenydd. The fight stops as the men stand in reverence of the monks. A prayer is then offered over for the peaceful settlement, and the Monks then offer each knight an olive branch, which they accept. The Monks leave, and the arbitrator manages to get the knights to sign the scroll; both knights salute one another. The villagers are delighted, but are driven off by the village witch.

Episode 8. Anne Mansel – AD 557

The scene is the exterior of Oxwich Castle Gate. Sir George Herbert enters fully armed accompanied by 18 men-at-arms, two French prisoners, and provisions. He summons the castle to surrender. The aged Mistress, Anne Mansel of Llandewi, with a small company, tries to dissuade Sir George. Young Edward Mansel sends William Griffiths, the aged Seneschal, to parley with Sir George, who sends his poursuivant, Randolf Purcell. Mistress Anne Purcell and her retinue slip into the castle. Young Edward, after greeting Anne, then leaves the castle to engage Sir George in combat. Sir George taunts Edward, and wounds him slightly in the arm. A general fight breaks out, the defenders encouraged by the intrepid Anne, surrounded by terrified women and children. When Watkin John ap Watkin, a follower of Sir George, strikes Anne in the face with a stone, the hostilities cease. The unconscious woman is a sign that the conflict has escalated beyond all propriety. Sir George Herbert and his followers depart, feeling they have gone too far.

Episode 9. [no title] – November 12th 17th century

The scene is the exterior of the Farmers’ Arms. The host and hostess, Charles and Harriet Lewis, are preparing a feast. A large company of villagers enters, and much merriment and play takes place. Lady Aubrey approaches to grace the revels; all bow and curtsey. Lady Aubrey then sits and signals for the dance to commence. That it does, to the enjoyment of all. Suddenly the fiddler stops, and the dancers cease: they have spotted St Madoc, with bell, book and candle, a miraculous apparition entering the scene of merry-making. He blesses the faithful children, who drop to their knees. After the Saint passes on, the fiddler restarts, and the dance continues.

Episode 10. [no title] – AD 1750

The scene is Old Henllys. Two pirates enter as the advance guard of pack horses led by men of Llandewi and Henllys, as well as Edward Mansel with three or four sailors from his pirate ship, which has just landed at the Culver Hole. His wife and children welcome him—some of the maids are also wives and sweethearts of the crew. After they enter the house, a small squad of infantry arrive, and surround the place. Edward Mansel escapes on his famous grey horse, Bess, to King’s Hall. He is never seen alive again.

Episode 11. (A True Story) – 1806.

The scene is Morgan Beynon’s Kitchen, in Middleton. Mrs Morgan Beynon, her daughter Jane, and mother-in-law Ann Beynon are preparing supper for the family. Morgan Beynon, his son George, and nephews enter carrying contraband. They are followed by Margaret Bevan, who is in love with George; he does not return her affection. Furious, Margaret steals away during dinner and informs the excise men of the loot. They surround the house, and surprise the inmates, tying them to their chairs while Margaret looks on and gloats. Mrs Morgan Beynon prepares strong rum-punch and persuades the excise men to sit at supper before their cold ride to Swansea with the prisoners. The officer says the punch is too strong – and asks her to add hot water. She pretends to do this, actually adding gin to the kettle, and to the drinks of the excise men. They get legless drunk, at which point the villagers untie the smugglers, who get away with the kegs.

Final Episode

The Rendering of the Seigniorial dues to Her Grace the Duchess of Beaufort (wife of the Baron Seigneur of Gower) by the Mansel family represented by Lady Blythswood. These payments were made annually in the form of two golden arrows. The whole of the personnel of the pageant will take part in the procession, and the dais will be ascended by men-at-arms, followed by Her Grace the Duchess of Beaufort, the Marchioness of Worcester, the Lady Blythswood, the Hon Olive Campbell, Sir Richard Leighton, Lady Leighton, and Mrs Mashiter.

Land of Hope and Glory

God Save the King

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Merlin [Myrddin] (supp. fl. 6th cent.) poet and seer
  • Urien Rheged [Urien ap Cynfarch] (fl. c.560–c.580) king of Rheged
  • Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain [also known as Artorius ?, King]
  • Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d. 1282) prince of Wales
  • Henry VII (1457–1509) &&&king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Warbeck, Perkin [Pierrechon de Werbecque; alias Richard Plantagenet, duke of York] (c.1474–1499) impostor and claimant to the English throne

Musical production

Music included:

  • Episode I – Glee ‘Comrades in Arms’. Adam
  • Episode II – Part Song ‘Vesper Hymn’. F. Berners
  • Episode III – Part Song ‘The Beleagured’. Sir Arthur Sullivan
  • Episode V – Glee ‘Oh, by Rivers’. Sir H Bishop
  • Episode V – Templar’s Hymn
  • Episode VI – Glee ‘The Winds Whistle Cold’. Sir H Bishop
  • Episode VIII – Catch ‘Halt for the Bugles’ Sound’. Sir H Bishop
  • Episode IX – ‘Souly Song’
  • Episode XI – Part Song ‘The Smugglers’
  • The Final Episode – Glee ‘The Chough and Crow’. Sir H Bishop
  • The Final Episode – Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the King

Newspaper coverage of pageant

South Wales Daily Post

Book of words


Helme, Ernest. Gower Pageant: Penrice Castle, Gower August 14, 1924. Gower, 1924.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Lucas, Robert. ‘Ernest Helme and the Gower Pageant’. Gower, 48 (1997). At 67-73.

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



As Ernest Helme wrote in the foreword in the souvenir booklet, the form the pageant took originated in a financial shortfall at the West Gower Nursing Association at the beginning of 1923:

Owing to the wide area in which the Association operates, and the difficulties of intercommunication, distance, expense and regular rehearsal, it appeared to me that the only available solution was to group certain parishes together (when agreeable to the parishes concerned) to enact an episode, historical or traditional, which had, according to history, taken place in the area contained in the parish or group of parishes: further, that it would greatly enhance the interest, if, when possible, the actual descendants should enact the characters of their protagonist forbears.2

A target of £1000 was set as a target to raise by Lady Blythswood who was the impetus behind the pageant.3 Ernest Helme, who acted as Pageant Master, was a former army officer and Welsh arts enthusiast. The Pageant was a formidable task, drawing together hundreds of performers from across the peninsula in an area characterized by poor roads and a lack of motorised transport. Helme relied heavily for the script on the work of the late Rev. J.D. Davies, MA, whom he described as ‘the greatly beloved Rector of Cheriton and Llanmadoc for some 50 years, as also our recognised West Gower antiquarian expert and historian’4

The South Wales Daily Post wrote of the pageant that: ‘The picturesque grounds of historic Penrice Castle were an ideal setting for the presentation of the episodes of romance and tragedy—some traditional, some authentic—of Gower, in which more than seven hundred people, many of whom were the actual descendants enacting the characters of their protagonist forbears, were taking part.’5 The Pageant ‘…triumphed against conditions which were, at the outset, the most wretched conceivable. Rain poured down and most of the episodes had had to be performed in it before the skies cleared and the sun shone.’6 The newspaper went on to write effusively that despite the atrocious weather, ‘The spectators were delighted, and the impression left by the acting, the episodes, and the costumes is one what will live for long.’7 The reporter, obviously stirred by the pageant scenes, waxed lyrical:

The last scene of all summed up all the others, and the thick throng around the castle beheld the massed performers, a blaze of varied colours—red and orange and blue and white and green—standing to render homage to the present, and express aspiration for the future in the rousing strains of Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. The sun was out by then, and Gower looked at its fairest. The freshness of the rain washed skies seemed to have entered the melodious singing voices raised in the uplifting swinging chorale—bespeaking, as it seemed, that far above the long and rich life of the past survives the strength and hope that will make for us an equally long and perhaps a richer future… It was superb… Well done, Gower! It was a triumph of pluck, hard work, beautiful design, and clever, conscientious acting. We must see, we cannot afford not to see, a repetition of this triumphal achievement.8

The Pageant was a great success and was followed the next day by a party and dance at Reynoldston’s village hall. The Pageant was re-enacted the following month at the end of the annual Gower show. The £1000 was ‘comfortably achieved’.9 The Gower Pageant was the first of a number in the area including at Swansea (1935) and Ilston (1936). Ernest Helme, who died in 1949, was remembered as ‘a generous, if rather authoritarian squire and landowner of the old school who loved Gower and the Gower people.’10


  1. ^ Presumably this refers to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd; his father, Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, had died in 1244. It is possible that some licence was taken with chronology in this episode.
  2. ^ Ernest Helme, ‘Foreword’, in Gower Pageant: Penrice Castle, Gower August 14, 1924 (Gower, 1924), 5.
  3. ^ Robert Lucas, ‘Ernest Helme and the Gower Pageant’, Gower, 48 (1997), 67-8.
  4. ^ Helme, ‘Foreword’, 7.
  5. ^ South Wales Daily Post, 14 August 1924, 11.
  6. ^ South Wales Daily Post, 15 August 1924, 7.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Lucas, ‘Ernest Helme and the Gower Pageant’, 72.
  10. ^ Ibid, 72.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Gower Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1283/