Guide to the database

Our database of over 550 pageants can be accessed by clicking on the grey "pageants database" tab at the top of the screen. This is the URL:

Each pageant has an individual entry, with information provided under various subheadings. This guide explains how the entries are organised.


Each pageant is assigned to one or more types. The types are defined as follows: 


Pageants staged by, or mainly relating to the history of, a church or group of churches. These range from huge events such as the English Church Pageant, to small village church pageants such as the Middleton Parish Church Historical Commemoration Pageant. Some are also assigned to the ‘town’ (Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant) or ‘village’ (Adel Church Octocentenary) categories.


Pageants depicting the history of a county. These were sometimes staged in the county town, but also sometimes elsewhere – for example, the Pageant of Essex, staged in Ilford in 1932. Some county pageants are also assigned to another category for obvious reasons; for example, the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Historical Pageant.


Pageants that were mainly concerned with the history of empire. This is a small category, which includes a small number of Empire Day pageants and also large imperial spectacles such as the 1924 Pageant of Empire


Pageants telling the history of, or mainly organised by, an institution other than a church or group of churches. These include historical pageants relating to particular professions, such as nursing, and political parties or movements, for example, the Communist Party, the Conservative Party, the Women's Institute, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides.


Pageants staged within the modern-day boundaries of Greater London.

Large town/city 

Pageants staged in a place—outside Greater London—with a population (in 2017) of 250,000 or more.


Pageants explicitly devised as depicting the history of England, Scotland or Wales, self-described as ‘national’ (as in the case of Winchester in 1908), or focusing on a theme within national history (such as English literature).


Pageants staged in a place that is larger than a village, but smaller than a ‘large town/city’ (see above).


Pageants staged in, and often depicting the history of, a village.


This indexed field contains the name (in the form surname, given name/initials) of the pageant-master or producer of the pageant. The designation varied from pageant to pageant. Some pageants had more than one producer, and in these cases both or all are indexed. 

The lists of other officials—some of which are very long—are not indexed, but can be read in their entirety in the individual pageant entries or can be searched using the free-text search function.



Historical figures that were depicted in pageants are recorded and indexed. They are listed in the full pageant record. The lists includes all characters who appeared in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 2016, and the format of each entry follows that in the ODNB, with dates of birth and death, and descriptions. The descriptions are used with the permission of the editor. Examples include:

  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
  • Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910) reformer of Army Medical Services and of nursing organization

Only figures with a full named entry are included, and not those who appear only in a themed entry or as a sub-entry. Thus, for example, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck do appear as named figures, whereas Maid Marian and Will Scarlet do not.

It should be noted that the aim of the ODNB is to record the lives of nationally significant figures, and many important local historical figures may not be included. One example is Thomas Oken of Warwick, a local benefactor who appeared with Elizabeth I in Episode X of the Warwick Pageant in 1906. Despite his local importance—there is an annual Thomas Oken Feast and a charity that still bears his name—Oken is not in the ODNB and is unlikely to merit an entry in the foreseeable future. These locally important characters can still be found using the free-text search function in the database. 

It is well known that the ODNB under-represents female historical figures; this reflects the imbalances in traditional historiography and in much of the archival record. Recent years, however, have seen sustained attempts to extend the coverage of female historical figures in the ODNB. In the pageants database, female and male characters are recorded by name in the episode synopses, and can be searched for using the free-text search function.

Some obviously important characters do not appear in the ODNB, which includes historical figures from, or prominently associated with, Britain. Certain characters are recorded in this indexed field, using a form similar to that in the ODNB. Examples include: 

  • Aelius Galenus (also known as Galen) (129-200x216)
  • Joan of Arc [Jeanne d’Arc] (1412-1431)
  • Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821) French military and political leader


The place of pageant is geo-referenced. Each pageant is assigned to a country, a county, a place within a county, and, where possible, an exact venue within that place.


These are England, Scotland and Wales. Current borders are used.


For England, the 43 historic counties (from before the local government reorganisation of 1974; including the Ridings of Yorkshire and the County of London) are used. These are Bedfordshire; Berkshire; Buckinghamshire; Cambridgeshire; Cheshire; Cornwall; Cumberland; Derbyshire; Devon; Dorset; Durham; Essex; Gloucestershire; Hampshire; Herefordshire; Hertfordshire; Huntingdonshire; Isle Of Wight; Kent; Lancashire; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; London; Middlesex; Norfolk; Northamptonshire; Northumberland; Nottinghamshire; Oxfordshire; Rutland; Shropshire; Somerset; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Surrey; Sussex; Warwickshire; Westmorland; Wiltshire; Worcestershire; Yorkshire, East Riding; Yorkshire, North Riding; Yorkshire, West Riding.

In Wales, the 13 historic counties are used: Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Carnarvonshire (spelt thus, not Caernarvonshire), Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Glamorganshire, Merionethshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire. Not all of these had a pageant that appears in the database. 

For Scotland, the ‘counties’ are the 32 council areas designated by the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian. Not all of these had a pageant that appears in the database.


Each pageant has a place, which may be a town, city, village or hamlet. The places vary considerably in size: examples are Liverpool (Liverpool 700th Anniversary Pageant) and Stracathro, Angus (Stracathro House Fete and Pageant).

Pageants in central London are assigned to ‘London’ and the county of Middlesex (see Counties, above). Others are assigned to specific places that are now in Greater London. Examples include the English Church Pageant (Fulham Palace (Fulham, Middlesex, England), and Pageant of Labour (Crystal Palace, Sydenham (Sydenham, London, England)).

Exact venues 

The full record gives, where possible, the exact venue, for example in the Berkhamsted Pageant Play (1922): Grounds of Berkhamsted Castle (Berkhamsted) (Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England).

In some cases the exact venue is not known. In these cases, the full record gives the venue thus (for example, the 750th Anniversay Pageant, Kirkintilloch): Unknown (Kirkintilloch) (Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland)


The year is given in the full pageant entry, and this is used in searches. In the full record, the notes give the exact dates of the pageant where they are known.


The full pageant entry records whether a pageant was held indoors or outdoors, or whether this is unknown.

Number of performances 

The full pageant entry gives the number of performances, excluding dress rehearsals.


In this indexed field, the scriptwriters are named in the form surname, given name/initials. All credited scriptwriters are named. These include figures such as Shakespeare, William, when a pageant script included scenes from their writing and explicitly credited them. In many cases, scenes from Shakespeare and others were used without direct accreditation, and in these cases we do not attribute authorship, although sometimes the notes contain additional information of this kind. 

The notes to this field contain details of which authors were responsible for which episodes, and other information where available.

The field includes the writers of ‘scenarios’, even in pageants without dialogue.


This indexed field includes the names of all accredited composers, in the form surname, given name/initials.

The notes to this field give additional information where available. The musical production field gives further details of compositions, arrangements, orchestras and choirs. 


The figure in bold gives the number of (human) performers, where known, not including members of choirs, orchestras, etc. If there is no exact figure available, then a conservative estimate is given.

 It is possible to search the database on this field, though in many cases there is no figure available.



The fullest available information is given, at current prices unadjusted for inflation. Where possible, profit and loss figures will be given in bold.



This field records whether there was a grandstand (this is unknown in many cases, but note that, where the pageant was indoors, there was obviously no grandstand). The total audience figure is given exactly where known, or in other cases estimated. The notes for this field give additional details, and explain any reasons for the estimate.

It is possible to search the database on this field, though in many cases there is no figure available.



This field gives the range of admission/seat prices from highest to lowest. The notes give additional details.



This section gives a synopsis of all the scenes in the pageant, where available. In some cases, no synopsis is possible, and the titles of the scenes are given; sometimes even this information is missing. Some synopses are taken directly from souvenir programmes or other published and unpublished material; where this is done, it is clearly referenced. In other cases—the vast majority—the project team has written the synopsis, based on the pageant script.



This field gives details of orchestras, choirs, etc. It then provides detailed information on the music used. Whereas the indexed composer field gives only the names of composers, the full details of music used are given, wherever possible, here.



Where available, full bibliographical details of the pageant programme or book of words is given, along with a list of sources used to write/devise the pageant, references to the pageant in any secondary literature, and details of materials held in specific archives.