Historical Pageant of Ipswich

Pageant type


Put on by the Ipswich High School

Jump to Summary


Place: Garden of the Ipswich High School (Ipswich) (Ipswich, Suffolk, England)

Year: 1935

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


25–26 June 1935

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Director and Organiser [Pageant Master]: March, MIss
  • Mistress of Robes: Miss Gummer


The rest of the staff were schoolgirls.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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


Written by members of the History Club

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

To celebrate the opening of the new gymnasium and laboratories

Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

Associated events


Pageant outline

Prologue: River Orwell

Prehistoric Scenes

a) Old Stone Age

b) New Stone Age

61 AD. The Iceni attack a Roman villa

991. The Coming of the Danes

1066. Before and After the Battle of Senlac [Hastings]

1296. Marriage of Edward I’s Daughter to the Count of Holland.

Time of Edward IV. Town Scene and Corpus Christi Gild Feast

1448. Scene in a Carmelite Priory

1485. King Henry VII passes through Ipswich

1517. Queen Katherine of Aragon at the shrine of Our Lady of Grace

1556. Two Ipswich Martyrs on their way to the Stake

1565. Visit of Queen Elizabeth

1588. St. Margaret’s Fair. Return of Cavendish from Voyage of Circumnavigation

1634. Puritans on Eve of Departure for New England.

1660. Country Dances

1668. King Charles II visits Lord Hereford

1687. Witch Hunt

Late 18th Century. Capture of Smugglers near the Cat House

1801. A Street Scene: Napoleonic Scene with Press Gang at Work

1818. A Parliamentary Election

Epilogue. River Orwell

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Cavendish, Thomas (bap. 1560, d. 1592) explorer
  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Musical production

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words

A historical pageant of Ipswich: written by the members of the history club and performed in the school garden on 25th and 26th June, 1935. Ipswich, 1935.

Privately printed after the event.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of the book of words in Suffolk Record Office, Reference 942.64IPS/Stack

Sources used in preparation of pageant



‘The idea of writing a historical pageant of Ipswich was conceived by the History Club some time ago, and visions of its possible form presented themselves in February, 1934 when Mr. Rowley Elliston gave us glimpses of the town’s history from the remote past to our own day.’1 So began the foreword to the Book of Words of the Ipswich Historical Pageant, organised and performed by members of the History Club of Ipswich Girls’ High School, an independent school at which Enid Blyton had trained as a teacher from 1916 to 1919.2 The undertaking was a feat of pageantry in twenty-one separate episodes all of which contained dialogue. The pageant was an ambitious one, covering the history of Ipswich from the Stone Age to the nineteenth century. Indeed, the Ipswich High School Newsletter for 1935 declared it ‘an undertaking so vast that there was no time for anything else. The whole of the Spring Term and most of the Summer term were spent in rehearsal.3 Only two schoolmistresses assisted as Director and Organiser and Mistress of the Robes, leaving the pupil to write, organise, and perform the pageant throughout.

The story told in the episodes included a number of features common to pageantry, such as the invasion of the Danes and the re-enactment of visits of Royal figures to the locality. Indeed, kings and queens figured particularly prominently, with Edward I, Henry VII, Katherine of Aragon, Elizabeth I and Charles II all being included in the drama. In general, the impression given is of a desire to connect the local history of Ipswich to the larger national story, and indeed the history of the wider world. This is evident not least in the episode dealing with the return of XXX Cavendish after his circumnavigation of the globe, and another focusing on the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers for America.

The pageant was held to celebrate the opening of the new gymnasium and laboratories at the school, and all seemed set for an unambiguously happy and successful occasion. As so often in historical pageants, however, the weather intervened:

soon after the beginning [of the first performance], threatening clouds could be seen in the sky, and heavy rain soon hurried all, both actors and audience, into the new gymnasium, where, in spite of great difficulties, the pageant proceeded. By this unforeseen event the extreme capability and efficiency of those directing, and of the actors was shown in the way in which they soon adapted themselves perfectly to new, small surroundings.4

Luckily, the second performance on 26 June saw better weather and the pageant was performed to much acclaim.

A larger civic pageant was performed in Ipswich in 1951, to coincide with the Festival of Britain celebrations.


  1. ^ Foreword, in A historical pageant of Ipswich: written by the members of the history club and performed in the school garden on 25th and 26th June, 1935 (Ipswich, 1935), unpaginated.
  2. ^ Sheila Ray, ‘Blyton [married names Pollock, Darrell Waters], Enid Mary (1897–1968)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 28 September 2016, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31939?docPos=1; ‘Enid Blyton’, Ipswich Women in History, accessed 28 September 2016, http://ipswichwomeninhistory.co.uk/1800s/enid-blyton/
  3. ^ Ipswich High School News (1935), 16, accessed 28 September 2016, http://ipswicharchive.daisy.websds.net/Filename.ashx?systemFileName=IPGRS1935.pdf&origFilename=IPGRS1935.pdf
  4. ^ Ibid, 17.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Ipswich’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1294/