Stafford Millenary Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Field Adjoining the Castle Ruins (Stafford) (Stafford, Staffordshire, England)

Year: 1913

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 5


30 July–4 August 1913

30 July, 2.45pm; 31 July, 6.30pm; 1 August, 6.30pm; 2 August, 2.45pm; 4 August, 2.45pm.

‘At Stafford the customary arrangement of holding the festivities at the same time every day will not be adhered to; instead the performance will begin on the opening day, July 30th, at 2.45pm; then the two following days it will begin at 6.30; and on August 2nd and 4th, it will be at 2.45pm. It is believed that this will be of convenience to both performers and audience. These difference[s] will be taken into consideration in the special train service.’1

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Director of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Baring, Edward
  • Stage Directors: J.B. Butler and Stafford Dawson
  • Assistants: W.F. Ferris, Miss King and F. Moorhouse
  • Master of Music: H. Siddall
  • Master of Designs: T.S. Lones
  • Mistresses of Robes: Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Brooks
  • Steward of Grandstand: Percy H. Shaw
  • Dancing Mistresses: Miss Jenny Lea and Miss Latimer
  • Press Representative: Miss Agnes Haynes
  • Chief Hon. Business Stewards: Councillor M. Mitchell and Percy Shaw
  • Hon. Secretary: H.H. Battle

Names of executive committee or equivalent


  • His Grace, Duke of Sutherland
  • Right Honourable Early of Shrewsbury and Talbot
  • Right Honourable Earl of Lichfield
  • Right Honourable Lord Hatherton, CMG

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Mayor (Councillor C.W. Miller)
  • Alderman Westhead
  • Councillor M. Mitchell
  • P.H. Shaw
  • E.A. Thompson
  • F.J. Craig
  • Humphrey Bostock
  • W.G. Watson

Fancy Dress:

  • Chairman: Percy H. Shaw

Cast Committee:

  • Chairman: W.F. Ferris

Fancy Dress Ball Committee:

  • Chairman: Percy H. Shaw

Battle of Flowers:

  • Chairman: Lewis Heath

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

  • Burne, C.S.


Miss C.S. Burne wrote Episode II; she was the late president of the British Folklore Society.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Millenary of the founding of Stafford.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 2000
  • Total audience: 22000


The 1913 pageant received 22000 visitors at a time when the population of the town was only 26000.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

  • Fireworks display and promenade concert on the Grammar School Ground (Wednesday 30 July, 8pm).
  • Fancy dress ball in the Borough Hall; music by the band of the Royal Marines (Friday 1 August).
  • Animated Pictures of the pageant and promenade concert, Grammar School Ground (Saturday 2 August, 8pm).
  • Battle of Flowers, decorated cars and promenade concert on the Grammar School Grounds (performers in costume admitted at half price; Monday 4 August).

Pageant outline


As a prelude to the Pageant, Fact and Fancy hold discourse. Fact argues that history must be learnt from the dry study of records and proved facts: Fancy pleads that imagination should lend its aid to assist memory and understanding, and prevails upon Fact to lay aside books for a time and trace the history of the dead past in the living records of pageantry.

Episode I. St Bertelin’s Sololoquy

The Pageant will begin its Episodes with an incident of the eighth century. St Bertelin was a famous hermit living on an island in the river Sowe (later to become Stafford). He was the son of a King but had withdrawn from the temptations and shams of court life. The Episode will portray him reviewing in soliloquy the sorrows of the past, the call of a holy life, and the hope of eternal reward. St Bertelin is the Patron Saint of Stafford.

Episode II. Aethelfleda Founds Stafford, 913

The second Episode of the Pageant portrays the founding of the ‘burh’ of Stafford. In 913 Aethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, came to the site and drew together local people for protection on a hillfort. It shows how many of the people grown used to the depredations of the Danes had come to recognise them as good neighbours, and how the ‘Lady of the Mercians’ wins to her cause those who had wavered and those who had opposed. An unknown monk ties the first Stafford Knot and gives it to her as the bond that binds the five hundreds of the town.

Episode III. King John’s Charter, 1206

This scene deals with the resentment of the people against the many taxes imposed for lastage and pontage, and other petty charges that the rulers inflicted to gain revenue. Gathered in the Market Place, the burghers are plying their trades and discussing these wrongs, when two prisoners are put in the stocks for having failed to pay these obnoxious taxes. The populace side with the law-breakers. The Dean of St Mary’s comes along, and almost immediately after him comes a King’s Messenger bearing the Charter of King John which grants freedom to sell without payment of tax for doing do; freedom from pontage for the Lord’s Bridge; and the right for Stafford to hold its own Court of Law. During rejoicing the prisoners are liberated as they are no longer guilty, whilst the people praise the generosity of the King, which the Dean surmises is not altogether unconnected to the town’s newly beneficial financial situation.

Episode IV. Richard II as Bolingbroke’s Prisoner, 1299

We turn from the rejoicing of liberty to the prisoner’s sadness. Richard II, the prisoner of Henry Bolingbroke, appears on the scene wearied, degraded, bereft of his Royal rank and humiliated by the guard that hurries him on and by the mob that erstwhile sang his praises. He pleads for permission to dismount that he may rest a little while from the fatigue of his long trying ride; and grudgingly the permission is given. Taunts assail him from all sides; yet a faithful few brave the wrath of their fellows in tendering their loyalty. A guard forces him to remount and bears him away.

Episode V. Visit of Queen Elizabeth, 1573

In 1573 Queen Elizabeth visited the town, and in this Episode she is shown hearing the complaints of the burghers. She promises to promote the old trades, and to effect this grants a Statute of Capping; however, the Statute did not prove able to control supply and demand, and the trade refused to respond to royal command. She also commanded that the Assizes should again be held at the town. Elizabeth’s love of festivities is recognised in the dances and games that make this a merry scene, a Garland Dance being one of its prettiest features.

Episode VI. The Day After Hopton Heath, 1643

In the year 1643, when a crowd is gathered in the Market Place of Stafford, pretty Priscilla enters winning the smiles of Will Lovelace, a soldier. With the gallantry of the Cavaliers he declares his admiration, but his flirtation is speedily brought to an end by Priscilla’s father, a rigid Puritan and hater of the followers of King Charles. Beyond at Hopton Heath the battle has raged; the result is not yet known, but conflicting rumours have reached the town. Whilst these are being discussed Izaak Walton, perhaps the most famous angler England has ever produced, crosses the Market Place, and one gathers that with him politics and warfare hold a second place to the mysteries of the waters. The soldiers beguile the time whilst they await authentic news by singing a rollicking song. Then he who was Lord Compton enters as the Earl of Northampton, and no longer doubt remains—Northampton has fallen on the battlefield. To the Castle is the cry, lest the rebel Brereton seize it and capture the town. The battle of Hopton Heath is ended; Stafford must be saved.

Episode VII. Sheridan at the Hustings, 1790

By selecting this election scene, the tumult at Parliamentary elections in the eighteenth century has been given to us. The Ballot then was unknown, and each voter had to take the risk of expressing his opinion by his vote. Bribery and Corruption Acts did not prevent the candidates from purchasing votes with free drinks, and argument might be replaced by blows where they were believed to be more convincing. In the year 1790 Sheridan and Monckton sought return to Parliament at Stafford. We find Sloper and Hopkins opposing them. The burghers are discussing the payments the different candidates have offered for their votes and whether the promises will materialize, when Sheridan enters. Even to the hustings he is followed by one of the many creditors who pester him for his rarely paid debts. Sheridan turns the incident to election account; then in response to the clamour he makes a speech and gives the now famous toast referring to the making of boots: ‘May the trade of Stafford be trod underfoot by all the world.’


A grand tableau of all the performers.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Æthelflæd [Ethelfleda] (d. 918) ruler of the Mercians
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Compton, Spencer, second earl of Northampton (1601–1643) army officer
  • Walton, Izaak (1593–1683) author and biographer
  • Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751–1816) playwright and politician

Musical production

No information

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Staffordshire Advertiser
Staffordshire Sentinel
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Manchester Guardian
Lichfield Mercury
Walsall Advertiser
Tamworth Herald
Wolverhampton Express and Star
The Times

Book of words

Stafford Millenary Celebration Pageant. Souvenir Guide. Stafford, 1913.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Herson, John. Divergent Paths: Family Histories of Irish Emigrants in Britain 1820–1920. Manchester, 2015. At 111.

Martin Mitchell, the prime organiser, was of Irish extraction.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Programme held at Wolverhampton Archives. D/BRV/44.
  • Photographs and Ephemera at William Salt Library, Stafford.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Stafford Pageant reflected the civic pride of a prosperous and ancient town which was able to celebrate a millennium of rich and varied history. As with Liverpool’s Seven Hundredth Anniversary Pageant in 1907, Oxford’s Millenary in 1912, and nearby Tamworth’s Millenary a few months after Stafford’s, pageants were an obvious way of commemorating a historical milestone.3 As one newspaper put it: ‘Such an event could have been celebrated in one way only. That was by means of a pageant. Stafford’s past is one of which its people may well be proud, and they did well to ask their friends and neighbours to witness its sketching in bold, vivid colours.’4 The report continued that through a pageant ‘the past was re-created and presented in a series of pictures breathing life into the dead bones of the past.’5

The pageant, the organisation of which had only gotten off the ground in January, clearly inspired the town to energetic activity. As the Walsall Advertiser noted: ‘The network of organisation necessary to launch an historical pageant is amazing. Only those brought into contact with all the necessary spade work can have any comprehension of the self-sacrificing efforts and untiring labour necessary from a large band of workers drawn from a large area.’6 However, the committee members also had to request further help only a month before the pageant: ‘Before the panorama of past events can be presented [work] must be done, and the committee appeal with confidence to the patriotism of Staffordians and Staffordshire folk for their ungrudging assistance. Those who have not already thrown in their lot with the pageant should do so at once.’7

The language used is significant in its appeal to a local form of civic patriotism which neatly dovetailed with the kind of national patriotism that was much in evidence in the years immediately before the First World War; it reflects an early instance of the civic patriotism that Tom Hulme has traced through the inter-war years.8 The Bishop of Lichfield, who addressed the crowd at the pageant opening ceremony, stated that ‘One hopes that by such a vivid representation of Stafford’s history…we shall be stimulated to do our part in the great work of the present, and be filled with greater hope for the future, because it has been well said that the study of history is the best cordial for drooping spirits. And I hope that this pageant will stimulate your local patriotism and in turn your loyalty to your country.’9 The Manchester Courier was even more effusive in its praise of what a civic pageant could achieve in terms of local identity and civic pride: ‘A pageant does much good educationally, socially, and in many other ways. All denominations and political differences are sunk, social rank is put on one side, and all classes and creeds, peers and peasants, parsons and publicans, unite in fostering the spirit of civic patriotism in the portrayal of the past.’10

It is significant that other local papers from surrounding towns were so rapturous in their write-ups of the Stafford Pageant. We do not see any of the inter-town rivalries which one might expect and which thrive on things such as local football rivalries, prestigious local buildings or landmarks, and any other small differentiation imaginable. Indeed, the Walsall Advertiser was deeply complimentary about not merely the pageant but the town itself, where ‘we find many of the old trades still flourishing… and together with them many of the newest. And be it said to the credit of those who have promoted them that Stafford unlike many places has not made squalor a necessary handmaid of commerce.’11

Consequently, the pageant attracted many visitors from outside Stafford, and there was an ‘extremely large gathering, not only from the town and county, but from places far distant.’12 At a time when the population of the town was around 26000, some 22000 people visited the pageant.13 They were transported to the town on special trains travelling from up to 150 miles away and for which a return fare could be bought at the special price of two thirds of the cost of a normal ticket.

The pageant’s outline, as one might expect, told the story of the town’s history through significant episodes, notably reprising Aethelfleda – who had appeared in the 1906 Warwick Pageant. The allegorical introduction to the pageant, in which the figures of Fact and Fancy discuss the true merit of history, is significant in that the pageant accepted that a number of historical events, whilst rooted in fact, were not wholly accurate in the way demanded by an antiquarian. Fact is encouraged to take a more relaxed attitude than the ‘dry study of records of proved facts’, and to ‘trace the history of the dead past in the living records of pageantry.’ The first episode very much did this, tracing the life of the Anglo-Saxon Saint Bertelin, or Beorhthelm, a local Mercian Saint about whom the only records are strictly legendary.14 Later episodes dealt with the founding of the town by Aethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great and ‘Lady of the Mercians’ who liberated the area from Danish Rule, as well as King John’s granting of a borough charter to the town and relieving it of unjust taxes. This episode was one of the very few sympathetic depictions of King John in pageantry.

The fourth episode showed the townspeople jeering the deposed Richard II as he passes through the town on his way to Pontefract and his eventual murder, while Episode VI depicted the aftermath of the Battle of Hopton Heath, in a scene featuring the famous local Izaak Walton (author of The Compleat Angler). Despite the Earl of Northampton’s death on the battlefield, the Royalists captured eight guns and Brereton was ultimately forced to withdraw to Nantwich, with the result that Stafford was delivered from a siege.15 This scene is an early depiction of the Civil War (which many early Pageant Masters considered to be too divisive to show) and firmly emphasised Stafford’s Royalist credentials.

The final scene features an episode in the life of the Irish playwright and poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who represented Stafford in Parliament for twenty-six years between 1780 and 1806. The episode makes a clear allusion to the bribery and electioneering that was rife at the time. Borrowing against his share of the Drury Lane Theatre, Sheridan was said to have bribed his electors five guineas apiece, costing him £1000 and driving him more heavily into debt,. His maiden speech in Parliament answered to the charges of bribery and corruption levelled against him.16

The pageant was a success overall, providing a good example of the ability of relatively small towns to organize large pageants during the period before the First World War, which broke out exactly a year after the pageant opened. In the war, 13000 men from Staffordshire, a number of whom performed in the pageant, lost their lives.17 The language used to recruit people for the pageant was strikingly similar to that which would shortly be used to encourage men to enlist in the name of both national and civic patriotism.

Staffordshire held a large-scale Women's Institute Pageant at Alton Towers in 1928.


  1. ^ Walsall Advertiser, 12 July 1913, 5.
  2. ^ ‘Summer of Celebrations to Mark Stafford’s 1100 Milestone’, Staffordshire Newsletter, accessed 10 November 2015,
  3. ^ Paul Readman, ‘Pageants and Anniversaries’, accessed 10 November 2015,
  4. ^ Lichfield Mercury, 1 August 1913, 8.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ Walsall Advertiser, 28 June 1913, 2.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Tom Hulme, ‘Putting the City Back into Citizenship: Civics Education and Local Government in Britain, 1918–1945’, Twentieth Century British History 26 (2015), 26–51.
  9. ^ Lichfield Mercury, 1 August 1913, 8.
  10. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 1 July 1913, 11.
  11. ^ Walsall Advertiser, 12 July 1913, 5.
  12. ^ Lichfield Mercury, 1 August 1913, 8.
  13. ^ ‘Summer of Celebrations to Mark Stafford’s 1100 Milestone’, Staffordshire Newsletter, accessed 10 November 2015,
  14. ^ G.C. Baugh et al., 'Religious Houses: Introduction', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M.W. Greenslade and R.B. Pugh (London, 1970), 135–139, accessed 10 November 2015,
  15. ^ ‘Hopton Heath’, BCW Project, accessed 10 November 2015,
  16. ^ Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751–1816), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Entry, accessed 4 January 2016,
  17. ^ World War 1: Lest we forget the 13,000 who died for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’, Stoke Sentinel, 13 November 2013, accessed 4 January 2016,

How to cite this entry

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