Melton Mowbray Pageant, 1971

Pageant type

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Place: St Mary's Parish Church (Melton Mowbray) (Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England)

Year: 1971

Indoors/outdoors: Unknown

Number of performances: 6


18–23 October 1971, at 7.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Williams, Keith
  • Producers: Peter Cox and Philip Vincent
  • Research: Gilbert King and J.E. Brownlow
  • Music: John Duckworth, Eric Bennett, Gordon Divers
  • Choreography: Monica Davis, Rosemary Elkington, Mrs A. Mackley, Rubin Jones
  • Staging and Lighting: Roger Scarborough, Roy Whitcomb, Bill Stanley, John Ringrose, Graham Kennell, Peter Knowles
  • Wardrobe and Properties: Mrs E. Wise, Mrs E. Chambers, Mrs A. Mackley, Miss J. Bullimore, Mrs M. Copson, Mrs J. Sutton
  • House Management: George Young, Geoffrey Beardsley
  • Film: Ronald Acton, David Irving


Patrons included Lord Gretton, Rev. R.R. Williams, Lord Bishop of Leicester, Guy H. Dixon, Duke of Rutland, Miss Mervyn Pike, MP, Willoughby R. Norman.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Management Committee

  • Hon. Chairman: Peter Cox
  • Hon. Secretary: Winston Osborne
  • Hon. Treasurer: Geoffrey Beardsley
  • Other Members: Mrs D.E. Harrison, Mrs E. Wise, Michael Brewer, Reverend Canon G.H. Codrington, A.L. Copson, David Irving, G.A. James, Gilbert King, John Naylor, Roger Scarborough, Philip Vincent, George Young          


  • John Naylor
  • John Parkinson
  • John Brewer

Fund Raising

  • Mrs D.E. Harrison

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

  • Irving, David


Irving was a local historian and solicitor

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

16–23 October: Exhibition in the North Transept of the Church displaying historical documents of the town.

Pageant outline

Act I. Scene I. 1215-1323.

The king captures John,[1] the son of William de Mowbray, who is leading the Barons’ Revolt. The boy is spared by the intervention of a leper. The king leaves after fining the town for its rebellious attitude. The scene also shows the aftermath of a revolt by John de Mowbray in 1323.[2] After de Mowbray was captured at the Battle of Borough Bridge and hanged, Edward II granted his estate and rights to Eleanor Despenser. The scene shows her gloating over de Mowbray’s surviving family after the grant is read out by the king’s clerk.

[1] The name John seems to have been an error, since William de Mowbray’s two sons were named Nigel and Roger.

[2] Another error: the battle of Boroughbridge took place in 1322, and John de Mowbray was executed in that year.

Scene II. 1323-1349

A marauding raid on the town is beaten off by townspeople and churchmen whilst King Edward III’s commissioners look on. The scene also shows a courtly dance given in the king’s honour on his visit in 1331. The Prior of Lewes, conscious that the cash-strapped Edward III is going to sign over the local abbey to a creditor attempts to persuade the king not to do so, extolling the various charitable acts of the Abbey. The scene concludes with a dance of death, representing the Black Death.

Scenes III and IV. 1549-1577.

The scene begins with a meeting of the Trustees and Feoffees of the Town Estate, which distributes land from dispossessed religious buildings and guilds to the Town Estate. The episode also depicts a trial, held in Leicester, to determine whether any lands are being hidden from the Crown.

Act II. Scene V. 1645-1653

The scene depicts the aftermath of a skirmish ‘The Battle of Ankle Hill’ where the Roundheads came out worst. Left in the church due to his wounds, one Roundhead is surprised by two Cavaliers entering to give thanks for their victory. A fatal fight ensues. The second part depicts civil marriages in the town under Cromwell.

Scenes VI and VII. 1793.

Dr Ford, a Wesleyan, addresses a meeting to propose to build a free school in the town. He presents the children, who unfortunately sing a Wesleyan hymn, which causes the meeting to descend into chaos, and Ford’s proposal comes to nothing.

Scene VIII. 1837-Present

A series of dances illustrating the illustrious history of the town and several tableaux which show the development of the town since the Second World War. A hymn by John Bunyan is sung

Key historical figures mentioned

Mowbray, William de (c.1173–c.1224) baron

Mowbray, John (I), second Lord Mowbray (1286–1322) magnate

John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou

Edward III (1312–1377) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant


Book of words

None known

Other primary published materials

  • Melton Mowbray Pageant 1971. Commemorating Eight Hundred Years of Town and Church: Souvenir Programme. Melton Mowbray, 1971. [Price 10p].

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Leicestershire Archives: Copy of Pageant Programme and Script, DE6747 and Script and Letter, M1235/1-6.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



A previous pageant had been held in Melton Mowbray in 1949 to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the charter (depicted, in passing, in Scene III). There is very little information about this second pageant, but a letter from July 1969 confirms that discussions about staging one occurred in April and September 1969, with a script and a committee already formed. Local businesses seem also to have been approached as financial guarantors for the pageant, on the understanding that they were only to pay out if the event made a loss.1 Whilst this system had been commonplace in early pageants, leading to some significant embarrassments when businesses and individuals were called upon to pay unexpected amounts (see, for example, the case of Bristol 1924), the habit of relying on locals to financially guarantee pageants had gone out of fashion, with town councils often acting as the guarantors. In the case of Melton Mowbray, it appears that the council were unwilling to sponsor or guarantee a pageant. The Pageant, which involved a large number of organisers, was meticulously researched and written by David Irving, a local solicitor deeply involved in the local theatre.2 It is unclear whether or not it was a success, though there may well be further records in local repositories.


1. ^ Letter from H.L. Copson to unspecified, July 1969, in Leicestershire Archives, Misc 1235/2.
2. ^ ‘Governor Profiles’, Brooksby Melton School College, accessed 22 November 2016,

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Melton Mowbray Pageant, 1971’, The Redress of the Past,