Adel Church Octocentenary

Pageant type

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Place: Adel Rectory Gardens (Adel) (Adel, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1960

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


25 June 1960 at 4.45pm and 27 June 1960 at 8.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Spencer, Syblil
  • Dances: Muriel Cooke-Yarborough
  • Wardrobe: Betty Mountford with Pauline Bray, Iris Jones and Monica Jones
  • Hats and Bonnets: Lily Whincup
  • Music Arranged by: Eleanor Jackson
  • Maypole Dances by: Barbara Trickett
  • Violinist: Audrey Cooke
  • Accompanist: Ursula Wheeler
  • Stage Managers: Brian Wilson; Raymond Smith
  • Managing Director: Jessie Little
  • Spoken by: Philip Simpson
  • Written and Dramatised by: Eleanor Robinson

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Robinson, Eleanor

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

The 800th anniversary of the consecration of the Church.

Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

3s. 6d.–2s.

Associated events

  • Various church services. 
  • A garden party on Saturday including admission to the pageant. 

Pageant outline

Prologue. The Story of Adel Church

The Church speaks about the centuries, concluding: ‘You do not change, my children. Your clothes may be different and your manner of life may alter with the centuries, but your hearts are the same—restless until they find rest in God.’

Episode I. 1172

Hamelinus stops boys quarrelling and tells them the history of the ancient Britons, the Romans and the coming of Christianity. He then describes the building of the church some 20 years ago which replaced the mud church. Hamelinus says that William the Conqueror brought peace and religion. He shows the boys the carvings of the Church.

Interlude—The Church Speaks

Episode II. 1391

The old rector sits in a chair and receives guests including some from local prominent families, the prioress and nuns. His children perform a dance, and there is a party. The rector discreetly dictates his will to Nicholas, leaving his saddle horse to the ‘rector who shall come after me’.

Interlude—The Church Speaks About Lollards and Wycliffe and the Civil War

Episode III. 1662

The new rector is arriving, and the crowd is expectant of the celebrations to mark the restoration of the church. He is greeted by maids with flowers, a feast and a masque (‘The Judgment of Paris’). All rejoice.

Interlude—The Church Speaks

The Rector, Dr Hitch, was a fairly avaricious man. He rehearses the line of rectors, most of who lived away from the parish.

Episode IV. 1861

Children practise maypole dancing while women talk about their children. The gentry arrive in a carriage. They greet the rector, and all watch the Maypole dance and give money to the children. They talk about the new Reformatory Home for Boys. All dance a polka.

Interlude—The Church Speaks

The Church speaks of the great restoration of 1879, and bells ring.

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

Yorkshire Post

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • West Yorkshire Archive Services, Leeds: Copy of programme and newspaper cuttings. RDP2/133.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Adel is a small, semi-rural suburb in the north of Leeds, West Yorkshire, which stretches across the River Wharfe. The name comes from its Saxon settlers, Adel or Adele meaning a ‘dirty muddy place’.1 In an otherwise unremarkable place, the church stands out. It is described as ‘one of the best and most complete Norman churches in Yorkshire’ and features a medieval font with a restored oak canopy by the famous sculptor and artist Eric Gill.2 Adel Church, led by the Adel Players (founded in 1945), held a pageant to celebrate its octocentenary, with the voice of the Church spoken by its then rector, Canon Philip Simpson.3 The pageant conveys little more than the sense of the permanence of the church and the insignificance of the village’s history. This was conveyed by J.R.H. Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, who preached a special service attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Leeds along with Donald Kaberry, MP, Lady Kaberry, Malcolm Stoddart-Scott, Lady Martin, Col. W. Sheepshanks and a swollen congregation of some 300 parishioners: ‘Since the people of Adel had decided to build a church 800 years ago, many people had passed through its doors and worshipped there, said the Bishop. The Church had seen many vicissitudes and changes, but it had always been used to make known the truth of God.’4 Moorman noted that his own family had worshipped there fifty years ago. The service was followed by the story of the Church: ‘presented in pageant form… the story was told in four episodes which picked out the highlights of the church’s story.’5 This seemed to convey the gulf of years between the building itself and the people who inhabited—or rather passed through—it.

The church was listed in 1963;6 a series of Mystery Plays was performed by the Adel Players in the churchyard which proved to be a great success, and the rectory was sold.7


  1. ^ A.D. Mills, Dictionary of British Place-Names (Oxford, 2003).
  2. ^ Susan Wrathmell and John Minnis, Leeds: Pevsner Architectural Guides (Yale, New Haven, 2005), 268–270.
  3. ^ Adel Players, accessed 29 April 2016,
  4. ^ Yorkshire Post, 27 June 1960, np, cutting in West Yorkshire Archive Services, Leeds. RDP2/133.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ Images of England, no. 465832, aAccessed 29 April 2016,
  7. ^ Adel, Visitor UK, accessed 29 April 2016,

How to cite this entry

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