A Pageant of Sport through the Ages

Pageant type

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Place: St John’s School (Warminster) (Warminster, Wiltshire, England)

Year: 1982

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


Presumably outdoors (there was jousting).

Saturday 1 May 1982(?), 3pm-6pm

No year is given on the leaflet. The archive catalogue states c.1980; the only year in the early 1980s for which May 1st fell on a Saturday is 1982.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Parents, ex-pupils and children of the school.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Associated programme of stalls, fun and games, such as guess the weight of the cake, name the footballer, and maypole dancing.

Pageant outline

Roman Games

This featured an athletic event, a display of horsemanship by Roman Centurions, and gladiatorial combats. The first gladiatorial contest is between a Samnite and a Thracian gladiator. The winner is challenged by a Retiarius who carries a net and trident. At the end of each combat the victorious gladiator appeals to the magistrate for a decision as to whether the loser should be killed.

A Norman Tournament

This featured a parade of knights and squires, a mock battle, tilting at the ring, and a demonstration of jousting.

A Tudor Fair

A Morality Play (‘The Creation’); Performing Bear and Conjuror; Jesters, Minstrels, Stave-Wrestlers, Pedlars, Sword-dancers, Tumblers, Thief in stocks, Peasants

Modern Sports

The story of how the national games of football and cricket originated.

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • A Pageant of Sport through the Ages. Warminster, [?1982]. Wiltshire and Swindon Archives. F8/600/280/5/24/3.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • A Pageant of Sport through the Ages. Warminster, [?1982]. Wiltshire and Swindon Archives. F8/600/280/5/24/3.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



A Pageant of Sport through the Ages was a small event held by the St John’s School in Warminster, Wiltshire, most likely in 1982.1 It was a cross between a school fete and a sports day, the historical pageant format adapted to suit the purposes of both these aims. As well as the pageant, there was an associated programme of stalls, fun and games, such as guess the weight of the cake, name the footballer, and maypole dancing. The village of Abinger had also held a Pageant of Sport in 1952.

Its key interest lies in the ways in which some aspects of early- and mid-twentieth century pageantry had survived into the 1980s. The pageant coincided with the crowning of the May Queen and there was maypole dancing. The programme stated that ‘May has always been a time when people gathered together to celebrate the coming of Spring. In our pageant we shall try to show how, in varied ways, the Spring festival has been celebrated by our ancestors.’ In the Tudor episode there was also a morality play, ‘The Creation’—another frequent aspect of early pageants. In terms of its production, it also retained much of the ‘community spirit’ of early pageants; all the performers were parents, ex-pupils, or current pupils, and the costumes, armour and scenery were all made by parents.

It was, however, especially in terms of its episodes, derivative of pageantry rather than a true historical pageant in itself. Each of the four tableaux did not have a coherent narrative or storyline, instead relying on a mix of revelry and examples of historical sports. While the programme did provide a brief overview of the periods represented, if only in terms of their sporting history, this did not seem to translate to the actual performance. It had, at best, minor educational intent. In a sense the content was probably incidental—more likely the pageant was an exercise in entertainment and creating social cohesion among the school and its community of parents and pupils.

Unsurprisingly, considering its size and scale, very little information survives about the pageant. Local newspapers did not seem to pick up on the fact that it was taking place, so the only record available is a cheaply produced programme of events, printed for the school by the Educational Technology Department of Wiltshire County Council. Still, some important civic figures still got involved—most notably Mr Gervase H. Nicholls, the Chairman of Warminster Urban District Council, who was the guest of honour along with his wife, and who was also crowned the May Queen. More generally there was a significant involvement from military figures, reflecting the importance of the military to the town due to the Battlesbury Barracks and other military institutions. Major J. Durham was the announcer and commentator for the pageant, and two local corporals played jousters, while equipment was also loaned from local military figures.


  1. ^ The following summary is based on the leaflet, A Pageant of Sport through the Ages (Warminster, [?1982]), which is held at the Swindon and Wiltshire Record Office.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Pageant of Sport through the Ages’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/954/