Pageant of Coventry 1962

Pageant type


Additional information drawn from 'Survey of Historical Pageants' undertaken by Mick Wallis; with thanks to the staff of Coventry Central Library.

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Place: Memorial Park (Coventry) (Coventry, Warwickshire, England)

Year: None

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


6, 7, 8, 9 June at 7.15pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Turner, Leonard
  • Organising Directors: Sir Stanley Harley and Reverend Clifford Ross
  • Assistant to Leonard Turner: Harry Lord
  • Master of Music: Dr Alan Hawthorn-Baker
  • Assistant Master of Music: Mr William Harley
  • Master of Heraldry: H.R. Hosking
  • Master of Horse: T.J. Bates
  • Scenic Designer: Miss Sheila Fitzgerald
  • Arena Manager: Mr. S. Harris
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss P.E. Gillingham
  • Chief Marshal: Mr. K.R.R. Dick
  • Veterinary Surgeon: Mr. J. Brazier
  • Episode Master, Episode 1: Mr Marlyn Colborn
  • Episode Master, Episode 2: Miss Teresa Randle
  • Episode Master, Episode 3: Messrs. Denzil Pugh and Geoffrey Bennett
  • Episode Master, Episode 4: Mr Ian Tricker
  • Episode Master, Episode 5: Mrs Mary Dalton
  • Episode Master, Episode 6: Mrs Phyllis Harris
  • Episode Master, Episode 7: Mr Donald Foster
  • Episode Master, Episode 8: Mrs Eva Simmons
  • Episode Master, Episode 9: Mr Edwin Grant
  • Episode Master, Episode 10: The Chief Marshall
  • Narrator: Mr. Barry Lankester, assisted by Mr Stanley Dalton, Mr Ronald Jones and Miss Norma Casson.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Over the course of the whole festival, the debt on the cathedral was reduced from £1 million to £400 000.1

Object of any funds raised

To reduce the debts on the Cathedral.


Also to support the Lord Mayor's welfare fund.

Linked occasion

Audience information

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


Coventry had around 2.5 million visitors in 1962, and enjoyed congregations of 3000 plus.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Part of the Coventry Cathedral Festival 1962, to commemorate the consecration. Other events included a carnival and grand gala.

Pageant outline

Episode 1: The Nunnery of St Osburga

That a nunnery existed in Coventry before the Danish invasion is generally accepted and that St. Osburga was the abbess poof the nunnery probably for a period during the seventh century. The nunnery was destroyed by the Danes under Edric the Traitor in 1016. The episode depicts the nuns in their daily occupation of tending the sick and ministering to the needs of the poor, attending a service in the nunnery and finally its destruction by the Danish raiders.

Episode 2. The Lady Godiva

The episode shows the growing resentment of merchants and serfs gathered in the market place, the interceding of Godiva on their behalf, her ride through the market place and the ultimate rejoicing of the people.

Episode 3. The Trial by Combat

The reign of King Richard II was marked by a duel to settle a quarrel between the Duke of Hereford and the Duke of Norfolk. The King appointed Gosford Green, Coventry, as the venue of the combat in the year 1398. The episode, based on the story as told by William Shakespeare in his play Richard II, shows the preparations for the combat, the gathering of the people to witness the event, the arrival of Hereford, then of Norfolk and finally of the King and his courtiers. The preliminary examination of the combatants having been completed, the combat begins.

Episode 4. A Miracle Play

The episode shows how the Coventry Nativity Play was presented on a movable stage or ‘pageant, to the people at selected spots in the City.

Episode 5. Queen Elizabeth I visits Coventry and Kenilworth

Queen Elizabeth I paid her first visit to Coventry in 1566 when she was received with great ceremony. She was banqueted and entertained right royally, and was presented with an address and a purse containing one hundred pounds. The episode shows the reception of the Queen by the Sheriff, the Mayor and Corporation. Having received her gifts the Queen is entertained by displays of dances of the period.

Episode 6. Scenes from Plays by William Shakespeare

This episode is a sequence of eight brief mimes based upon eight plays of William Shakespeare and selected to represent the different ages of man from fairy tale childhood to romantic, heroic and tragic youth, then ending with philosophic maturity. The selected plays are: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, The Tempest.

Episode 7. The Freemen and the Franchise

Coventry sent representatives to the House of Commons as early as 1295. In 1722 a Parliamentary committee decided that men who had served an apprenticeship of seven years in one trade in the City should be sworn and enrolled as Freemen by the Corporation and legally entitled to vote at Parliamentary Elections. The bitter contests between rival political parties led to the enrolment of bogus (‘mushroom’) Freemen and this had a dire result. The episode shows the enrolment of ‘mushroom’ freemen, the polling booths and incidents which led to rioting in Broadgate at the election of 1780.

Episode 8. The Women and the Franchise

Many women of Coventry and the Diocese joined the less militant section of the large army of women who campaigned for the right of women to vote in Municipal and Parliamentary Elections, a right which was granted by Act of Parliament in 1918. The episode shows events at the end of the campaign when news is received that the right to vote has been granted by Parliament.

Episode 9. The Blitz on Coventry

Coventry has reason to remember the nights of the 14th and 15th November, 1940, in particular, for it was then that German planes swooped down on the city dealing out death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. The episode shows, mainly in symbolic form, the powers of evil rejoicing in their temporary victory and their subsequent eclipse by the powers of the ‘spirit’. This involves Civil Defence Wardens and Womens’ Volunteer Service Workers, skeletons and devils, St George and the Dragon, St Michael and Angels.

Episode 10. The Spirit of Coventry

The community spirit of Coventry, a city in ruins, triumphed over the worst that war could do. All the organisations which work for the moral and social good of the people came into action. The spirit of old Coventry was very much alive then as it is now in the new Coventry of which we are so proud. The episode brings together contingents – some of them in action – representing the Church, Police, Fire Brigade, Civil Defence, Women’s Voluntary Service, St. John Ambulance Brigade, British Red Cross Society, Women’s League of Health and Beauty, Girl Guides, Coventry School of Music, Church Lads’ Brigade, Boy Scouts, and the Salvation Army.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Godgifu [Godiva] (d. 1067?) noblewoman
  • Leofric, earl of Mercia (d. 1057) magnate
  • Bussy, Sir John (d. 1399) speaker of the House of Commons and courtier
  • Mowbray, Thomas (I), first duke of Norfolk (1366–1399) magnate
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland

Musical production

  • National Anthem
  • O God Our Help in Ages Past

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Daily Mail
Canadian Jewish Chronicle

Book of words


Other primary published materials


Pageant of Coventry 1962. Coventry, 1962.

Coventry Cathedral Festival, 1962: Programme Book, 25 May - 17 June, 1962. Coventry, 1962.

References in secondary literature

  • ‘Changing Student Experience in the 1960s’, Mosaic [Warwick Alumni, 2013]

‘One of the most memorable occasions of those three years was the Consecration of the new Cathedral in 1962 with celebrations throughout the Diocese. The [Coventry Training] college played host to the tapestry weavers and as students we were involved in the Coventry Pageant playing vikings, nuns and characters from Shakespeare.’

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Script of pageant held in Warwickshire County Record Office, reference CR1530/4.
  • Copy of programme Held in the Coventry City Archives, Herbert Museum, reference PA2556/1/4.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Coventry Nativity Play
  • Shakespeare, William. Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, The Tempest.


Coventry Cathedral was largely destroyed during several air raids on 14-15 November 1940. After much careful thought, it was decided to build a new cathedral next to the ruins, the award for the design being given to Basil Spence and announced in 1951.2 The great 80ft bronze spire of the cathedral had been lifted onto the cathedral earlier in 1962 by a Royal Air Force (RAF) Belvedere helicopter with great aplomb. A spokesperson for the RAF was reported as saying that ‘the German air force knocked it down, we’re putting it up’.3 Pageants were an established part of Coventry’s cultural life, and generally featured a young woman portraying Lady Godiva’s famous naked ride through the town, wearing a skin-coloured body suit. Such events usually created a great clamour both locally and in the national media.4 Postwar pageants had been held in 1945 and 1951, though on a smaller scale than the pre-war days when they attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. The 1962 Pageant of Coventry was a return to form, and was widely reported around the world.

There were, as the Daily Mail luridly reported, over a hundred applicants for the part of Lady Godiva (‘the world’s most famous strip-girl’), but in the end Joyce Parker was chosen.5 Over celebrations that stretched across the whole year, the Coventry Cathedral Festival saw over 2.5 million visitors, and the Cathedral managed to reduce the debts incurred in building it from £1 million to £400,000.6 The celebrations included a wide number of exhibitions, performances, concerts (including one by the Berlin Philharmonic), dances and services and the famous first performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the cathedral on 30 May 1962.7 While the Pageant was certainly an integral part of the Festival, it was not the most important event. It was, though, the last major pageant to be held in the city.


  1. ^ Observer, 26 September 1962, 1.
  2. ^ David Kynaston, Family Britain, 1951-7 (London, 2009), 13-4; Lionel Brett, ‘Coventry Cathedral’, Observer, 23 September 1951, 6.
  3. ^ ‘Coventry – Spire By Copter’, Pathe Newsreel: (accessed 6 May 2016).
  4. ^ Alexander Hutton, ‘The World’s Most Famous Strip-Girl’: Lady Godiva and the Coventry Pageants’: (accessed 6 May 2016).
  5. ^ Daily Mail, 18 January 1962, 7.
  6. ^ Observer, 26 September 1962, 1.
  7. ^ Coventry Cathedral Festival, 1962: Programme Book, 25 May - 17 June, 1962 (Coventry, 1962); Michael Foster, ‘The Idea Was Good – the story of Britten's War Requiem’ (Coventry, 2012): (accessed 6 May 2016).

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Coventry 1962’, The Redress of the Past,