Bridgwater Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Bridgwater Town Square (Bridgwater) (Bridgwater, Somerset, England)

Year: 1927

Indoors/outdoors: Unknown

Number of performances: 6


21-5 June 1927

[Performances in the evening with an extra afternoon performance on 22 June]

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Trevilian, Major M.F. Cely
  • Business Manager: J.G. Morgan



  • Marquis of Bath as Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
  • The Lord Chancellor
  • Bishop of Bath and Wells
  • Col W.H. Speke High Sheriff
  • Vice Chancellor of Bristol University

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

  • His Worship the Mayor (W Deacon,esq, [Pharmacist])
  • Mr M. Page [Local Historian]
  • Mr T.B. Dilks [Stationer and Printer and Local Historian]
  • Mr C Trenchard (Hon Sec) (Resigned this post 2/10/26) [Headmaster, Dr Morgan’s County
  • School for Boys]
  • Miss G. Nicholls [Headmistress, Bridgwater County School for Girls]
  • Mr and Mrs Millican [From the Art School]
  • The Rev D. McArthur (resigned 16/9/26)
  • Rev C.E. Seamer [ Of Shapwick]
  • Mr H. Corder [ Seedsman and local historian]
  • Mr H.M.B. Ker, [Deputy Mayor]
  • Mr W. Raymond [ Writer]
  • Mrs Seamer
  • The Rev S. Berry, [Seymour Berry, Vicar of Saint Mary’s, Bridgwater]
  • Dr Bird [Medical inspector for school children]
  • Mr E. Babbage
  • Mr F. Welland (Asst Hon. Sec.)
  • Mr J. Woodward [Headmaster, Eastover Council School]
  • Mr I. Maggs [Headmaster Eastover Parochial School (St John’s)]
  • Mr A. Wevell [Headmaster, Central Council School (Wembdon Road)]
  • Mr W. Barnett [Headmaster Albert Street Council School]
  • Major C. Trevilian (Pageant Master)[Land owner of Mildnay, nr Langport]
  • The Mayoress, Mrs Deacon
  • Mr F. Parr [Retired Borough Surveyor]
  • Mr Boltz [District Secretary, Transport and General Workers’ Union]
  • Mrs Palmer [Headmistress, Albert Street Council School]
  • Miss Roberts [Headmistress, Mount Street Church of England Girls and Infants school]
  • Miss Sawtell [Headmistress, Eastover Council School]
  • Mr H.N. Gedye (Hon. Treas.) [Manager, Lloyd's Bank (Fox's Branch) Fore Street]
  • Major Tamlyn
  • Mr P. Sturdy (Hon Sec) [Owner of Sydenham House where the event was held.]
  • Mr I.J. Morgan (Business Manager)
  • The Rev F. Paine
  • Mr C. Byers
  • Mr A.B. Marchant
  • Mr Beckett
  • Mrs Wallace

Libretto Subcommittee

  • Convenor: Mr. T.B. Dilks

Finance Subcommittee

  • Convenor: The Mayor

Music Publicity Subcommittee

  • No information

Dress Publicity Subcommittee

  • No information

Site or Ground Publicity Subcommittee

  • Convenor: Mr F. Parr

Publicity Subcommittee

  • Convenor: Mr Page

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

  • Dilks, T. Bruce
  • Corder, Henry
  • Nicholls, Miss G.
  • Page, Maurice
  • Seamer, Rev. C.E.
  • Trevilian, Major C.E.


  • Dilks, [Episode 1, 2]
  • Corder [Episode 3]
  • Nicholls [Episode 4]
  • Page [Episode 5, 6]
  • Seamer [Episode 7]
  • Trevilian [Epilogue]

Names of composers

  • Whitlock, Percy

Whitlock composed all the music

Numbers of performers


Financial information


  • Tents and Scenery £620 16 8
  • Properties and Costume Hire, less amount received from Performers £145 15 10
  • Advertising, Printing, Carriage
  • Travelling and Sundries £504 13 2
  • Less amount collected £1 8 3
  • Police and Night Watchman £28 3 0
  • Music and Band £60 13 6
  • Charter Day Expenses [less Collection] £1 9 5
  • Surplus £440 4 6

Total £1803 4s 4d


  • By takings [less Entertainments Tax] £1,489 19 10
  • Car Parking £40 9 0
  • Donations £224 6 6
  • Profit on Book of Words £33 17 0
  • Tenders £14 12 0

The Pageant made a profit of £440 4s 6d.

[Source: Western Morning News, 4 August 1927, 3.]

Object of any funds raised

The Finance Committee proposed that donations to the following be made:

  • Bridgwater Hospital £15
  • Ditto Mayor’s Fund for supplying and fixing a shadowless lamp in Theatre to complete the fund £60
  • The Mary Stanley Home £75
  • Infant Welfare £20
  • Tuberculosis after care committee £20
  • British Legion local branch £20
  • National Institution for the Blind, local branch £15
  • Blake Museum exhibits fund £20
  • St John’s Ambulance Uniform fund £10
  • Pageant Sunshine Guild £50

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 1000
  • Total audience: n/a


Very large audiences were witnessed at every performance and the profit made by the pageant attests to large attendances.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s 6d–1s.

Associated events

  • Pageant Service at St Mary’s Church

Pageant outline

The Prologue

The spirit of the Bridge recites a prologue. A family of lake dwellers set up their home whilst serenaded by the spirits of river and sea. The man and woman are alarmed and are about to throw their baby in the water as a sacrifice when the archangel Michael calms them, and tells them about the great future for their child (a personification of the town).

Episode 1. King John Visits Bridgwater Castle, 1204

A crowd appears with the king’s jester, a giant and dwarf, who cause great amusement. The town’s grandees arrive to greet the wicked king. The king is greeted by wise councillors and judges from the town, before riding off to the forest to hunt.

Episode 2. The Riots of 1381

People are hanging around uncertainly when the cries of the rioters are heard. A clerk and two friars discuss the situation and the danger to their persons. One friar disguises himself. A boy warns that the mob is attacking the Hospital of the Augustinians in Eastover. The crowd arrive with the Vicar, Nicholas Frompton, who demands that the friars turn over papers. They eventually agree and the documents are consigned to the flames. A band of peasants enter carrying a rabbit on a pole. The mob marches off to Sydenham, East Chilton and thence to Ilminster, returning with the impaled heads of the warden and Walter Baron of Chilton, which they fix onto the bridge as a warning.

Episode 3. Funeral of Sir Hugh Luttrell, 1428

The funeral procession passes through the town and is honoured by the town and friars with a choir chanting plainsong.

Episode 4. St Matthew’s Fair in 1588

A crowd of apprentices, stray children, pedlars, buyers and sellers enter before the Mayor declares the Fair open. There is much merriment, dancing bears, jugglers, and fiddlers. The cider and ale proves too strong for some and a fight breaks out, quickly suppressed by local officers, who throw the brawlers in the stocks. There is a wrestling match, interrupted by a party of seamen returned from defeating the Armada. This prompts a hymn of deliverance before the entirety of the people depart for a service of thanksgiving at St Mary’s church.

Episode 5. Admiral Blake

Scene 1.

Admiral Blake returns to Bridgwater after defending Taunton against the Royalists. He is received with joy and great thanks from the Mayor, though local ‘Clubmen’ are less enthusiastic, hating both Royalists and Parliamentarians. The Mayor defuses the situation and collects donations for Taunton.

Scene 2.

Admiral Blake returns to Bridgwater wearied by fighting before setting out on his fourth and final voyage. The episode depicts Puritan Bridgwater and Blake’s moving farewell.

Episode 6. Monmouth and Sedgmoor, 1683

Scene 1.

The town expectantly awaits the Duke’s arrival. He is received with rapture and touches a sick man for the King’s evil, before going off with his recruits.


Monmouth deserts his fellows.

Scene 2.

The town and Mayor in the throes of terror. Wounded men arrive and Colonel Wade enters with his defeated army, denouncing Monmouth’s cowardice. They mount a last stand but are beaten. Lord Feversham rides into the town with Churchill and they begin slaughtering the survivors. Bishop Meaux intervenes to stop the killing and the army rides off to pursue the Duke.

Episode 7. Hustings Scene, 1780

The episode depicts an election against the backdrop of defeat in America and the Gordon riots. The episode shows the corruption and bribery of elections.

Epilogue. Procession of Performers and Traders

Speech by the Spirit of the Bridge followed by a procession of lorries representing the industrial life of the borough throughout its history, as well as soldiers, airmen, Scouts, Guides. The ‘Song of the Bridgwater Men’ is sung as Blake and the Archangel Michael appear on the bridge. A procession of all the characters and the singing of ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’ concludes the performance, the whole procession exiting through the town gates.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Luttrell, Sir Hugh (d. 1428)
  • Blake, Robert (bap. 1598, d. 1657) naval and army officer
  • Scott [formerly Crofts], James, duke of Monmouth and first duke of Buccleuch (1649–1685) politician
  • Grey, William, first Baron Grey of Warke (1593/4–1674) politician
  • Wade, Nathaniel (d. 1718) lawyer and conspirator
  • Churchill, John, first duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) army officer and politician
  • Duras, Louis, second earl of Feversham (1641–1709) soldier and diplomat

Musical production

There was a band and specially-composed music by Percy Whitlock

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
Weston Gazette
Western Morning News
Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser
Western Daily Press
Bridgwater Mercury

Book of words

None noted.

Other primary published materials

  • Bridgwater Pageant 1927. [Np, 1927].

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Somerset Heritage Centre, Copy of Programme Reference PAM 100 and Pageant Script, Reference A\BMG/4/1
  • Newspaper reports, income, minutes, music and various information on the Bridgwater Pageant available at the Blake Museum, Bridgwater; these have been digitized and put on the website, accessed 23 January 2017,
  • There is a film of the pageant: ‘Bridgwater Pageant 1926 [1927]’, British Pathe, accessed 23 February 2017,

Sources used in preparation of pageant



‘For years, it had been the dream of those interested in the town’s past to have a pageant, and this has at last materialised’:1 so declared the Weston Gazette in witnessing the town’s triumph. The small Somerset town of Bridgwater was fiercely proud of its history and the pageant seems to have been the work of the Mayor, W. Deacon, and Major Maurice Fearing Cely Trevilian. The latter was something of a local mover-and-shaker, being President of the Western Area of the British legion, Chairman of the Somerset Rural Community Council, Governor of Woodard Schools, President of the Somerset Archaeological Society, and of the Somerset Folk Song Society; High Sheriff of Somerset (1925); J.P and D.L.; and a member of the Church Music Advisory Board.2 Planning for the pageant began in late 1925 and the Minute book held in Bridgwater Museum attests that the pageant quickly grew in scale to involve a significant proportion of the town, which had a population of only around 16000 (of which over 1000 performed in the pageant itself).3  With deft financial management from the council and local worthies (among other things, the principal performers were asked to hire their own costumes, and donations and guarantees of over £700 were secured), the Pageant was in a good financial state before it began. Indeed, it had sold £259 in tickets by 7 June 1927.4

The pageant itself featured a number of scenes of striking interest that were, moreover, disruptive of the peaceably bucolic visions many had of the town. Fair scenes of Merrie England were juxtaposed with a harrowing scene showing the Peasants’ revolt of 1381, in which a mob first burnt legal documents belonging to the hated Friars and then paraded the severed heads of local worthies on the town’s bridge.

The Civil War episode shows the town’s antipathy towards its greatest son, Admiral Robert Blake, with ‘Clubmen’—who kept the town resolutely neutral (and hopefully unpillaged by either side)—maintaining a violent independence from the conflict. By contrast, the sixth episode shows the town’s folly in being drawn into the Duke of Monmouth’s abortive rebellion against James II and the defeat of his army at nearby Sedgmoor, with the incredulity of a man cured of the ‘King’s Evil’—a commonly-held belief that Royalty possessed the power to cure scrofula—attesting to the illegitimate son of Charles II being the true monarch. The episode also depicts the slaughter of many of the townspeople in the aftermath of the battle with John Churchill—the subsequent hero of Blenheim—depicted here as a figure willing to kill Englishmen in the service of a tyrannical monarch. The subsequent hustings scene, performed by local members of the Liberal and Conservative parties, displayed the corruption, venality, and brutality of eighteenth-century elections. Unfortunately, as the correspondent for the Times noted, the most famous politician of the age—the Whig leader Charles James Fox—unsuccessfully stood for the seat in the election, though did not actually visit the hustings.5

The Times noted that ‘a stickler for accuracy might object that the colour is too delicate and prettily combined, and the music too nicely modulated, to justify any mention of a blaze: but this is nothing compared with the omission of a reference to the tremendous spirit with which the pageant is conducted from the first to last.’ Despite noting some amateurism among the performers, the reporter also decided approvingly that ‘this spirit in the performers is but a reflection of the zeal with which all classes of the townspeople have been throwing themselves into the preparation of the pageant for months past.’6

The Pageant was a great success, enjoying fine weather and performed to large crowds of many thousands, making a profit of £440. Buoyed by this success, Trevilian went on to direct the Taunton Pageant (1928) and the Combe Pageant (1931).


1. ^ Weston Gazette, 24 June 1927, 4
2. ^ ‘Trevilian Biography’, Bridgwater Museum, accessed 23 February 2017,
3. ^ Bridgwater MB through time, Total Population’, A Vision of Britain through Time, accessed 23 February 2017,
4. ^ Pageant Minute Book, 7 June 1927, Bridgwater Museum, accessed 23 February 2017,
5. ^ The Times, 22 June 1927, 10; see also A.P. Baggs and M.C. Siraut, 'Bridgwater: Parliamentary representation', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes), ed. R.W. Dunning and C.R. Elrington (London, 1992), 228-30. British History Online, accessed 23 February 2017,
6. ^ The Times, 22 June 1927, 10

How to cite this entry

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