Pageant of Pembroke

Other names

  • Pasiant Penfro

Pageant type


Information drawn from 'Survey of Historical Pageants' undertaken by Mick Wallis; with thanks to Mrs Anita Thomas of Haverfordwest Library and Information Centre.

Jump to Summary


Place: Pembroke Castle (Pembroke/Penfro) (Pembroke/Penfro, Pembrokeshire, Wales)

Year: 1958

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


28, 29 and 30 July 1958, at 4pm and 7.30pm each day.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Ede, Christopher
  • President: Hon. R. Hanning Phillipps
  • Co-ordinating Officers: Desmond Lowless and Peggy Thomas
  • Hon. Organiser: Ray Sandell
  • Hon. Treasurer: R.D. Morris
  • Hon. General Secretary: Dillwyn Miles
  • Costume Research and Design: Mary Buckland
  • Property Supervisor: Ken Cooper
  • Master of Horse: John Russell
  • Choreography: E. Violet Ellis


R.D. Morris was the manager of the Haverfordwest branch of Barclay's Bank.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

County Pageant Committee

  • Sir Frederick Rees (Chairman)
  • A.C. Colley (Vice-Chairman)
  • R.G. Mathias (Vice-Chairman)
  • I.O. Martin
  • T.R. Joseph
  • J.F. Green
  • Frank Owen
  • V.T. Cleaver
  • G. Ll. Williams
  • H. Brown
  • Charles Salmon
  • G.W. John
  • T.L. Jones
  • H.D. Howells
  • Joan Lee
  • Canon Garfield Davies
  • A.L. Edwards
  • Thomas Davies
  • Griff C. Morgan
  • A. Isherwood
  • Berian Edwards
  • W.D. Williams
  • Joss Davies
  • Ron Rees
  • W. Rhys Williams
  • Wynford Davies
  • H.L. Underwood
  • J.A. Price
  • Howell Williams
  • W.J. Gwilliam
  • D. Hywel Davies
  • D.R. Tidswell
  • W. Nevin
  • Mrs George Llewellin
  • Mrs V. Waldron
  • Mrs C. Harries
  • Mrs A. Norman
  • Mrs D. Miller
  • Mrs M. Mendus
  • Mrs B. Ramsden
  • Miss Morwyth Rees
  • Lady Marion Philipps
  • Miss E.V. Ellis
  • Capt. A.T.M. Evans
  • Lieut.-Col. R.D. Lowless
  • Supt. R.J. Jones

Executive Committee

  • A.C. Colley
  • R.G. Mathias
  • R.D. Lowless
  • Colin Matthews
  • Christopher Ede
  • C.R. Sandell
  • Dillwyn Miles

Episodes Committee

  • Sir Frederick Rees (chairman)
  • Mary Buckland
  • R.G. Mathias
  • J.A. Price
  • Dillwyn Miles

Finance Committee

  • D. Hywel Davies (chairman)
  • John Green
  • Frank Owen
  • V.T. Cleaver
  • G. Ll. Williams
  • Charles Salmon
  • H. Brown
  • G.W. John
  • T.L. Jones
  • H.D. Howells
  • I.O. Martin
  • A.C. Colley
  • Colin Matthews
  • C.R. Sandell
  • Dillwyn Miles

Publicity Committee

  • Major John Green (chairman)
  • D. Hywel Davies
  • Charles Salmon
  • C.R. Sandell
  • Dillwyn Miles

Hospitality Committe

  • A.C. Colley (chairman)
  • Supt. R.J. Jones
  • A.W. Hopkins
  • E. Morgan
  • C.R. Woozley
  • A.E. Whitelock
  • I.G. Hughes
  • C.H. Griffiths
  • A. Simpson
  • A.R. Drysdale
  • C.R. Sandell

Costume Committees

  • Pembroke (Chairman: Miss Morwyth Rees )
  • Tenby and Saundersfoot (Chairman: Miss E. Breadman).


The Executive, Episodes, Finance, Publicity and Hospitality Committees were all sub-committees of the County Pageant Committee.

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

  • Mathias, Roland G.


Roland Glyn Mathias was a noted poet and literary critic.

Names of composers

  • Perrott, Ian

Ian Perrott was a professor of music at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth; he composed music especially for the pageant performance.

Numbers of performers


In addition to human performers, the pageant involved a large number of horses.

Financial information

Tickets for the pageant seem to have sold out entirely, so the event was very probably a financial success.

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

  • Festival of Wales 1958
  • Anniversary of birth of Henry Tudor at Pembroke Castle, 1457.

Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

£1 1s–3s 6d

Tickets were sold at a range of price points. Reserved seats in covered stands could be had for £1 1s, 15s, 10s and 7s 6d. Unreserved seats (presumably without protection from the elements) were 5s and 3s 6d. Children were half price and discounts were available for group bookings.

Associated events

  • Events connected to Festival of Wales celebrations

Pageant outline

The Dance of the Red and White Dragons

The Norman Invasion

Produced by Stuart Shaw.

The Preaching of the Third Crusade

Involved singing from the choristers of St David's Cathedral under the direction of Peter Boorman. The episode was produced by Islwyn Thomas.

The Ballet of the Rose Prince

The Birth of Henry Tudor

Produced by Helene George.

The Flight to France

Produced by Helene George.

The Ballet of the Games

A ballet involving Tops, Shuttle Cocks, Counters, and Kites, among other things. Chessmen also featured.

The Return of Henry Tudor

Produced by Stuart Shaw. The climax of the pageant, and evidently an elaborate episode, involving horses and a very large market day crowd. 

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Windsor, Gerald of (d. 1116x36) soldier and dynast
  • Cadwgan ap Bleddyn (d. 1111)
  • Rhys ap Tewdwr (d. 1093) ruler in Wales
  • Sir Owain ap Cadwgan (d. 1116)
  • Baldwin [Baldwin of Forde] (c.1125–1190) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Gerald of Wales [Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald de Barry] (c.1146–1220x23) author and ecclesiastic
  • Tudor, Jasper [Jasper of Hatfield], duke of Bedford (c.1431–1495) magnate
  • Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Rhys, Sir, ap Thomas (1448/9–1525) soldier and landowner
  • Stanley, Thomas, first earl of Derby (c.1433–1504) magnate

Musical production

Ian Perrott composed music especially for the pageant. The ballet scenes were choreographed by Violet Ellis.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The pageant was covered extensively in the local press at the time. Interesting articles recalling the event appeared in the West Wales Guardian, 13 and 20 May 1994.

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The ephemera collection of the Haverfordwest Library and Information Centre contains a copy of the programme, a publicity flyer and cast/committee lists.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



It was originally intended that the Pembroke Pageant would take place in 1957, to coincide with the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Henry Tudor—King Henry VII—at Pembroke Castle. In the event, however, the pageant was delayed for a year so that it could form part of the nationwide Festival of Wales celebrations. This proved to be a good decision; the pageant was reportedly one of the more popular attractions in the festival programme, and thousands of people saw it live. 

The pageant focused on the medieval past, and specifically the period between the Norman establishment of Pembroke Castle at the end of the eleventh century and the return of Henry Tudor to his birthplace en route to Bosworth Field. As most evident in the final scene, the story told was what might be termed a 'unionist-nationalist' one, seeking to underline the contribution of Wales to a larger British national story. The pageant was a fairly large-scale affair, involving the usual panoply of committees and sub-committees, as well as a cast of some two thousand (including Alun Williams and Gwenyth Petty of the BBC, who played the part of the two Narrators). It enjoyed the support of the great and the good of Pembrokeshire, including the Hon. R. Hanning Philipps, the county Lord Lieutenant. Pembrokeshire county and Tenby borough councils also lent their support, as did a wide range of local institutions and business, ranging from the Regimental Band of the Welsh Guards, to Pembroke Grammar School, to West Wales Bakeries. 

Postwar Pembroke had an active amateur theatrical scene, and much of the groundwork for the pageant was laid by the Penvro Dramatic Society, which had been established in 1955. The key local organisers seem to have been Ray Sandell, chief public health inspector with Pembroke Borough Council and three local school teachers: Stuart Shaw, Mollie Thomas and Aubrey Phillips. It was this team that masterminded what would become a large-scale organisational effort, not least the design and manufacture of a very large number of costumes (for which local branches of the Women's Institute and Mothers' Union were mobilised to great effect, holding sewing and dyeing 'parties' in the Town Hall). The script for the pageant was written by Roland Mathias (1915-2007), a noted poet, teacher and literary critic who was at the time Headmaster of Pembroke Dock Grammar School. Indeed, the whole pageant had been conceived and organised well before Christopher Ede was brought in as Pageant Master, his role essentially being to direct the final rehearsals.

There is no doubt that the pageant was a success. It seems, indeed, to have been a sell-out, many people—having failed to get tickets—finding consolation in crowding around the venue and simply watching 'the actors making their entrances and exits'. In a piece in the West Wales Guardian, published in May 1994, Vernon Scott recalled that 'for every performance queues stretched back to Monkton Bridge on the south-west side of the castle, and way up to the present day Bush Hill entrance to Pembroke School on the north side'. The mishaps that did occur were relatively minor, and very much typical of historical pageantry. As at St Albans in 1948, the corporeal functions of horses caused some amusement: in this case, as Scott also recorded, the moment came 'when a leading player [none other than Henry Tudor] was astride his horse and about to make a speech. A hush had descended upon the castle and just as he was about to open his opening lines, the horse decided to relieve itself in Niagara Falls fashion!'. It seems the errant horse was at least regular in its habits, 'relieving itself during the same scene in every performance'—the scene in question being the triumphant entrance of the future King Henry VII into Pembroke Castle.

Given the success of the event, which even inspired a spin-off theatre production the same autumn ('The Town that would have a Pageant'), it might be wondered why no further pageants on this scale were held in Pembroke. One answer was that the costumes were destroyed soon after the event. Having been carefully stored away in the basement of the Pater Hall, Pembroke Dock, their pungent aroma (most were made of hessian) attracted the attention of an over-zealous local councillor, who mistook the smell for something less savoury and burnt the lot. 


How to cite this entry

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