The Pageant of Newark

Pageant type

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Place: Newark Castle (Newark-on-Trent) (Newark-On-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England)

Year: 1936

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 8


13–18 July 1936

Monday 13 July, 7pm; Tuesday 14 July, 7pm; Wednesday 15 July, 7pm; Thursday 16 July, 2.15pm; Thursday 16 July, 7pm; Friday 17 July, 7pm; Saturday 18 July, 2.15pm; Saturday 18 July, 7pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Director and Organising Secretary [Pageant Master]: Blatherwick, Douglas P.
  • President: His Grace the Duke of Portland, KG
  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of Newark, Councillor P.J.C. Staniland, CC
  • Vice-Chairman: His Honour Judge G.M.T. Hildyard, KC
  • Producers: Mr Donald Wolfit (by permission of the Governors of the Stratford Memorial Theatre) and Mr J. Gower Parks
  • Assistant Producer: Mr Christopher Ede
  • Musical Director: Captain G.T. Francis, FRCO
  • Orchestra Director: Mr J.S. Carle
  • Leader of Orchestra: Mr J. Storar
  • Pianist: Mrs D’Arcy
  • Singer: Mr Glyn Evans
  • The Man under the Tree: Mr A.E. Lewis, BA
  • Ballet Mistress: Miss Diana Berry
  • Folk Dancing Mistress: Miss V.M. Leather
  • Drill Instructor: Inspector S. Richardson
  • Designer of Poster: Mr R.H. Norburn
  • Programme Editor: Mr Fred T. Jones


R.H. Norburn designed the poster for the pageant.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Mr R.V. Appleby
  • Mr R.G. Atkinson
  • Miss D. Berry
  • Mr L. Berryman
  • Mr R.P. Blatherwick, JP
  • Dr A. Bowen
  • Mr W. Dale
  • Councillor. R.I. Derry
  • Miss M. Dolman
  • Captain G.H. Ducksbury
  • Mr J.H. Fordham
  • Mr Geo. W. Fosbery
  • Mr S. Gibbon, ATD, FRSA
  • Mr W. Griffen
  • Mr J.A. Gulland, MA
  • Mrs H.J. Higgs
  • Mr J.W. Howard
  • Councillor C.E. Jenkinson
  • Mr A.A. Jones, ASAA
  • Mr F.T. Jones
  • Mr A.E. Lewis, BA
  • Rev. D. Campbell Miller, MA
  • Miss E.G. Morgan, MA
  • Mr H.D. Mumby
  • Mr J.E. Palmer
  • Miss T. Coape Oates
  • Councillor C.E. Parlby
  • Mr W.J.M. Pike
  • Mrs Councillor E.H. Quibell
  • Dr E. Ringrose, JP
  • Mr Geo. Robinson
  • Miss Sims
  • Miss J.M. Stamps
  • Alderman C. Stephenson
  • Mr H.D. Summers
  • Mr G. Thurman
  • Miss S. Turner, MA
  • Mrs Vere Laurie
  • Mr S Whaley
  • Mr A.E. Whomsley
  • Mr Ll. Wood, MC, BA
  • Mr J.H. Woodall
  • 32 men, 10 women = 42 total

Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr R.P. Blaterwick, JP
  • Secretary: Mr A.A. Jones, ASAA
  • 6 men = 6 total

Performers’ Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr Geo. W. Fosbery
  • Secretaries: Mr A.E. Lewis, BA, and Mr L. Wood, MC, BA
  • 4 men, 7 women = 11 total

Grounds Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor C.E. Jenkinson
  • Secretary: Mr J.W. Howard
  • Assistant Secrretary: Miss P.W. Mackinder
  • 15 men, 2 women = 17 total

Designs Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr S. Gibbon, ATD, FRSA
  • Secretary: Miss Stamps
  • 3 men, 10 women = 13 total

Horse Committee:

  • Chairman: Captain G.H. Ducksbury
  • Secretary: Mr R.G. Atkinson
  • 8 men, 2 women = 10 total

Publicity Company:

  • 4 men

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr S.F. Whaley
  • Secretary: Mr J.H. Woodall
  • 12 men, 3 women = 15 total

Reception Committee:

  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor, Councillor P.J.C. Staniland, CC
  • Secretary: Mr R.V. Appleby, Borough Chamberlain
  • 2 men

American Reception Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr J.T. Graham
  • Secretary: Miss S. Turner, MA
  • Correspondence Secretary: Mr G. Thurman
  • 3 men, 1 woman = 4 total

Episode Officials and Committees:

  • Prologue: Elementary Schools
  • Producer: Mr R. Burden
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss Smith
  • Episode IA: Roman Catholic Community
  • Producer and Secretary: Miss H. Dunwell
  • Property Master: Miss W. Potter
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Cook
  • Episode 1B: Sutton-on-Trent, Carlton-on-Trent and Ossington
  • Producer: Mr W.J.M. Pike
  • Property Master: Miss W.M. Pike
  • Secretary: Mrs E. Curtis
  • Treasurer: Mr N. Bingham
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Miss Mumford
  • Committee: 8 women
  • Episode 1C: Newark Amateur Dramatic Society
  • Producer: Mr Hugh Peebles
  • Secretary: Mr G.D. Edwards
  • Episode 2A and B: Methodist Community
  • Producer: Mr W. Tomblin
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs M. Hill
  • Property Master: Mr W. Clayton
  • Secretary: Mr J.A. Kelham
  • Committee: 9 men, 6 women = 15 total
  • Episode 2C, 2D and 2G: Anglican Community
  • Producer: Mr J.H. Fordham
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss Constance Orchard
  • Property Masters: Mr J. McBride, Mr D. Cocking
  • Secretaries: Mr W. Yeomans, Mr J.H. Fordham
  • Episode 2F: High School old Girls’ Association, Old Magnusians, N.A.L.G.O., etc
  • Producer: Mrs Parlby
  • Secretary and Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Harrison
  • Committee: 24 women, 5 men = 29 total
  • Children’s Dresses: 4 women
  • Music: Miss E. Eddowes
  • Episode 3:
  • Producers: Mrs Austin Woolley, Mr Hugh Peebles
  • Secretary: Miss J. Branston
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Miss Anderson, Miss Margaret Ford
  • Mr J.A. Esam
  • Committee: 2 men, 4 women
  • Episode 4: The Technical College
  • Producer: Miss M. Dolman
  • Secretary: Mr J.A. Gulland, MA
  • Assistant Producer: Mr Pickering
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss M. Bowller
  • Property Master: Mr W. Dickinson
  • Episode 5A: Newark Volunteers
  • Episode 5B
  • Producer: Councillor C.E. Parlby
  • Secretary: Mrs W.J.P. Wright
  • Episode 5C:
  • Producer and Secretary: Mr J.H. Woodall
  • Chairman of Committee: Mr G. Lord

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

  • Wolfit, Donald
  • Blatherwick, Douglas P.
  • Shakespeare, William


Episodes written and compiled by Mr Donald Wolfit in conjunction with Mr Douglas P. Blatherwick

Names of composers

  • Handel, George Frideric
  • Hewlett, Maurice
  • Brahms, Johannes
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Byrd, William
  • Laurie, Sydney Vere
  • Spofforth, Reginald
  • Bach, Johann Sebastian
  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers


Men, women, children. Chickens, sheep, pigs, geese, and horses.

Financial information


  • Producer: £40 plus expenses (estimated £10), plus 5% of net profits up to £1000 and 7.5% on anything above £1000
  • Publicity: £225
  • Stand: £248
  • Forms: £50
  • Orchestra Stand: £5
  • Gangway: £5
  • Marquees: £5
  • Amplifiers: £5
  • Additional entrances: £20
  • Covering paths: £10
  • Stables: £17
  • Labour for [handwriting illegible]: £5
  • Lavatories: £25
  • Properties: £25
  • Costumes: £6
  • Stationary, postages, tickets, etc.: £50
  • Catering for Helpers: £10
  • Professional actor and singer: £5
  • Insurance: £10
  • Orchestra and Music: £40

[Taken from ‘A meeting of the Pageant Executive Committee held 4th February 7.30pm at the Town Hall’, Newark Pageant Minute Book. Held at Nottingham Archive - DD/NM/15/15/1]

Object of any funds raised

Proposed new maternity wing at the Newark Hospital.1


‘It is hoped to raise over £1,000, the object to benefit being the proposed new maternity wing at the Newark Hospital.’2

Linked occasion


Audience information

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


1378 tickets available for each performance.3

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s. 7d.–1s.

10s. 7d., 7s. 6d., 5s., 3s. 6d., 2s. 6d., 1s. 6d., 1s.

Associated events


Pageant outline


Children, representative of the various ages, pass across the stage into position. Then comes a slow procession to the middle of the scene, with Peace as the central figure, followed by the beaver and the otter of Newark’s Coat of Arms.

Episode I. 600–1216

From the Norman Archway a crowd of early townspeople enter, watching the arrival of Paulinus and four priests, with chanting boys. Paulinus wishes them peace and goodwill, before many join him on his way to the Trent to be baptised. One man, dressed in rough sacking and carrying an old spade, leaves the crowd and moves to the tree in the centre of the terrace and begins to narrate the story. He marks himself out as a descendant of a longstanding English family, before describing the continuity of the common people throughout the history of Kings, Lords, Knights, Bishops and Priests. Announcing himself as the man beneath the tree, he declares that he watches and waits. His speech over, the arena now fills with Newarkers leading livestock. A messenger enters and announces the approach of the Bishop Alexander, who arrives with his retinue of priests and soldiers. He addresses the crowd from horseback, accepting the animals as symbols of tenantship and announcing the plans to erect a castle and hospital to ‘serve those of our fellows who are less fortunate than we.’ The cheering townsmen then perform a prophet play featuring the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the Three Kings. The Bishop thanks them for the performance before leaving for Lincoln. The Man under the Tree continues the story, telling of the building of a fort, and the arrival of the dying King John. At this point the King is carried in on a litter, followed by Prince Henry, Hubert, Pembroke, Philip Faulconbridge and an Abbot. John tells the Abbot that his death is near due to poisoning, before asking for his Chancellor to complete his last Will and Testament. As the Princes lament his illness, John gradually sinks, before declaring ‘Abbot I am finished’. The choir sings as the King is borne away. The Princes discuss who may have poisoned the King, before the Abbot returns and announces the King’s death. The King is carried away, followed by his knights and nobles, as the choir chants. The crowd kneels as the cortege passes, before rising and leaving the arena.

Episode II. 1216–1603

The Man under the Tree tells of the siege of Newark Castle, held by Robert of Gaugi, by the men of King Henry III. Robert de Gaugi appears on the terrace of the castle tower, as soldiers of Henry III crowd into the arena. After first refusing, Gaugi relents after threats, and surrenders. King Henry III enters surrounded by Nobles, as Gaugi and his followers are led away to cheers. The Man under the Tree declares how this action brought peace again. In the next scene a condemned man is saved by a noble, who asserts that only the Bishop of Peterborough can exercise execution warrants in the wapentake of Newark. The Man under the Tree then narrates several scenes without dialogue. First, the freedom of England with its first parliament; then the consecration of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene; third, the visit of the French King through Newark as a prisoner on his way to Somerton Castle; fourth, the shattering of the peace by the War of the Roses (portrayed by a ballet featuring red and white soldiers, a dancing skeleton, and the death of Sir John Markham); fifth, the coming of peace and the finishing of the Church; sixth, Thomas Magnus’s founding of a school; seventh, the dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII; eighth, the incorporation of the town in 1549.

Episode III. 1603

Queen Elizabeth and her women are met by Henry Constable, who reads a poem to her. The Man under the Tree describes how the Queen was entertained, before describing the visit of James I. Councillors of the town express their excitement at the impending visit, before Master Rockett from Nottingham arrives to observe and manage the entertainment for the King. Alderman Twentyman of Newark declares, ‘We need no man from Nottingham to tell us how to entertain his Majesty.’ The King is then spotted; musicians on the terrace play as maidens strew flowers in the path of the King, who is preceded by heralds with trumpets. James is seated, and Twentyman steps forward and reads a Latin speech, before presenting the King with a golden cup. The King and all present applaud. Humour follows as Twentyman struggles to understand the King’s thick accent. After a minor disagreement about traitorous namesakes of Twentyman in Scotland, the hand of the King is kissed by Twentyman to the applause of the crowd. Folk Dancing follows, before the King knights several men while a sword dance is performed. Cockfighting follows, only to be interrupted by the discovery of a cutpurse, who is quickly captured by the King’s guards. Brought before the King, he pleads for a fair trial as an Englishman. The King ignores the criminal, and sends him to the gallows, despite the murmurings of the crowd. To ensure a reputation for gentleness and mercy the King declares, to cheers, that all prisoners in custody in the castle will be released. A court dance then takes place, before James thanks Twentyman for his hospitality. All exit.

Episode IV. c. 1642–1651

The Man under the Tree tells of the growing discontent in the country, and the coming of the Civil War. Sir Charles Cavendish, head of the Newark garrison, enters with soldiers, and declares Newark loyal to the King. Charles I enters on horseback, followed by cavaliers and soldiers, to cries of ‘Long live the King!’ He thanks Newark men for their loyalty, before riding away. The citizens prepare to defend the town, singing war songs. The castle is attacked. Hercules Clay and Mistress Clay enter with children; talking to the sentries, he relates dreams of his house being burned to the ground after being struck by lightning, hence his leaving the house. At this point his dreams come true, as a cannon ball strikes his house and it burns. He thanks the Lord. The Governor opens the gates to a tattered and scarred messenger from Prince Rupert, who is coming with extra forces and who bids the Newark garrison to attack Meldrum the next morning. Prince Rupert, covered in the dust of battle, enters the fort to celebrations – especially when he declares food and weapons are coming. Charles Gerard enters, bandaged and limping, and announces that he has been released by the Parliamentarian forces to bring proposals for surrender. Rupert bids Sir Richard Crane and Sir William Neale to go back to the Parliamentarians and tell them they will be protected for two miles if they down their firearms and leave. The knights leave, as does Rupert. The Man under the Tree tells how the town resisted two more sieges, yet discontent became rife as the King’s fortunes began to wane. The crowd murmurs of defeats, before the King enters with horsemen, greeted by Lord and Lady Bellassis and Hercules Clay, Twentyman, and John Cleveland. Rupert, Maurice, Sir Richard Willis, Charles Gerard and others enter, and tell the King of the fall of Bristol. Tensions arise over the King’s attempt to appoint Willis as Captain of the Royal Horse. Eventually the King manages to maintain the peace. Weary, the King leaves, as do the rest of the Knights and Princes. The Man under the Tree announces the sad and sorrowing departure of the Monarch, and his eventual surrender – the receiving of this news in Newark is then portrayed.

Episode V. c. 1806–1832

The Man under the Tree tells how Newark recovered from the war, before seeing the Stuarts once more when Charles the Pretender was garrisoned in the town. He then relates how the town again rested until ‘Boney’ (Napoleon) brought war (the choir sings ‘Boney was a Warrior’ as a small detachment of Volunteers dressed in 1804 uniforms march across). The Man then tells of a poet who printed his poems in the town. Lord Byron enters and is met by Mister Ridge, the Printer. They discuss the publication of his works. The Man under the Tree then tells of how Gladstone made ‘Newark the stepping stone to the highest honours’. A procession with blue favours carries Sergeant Wilde to the hustings platform, followed by a procession with yellow and red favours carrying Mr Handley and Mr Gladstone. Gladstone’s supporters cheer and sing songs. Various locals propose the candidates to cheers and counter-cheers, before the young Gladstone is finally proposed. Questioned intently on who invited him to Newark, he is also accused of being part of a family of slave-traders—which he denies. He is then questioned on the stamp tax on newspapers, and the exemption of the Bible, to which he explains ‘I would not subject the Bible to a stamp duty because it is exclusively the object of good, whilst the newspaper requires restriction, not being of divine origin, and being of doubtful good.’ Eventually the Mayor calls for silence and announces the results: Gladstone has won the vote with 882 votes to 793 and 719. Resounding cheers are heard, as each candidate is then carried away.

Epilogue and Procession

The Man under the Tree concludes by telling how ‘once again we saw the troops march into the Key to the North. The Royal Engineers garrisoned here and joined with us of this town in defence of the white cliffs of Albion and our quiet homesteads.’ He then announces the church bells, pealed to welcome happiness and security. The bell-ringers enter and sing a song about bell-ringing. The Town Crier then takes up his stance next to the Man under the Tree and announces the arrival of the celebrities of Newark, who then file past, along with the other notable characters of the pageant. The pageant then ends with the singing of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Paulinus [St Paulinus] (d. 644) bishop of York and of Rochester
  • Alexander [called Alexander the Magnificent] (d. 1148) bishop of Lincoln
  • John (1167-1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Henry III (1207-1272) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Magnus, Thomas (1463/4-1550) administrator and diplomat
  • Markham, Sir John (b. before 1486, d. 1559) soldier and member of parliament
  • Elizabeth I (1533-1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • James VI and I (1566-1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
  • Charles I (1600-1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Constable, Henry (1562-1613) polemicist and poet
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619-1682) royalist army and naval officer
  • Gerard, Charles, first earl of Macclesfield (c.1618-1694) royalist army officer
  • Neale, Sir William (1609/10-1691) royalist army officer
  • Cavendish, Charles (1620-1643) royalist army officer
  • Belasyse [Bellasis], John, first Baron Belasyse of Worlaby (bap. 1615, d. 1689) royalist army officer
  • Byron, George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron (1788-1824) poet
  • Gladstone, William Ewart (1809-1898) prime minister and author

Musical production

Orchestra: 12 violins; 1 viola; 2 cellos; 1 bass; 2 flutes; 1 oboe; 1 basset horn; 2 clarinets; 1 bassoon; 2 horns; 3 trumpets; 2 trombones; 1 typmani; 1 drums; 1 piano. A lute used on stage in Episode III. 40+ choir.

  • Handel. Introduction and bourée. ‘Water Music Suite’. 

Episode I:
  • Pange Lingua
  • ‘Flowers of the Forest’. Old air arranged by Robert Burnett.
  • Maurice Hewlett. ‘The Song of the Plough’.

Episode II
  • Handel. No. 2. ‘Water Music Suite’. 
  • Handel. Horn Pipe. ‘Water Music Suite’.
  • Mode VIII, English Hymnal, 189.
  • Brahms. Rhapsody in B Minor.
  • French folk song. Arranged by S. Vere Laurie.
  • ‘Divinum Mysterium’. English Hymnal, 613.
  • Purcell. March.
  • Byrd. ‘Non Nobis Domine’. 
  • ‘Marvellous Be Thy Matchless Giftes in Minde’. Set to an old French XVth Century melody by Mr Sydney Vere Laurie. 

Episode III
Purcell. Minuet.
  • Reginald Spofforth. ‘Hail, Smiling Morn’. 
  • Song of Welcome. French folk song, words specially written by Colonel E.H. Nicholson.
  • Weekly Processional, Oxford Collection.
  • The Beaux of London City, Badby, Northants.
  • J.S. Bach. Gavotte. 

Episode IV
  • Purcell. Trumpet Voluntary, arranged by Sir H. Wood.
  • ‘We’ve Guns Enough’. Somerset folk song, arranged by Cecil J. Sharpe.
  • ‘Long live the King’. Zadok, Handel.

Episode V
  • Floral Dance. From Helston, Cornwall.
  • ‘Oranges and Lemons’; ‘Gathering Peascods’; ‘Maid In the Moon’. From Playford’s ‘English Dancing Master’, 1650-1728.
  • ‘Boney was a Warrior’. Arranged by R.R. Terry.
  • Elgar. ‘Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 in D.’ 

  • Elgar. ‘Land of Hope and Glory.’

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Manchester Guardian

The Observer

The Times

Nottingham Evening Post

Nottingham Evening News

Newark Advertiser

Newark Herald

Book of words

The Pageant of Newark: Official Programme. Newark, 1936.

Price: 6d. Copy at Nottingham Archives. DD/NM/15/19/45.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Shakespeare. King John (Episode I)


The Pageant of Newark was first proposed in July 1935 by Douglas P. Blatherwick, a local writer of plays and music, at a Town Hall meeting chaired by the Mayor, P.J.C. Staniland. From the beginning, its main purpose was the raising of £1000 to aid in the constructing of a new maternity ward for Newark Hospital.4 Unlike the many pageants which were the consummate vision of one pageant-master, the Executive Committee chose to spread the role between three people. Along with Blatherwick as Director and Organising Secretary were two Producers: Donald Wolfit, a notable Newark-born stage actor currently based at the Stratford Memorial Theatre, and J. Gower Parks, a stage set and costume designer who went on to work predominately with the Royal Shakespeare Company.5 Blatherwick and Wolfit also collaborated in the creation of the script, Wolfit having had some experience of acting in the Pageant of Parliament two years earlier.6 For a small town of around 20000 people, it was a mammoth undertaking.7 Each episode had between one to three production committees, representing different societies or communities in the town—such as the Roman Catholic or Anglican Community, the National Association of Local Government Officers, and the High School Old Girls Association. Alongside the variety of small committees from Horses to Properties was a large executive committee of 42 men and women. For the Mayor, as he said in addressing the crowd before one performance, the pageant had the novel ability to ‘reflect and live again… scenes from the past glory of our beloved town’, while also helping ‘congratulate our town upon the progress which it has made.’ For those who volunteered their time ‘with the same loyalty as the people of the past whom they are dressed to represent’, the benevolent charity fund raising of the pageant meant that their work was not only for civic pride but ‘for the progress and benefit of humanity’.8

In terms of its production and narrative, the producers interwove traditional elements of historical pageantry with some of the more recent additions to the format. Each episode was introduced by an the on-stage character of the Man Under The Tree, an Englishman of long descent and common heritage, signified by his ragged dress and the spade he carried. Rather than having the more usual ten or so episodes, the pageant was split into five long episodes, some of which covered extensive periods of history. While all of the episodes featured dialogue, there were sections of episodes (especially in those which aimed to summarise changes in a lengthy sweep) that used the method of having a silent procession of characters across the arena as the narrator described the passing of history. One interesting feature was the inclusion of a ballet to portray the Wars of Roses, featuring red and white soldiers and a dancing skeleton. Like some of the other pageants of the period, such as the Southampton Jubilee Pageant and the Greenwich Night Pageant, the evening performance made good use of selective floodlighting to emphasise the action taking place.9

Despite these novel methods of production, most of the dominant themes of early-twentieth century pageantry were still present. As usual, the visitations of Kings and Queens formed a large part of the action, featuring in four of the five episodes. Episode III in particular was dominated by the visit of James I; as the synopsis for the episode declared, ‘Thus came James, and for fifty years Newark became a town beloved by the Throne. No place more deserved it.’10 In Episode IV, which depicted the town’s valiant defence in the Civil War, the connection to royal patriotism was again made clear, the book of words stating that ‘Royalist, Newark was. Royalist, Newark is.’11 Throughout, of course, it was the local loyalty and independence of Newark that brought the Royals—whether it was in the Civil War defence or the granting of a charter of incorporation in Episode II. Episode III even managed a slight dig at the town’s more illustrious neighbour, Nottingham. When a man from that city arrived to oversee the entertainment for King James I, Alderman Twentyman of Newark, in rebutting his visit, declared: ‘We need no man from Nottingham to tell us how to entertain his Majesty.’12

Perhaps more original was the inclusion of an overtly political episode in the form of the first hustings of a young William Gladstone in 1832, implicitly connecting Newark to the success of the famous statesman. Also of interest, bearing in mind the pageant’s purpose in raising money for the hospital, was the statement of Bishop Alexander in Episode I who, in announcing plans to erect a hospital to ‘serve those of our fellows who are less fortunate than we’, seemed to be pushing a particularly instructive message.13 While the final scene was set in 1832, over a hundred years earlier, the Man Under the Tree, in concluding the pageant, gave a subtle nod towards the role the town played in the First World War, when the Royal Engineers were garrisoned at Newark and ‘joined with us of this town in defence of the white cliffs of Albion’.14 In general, although many pageants in this period had begun to focus on the everyday and the common life, the Newark Pageant was still dominated by great men such as Kings and Bishops and great events such as war.

One particularly interesting aspect of the pageant, and reminiscent of Sherborne in 1905, was the direct connection made to the USA and Newark, New Jersey—named after the British Newark in 1667 as a mark of respect to their Newark-trained first pastor. Curtis Bennett, an ambassador sent by the American city’s government, related this story to the crowd as well as declaring a common civic mindset of thrift, integrity, devotion to justice and fair play, and progress: ‘each [Newark] a fitting place for the homes of contented and prosperous citizens.’15 As well as sending Bennett, the town’s Mayor, Meyer C. Ellenstein, opened the Thursday 16th evening performance via ‘radio telephony’.

While the pageant seemed to go without a hitch, apart from torrential rain marring the first nights’ performance, there was one notable controversy.16 Each night the pageant was themed and ceremonially opened by a different notable person, such as Church Day with the Archbishop of York or Parliament Day with the Rt. Hon. A. Duff-Cooper, MP. The final day was dedicated to Industries, scheduled to be opened by Walter Citrine, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. When the Nottingham Trades Council discovered that the grandstand was being constructed by the same firm that had used non-union labour in the construction of the grandstand for the Nottingham Pageant the previous year, they wrote to Citrine in the expectation that he would refuse, just as the previous President of the Trades Union Congress had in the case of the Nottingham Pageant. At a time when the region was still experiencing industrial depression, with 15% of the male population of Nottingham unemployed, the Trades Council was quick to express such concerns.17 Citrine subsequently withdrew.18 Following the final performance, the pageant director, Blatherwick, confirmed that the pageant committee had ensured that the contracted firm had paid wages which were not less than the minimum trade union wage. A.E. Whomsley, a prominent member of the Newark Labour Party, was more upfront and cynical in his dismay—declaring that the barring of Citrine was ‘a deliberate attempt to frustrate his [Citrine] coming to Newark at the last moment, possibly by the critics of his recent book on Russia.’19 The book to which Whomsley was referring to was I Search for Truth In Russia (1936). While seemingly an even-handed exploration of the vast changes the country was undergoing, it perhaps rankled the Communists within Britain who had previously criticised Citrine’s capitulation in the General Strike and the eventual banning of trade unions and trades councils from choosing communists as delegates under the Black Circulars of 1934.20 John Hind, a longstanding and leading trade unionist in Newark, deputised for Citrine at the pageant and, as the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer reported, pointed out that the pageant was to provide funds for a maternity ward that would benefit the working classes, Citrine’s invitation thus placing him in an awkward position.21

Despite this minor dispute, the Pageant of Newark seemed to be a success. While it was of predominately local importance, receiving extensive coverage in newspapers like the Nottingham Evening Post and being reported on the Midland station of the BBC, it also made its way into the national dailies like the Times and the Observer.22 The Times sent a special correspondent to cover the event, who reported back positively, describing how Donald Wolfit had ‘managed marvellously well to give form and pressure to the “Odtaa”23 of Newark history’ as well as complimenting the actors on their clear diction.24 The Nottingham Evening Post was more gushing in its praise, describing a ‘brilliant blaze of pageantry’, ‘intensely interesting’, ‘Magnificently costumed’. Although financial figures have not been obtainable, it seems likely that the pageant made a profit large enough to contribute to the hospital fund, since the maternity wing was opened the following year. While, with around 1400 tickets available for each of the eight performances, it was not a huge event, it was significant for the extent of its organisation; its comprehensive bringing together of different local societies; and its artistically successful mixing of old and new forms of historical pageantry.


  1. ^ Taken from ‘A Meeting of the Pageant Executive Committee Held 4th February 7.30pm at the Town Hall’, Newark Pageant Minute Book. Nottingham Archive. DD/NM/15/15/1.
  2. ^ ‘Plans for Next Year’s Carnival’, Nottingham Evening Post, 21 February 1936, 12.
  3. ^ ‘A Meeting of the Pageant Executive Committee Held 4th February 7.30pm at the Town Hall’, Newark Pageant Minute Book. Nottingham Archive. DD/NM/15/15/1.
  4. ^ ‘Newark Pageant’, Newark Pageant Minute Book. Nottingham Archive. DD/NM/15/15/1.
  5. ^ ‘Newark’s Blaze of Pageantry’, Nottingham Evening Post, 13 July 1936, 4; ‘Mr J.G. Parks’, The Times, 4 February 1955, 10; ‘Sir Donald Wolfit’, The Times, 19 February 1968, 8.
  6. ^ ‘The Pageant of Parliament’, The Times, 28 June 1934, 8.
  7. ^ GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Newark MB Through Time | Population Statistics | Total Population, A Vision of Britain through Time, accessed: 23rd April 2014,
  8. ^ ‘Pageant of Newark’, Nottingham Evening Post, 14 July 1936, 5.
  9. ^ ‘Newark Pageant’, The Times, 15 July 1936, 14.
  10. ^ The Pageant of Newark: Official Programme (Newark, 1936), 69.
  11. ^ Ibid., 81.
  12. ^ Ibid., 71.
  13. ^ Ibid., 51.
  14. ^ Ibid., 99.
  15. ^ ‘Pageant of Newark’, Nottingham Evening Post, 14 July 1936, 5.
  16. ^ Ibid., 5.
  17. ^ ‘Nottingham & Defence Plans’, Nottingham Evening Post, 16 July 1936, 10.
  18. ^ Keith Laybourn, Fifty Key Figures in Twentieth Century British Politics (London, 2002), 85-87.
  19. ^ ‘Industries Night at Newark’, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 20 July 1936, 4.
  20. ^ Laybourn, Fifty Key Figures, 85-87.
  21. ^ ‘Industries Night at Newark’, 4.
  22. ^ To-day’s B.B.C. Programmes’, Nottingham Evening Post, 13 July 1936, 6.
  23. ^ A popular phrase meaning “One Damn Thing After Another”.
  24. ^ ‘Newark Pageant’, 14.

How to cite this entry

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