The Bury St Edmunds Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Abbey Gardens (Bury St Edmunds) (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England)

Year: 1907

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


8–13 July 1907, 2.30pm

In addition to these six performances there were five dress rehearsals to which the public was admitted at a lower rate.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Assistant: Herbert Norris
  • Master of the Music: C.J.H. Shann
  • Chorus Master: A. Olivier Lusher
  • Leader of the Orchestra: M.J. Martens
  • Bandmaster: A. Varnfield (1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment)
  • Accompanist: Miss. S. Hardwick, LRAM
  • Accompanist: Miss Christine Carter, LRAM
  • Accompanist: Miss Muriel Gross
  • Librarian: Conrad M. Dyer
  • Master of the Properties: A.R. Christopherson
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Lindsey
  • Assistant Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Clough
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Miss Ledward
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Miss Harris
  • Mistress of the Head-Dresses: Miss Todd
  • Mistress of the Dances: Miss Charlotte Jannings
  • Assistant: Miss L. Tinkler
  • Assistant: Miss Plowright
  • Master of the Horse: Phil Browne, Junior
  • Perruquier: W. Clarkson
  • Official Photographer: G.S. Cousins


The pageant master’s name was formally recorded together with his professional affiliations as: Louis N. Parker, FRAM (Officier d’Academie), FRHistS.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Named Officers:

  • President: The Most Hon. The Marquis of Bristol
  • Chairman of the General Committee: The Ven. George Hodges (Archdeacon of Sudbury)
  • Vice-Chairman: Charles Terry
  • Honorary Secretary: A.P. Wheeler
  • Hon. Secretary: S. Allingham
  • Secretary: Fred T. Carter

Executive and Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: John Wood, MA, DL
  • Deputy Chairman: Owen A. Clark
  • 17 men, 6 women = 23 total

Grand Stand Committee:

  • Chairman: C.H. Bullen
  • 9 men, 0 women = 9 total

Advertising Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: J.G. Oliver
  • 7 men, 0 women = 7 total

Housing Committee:

  • Chairman: Charles Oliver
  • 10 men, 0 women = 10 total

Photograph Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs Manson
  • 6 men, 1 woman = 7 total

Ladies’ Executive Committee:

  • President: The Hon. Mrs Wood
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Ella Green
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs W. Plumpton
  • Vice-President: Mrs E.W. Lake
  • 0 men, 9 women = 9 total

Art Committee:

  • Chairman: Major Jackson
  • 5 women, 2 men = 7 total

Colour Committee:

  • 4 women, 0 men = 4 total

Convenors of the Working Parties:

  • 26 women

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

  • Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Ogilvie, G. Stuart
  • Shakespeare, William


Louis Napoleon Parker wrote all of the Book of Words with the exception of episodes I and VI. The script for episode I was written by Mr G. Stuart Ogilvie and that of episode VI used Shakespeare’s play, Henry VI.

Names of composers

  • Shann, C.J.H.
  • Ganz, C.J.W.
  • Morley, Felix W.
  • Clark, Owen. A.
  • Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Rhoades, James
  • Barker, Horace
  • Wagner, Richard

Numbers of performers


Financial information

‘Statement of Accounts Balance Sheet: Auditor’s Report and Certificate.’1

Bury St Edmunds Pageant—Statement of Accounts, 31 December 1907.


  • Fees for master of the pageant: £921 0s 0d
  • Grandstand, arena, and pageant grounds: £2099 17s 5d
  • Music: £603 1s 7d
  • Costumes and wigs (less sales of £336 9s 9d): £677 11s 0d
  • Properties (less sales of £29 15s 0d): £237 14s 7d
  • Salaries and honorariums to staff: £486 11s 2d
  • Servitors and police: £94 4s 0d
  • Printing and Stationery (less sales of £13 17s 0d): £456 19s 1d
  • Advertising: £1085 19s 9d
  • Pageant lectures: £40 17s 9d
  • Publications: £430 11s 3d
  • Artists fee: £21 0s 0d
  • Promenades concerts (less sales of £427 4s 2d): £1151 4s 7d
  • Pageant House (less sales of furniture and fittings): £267 19s 7d
  • Insurance: £88 0s 3d
  • Postages: £100 15s 2d
  • Telephone: £10 7s 0d
  • Law costs: £11 6s 6d
  • Motor garage: £10 11s 6d
  • Audit fee: £5 5s 0d
  • Sundries: £13 0s 1d
  • Total expenditure: £7298 18s 4d


  • By subscriptions: £908 0s 6d
  • Sale of tickets: £7860 3s 0d
  • Catering, post cards, photos, graphics and other rights: £337 10s 0d
  • Promenade concerts: £56 1s 0d
  • Bank interest to date: £48 2s 5d
  • Cloak room fees: £7 5s 7d
  • Apartment register fees: £6 9s 0d
  • Motor garage fees: £10 11s 6d
  • Sundries: £2 14s 4d
  • Total income: £8329 17s 10d

Surplus: £1030 19s 6d

  • Ticket clerk overpayment on tickets to be refunded: £13 1s 0d

Total Profit: £1044 0s 6d

  • Estimated further expenditure to close accounts: £16 0s 0d
  • Less realizable stocks and book debts, estimated at £5 0s 0d
  • Total: 11


Object of any funds raised

Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk Sanatorium.


There was prolonged discussion of what the profit should be used for. See pageant summary.

Linked occasion

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 4000
  • Total audience: n/a


First performance: audience of 3500.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

£1. 1s.–3s. 6d.

Prices: £1. 1s.; 10s. 6d.; 5s. 6d.; 3s. 6d.

Prices for the dress rehearsals were lower, though it is not clear by how much.

Associated events

  • In the run up to the pageant, Parker spoke about the pageant in many places: Lowestoft, Norwich, Eye, Thetford, Sudbury, Colchester, Saffron Walden, Newmarket, Ipswich, German Athenaeum in London, and the East Anglian Society.
  • On 13 July there was a Luncheon served in the Council Chamber at the Guildhall at 1pm, where the mayors of boroughs in East Anglia, the Master of the Pageant and officials paid 10s. 6d. (plus wine). Following the Luncheon: a procession consisting of the Mayor and Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, the Recorder, Town Clerk, Mayors of East Anglia, and Members of the Town Council and others with seats for the Royal Enclosure, and, headed by the Mace and Sword bearers, proceeded by way of Guildhall street and Abbeygate Street to the Abbey Gate entrance to the Pageant Ground, and to their seats on the Grand Stand.3
  • Local exhibition of oils and water colours. During Pageant Week and the week previous there was an exhibition of paintings in oils and water colours at 41 Abbeygate Street (the work of a local lady, Mrs Luther Parker).
  • Full band of the 1st Suffolk Regiment delivered a programme of music on the barrack ground on Sunday 7 July, from 3pm to 4.30pm.

Pageant outline


The Arena represents the garden of a Roman Villa. After summons have been sounded by Heralds, the narrative chorus (Ancient Kings of East Anglia) enters in procession, singing a song that relates the vast spread of history that makes up ‘England’s web of destiny’, before announcing the appearance of ‘visions of the past’ through the Roman occupation.

Episode I. Villa Faustini, AD 61

A group of Iceni slaves enter and sets up a feasting table. The Centurion and soldiers mock the Iceni for their barbarism. A crowd of Iceni men women and children enter to watch the feast. Faustinus then enters with his wife and family, followed by a host of guests. After taking his seat at the head of the table amid a blaze of trumpets, he welcomes his friends and countrymen. Several Romans joke about Faustinus forgetting to leave his wife in Rome, and discuss how he is here due to being ‘chin-deep’ in debts. Three Britons complain how the Romans eat while their own kind goes hungry. They begin to murmur of Boadicea, and how she will save them. Faustinus, seemingly oblivious, commands a singer to perform. A ‘male Calibanic creature’, representing Barbarity, gives a grotesque dance, before a Roman dancing girl, representing Civilization, forces Barbarity to kneel before Faustinus. A British chieftain enters with a retinue of attendants, and hails Faustinus; the latter, a little tipsy, mocks him in return. The Chieftain announces that he has been sent by Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, to request an audience. Faustinus sends his soldiers to bring her. Boadicea now enters, alone on her chariot, cutting a striking figure. She salutes Faustinus and descends, before her two daughters arrive and take up a position next to their mother. Faustinus offers her wine; she waves it away and declares how she still mourns for Prasutagus. She asks for justice, and tells Faustinus of the harshness of the Roman rule. Faustinus brushes her off, and instructs her to seek justice from Rome. Boadicea now commands her Iceni people to rise up. Faustinus, panicking, orders them to go home in peace. Boadicea shows the Iceni crowd the scars of Roman rods across her shoulders. Incensed, the Iceni attack—slaying many Roman guests—before Faustinus is stabbed and brought before Boadicea. Before he dies he prophesises that she too will soon meet her end. The Iceni kneel and hail her Queen and Saviour, before scythes of war are fitted to her chariot. She declares, ‘Men of the Iceni, let our sons be free. Gods of our fathers, vouch us victory!’ before riding away. The Narrative chorus then introduces Saxon Edmund’s fame in Anglia.

Episode II. Scene I: Beodricsworth, AD 855

A group of local men discuss Edmund’s crowning, hoping that he will be a good leader in times of trouble, as the Northmen and Mercians threaten their realm. Local women in turn declare him holy. A procession of acolytes, priests, thanes and nobles enter from the Church, carrying the sceptre and Rod of Justice. Edmund, a teenager, under a canopy, with Bishop Humbert, finally enters, and is led to the high-seat, as the locals shower him with blessings. Humbert bids Edmund to speak, who then asks the frantic crowd whether they will accept him as King and brother. They heartily do, as Edmund then also commands the thanes and nobles of Anglia to swear fealty. Nobles then scatter gifts among the happy crowd. Eventually a wild weather-worn figure is noticed. Two fisherman tell how they found him ‘nigh dead’ in a boat with a similarly ailing bird; they make it clear that they wish to sell him to Edmund as a slave, to which Humbert reacts angrily. The crowd cries that he is a spy; Edmund admonishes them. Upon realising that he stands before Edmund, the man declares himself Lothparck, King of the Danes—washed up in Anglia after trying to save his falcon. Edmund welcomes him and they celebrate happily. Edmund calls in his falconer, Bern, whom Lothparck then challenges to a falconry contest, before both leave. The widow of Lord Beoderic then enters, and declares that, since she is now alone, she will gift Edmund her lands—symbolically cutting a piece of turf and handing it to the new King. Edmund declares that the place shall henceforth be known as Beodricsworth. All hail Edmund. Bern now enters, alone; it becomes clear that he has killed King Lothparck. As nobles try to seize Bern, Edmund orders them off, before persuading Bern to surrender his dagger. After Edmund examines the dagger and finds fresh blood, Bern admits to the deed—angered by Lothparck’s bragging and prowess. Edmund bids his soldiers to set Bern afloat in the boat Lothparck arrived in as punishment. Bern warns Edmund that ‘Worse shall come up out of the sea, than ever thou canst send down to it.’ The Narrative Chorus tells of how Bern’s ship washed up on the Danish coast, where he duplicitously blamed the murder of Lothparck on Edmund, encouraging the Danes to invade in vengeance.

Scene II: The Martyrdom, AD 870

Edmund, now a man of thirty, arrives—armed but weary. Humbert and four knights are with him. They discuss the war with the Danish invaders and the treachery of Bern. Edmund tells them that the Danes want revenge—revenge that would be sated by his own death. His men react with horror, but Edmund is determined to do his duty. He bids his farewells to Humbert and the Knights. The Danes now enter, headed by Bern, who mocks Edmund as ‘King of No-Man’s Land!’ The Danes excitedly threaten the King with various punishments, as Humbert is dragged off to be slaughtered. Ingvar and Ubba, Lothparck’s sons, enter and admonish Edmund, before ordering him to be stripped of his armour. Edmund is now in nothing but a long white gown. Some of the Danes are awestruck, and declare Edmund a God. Ingvar ignores this and orders Edmund to be bound to a tree. Ubba offers Edmund his life if he forswears his God. Edmund valiantly declines, declaring ‘the goodness of God endureth forever.’ The soldiers now fall upon Edmund, beating him. As Edmund raises his face to heaven and declares that his soul waits for God, the archers, led by Bern, fire their arrows into Edmund’s body. Edmund still declines to abandon his God. He is then dragged to the rear of the scene, where he is surrounded by soldiers. A sword flashes above the crowd. Ingvar orders his men to toss the head to the wolves, as the rest of Edmund’s body is carried away. Ingvar then turns on Bern, declaring ‘Once a traitor, ever a traitor’. A shocked Bern runs, but a flight of arrows follow; he is hit and falls out of sight. Ubba declares his father avenged, as the Danes celebrate. All exit, before Oswyn enters, followed by Swithin and a monk, looking for the head of Edmund. Oswyn announces that she can hear Edmund’s voice, to the disbelief of some of the others. She finds the head, where it is being guarded by a giant grey wolf. The Monk praises God and declares it a miracle. They all leave. The Narrative Chorus tells of the marvels of Saint Edmund, before announcing the arrival of King Canute.

Episode III. Twilight, AD 903–1095

AD 903. A wooden shrine is set up. A group of priests enter and complain about the war within the land, and describe how they must guard Edmund’s head. Local men and women enter and tell one of the angered priests that they have to bear tributes to Sweyn (who the priests describe as a heathen pirate) so he does not burn down their houses. Another woman rushes in, trying to escape Sweyn, who intends to take her for a slave. Sweyn now enters with Danes to seize the woman. A priest, Blomfield, defends the woman, declaring the place a sanctuary of Saint Edmund. Sweyn’s men are swayed, but Sweym himself is not, and throws the priest aside. As Sweyn makes for the shrine, he all of a sudden staggers—astonished that Edmund’s spear has miraculously gone through his heart. He falls down dead, begging for forgiveness. Blomfield sends the Danes away as witnesses to the miracle.

AD 1035. King Canute and Aelgifa with lords, ladies and monks, including Uvius, enter. The locals discuss the new King and whether his will be a good reign. Canute reaches the shrine and is alarmed to find that it is being only casually guarded. He commands the Benedictine monks to take care of the shrine forever, with Uvius as first Abbot, before laying his crown on the shrine in atonement for the sin of his father (Sweyn). He signs a charter confirming the monastery. Canute and his party then leave. Uvius commands the monks to set up crosses to mark out the monastery, before leaving in a procession of monks.

AD 1044. Abbot Baldwin then enters, declares that the monastery must grow, and announces that King Edward the Confessor is on his way. He leaves as the monks chatter, before Edward enters—dressed humbly as a pilgrim. He is blessed by the monks, and, after revealing who he is, the Abbot is summoned. The Abbot blesses Edward, before kissing his ring. Baldwin requests further assistance from Edward, such as the Manor of Mildenhall and an allowance to coin money at their own mint. Edward assents, before being led away to rest and pray.

AD 1065. Townsfolk enter. Baldwin declares that the town shall newly be named Bury St Edmunds, and appoints Henry Bunbury, Robert Meadows, John Burstall, Thomas Yeldham, and Henry Basse as Alderman—despite the crowd shouting for the appointment of John Thorpe. A Sacrist swears them in, and then warns Baldwin that the mob is ill-pleased. Baldwin is not dissuaded and commands the beginning of a new great church. The Lord Bishop of Thetford, Herfastus, now enters. Baldwin greets him haughtily, as Herfastus declares he has come to see that the See of the East Anglians is where the Saint of East Anglia lies. He ceremoniously slams down his pastoral staff. Baldwin too slams down his staff and asserts that his own stood there first—declaring that he is lord in his own lands, unable to be unseated by neither King nor Bishop. All of a sudden Herfastus mysteriously falls blind; Baldwin declares it a miracle of the Saint, avenging the usurper. Herfastus beats his breast and cries ‘Mea culpa’ before Baldwin, showing forgiveness, leads him to the shrine. After Herfastus promises to abjure, Baldwin instructs him to take a liniment and touch his eyes daily—before demonstrating. Herfastus declares that he sees a red glow already, before being led off. Baldwin addresses the crowd, telling them to continue building after witnessing the miracle.

AD 1095. The old shrine is carried away, as a procession enters with the new shrine. King Henry I and Queen Adela with lords and ladies now enter; Henry lays his crown on the shrine and declares it an offering to Saint Edmund. All leave to the sounds of the Hymn to Saint Edmund. The Narrative chorus tells how the misrule of Abbot Hugo endured until, following Hugo’s death, Abbot Samson brought back light and hope.

Episode IV. Abbot Samson, AD 1182–1211

AD 1182. Several monks do business with a few townsfolk, as several Jews stand nearby. Jocelyn of Brakelond and William the Sacrist discuss the appointment of a new Abbot and the extensive building that Brother Samson has been undertaking. Just as William asks where the money will come from for such building, he spies the Jews—who then begin to argue over monies owed by other monks. The Prior now enters with other sub-priors and other monks. William shoves the Jews to one side, as he converses with the Prior about the choosing of the new Lord Abbot. The Prior names the twelve monks who will choose the new Abbot, who then leave. The remaining monks speculate on who the new Abbot will be, with most not expecting much of Samson’s chances.

21 March AD 1182. The Prior and monks return: it is revealed that Samson has surprisingly been chosen. Samson now enters on horseback; after dismounting he is led to the throne and given robes, mitre and a pastoral staff, and then kissed by the Prior and Sub-Prior. Samson’s first act is to call forward the Jews who were previously arguing, along with their supposed monk debtors. Samson angrily denounces the debtors and declares there will be no more borrowing; he also banishes the Jews.

AD 1189. Ralph the Porter now enters and announces that King Henry II and Queen Eleanor have arrived. Amid cheers the Royals enter, with their retinue, and kneel to Samson. After exchanging some terse pleasantries, Eleanor announces that they have come to make an offering to the shrine of St Edmund before their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Samson announces—to consternation—that he would like to go as well: to fight at the King’s side in the Holy Land. The King rejects this idea, due to the Bishop of Norwich having already taken the Cross to battle. Offerings from local women are then taken by Eleanor and given to Samson, who places them on the shrine.

AD 1190. Local Jewish women express their fear of violence against their kind. Male Jews then enter, also afraid. All of a sudden a raging mob enters, brandishing weapons, and attacks the Jews, screaming ‘Death! Death! Slay them! Down with them! Kill! Kill!’ Samson enters with several monks and bravely stops the mob, grabbing the leader, before succeeding in sending the crowd away. He then also banishes the Jews, partly for their own safety—though he shows little affinity for their kind regardless.

AD 1198. The Porter announces that King Richard is at the gates, to Samson’s dismay. Richard enters and gets straight to business—keen to establish that the orphan Nesta (Nest ferch Rhys) will be married to an elderly knight. The Abbot, after avoiding the topic, reveals that he has already decided that she will be married to someone else—rebuking the King by reminding him that ‘Saint Edmund hath a short way with trespassers’. This, along with several gifts of dogs and gold, seems to work; not only does Richard leave, but he gives the Abbot a ring that he had received from Pope Innocent.

AD 1199. Samson tries to deal with the complaints of several monks, who are increasingly confrontational, until he throws one particularly obtuse monk into the dungeon—to the horror of the other monks.

AD 1203. King John arrives, preceded by a Knight who explains to the Sacrist that the King wishes to gift something to the Abbey but does not have anything worthy with him; he requests a loan to fulfil the purpose. John and Samson then enter; John eyes up the wealthy Abbey and recalls how his Royal mother, Eleanor, had laid rich jewels at the Holy Edmund’s feet. After promising Samson a rich gift, he asks the embarrassed Abbot if he could borrow the jewels. He then gives Samson a purse, before bidding farewell. After he has left, the Knight cheekily and knowingly takes a gift of silk from the Sacrist—‘to remind the King of the gift he intends’—before also leaving. Samson rejoins the monks, who, with some consternation, realise that the purse contains only thirteen pence. Brother Jocelyn now enters and, with horror, tells the monks that King John has rejected Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury, and driven the monks out of the monastery of Saint Augustine, and that the Pope has launched an Interdict.

AD1208. A messenger brings news from Canterbury, which Samson reads, before going pale; he summons the monks and the townsfolk, and announces that the Pope has, in punishment to the King, interdicted the church and all the chapels, banning them from singing mass and other activities, lest they be punished through excommunication. The monks groan, as Samson instructs the monks to ‘Silence the bells… strip the altar. Lay the holy relics on the ground’, and instructs them to obey the Pope’s orders. He is stripped of his vestments, and stands simply clad in his Benedictine gown, as all around him weep.

AD 1210. The great tower falls in, as people claim the Abbey is cursed. Samson, now old and weary, sinks into Joceyln’s arms. He is lifted onto a litter and born away in silence.

AD 1211. The Narrative chorus tell of the soul-less King John and how he brought shame to the nation, but how the ‘seed’ of ‘brave rebellion’ was then sown at Bury.

Episode V. Magna Charta [Carta], AD 1214

Four citizens enter to visit the shrine, and talk of how King John is to become the Pope’s man after accepting Stephen Langton—the result of which can only be more hardship for the Commons. One steps forward and says ‘Not so’, since the Barons are on their way to conspire to ‘fetter his [John’s] hands.’ The twenty-five Barons now enter and greet each other silently. Robert Fitzwalter, Roger Bigod (Earl of Norfork) and Geoffrey de Mandeville (Earl of Essex) discuss what should be done about the errant King. Bigod asks whether he should be slayed, to which Fitzwalter instead presents a new charter that will be ‘a surer weapon against tyranny than any sword.’ Wild excitement from the Barons follows, as they all hail the charter. Laying it on the shrine, Fitzwalter declares, on Saint Edmund’s day, the Barons’ loyalty to God and the Holy Church. They all swear, placing their hand on the shrine and charter in succession. With God as their witness, they then ride away to prepare for the presentation of the Charter. The Narrative Chorus sings of piteous scenes that Bury’s borough saw in days of old, such as ‘a gentle king wed to a warlike queen’; ‘a wolfish pack of peers that round the King prowled bickering’, ordered by the Queen; and, finally, a faithful royal knight slain by the peers.

Episode VI. Duke Humphrey, AD 1433–1447

AD 1433. Abbot William, John Lidgate and monks enter from one side, as King Henry VI and Queen Margaret, with lords and ladies, enter from another. The Abbot welcomes the King, as they discuss the growth of love for liberty in Bury, and a book—The Life and Death of Edmund—written by Lidgate. The King expresses his approval.

AD 1447. [This scene is a condensed version of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II, Act III, Scene I.] The Duke of Suffolk, Cardinal Beaufort, the Duke of York, the Duke of Buckingham, and other lords enter. Henry and Margaret discuss the recent behaviour of the Lord of Gloucester, the latter insinuating how insolent Gloucester has become. The assembled Lords support this, listing the ill deeds for which Gloucester is supposedly accountable. The King, however, maintains Gloucester’s innocence. Gloucester enters and is immediately accused by the Duke of Suffolk of being guilty of treason. Gloucester protests his innocence and his loyalty to the King. He is taken away at the orders of Beaufort, as the King maintains his innocence. The King sadly leaves, with only Margaret, Beaufort, Suffolk and York remaining. They discuss how best to do away with Gloucester, concerned that Parliament will not condemn him. They resolve to use any means possible, and Suffolk whispers to two soldiers. King Henry re-enters with other lords of the Parliament, and instructs Gloucester to be brought forth. When Suffolk re-enters, he reveals that Gloucester has been found dead in his bed. The King faints; after coming round, he expresses sincere mourning. The dead Gloucester is now brought in on a bier. The Earl of Warwick declares it murder, as Suffolk protests his innocence. The Earl of Salisbury enters, and announces that Suffolk is wanted by Parliament—sentenced to death or banishment. They demand an answer from the King, who assents. Suffolk is taken away defiantly, as Margaret pleads for his life. The King and Warwick leave together, and only Margaret is left behind—vowing bitterly that mischance and sorrow will befall them.

Episode VII. The New Age, AD 1533–1578

AD 1533. Abbot John Reeve enters with several monks and brings news that Thomas Cromwell is stripping the monasteries of their treasure. They resolve to hide the shrine below the crypt, and it is carried away. Meanwhile twelve girls enter, singing a jolly song of Saint Matthew’s Day.

AD 1533. The townsfolk enter in holiday dress and humour, with civically regaled alderman. Showmen and tradesmen set up their stalls and booths. A fight starts but is soon broken by the arrival of the gentry—Sir John Crofts, Master Fetiplace, Master West, and then Mary Tudor, Charles Bandon and the Duke of Suffolk. The gentry of Saint Edmundsbury, such as Sir Thomas Jermym of Rushbrooke, are presented to Mary, who responds pleasantly and compliments them on their prestige and loyalty. She also knights Thomas Kytson, to cheers from the crowd. The Alderman then declares the Fair open, to more cheers. The fair enters full-swing: pedlars hawking their wares, a quack doctor, gipsy girls telling fortunes, a freak show, and a strong man. A pick-pocket is seized and put in the stocks. The Guilds of the town then enter in procession, before Mary compliments and purchases their goods. Singing girls present Mary with flowers, and perform a dance with Monsieur Antoine du Val. Following this a Morris Dance is performed, until Mary arises; they form two lines, and she leaves amid them. The dance is then resumed, faster and more wildly than before, with everyone joining in. All of a sudden a deep bell is sounded, with a dead silence following; all turn to the monastery.

AD 1539. A dozen men-at-arms take up position under a captain, who announces that the Monastery has been dissolved, with the Abbot and monks driven away. Abbot Reeve and the monks now pass out, as the crowd falls to its knees in despair.

AD 1550. A Herald announces the creation of a Grammar School by allowance of Edward VI, to great cheering. The new schoolboys sing their Carmen.

AD 1578. The Herald announces the arrival of Queen Elizabeth, who takes her place on a throne. The narrative chorus marches to the centre of the arena and greets the Virgin Queen and recounts how all of England’s story has come to greet her crowning glory. The Madrigal Choir now forms in front of the Narrative chorus and sings The Triumph Song, paying homage to the living and the dead, and the Saint Edmund.

Final Tableau

Queen Elizabeth leaves her throne and takes her place among the other Kings and Queens. The combined choirs break into the final chorus as the remainder of the performers assemble. The final chorus details a patriotic vision of England and of Saint Edmund, and Bury’s place within this story as the ‘shrine where liberty had birth.’ As Saint Edmund appears on the pedestal at the back, the National Anthem is sung, before the entire cast march past; when Saint Edmund departs, the pageant is ended.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni, popularly known as Boadicea
  • Edmund [St Edmund] (d. 869) king of the East Angles
  • Ívarr [Ívarr inn Beinlausi, Ingwaer, Imhar] (d. 873) viking leader
  • Cnut [Canute] (d. 1035) king of England, of Denmark, and of Norway
  • Baldwin (d. 1097) abbot of Bury St Edmunds
  • Edward [St Edward; known as Edward the Confessor] (1003x5–1066) king of England
  • Henry I (1068/9–1135) king of England and lord of Normandy
  • Adela, countess of Blois (c.1067–1137) princess
  • Brakelond, Jocelin of (fl. 1173–c.1215) Benedictine monk and biographer
  • Henry II (1133–1189) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Aquitaine], suo jure duchess of Aquitaine (c.1122–1204) queen of France, consort of Louis VII, and queen of England, consort of Henry II
  • Samson (1135–1211) abbot of Bury St Edmunds
  • Richard I [called Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lionheart] (1157–1199) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine and count of Anjou
  • John (1167–1216) king of England and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Fitzwalter, Robert (d. 1235) magnate and rebel
  • Bigod, Roger (II), second earl of Norfolk (c.1143–1221) magnate
  • Mandeville, Geoffrey de, first earl of Essex (d. 1144) magnate
  • Vere, Robert de, third earl of Oxford (d. 1221) magnate
  • Curteys, William (d. 1446) abbot of Bury St Edmunds
  • Henry VI (1421–1471) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Margaret [Margaret of Anjou] (1430–1482) queen of England, consort of Henry VI
  • Lydgate, John (c.1370–1449/50?) poet and prior of Hatfield Regis
  • Beaufort, Henry [called the Cardinal of England] (1375?–1447) bishop of Winchester and cardinal
  • Richard of York, third duke of York (1411–1460) magnate and claimant to the English throne
  • Stafford, Humphrey, first duke of Buckingham (1402–1460) soldier and magnate
  • Humphrey [Humfrey or Humphrey of Lancaster], duke of Gloucester [called Good Duke Humphrey] (1390–1447) prince, soldier, and literary patron
  • Beauchamp, Richard, thirteenth earl of Warwick (1382–1439) magnate
  • Montagu, Thomas [Thomas de Montacute], fourth earl of Salisbury (1388–1428) soldier
  • Mary (1496–1533) queen of France, consort of Louis XII [also known as Tudor, Mary the white queen]
  • Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545) magnate, courtier, and soldier
  • Wingfield, Sir Anthony (b. before 1488, d. 1552) soldier and administrator
  • Kitson, Sir Thomas (1485–1540) merchant and local politician
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland

Musical production

A Narrative Chorus of fifty male voices; live concealed orchestra. All the connecting narrative choruses and the Triumph Song were by Mr James Rhoades. Final choruses by Mr Horace Barker. Most of the music was composed by Mr C.J.H. Shann, the Master of the Music, but Mr C.J.W. Ganz set the school Carmen; Mr Felix W. Morley the dance-song in Episode I, and the Mayor, Councillor Owen. A. Clark, contributed several numbers. Pieces included:
  • Dance-Song. Words by Louis N. Parker. Music by Felix W. Morley, MA, MusBac (Episode I). 
  • St Matthew’s Day, Words and music by Louis N. Parker (Episode VII).
  • A Stately Dance, composed by Louis N. Parker (Episode VII).
  • Carmen, by A.W. Ward, Master of Peterhouse School and present Governor of the School, set to music by C.J.W. Ganz (Episode VII).
  • Final Chorus. Poem by H.R. Barker, Curator of the Moyses Hall Museum, with music adapted from Rienzi by Richard Wagner (Final Tableau).
  • National Anthem (Final Tableau).
  • The March past, to music composed by Owen. A. Clark.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Daily Express
Bury Free Press
East Anglian Times
Review of Reviews
Manchester Guardian
The Times
The Connoisseur
Bury Free Press
East Anglian Daily Times
Suffolk and Essex Free Press
Bury Post
Aberdeen Journal
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
Bucks Herald
Burnley Express
Burnley Gazette
Cambridge Independent Press
Chelmsford Chronicle
Cheltenham Chronicle
Cheltenham Looker-On
Coventry Herald
Derby Daily Telegraph
Dover Express
Dundee Courier
Essex Newsman
Evening Telegraph
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Gloucester Citizen
Gloucester Journal
Grantham Journal
Hastings and St Leonards Observer
Hull Daily Mail
Kent & Sussex Courier
Lancashire Evening Post
Leamington Spa Courier
Lichfield Mercury
Lincolnshire Chronicle
Luton Times and Advertiser
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Morpeth Herald
North Devon Journal
Nottingham Evening Post
Sheffield Evening Telegraph
Southern Reporter
Surrey Mirror
Sussex Agricultural Express
Tamworth Herald
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser
Western Daily Press
Western Gazette
Western Times
Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Book of words

St Edmundsbury Pageant 8th to 13th July 1907 Book of Words. Bury, 1907.

Other primary published materials

  • Souvenir of the Bury St Edmunds Pageant. Bury, 1907.

Price: 1s.

References in secondary literature

  • Dobson, Michael. Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History. Cambridge, 2011.
  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture c.1890–1914’. Past and Present 186 (2005), 147-199.
  • Richards, Jeffrey. Imperialism and Music: Britain, 1876-1953. Manchester, 2001. At 168.
  • Simpson, Roger. ‘Arthurian Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain’. Arthuriana 18, no. 1 (2008), 63-87.

Bartie, Angela, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme and Paul Readman. 'Performing the Past: Identity, Civic Culture and Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Small Towns'. In Small Towns in Europe and Beyond: 20th-21st Century, edited by Luda Klusakova. Prague, forthcoming.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • At Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds:
  • Account of preparations for the Bury Pageant [by a journalist?] (1907). HD 1715/1.
  • Public notices as to hours of business and street decorations during Pageant Week (1907). EE500/34/19.
  • Two scrap-books relating to the Pageant (script, photographs, press-cuttings), compiled by Miss Wentworth Reeve and presented to the Borough by her brother, Maj. Gen. J.T. Wentworth Reeve, on 14 July 1972 (1907). EE500/34/17a, b.
  • Correspondence and papers relating to luncheon given by the Corporation to the Lord Mayor of London on 13 July 1907 and to other matters concerning the Pageant (1907). EE500/34/16.
  • File of correspondence with the Pageant organisers; application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; papers and correspondence relating to the disposal of surplus funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  • Bury St Edmunds Pageant. Postcard (1907). K706/26.
  • Bury Pageant: Bury market in medieval times. Photograph (1907). K511/197.
  • J.M. Chityotal of Livermere, James Sparke, Margery and Nellie Wentworth Reeve. Photograph (1907). K997/125/3.
  • Group. Photograph (1907). K997/124/2.
  • Group of tribesmen. Photograph (1907). K997/52/9.
  • 21 Norman Knights on horseback, Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds (1907). Photograph. K511/84.
  • Magna Carta. Photograph (1907). K997/123/3.
  • ‘As Sir Thomas Lyston’. Photograph (1907). K997/52/5.
  • Bury St Edmunds Pageant postcard (1907). K706/25.
  • Group in a variety of costumes. Photograph (1907). K997/98/8.
  • Group of tribesmen. Photograph (1907). K997/52/11.
  • Queen Margaret. Photograph (1907). K997/127/10.
  • ‘Mary Tudor’ (Mrs Wentworth Reece). Photograph (1907). K997/126/1.
  • Mostly ladies. Photograph (1907). K997/53/3.
  • Roman Legion. Photograph (1907). K997/52/10.
  • Photograph negatives (1907). K505/3924–3939.
  • Finale. Photograph (1907). K511/85.
  • Magna Carta, Knights on horseback. Photograph (1907). K997/91/9.
  • Magna Carta. Photograph (1907). K997/53/5.
  • Beatrice, Miss Filey, Nellie, Clare. Photograph (1907). K997/52/8.
  • Rev. Alfred L. Woodard in pageant costume in Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds (1907). Photograph. K511/924.
  • Major Jackson in the costume of an Anglo-Saxon. Photograph (1907). K997/52/6.
  • Manners in armour. Photograph (1907). K997/52/12.
  • Group in pageant costume outside Hengrave Hall (1907). Photograph. K505/2775.
  • Group outside Hengrave Hall in pageant dress (1907). Photograph. K505/1913.
  • Group in pageant costume outside Hengrave Hall (1907). Photograph. K505/2776.
  • Miss Hartley (butcher’s family) as Lady Elfrida, Queen Adela’s Retinue (1907). Photograph. K511/191.
  • Building the grandstand. Photograph (1907). Photograph. K511/227.
  • Grandstand under construction (1907). Photograph. K511/190.
  • People in pageant (1907). K505/3024-3036.
  • Rev Alfred L. Woodard in pageant costume. (1907). Photograph. K511/923.
  • Hengrave, Sir John Wood in pageant dress (1907). Photograph. K505/1612.
  • Hengrave Hall, group in pageant dress (1907). Photograph. K505/2093.
  • Group outside Hengrave Hall in pageant dress (1907). Photograph. K505/1914.
  • Group in pageant costume outside Hengrave Hall (1907). Photograph. K 505/2774.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Chronicles of Jocelin of Brakelond. Sir Ernest Clarke’s edition. London, 1903.

Parker: ‘It would be tedious to enumerate the sources from which I have gathered my materials. I will only mention Sir Ernest Clarke’s Edition of the “Chronicles of Jocelin of Brakelond.” To the latter gentleman, as well as to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, and to the Rev. E. Farrer, I owe special thanks for help given or offered.’4


The Bury St Edmunds Pageant of 1907 was a major event, successful both in financial outcome and the vagaries of public opinion. Staged in July, it was an archetypal expression of Edwardian pageantry—unsurprisingly considering it managed to secure Louis Napoleon Parker as its producer. Indeed, it was the only pageant that Parker produced that year, despite being approached by fifteen other towns.5 It is likely that this coup was instrumental in the surprisingly ‘high expectations’ and subsequent coverage the event garnered across the country.6 Following his partnership with Parker at Sherborne and Warwick, all the connecting narrative choruses and the triumph song were written by James Rhoades. Two years in the planning, the pageant was a leviathan effort, consisting of seven episodes (many of which had several different parts across different periods of history), 1800 performers (not far off an eighth of the town’s population), and a live orchestra and large choir. It lasted a lengthy three hours.7 The idea of the pageant originated with the Venerable Archdeacon Hodges, who went on to play Abbot Samson. He was supported from the beginning by the civic and municipal worthies of the town, many of whom took important positions on the various pageant committees, not to mention a large and enthusiastic alliance of local volunteers.8 Drawing strongly on an ecclesiastical and often legendary history, the pageant encouraged both local and national patriotism, and a trust in the past as the guiding light for the future.

The canonical aspects of Parker’s original vision of pageantry organisation were respected at Bury: the costumes and properties were almost completely made in the town, or paid for by the 1800 performers, who were amateurs and drawn from the locality. 9 The Times related that such a body of voluntary work, added to the actual outlays borne by volunteers, amounted to a total cost of £100000.10 One journalist, who visited the town at the height of ‘pageant fever’, painted an intriguing picture of the hustle and bustle of preparation after talking to locals both for and against the event. One man, playing the Rabbi, summarised the spread of opinion: ‘Some people here makes out it’ll benefit nobody but the Hotels and Mr Parker—that’s the master of the ceremonies—but I think if history is going to draw at all we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.’ A housepainter, seemingly taking the part of St Swithin, expressed enthusiasm for his role, but admitted he was not sure what his lines were, or with which woman he had to hold hands. In the Pageant House, located in the Angel Hotel opposite the Ancient Abbey Gateway, the journalist found a series of ‘large handsome rooms’ converted into offices, costume rooms, and workshops, where ‘young men of the town of all classes and conditions come in daily and every evening to take their turns at the benches and lathes.’ Equally impressive were the more than 1000-plus women doing voluntary work. He concluded that ‘long before another autumn strews the ground the Bury Pageant will have entered history but such enthusiasm of united effort will surely leave its mark in the training of our people.’11

The Antiquary, a publication enthusiastic about historical pageantry, was straight-to-the-point in linking the local spirit for romantic pageantry in Bury to the renewal of a more general patriotism: ‘we trust there will be many who, with “the sweetest air in England”, will also “suck in” a deeper and fuller patriotic enthusiasm, and will echo the words of the poet: “Here and here has England helped me. How can I help England? Say!”’12 Parker had made similar points regarding the Sherborne pageant.13 He now told the Observer in a detailed interview during the Bury pageant that arousing ‘local interest in local history’ could increase ‘the dignity and self-respect of the town’; tend to ‘the preservation of local antiquities, and the understanding of local architecture’; give ‘opportunities for all sorts of people to bring to light hidden talents; and embrace ‘everybody, peer and peasant, millionaires and poor, men, women, and children’; and lead to ‘a clearer memory of its glorious past, and, therefore, a higher ideal of the present’.14 In this respect he was clearly reiterating his beliefs that pageantry was a bulwark against class conflict and what he saw as the damaging effects of both architectural and social modernity.15 The Bury Free Press backed him up in this respect, arguing that the ‘great event’ was a ‘result of our individual and collective effort’ where ‘Titles have fraternised with the humbler classes in the most kindly and friendly manner’ as ‘From the highest to the lowest all [showed]… the keenest and most praiseworthy desire to help forward this grand representation of the town’s history’.16

Yet, if the pageant was aimed at temporarily dissolving distinctions of class through communal effort, it was at the same time reifying such boundaries. Most of the prominent parts went to the civic elite, such as Faustinus or Abbot Samson, played by the Mayor and the Archdeacon of Sudbury respectively. Perhaps even more visible was an exclusive luncheon followed by a traditional civic procession, made up of the Mayor and Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, the Recorder, the Town Clerk, Mayors of East Anglia, and Members of the Town Council, to the best seats in the pageant ground (of course), which offered a very visible reminder of urban governance.17 The town and its public spaces were the most important ‘stage’ where ideas of authority, respectability, and claims to public recognition took place; a civic parade offered the opportunity for civic elites to make a symbolic display of leadership and authority.18

The episodic themes of the pageant would have been highly recognisable to spectators familiar with Edwardian pageants—and those of Parker, especially. The story began, as was common, with the Roman occupation and the exploits of Boadicea. Portrayed in this case as particularly fearsome, the action in reality had only the most tangential links to the actual history of Bury St Edmunds. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the episode was the decision to cast the current Mayor (Owen A. Clark) as Faustinus—a drunken and arrogant embodiment of the tyranny of the Roman reign. One wonders if anyone in the audience thought it ironic. The fifth episode, featuring a condensed version of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, was also a common pageant ploy—and, again, not particularly relevant to Bury. Beyond these two episodes, however, the pageant was an exercise in local history. The second scene, in particular, set the context, positioning the young King Edmund as the key character of the pageant. After displaying his fairness and holiness in his adult years, he was horrifically martyred for refusing to renounce his religion—providing an emotive lesson of both sacrifice and piety. Despite his death in this episode, Edmund literally haunted many of the other episodes, as the essence of his spirit guarded the town and its Abbey from the misdeeds of outsiders—such as in Episode III (AD 903), when his spear miraculously slayed the slave-making Dane, Sweyn; in Episode IV (AD 1198), when King Richard, was dissuaded from trying to overrule the Abbot after being threatened with the spirit of Edmund; and, later in the same episode (AD 1065), when a usurping Bishop, Herfastus, was struck suddenly with blindness.

Conversely, the shrine of Edmund was also well patronised by a succession of more pious Kings and Queens, effectively linking the local as fundamentally important to the history of the country, as a place that was visited and respected. In Episode III (AD 1035), for example, Canute lay his crown on the shrine in atonement for the sins of his father, the aforementioned Sweyn; later in the same episode (AD 1044), Edward the Confessor made a pilgrimage to the shrine, as did King Henry I (AD 1095).This continued in Episode IV, when King Henry II and Queen Eleanor visited to pay homage (AD 1189). Perhaps the most important visit, however, was that of King John in AD 1203. A popular pantomime villain of historical pageants, John was shown, in Episode IV, essentially stealing the jewels of the shrine through subterfuge. This plot device was vital in providing the context for the key fifth episode, where twenty-five Barons met in AD 1214 to set in motion the ‘brave rebellion’, swearing—of course—on the shrine of St Edmund. While it is not verifiable whether this meeting of the Barons ever took place, it nonetheless provided a distinctive civic identity for the town in the first half of the twentieth century, if not beyond. Parker may have exaggerated slightly but still certainly had a point when he told the Observer that ‘Bury St Edmunds is steeped in English history to quite an extraordinary degree, and, therefore, affords special opportunities for a successful pageant’.19 The Standard made a similar point, declaring ‘A little town with a great history, and, for motto Sacrarium Regis Cunabula Legis [Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law], is just the place for the organisation of a historical pageant.’20 These themes were pulled together in the final chorus, which detailed a patriotic vision of England and of Saint Edmund, and of Bury’s place within the story as the ‘shrine where liberty had birth.’ As Saint Edmund appeared on the pedestal at the back, the National Anthem was sung, before the entire cast marched past; when Saint Edmund departed, the pageant was ended.

Interestingly, the pageant did not feature the notable riots of the fourteenth century, in which the Abbey was burned to the ground and the library pillaged by angry townsmen. As the Times speculated, it was wise not to feature aspects of history that could interfere with the goal of giving reverence to the past and a sense of continuity with it.21 Parker, however, did make sure to feature the ‘spectacular’ scenes to which pageantry lent itself so well. This was particularly apparent in the battle scene of the first episode and the fun of the fair and Morris dancing in the final episode. There was also, of course, time for the pageant favourite, Queen Elizabeth, to appear in the final episode.

As was often the case, the poor British weather hampered some of the performances—though, the Daily Express claimed, it failed to dampen enthusiasm.22 For one performance, however, the rain came down so hard that the final tableau was cancelled, songs and dances were omitted, and Boadicea had to walk rather than thunder onto the stage in her usual horse-pulled chariot. While the ‘show was robbed of much of its glory’, some humour must have been found in Cardinal Beaufort’s mackintosh’.23 Following the worst of the weather, Parker expressed ‘the general opinion of the wonderful pluck’ shown in the ‘drenching rain’ in a note to the performers: ‘TO THE HEROES AND HEROINES BIG AND LITTLE OF YESTERDAY, The Water Pageant was the greatest triumph we’ve had yet! You swam through your episodes like ducks. We have a great audience to-day. Let’s show ‘em what it’s really like! Silence! Invisibility! Briskness! High Spirits!’24

Despite this setback, public opinion was almost entirely positive. The Athenaeum, in a detailed report, praised the setting, the flamboyant costumes, the realistic armour, the excellent acting, the dances, and the suitability of the general properties in what was, in general, a highly positive analysis. Only mild criticisms were made by the publication—specifically, the ‘mistake’ of giving ‘the gaudy Cardinal Beaufort, in the fifteenth-century episode, a broad-brimmed hat of a much later date’ and the same performer’s lack of ‘concealment’ of his moustache; an incorrect number of monks in Episode VII (38 when it should have been 42); and ‘the wrong impression… as to the supposed dawn of learning under Edward VI.’25 Such astute observations as these reflected the seriousness of the attention that many reporters gave to the accuracy of historical pageantry.

Other newspapers were shorter in their opinions, but nonetheless a tone of approval dominated. The Observer called it ‘a triumph in pageantry’;26 the Times described the ‘spectacular effects’ as ‘perhaps the most splendid’ Parker had yet created;27 the Dover Express was ‘impressed’ by the general cheers from performers that they really ‘meant’ ‘from the heart’, and dubbed the whole event ‘a glorious example’ for their own upcoming pageant;28 and a writer for the Ladies’ Column in the Derby Daily Telegraph claimed ‘Never have I in my life seen any spectacle which has pleased and charmed me, and has excited my imagination, as has done the Abbey Pageant at Bury St Edmunds.’29 Perhaps the most glowing endorsement from outside the town came from the London correspondent for the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, who gushed: ‘It would require far more space than is at my disposal to describe adequately the interest and beauty of the Bury St Edmunds Pageant… For the full three hours it held the vast audience enthralled, and, when it had finished, the mind was filled with vision after vision of lovely colours, animated acting, and the wonderful harmony and story and action… It is a triumph of goodwill and organisation.’30 That so many local newspapers from across the country reported the pageant in such depth displays the ‘newsworthiness’ such a small event could have in this period of ‘pageant fever’. The local Bury Free Press, predictably, went hyperbolic in its praise, describing the pageant as ‘imposing, glorious, and soul-stirring’ and ‘one of the grandest spectacles of modern times’.31

When it came to deciding what would be done with the profits of the pageant, £1044. 0s. 6d., the debate was had locally in the press. One of the first suggestions was for the erection of a statue of ‘Cardinal Langton handing a copy of Magna Carta to a figure of liberty’ which would, a local historian told the Bury Post, ‘appeal to the imagination of the liberty loving Anglo-Saxon race for all time’, becoming ‘a shrine of English liberty’.32 To help decide, the Pageant Committee seemingly then put out an advertisement in the Bury Free Press requesting suggestions. At least thirteen people responded directly to the committee, with suggestions such as ‘a permanent fund for the assistance of those needing it, during the winter months, to be designated the Pageant Bread and Coal fund’;33 a maintenance fund for the Abbey ruins;34 a children’s ward at the local hospital;35 or to advance the commercial interests of the town—whether through industry or a new golf course (as the Mayor himself favoured!).36 It seems, however, that the most popular calls were for some form of expenditure to help the lot of the poor and working classes. As an ‘absent well wisher of St Edmundsbury’ told the Bury Post:

We have had our Pageant… What have we learned from our past history, and what fruit are we going to show as the result of that lesson? Bury has paraded in fine clothes, and reproduced many noble acts in pageant, but what has she learned to do in deed, or was the lesson all in vain? What is she going to do for her unemployed this winter, and the families who are in cold and want? It is cold comfort, and will not fill hungry stomachs, to say it is their own fault. Cannot something be done? Cannot the Pageant surplus be used for some relief works? Cannot that spirit of brotherhood and co-operation evidenced and stimulated by the Pageant be used to make, not to act, history, to do noble deeds in work-a-day clothing, and humdrum circumstances. Surely that is better and nobler than parading in the fine clothes of others, and telling their deeds; it were better to copy them.37

Eventually the sub-committee set up to consider the matter stated that its preference would have been for the Town Council to have acquired the Abbey Gardens for public recreation and to use the profit for ‘the much needed restoration of the Abbey gateway.’ As the town council could not agree terms for the Gardens, they instead recommended a sanatorium to tackle Tubercular disease, especially for the ‘poorer classes’.38 Tuberculosis was certainly a pressing matter, having accounted for almost 10% of deaths in the town in the previous year.39 In 1909, the year after the decision was finally made, the Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk Sanatorium was opened.

Lauded by critics and financially successful, the pageant provided a ‘call to arms’ for the residents of Bury. While it has not been possible thus far to quantify exactly how many local people were involved in its production, it is safe to say it ran into many thousands – and seen by thousands more. It was, in both its themes and organisation, an archetypal classic of Edwardian pageantry—predictably with Louis Napoleon Parker at the helm. It is significant, therefore, that, when Bury decided to hold another pageant in 1959, many of the episodes were recycled (though modernised) to make many similar points. Edmund, of course, had been the star of the show. His central role was confirmed in the commemorative medal of the Pageant, based on a silver coin found some sixty years previously and minted probably in Bury during the reign of Edward the Confessor. The replica of this coin formed the centre of the medal, with, on the observe side, the rim inscribed with ‘Eadmund King and Martyr 855–870’, with a bunch of arrows at the top, and, on the reverse side, ‘Bury Saint Edmunds Pageant, 1907’, with the present arms of the town. Produced in bronze, silver, silver gilt, and gold, it was made in three sizes—the largest being ‘the size of a florin’ and weighing 7.5 pennyweights.40 Unsurprisingly, Edmund again took centre stage in the 1959 pageant (as he would in the 1970 ‘pageant-play’ Edmund of Anglia), though joined with a greater prominence for Magna Carta (see entry for the Pageant of Magna Carta 1959).


  1. ^ ‘Statement of Accounts Balance Sheet: Auditor’s Report and Certificate’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907), Bury St Edmunds Record Office. EE500/34/1.
  2. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds’ Pageant’, Daily Express, 9 July 1907, in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant (Script, Photographs, Press-Cuttings), Compiled by Miss Wentworth Reeve and Presented to the Borough by her Brother, Maj. Gen. J.T. Wentworth Reeve, on 14 July 1972, Bury St Edmunds Record Office. EE 500/34/17a, b.
  3. ^ ‘Visit of Lord Mayor to Bury and the Pageant’, Report of the Reception Committee, 13 July 1907, Correspondence and Papers Relating to Luncheon Given by the Corporation to the Lord Mayor of London on 13 July 1907 and to Other Matters Concerning the Pageant (1907), EE500/34/16.
  4. ^ St Edmundsbury Pageant 8th to 13th July 1907 Book of Words (Bury, 1907), 9.
  5. ^ ‘The Pageant Fashion’, The Observer, 13 January 1907, 11.
  6. ^ ‘The Bury St Edmunds Pageant’, The Athenaeum 4159, 13 July 1907, 41.
  7. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds Pageant’, The Times, 28 May 1907, 3.
  8. ^ ‘The Proposed Historical Pageant for Bury St Edmund’s: Enthusiastic Meeting at the Athenaeum’, reprinted from The Bury St Edmunds Free Press, 10 February 1906, St Edmundsbury Heritage Service
  9. ^ Cecil P. Goodden, The Story of the Sherborne Pageant (Sherborne, 1906), 11.
  10. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds Pageant’, The Times, 28 May 1907, 3.
  11. ^ Account of preparations for the Bury Pageant [by a journalist?] (1907). HD1715/1.
  12. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds: Notes and Impressions’, The Antiquary 3.6 (June 1907), 212.
  13. ^ Louis N. Parker, ‘Historical Pageants’, Journal of the Society of Arts, 22 December 1905, 142.
  14. ^ ‘The Pageant Fashion’, The Observer, 13 January 1907, 11.
  15. ^ Mick Wallis, ‘The Popular Front Pageant: Its Emergence and Decline’, New Theatre Quarterly 11 (1996): 18–20.
  16. ^ Behind the Scenes’, Bury Free Press (12th July 1907), in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant (Script, Photographs, Press-Cuttings), Compiled by Miss Wentworth Reeve and Presented to the Borough by her Brother, Maj Gen J.T. Wentworth Reeve, on 14 July 1972, Bury St Edmunds Record Office. EE 500/34/17a, b.
  17. ^ ‘Visit of Lord Mayor to Bury and the Pageant’, Report of the Reception Committee, 13 July 1907, Correspondence and Papers Relating to Luncheon Given by the Corporation to the Lord Mayor of London on 13 July 1907 and to Other Matters Concerning the Pageant (1907). EE500/34/16.
  18. ^ Simon Gunn, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle-Class: Ritual and Authority in the English Industrial City, 1840-1874 (Manchester, 2000), 163. See also D. Cannadine, ‘The Transformation of Civic Ritual in Modern Britain: The Colchester Oyster Feast’, Past and Present 94, no. 1 (1982), 107–30.
  19. ^ ‘The Pageant Fashion’, 11. 
  20. ^ ‘Bury St Edmund’s Pageant’, The Standard, 9 July 1907, in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant.
  21. ^ ‘The St Edmundsbury Pageant’, The Times, 9 July 1907, 11.
  22. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds’ Pageant’, Daily Express, 9 July 1907, in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant.
  23. ^ ‘Notes from the Grandstand’, [Presumed Bury Free Press], in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant.
  24. ^ ‘A Notable Manifesto’ [unknown cutting] and ‘Notes from the Grandstand’, in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant.
  25. ^ ‘The Bury St Edmunds Pageant’, The Athenaeum 4159, 13 July 1907, 41.
  26. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds’ Great Effort’, The Observer, 30 June 1907, 8.
  27. ^ ‘The St Edmundsbury Pageant’, 11.
  28. ^ ‘The Pageant’, Dover Express, 19 July 1907, 4.
  29. ^ ‘Pen Pictures’, Derby Daily Telegraph, 22 July 1907, 2.
  30. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 9 July 1907, 6.
  31. ^ ‘Behind the Scenes’, Bury Free Press, 12 July 1907, in Two Scrap-Books Relating to the Pageant.
  32. ^ Note regarding pageant surplus, from G.J. Clarkson of Stockton-on-Tees, 24 September 1908, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  33. ^ Letter to pageant committee from W.S. Riley, 25 October 1907, in ‘Pageant Surplus: Various Schemes as to its Disposal’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  34. ^ Letter to pageant committee from Richard Read Reeve of Wisbech, 25 October 1907, in ‘Pageant Surplus: Various Schemes as to its Disposal’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  35. ^ Letter to pageant committee from Mrs Edith Oliver, 10 October 1907’, in ‘Pageant Surplus: Various Schemes as to its Disposal’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  36. ^ Letter to pageant committee from Chas Kent, Editor of Bury and Norwich Post and Letter to pageant committee from Owen A. Clark, 6 January 1908, in ‘Pageant Surplus: Various Schemes as to its Disposal’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  37. ^ Cutting from Bury Post, in ‘Pageant Surplus: Various Schemes as to its Disposal’, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  38. ^ ‘Disposal of Pageant Surplus: Report to Finance and Executive Committee from Sub-Committee Appointed to Consider the Pageant Surplus’, 19 January 1909, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  39. ^ Letter from to W.J. Cail to Jackson, 7 November 1908, File of Correspondence with the Pageant Organisers; Application of F.T. Carter to be Pageant Secretary; Papers and Correspondence Relating to the Disposal of Surplus Funds (1907). EE500/34/1.
  40. ^ ‘Bury St Edmunds Medallion’, The Connoisseur, 3rd Special Edition (1907), St Edmundsbury Heritage Service.

How to cite this entry

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