Northamptonshire Women’s Institutes’ Fete and Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Delapre Park (Northampton) (Northampton, Northamptonshire, England)

Year: 1948

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


3 July 1948 at 2.30, 4.30 and 6.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Bell, Peter
  • Producer and Narrator: Dilys Bailey
  • Stage Manager: Mary Honer
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Mrs Spencer
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Dora Parr
  • Make-up: Lady Earle
  • Episode Producers: Mrs Titmann, Miss M.F. Jones, Jean Common, F. Penn, Rebecca Ayres, I. Green, Dora Parr, Mrs S.C. Edwards, K.A. Leatherhead, Mrs McLellan

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Summerhayes, Prudence

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

The Pageant and Fete together raised £556 3s 3d (Northampton Mercury, 3 September 1948, 1).

Object of any funds raised

The Women’s Institute


It is unclear as to whether funds benefitted the local county or national organisation.

Linked occasion


Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

The Pageant was part of a Fete, including Young Farmers’ demonstrations of sheep-shearing and thatching and demonstrations by the Ministry of Food

Pageant outline

Queen Eleanor’s Funeral Procession (Oundle WI)

The Legend of Stowe-Nine-Churches (Castle Ashby WI)

The Battle of Northampton (Billing WI)

The Story of Elizabeth Woodville (Flore WI)

The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fortheringay (Brackley WI)

The Scold (Gayton WI)

The Bread Riot of 1795 (Earls Barton WI)

The Three Witches of Guilsborough (Guilsborough WI)

Modern Episode (Duston WI)

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241–1290) queen of England, consort of Edward I
  • Elizabeth [née Elizabeth Woodville] (c.1437–1492) queen of England, consort of Edward IV
  • Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots

Musical production

Northamptonshire songs and dances were performed by Cogenhoe Institute and Wootton Folk Society

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Northampton Mercury
Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



Women’s Institute Pageants, often organised at a county level, were highly popular during the 1920s and early 1930s. The WI already possessed many of the organisational skills which made for successful pageantry, on top of expertise in costume-making and catering. Northamptonshire had previously celebrated a Women’s Institute Pageant at Harlestone House in 1930. Though there were certainly far fewer WI pageants after the Second World War, which tended to be on a smaller scale, a number were held (for example Leek Wooton and Blenheim 1951), of which the Northamptonshire Women’s Institute Pageant was a major instance.

Though the plans were laid out in February 1948, the geographical constraints imposed by disparate Women’s Institute local branches meant that there was only one full rehearsal of all the performers, with individual scenes rehearsed by each branch.1 The Pageant was attended by the patron of the WI, HRH the Duchess of Gloucester, which garnered significant local press coverage. Despite the lack of rehearsal, the Northampton Mercury was glowing in its review of the performance, noting that the ‘setting was beautiful and impressive and full use was made of its spaciousness’, and that ‘the pageant itself was full of action and well-knit and the performers must have gone back to their villages well satisfied with their own particular contribution and with the pageant as a whole.’2

The Pageant and Fete was a great success, at a time of austerity when many pageants made losses, raising £556 3s 3d for the WI, attesting to the organizational skills of the Institute as well as a growing desire for women's history.3


1. ^ Northampton Mercury, 6 Feb. 1948, 7; Northampton Mercury, 9 July 1948, 5.
2. ^ Northampton Mercury, 9 July 1948, 5.
3. ^ Northampton Mercury, 3 Sept. 1948, 1.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Northamptonshire Women’s Institutes’ Fete and Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,