The St Albans Pageant

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Verulamium Park (St Albans) (St Albans, Hertfordshire, England)

Year: 1907

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


15–20 July 1907, 3pm

Daily at 3pm. The duration of the performance can be estimated at about 2 hours 30 minutes.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Jarman, Herbert
  • Herbert Jarman's associate: Philip Carr
  • Mistresses of the Robes: Mrs Leslie Bates; Mrs A.E. Ekins; Mrs W.S. Green; Mrs C.M. Hardy; Miss Lawrance; Mrs A.F. Phillips; Mrs W.N. Puddicombe; Mrs F. Robinson; Mrs G. Rose; Mrs H. Slade; Miss Partridge Smith
  • Bankers: Messrs Barclay and Co. (St Albans Branch)
  • Hon. Accountant: S. Saker (of Saker and Davis, Chartered Accountants), 95 and 97, Finsbury Pavement, EC
  • President: The Right Hon. the Earl of Verulam


Herbert Jarman, of the Lyric Theatre, London, ‘with whom is associated’ Philip Carr

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive committee:

  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of St Albans, Councillor H.J. Worssam
  • Hon. Secretary: The Rev. Canon Glossop
  • Assistant Hon. Secretary: William Young
  • Hon. Treasurer: C.T. Part
  • Property Master: Head Master of St Albans School of Art, Robert E. Groves
  • Chief Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Charles H. Ashdown
  • Master of the Horse: F.W. Kinneir Tarte

Finance and Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: T. Askwith
  • Secretary: ‘The General Secretaries’

Costumes Committee:

  • Chairman: The Mayoress
  • Secretary: Miss Wix

Grand Stand and Site Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor J. Flint
  • Secretary: P.C. Blow

Press, Printing and Advertising Committee:

  • Chairman: A.E. Gibbs
  • Secretaries: E. Cooper Evans and T. Gilbert Oakley

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: Robert E. Groves
  • Secretary: E. Stanley Kent

Music Committee:

  • Chairman: A.J. Nicholson
  • Secretary: Miss Slade

Horse Committee:

  • Chairman: F.W. Kinneir Tarte

Public Meetings Committee:

  • Chairman: Rev. J. Aldred
  • Secretary: F.T. Usher

Casting Committee:

  • Chairman: C.T. Part
  • Secretary: E. Atherton Cumming

Special Performances Committee:

  • Chairman: J. Currant


No secretaries named for Horse Committee and Special Performances Committee.

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

  • Ashdown, Charles H.

Names of composers

  • Bell, W.H.

Son of a local tradesman

Numbers of performers


Choir/chorus = 200

Financial information

Total receipts: £9410. 9s.7d. including £7744. 11s.2d. from ticket sales and £775. 9s.5d. from sale of costumes.

Total expenditure: £8741. 17s.10d. Made up of:

  • Site £158. 13s.9d.
  • Pavilion [sic; seems to include wages paid to workers] £2145. 4s.6d.
  • Chairs £592. 18s.0d.
  • Pageant House £600. 9s.4d.
  • Pageant-Master’s fee £380. 0s.0d.
  • Wages £457. 3s.10d.
  • Props/costumes £2107. 3s.10d.
  • Orchestra £427. 7s.2d.
  • Police £142. 15s.5d.
  • Advertising £1730. 2s.0d.

Total profit: £668. 11s.9d.1

Object of any funds raised

Hertfordshire County Museum (£250); St Albans Hospital (£250); Mid-Herts Infirmary (£28 4s.11d.)

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 24000


The estimate of 24000 assumes full grandstand for six performances, which seems likely given press reports.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


3s.6d., 5s.6d., 10s.6d., 21s., and boxes at £5. 5s.

Associated events


Pageant outline

Episode I. Julius Caesar and Cassivelaunus, 54BC

A chorus of druids narrates an episode that depicts the aftermath of the battle between Julius Caesar and the tribal chief Cassivelaunus in 54BC. Caesar extracts tribute from Cassivelaunus, but offers him praise and ‘easy terms of peace’. The two men meet, and Cassivelaunus predicts a future British empire: ‘An Empire vastly great, to which thine own/Is but an appanage’. Caesar agrees, and assures Cassivelaunus that Rome is not an unkind imperial master.

Episode II. Boudicea, 61AD

The scene opens with Romans in Verulamium, in the midst of the destruction wrought by Boadicea/Bonduca. Boadicea herself enters, vowing ‘just vengeance’ against Rome. However, she is clearly facing defeat, and bewails the cowardice of her own soldiers. As she dies, Suetonius Paulinus restores Roman order, and gives Boadicea a ‘queenly burial’. A ‘courier’ from Rome predicts that Verulamium will rise again, and become a municipium, where those born within the walls are Roman citizens.

Episode III. Martyrdom of St Alban, 303

SS Alban and Amphibalus enter; Alban fears the edict of Diocletian that orders Christians to be killed. Alban, wearing Amphibalus’s cloak, is arrested by centurions, reveals himself to be Alban, and proclaims himself a Christian. He is led off to be executed, and report comes that Amphibalus has also been captured and killed. The scene ends with the Roman commander Asclepiodotus wondering ‘What man is this that we have slain!’

Episode IV. Offa Founding the Monastery of St Alban, 793

King Offa and his queen Quendrida [Cynethryth], with the Archbishop of Lichfield [Higbert], arrive at Verulamium, which is now a den of robbers. They have made a pilgrimage to the site of Alban’s martyrdom. Guided by an angel, they find the martyr’s relics, and Offa proclaims the foundation of a monastery, predicting the construction of huge awe-inspiring buildings.

Episode V. The Eleanor Procession, 1290 [no dialogue]

In this scene with no dialogue, the funeral cortège approaches the pageant ground from St Michael’s Church, accompanied by monks and various thirteenth-century town officials.

Episode VI. The Peasants’ Revolt, 1381

William Gryndcobbe and other citizens of St Albans open the scene by complaining about the exactions of the abbey, and hear hopeful news that John Ball is inspiring the townspeople to revolt. John Ball gives a long speech, and news arrives of Wat Tyler’s activities in London. Townsmen arrive with various documents, which they throw into a fire. Abbot Thomas de la Mare tries to pacify the crowd, who sing ‘The Song of the Villein’ (quoting ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?’) The ringleaders are captured, and Judge Tressilian sentences Gryndcobbe and the others to death. They sing ‘The Villeins’ Farewell’. Richard II vows to receive oaths of loyalty from the ‘common men’ within the abbey’s court.

Episode VII. Second battle of St Albans, 1461

A herdsman and fisherman open the scene—they are worried about the impending battle, remembering the first battle of 1455. The Yorkists enter, with Henry VI as prisoner, under the command of Warwick. Henry offers safe assurance to Warwick’s men Bonville and Kyriel. Then the Lancastrians attack, driving the Yorkists into retreat after a ‘melée’. Henry and Queen Margaret meet. Henry tells her that he has agreed to protect his captors Bonville and Kyriel, but she sentences them to death, supported by Prince Edward.

Episode VIII. Queen Elizabeth at Gorhambury, 1572

The mayor and aldermen of St Albans are excited about the arrival of Queen Elizabeth; they have agreed to present her with a golden cup. Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Seal, arrives with his wife Lady Anne and young son Francis. After a procession of ladies and gentlemen on horseback, the sheriff and his men process, followed by boys from the school. Queen Elizabeth arrives, and greets the mayor and St Nicholas, telling the latter ‘Your house is rather small’. Nicholas replies, ‘My house is well, / But, Madam, ’tis the kindness you have shewn/To me, hath made me too big for my house’. Elizabeth meets Francis Bacon and predicts his future fame. Encouraged by Nicholas and Elizabeth, ‘merry sports’ begin: morris dancing, masquing and ‘Old English Sports’. Then the whole cast of the pageant marches past.

The pageant ends with an ‘Ode to Verulam and St Albans’, an ‘Apotheosis of St Albans’, and then the national anthem.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Caesar [Gaius Julius Caesar] (100–44 BC) politician, author, and military commander
  • Cassivellaunus (fl. 54 BC) king in Britain
  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni
  • Suetonius Paullinus, Gaius (fl. c.AD 40–69) Roman governor of Britain
  • Alban [St Alban, Albanus] (d. c.303?) Christian martyr in Roman Britain
  • Offa (d. 796) king of the Mercians
  • Cynethryth (fl. c.770–798) queen of the Mercians and abbess of Cookham
  • Hygeberht [Higbert] (d. in or after 803) archbishop of Lichfield
  • Æthelheard [Ethelhard] (d. 805) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241–1290) queen of England, consort of Edward I
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Tresilian, Sir Robert (d. 1388) justice
  • Ball, John (d. 1381) chaplain and leader of the peasants' revolt
  • Neville, Richard, sixteenth earl of Warwick and sixth earl of Salisbury [called the Kingmaker] (1428–1471) magnate
  • 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
  • Bonville, William, first Baron Bonville (1392–1461) administrator and landowner
  • Edward [Edward of Westminster], prince of Wales (1453–1471)
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Bacon, Sir Nicholas (1510–1579) lawyer and administrator
  • Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Alban (1561–1626) lord chancellor, politician, and philosopher
  • Bacon [née Cooke], Anne, Lady Bacon (c.1528–1610) gentlewoman and scholar

Musical production

Chorus of 200 ‘entirely local’ voices, as are the 30 members of the string section of the orchestra. Wind players are from London Symphony Orchestra. (St Albans and Its Pageant, 58.). Performed pieces included:
  • ‘Opening Narrative Chorus’ (before Episode I). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 13; Bell, Pageant Music, 2-8.
  • ‘Chorus of Druids’ (Episode I). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 14-15; Bell, Pageant Music, 9-17.
  • Recitative (Episode II). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 20; Bell, Pageant Music, 18-19.
  • ‘Wail of the Women’ (Episode II). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 20 and Bell, Pageant Music, 20-24, have different words for this song.
  • Narrative chorus (Episode III). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 23; Bell, Pageant Music, 25-28.
  • ‘Chorus Misticus’ (probably end of Episode III, ‘Solemn music heard’.). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 30); Bell, Pageant Music, 29-31.
  • Narrative chorus (Episode IV). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 30; Bell, Pageant Music, 32-36.
  • Antiphon, psalm, ‘Cortége and Dies Irae’ (‘Funeral of Eleanor’, Episode V). Bell, Pageant Music, 37-43. No mention of music where this episode appears in Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 35.
  • Narrative chorus (Episode VI). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 36; Bell, Pageant Music, 44-47.
  • ‘The Song of the Villein’ (Episide VI). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 41. Bell, Pageant Music, 48-51, entitles this ‘Villein’s Song’.
  • ‘The Villeins’ Farewell’ (Episode VI). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 42-43; Bell, Pageant Music, 52-55.
  • Narrative chorus (Episode VII). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 44; Bell, Pageant Music, 56-59.
  • ‘Lancastrian Battle Song’ (Episode VII). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 48. Bell, Pageant Music, 60-61, entitles this ‘Soldier’s Chorus’.
  • Narrative chorus (Episode VIII). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 48; Bell, Pageant Music, 62-68.
  • Morris dance (Episode VIII). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 53; Bell, Pageant Music, 69-71.
  • Pavane (probably after Morris dance in Episode VIII). Bell, Pageant Music, 72-74.
  • ‘Ode to Verulam and St Albans’ (after Episode VIII). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 54. Bell, Pageant Music, 74-82, entitles this ‘Finale’, and reprises earlier narrative chorus to Episode VIII.
  • ‘Apotheosis of St Albans’ (after ‘Ode’). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 54-55; Bell, Pageant Music, 82-93.
  • ‘God Save the King’ (Final Tableau). Ashdown, St Albans Pageant, 55.
See also notes by W.H. Bell in St Albans and Its Pageant, 58.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Herts Advertiser
St Albans Review

Book of words

Ashdown, Charles H. The St Albans Pageant, July 15th to July 20th, 1907. St Albans: Pageant House, 1907.

Two copies in St Albans Central Library, LOC.791.624.094.2585.STA.

Other primary published materials

  • Townson, Ernest W. (‘arranged by’). St Albans and Its Pageant, Being the Official Souvenir of the Pageant Held July 1907. St Albans, 1907. Copy in St Albans Central Library, LOC.791.624.094.258.STA.
  • Bell, William Henry. Pageant Music, St Albans July 1907. Leipzig, 1907. Copy in St Albans Central Library, LOC.780.9.STA.
  • Barr, Robert. ‘The Pageant Epidemic’. The Idler 31 (1907): 437-46. Considers St Albans an ideal type of pageant.

References in secondary literature

  • Toms, Elsie. The Story of St Albans. St Albans, 1962. At 178-79.
  • Yoshino, Ayako. Pageant Fever: Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England. Tokyo, 2011. Passim.
  • Freeman, Mark. ‘“Splendid Display; Pompous Spectacle”: Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain’. Social History 38 (2013): 423-55. Focus is on the four pageants at St Albans during the twentieth century.
  • ___. St Albans: A History. Lancaster, 2008. At 249-51.
  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture’. Past and Present 186 (2005): 147-99. At 172, 195.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS), Off Acc.1162/2769: papers on 1907 pageant. Also references in the St Albans City Council minutes, held at HALS.
  • St Albans Museums, various boxes and albums of photographs and pageant ephemera (uncatalogued).
  • St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society library, Old Town Hall, St Albans: folder of photographs and pageant ephemera (mostly later pageants); copies of pageant programmes and scripts.
  • Beardsmore Collection, Hudson Memorial Library, St Albans Cathedral: various pageant ephemera, including postcards.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The St Albans pageant of 1907 took place at the height of ‘pageant fever’ in Edwardian England, and was in many respects a typical example of the genre.2 It took place outdoors, in Verulamium Park – the site of the old Roman city, at this time in the private hands of the earl of Verulam but later a public park – and depicted eight scenes of local history, beginning with Julius Caesar and ending with a visit by Elizabeth I in 1572. Figures of national importance such as Caesar and Elizabeth, as well as Richard II and King Offa, among others, were portrayed, along with many other figures with a closer connection to St Albans, such as St Alban himself and the Bacon family of nearby Gorhambury House. With its Roman origins, and long and important monastic history, as well as being the site of England’s first martyrdom, St Albans was not short of episodes to depict in a historical pageant. The pageant had a cast of 3000 who performed six times in front of a grandstand with a capacity of 4000, and – as was typically the case – many local people served on organising committees or supported the pageant in other ways, notably by making the costumes for the large cast.

The pageant-master was Herbert Jarman (1871-1919), recruited from the Lyric Theatre in London and paid a substantial fee of £380.3 The script was by Charles H. Ashdown, who was a science master at St Albans School and secretary of the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society, as well as a published local historian.4 Ashdown’s wife Emily, a noted historian of costume, was ‘Chief Mistress of the Robes’; the costumes and props were created by Robert E. Groves, headmaster of the St Albans School of Art; and the music was composed by W.H. Bell, who lived in St Albans and was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Although the 200-strong choir was ‘entirely local’, as were the 30 members of the string section of the orchester, the wind players came from the London Symphony Orchestra.5 A large committee was established to organise the pageant, along with ten sub-committees including one to assist with the costumes and another to organise the horses that were used in this pageant, as in many others. A large number of prominent, mostly local, individuals agreed to act as guarantors against financial loss. The organisation centred on a building known as ‘Pageant House’ The dates of the pageant were 15 to 20 July. Special trains were laid on from London, and visitors came from as far afield as America, according to one local historian; certainly the American press had reported the preparations for the pageant.6

These preparations generated numerous small disagreements and discontents, and some larger ones, which were detailed in the regular ‘Pageant Gossip’ column of the Herts Advertiser in the run-up to the event. At various times it was reported that there was a shortage of male volunteers for the crowd scenes in the pageant; that there was a misapprehension that the working-class population of the city would be ‘locked out’ during pageant week; and in early June that there were rumours that the pageant would not be ready in time.7 Concern about possible damage to the Roman walls in Verulamium Park by the large crowds resulted in a large fence being constructed to protect them.8 Other criticism centred on the provision of alcoholic drinks at the pageant, which the Herts Advertiser saw as unhelpful: the author of ‘Pageant Gossip’ wearily explained that there would be a caterer, who would doubtless sell alcoholic refreshment, but this unsurprising and inconsequential fact had been ‘twisted into a charge of promoting drinking-booths; by the rumour-mongers.9 As the ‘Gossip’ author remarked,

It is surprising how many opportunities a great scheme like a Pageant provides for chronic grumblers. I heard the other day of one who had taken terrible offence because his offer to perform a part had not been accepted by return of post. From henceforth the Pageant is to lose his valuable services.10

Other ‘grumbles’ came from letter-writers. One of the financial guarantors wrote anxiously in April, complaining that the pageant was not being well enough advertised at railway stations.11 Another correspondent, ‘One Interested’, stoked local rivalries: he or she had heard that episode 3, the martyrdom of St Alban, had been offered to performers from Radlett, and felt that, as the martyrdom took place very near the site of the pageant, it should be St Albans people themselves who enacted it.12 This echoed ‘criticism in the press’ about Berkhamsted people enacting a scene, but at the same time it was noted that other towns had not taken up the chance of performing: ‘Watford and Hertford are singularly coy. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and there appears to be a possibility that they will dally too long and lose an opportunity which, in later days, they may regret.’13 Hertford had been asked to supply men for the Lancastrian army in episode 7, but did not do so.14 (The prediction that they would regret this may not have been too wide of the mark, as Hertford staged its own pageant, also written by Charles Ashdown, a few years later in 1914.)15 Meanwhile, the pageant as a whole was being anxiously compared with the impending pageants at Oxford and Bury St Edmunds.

The organisers did not need to worry. The St Albans pageant went ahead, with large audiences, and seems to have been very successful, helped by the good weather. The atmosphere of the city changed during pageant week. Even those who did not have the substantial sum of 3s.6d. to watch the pageant (this was the lowest price for a seat in the grandstand) could experience the pageant for free. Many years later in 1962, the mayor of St Albans Elsie Toms, who had lived in the city as a child at the time of the 1907 pageant, remembered:

There were many amusing and incongruous sights in the streets. Since there were no extensive dressing-rooms on the site for the very large cast, the performers dressed at home and walked or drove to the pageant ground, and one laughed to see a Roman soldier strolling along smoking a pipe, and a Briton in skins riding a bicycle. One saw an Elizabethan lady in brocade (probably the drawing-room curtains cut up), walking arm-in-arm with a cross-gartered Saxon in a yellow wig and long drooping moustache. It all added to the fun, and it brought trade to the shops and warmed the hearts of the shopkeepers. The ordinary citizen began to comprehend that was something special about his city and something worth preserving. It was little enough, but it was the beginning of civic knowledge which leads to civic pride.16

Toms’s remarks about ‘civic pride’ and citizenship echoed the themes of the pageant that were repeatedly emphasised by the organisers and in the local press, in which phrases such as ‘local patriotism’ and ‘patriotic citizen’ were scattered.17 The ‘educative influence of the pageant’ was an important theme.18 In the souvenir programme, the dean of St Albans, W.J. Lawrance, made it clear that the pageant was as much about stimulating local citizens to work for the common good in the present as it was about commemorating the past. He emphasised

the transcendent claims of St Albans to the deep and abiding interest of all those who value the great story of our National History, our National Christianity, and National Liberties, in which the place has has played so conspicuous a part; and who are inspired thereby to hand that story on to those who shall come after them, as a treasured and living memory – inciting them, not to a mere glorying in an illustrious past, but to emulate in widely differing circumstances, the spirit of the achievements of their forefathers.19

Thus some of the scenes featured moments at which St Albans had played an important part in the ‘National History’, including the peasants’ revolt and the Wars of the Roses, while others depicted royal visitors – alive in the case of King Offa and Elizabeth I, dead in the case of queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I. (St Albans was the site of an Eleanor Cross, which was dismantled in the eighteenth century.)

The pageant had a clearly articulated educational function, demonstrated in the historical notes that accompanied each episode in the souvenir programme. Thus not only was episode 5, ‘The Eleanor Procession’, a sombre and impressive scene in the pageant, but it also made a historical point:

The historic value of this Episode is that it shows the precise organisation of the mediaeval services which were designed to meet every emergency, and not left to the chance vagaries of individual ecclesiastics. It also shows the ways in which the monastic hospitality supplied the place of the modern hotel – without handing a bill to the guests. The cellarer’s accounts of different monasteries go to show that the monks were abstemious in what they ate and drank themselves, but generous, if not luxurious, in the entertainment of their guests. The popular songs and pictures of bon vivants, wearing monkish habits, are not true to history.20

It is possible that this message was lost on most of those who saw the pageant, especially if they could not afford a shilling for the programme on top of admission to the pageant (the book of words had to be purchased separately, adding further the cost of attendance). Other attempts to engage the population of the city in more scholarly historical pursuits at the time of the pageant were not successful: a lecture on the battles of St Albans, for example, one of which was portrayed in the pageant, attracted only a ‘moderate attendance’.21

Yet the pageant as a whole was held up as an example for others to follow. In some respects Jarman and Ashdown out-Parkered Louis Napoleon Parker in their attention to locality, authenticity and detail. The novelist and journalist Robert Barr, writing in the Idler – in an article for which the St Albans pageant committee provided the illustrations – praised most aspects of the organisation of the pageant: ‘In a pageant we want to see the people who belong to the place doing the best they can, and thus rest ourselves from the historical accuracy of [the actor and theatre impressario] Mr [Herbert] Beerbohm Tree’.22 Although Barr was not happy about the use of members of a London-based orchestra, on the whole he judged that the St Albans pageant ‘has originated in the way that I have recommended’, and praised the involvement of local men such as Ashdown, Groves and Bell, ‘a native of St Albans’.23 It was, he considered, a community effort worthy of great praise. It was certainly hard work: in 1920 the assistant secretary William Young remembered that ‘[t]he stiffest job I ever had was in connection with the St Albans Pageant ... It was like running a huge business in addition to one’s own private concern’. The work did not end with pageant itself: Young recalled that it ‘took months to wind up, and to get the accounts in order’.24 Eventually these accounts showed an excellent profit: £760 according to Young, although the draft accounts showed £668. 11s.9d.25 Most of the profits were divided between the Hertfordshire County Museum (Iater called the Museum of St Albans) and the St Albans Hospital, with a smaller sum going to the Mid-Herts Infirmary, also located in St Albans.

Despite the obvious success of the 1907 pageant, St Albans did not stage another until 1948. There was, however, a one-off ‘pageant’ in 1909, held in Clarence Park, to commemorate the entente cordiale between Britain and France. A delegation of 43 visitors from Caen in Normandy, home town of the greatest Norman abbot of St Albans, were treated to a children’s pageant, again accompanied by music written by Professor W.H. Bell. This appears to have been a series of tableaux depicting the four nations of Britain, and involved an impressive 2500 children. Various other events, including a mayoral banquet and a display of sports, were held, and a memorial window – known as the entente cordiale window – was unveiled in the cathedral.26 Another event billed as a Rotary Club ‘pageant’ took place in Verulamium Park in 1933. This was really more of a fair or fete, accompanied by an open-air service on what was referred to as the ‘Old Pageant Field’. The highlight was a reconstruction of the attack on Zeebrugge in 1918, using minature boats on the newly constructed lake in the park. Some of the men involved in the actual raid took part in the ‘reproduction’.27

As Robert Barr had emphasised, the St Albans pageant was in many ways a classic of the genre, although neither of the two most prominent pageant-masters of the Edwardian period – Louis Napoleon Parker or Frank Lascelles – were associated with it. It lived for a long time in the memory of the city: for example, the St Albans Review published recollections of the pageant 70 years later in 1977. One writer noted that it seemed remarkable, in the age of television, that so much had been done without the aid of microphones and loudspeakers.28 The pageant was widely praised and happily remembered – and these memories lasted well into the second half of the twentieth century.


  1. ^ Draft financial statement, n.d.: Off.Acc.1162.2769, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS), Hertford.
  2. ^ On the St Albans pageants of 1907, 1948, 1953 and 1968 see Mark Freeman, ‘“Splendid Display; Pompous Spectacle”: Historical Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Social History, 38 (2013), 423-55; Mark Freeman, St Albans: A History (Lancaster, 2008), 249-51, 303-4.
  3. ^ This and a number of other details come from Freeman, ‘“Splendid Display”’, 429-30.
  4. ^ Charles Ashdown, St Albans Historical and Picturesque (London, 1893).
  5. ^ St Albans and Its Pageant, Being the Official Souvenir of the Pageant Held July 1907 (‘arranged by’ Ernest W. Townson, St Albans, 1907), 58.
  6. ^ Toms, Story of St Albans, 179; Herts Advertiser, 25 May 1907, 4.
  7. ^ Herts Advertiser, 27 April 1907, 4; 11 May 1907, 4; 8 June 1907, 4.
  8. ^ Elsie Toms, The Story of St Albans (St Albans, 1962), 179.
  9. ^ Herts Advertiser, 22 June 1907, 4.
  10. ^ Herts Advertiser, 4 May 1907, 4.
  11. ^ Letter from E. Dixon, Herts Advertiser, 20 April 1907, 6.
  12. ^ Letter from ‘One Interested’, Herts Advertiser, 4 May 1907, 5.
  13. ^ Herts Advertiser, 11 May 1907, 4.
  14. ^ Herts Advertiser, 11 May 1907, 4.
  15. ^ See Philip Sheail, Hertford’s Grand Pageant 1914 (Hertford, 2014).
  16. ^ Toms, Story of St Albans, 179-80, partly quoted in Freeman, ‘“Splendid Display”’, 430.
  17. ^ Herts Advertiser, 4 May 1907, 4; 13 July 1907, 8.
  18. ^ Herts Advertiser, 13 July 1907, 8.
  19. ^ St Albans and Its Pageant, 15; partly quoted in Paul Readman, ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture’, Past and Present, 186 (2005), 195, and Freeman, ‘“Splendid Display”’, 437.
  20. ^ St Albans and Its Pageant, 42.
  21. ^ Freeman, ‘“Splendid Display”’, 433.
  22. ^ Robert Barr, ‘The Pageant Epidemic’, Idler, 31 (1907), 439. On Tree, see B.A. Kachur, ‘Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm [real name Herbert Draper Beerbohm] (1852-1917)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004): (accessed 8 January 2016).
  23. ^ Barr, ‘Pageant Epidemic’, 439, 445-6.
  24. ^ Herts News, 21 January 1920.
  25. ^ Draft financial statement.
  26. ^ Charles H. Ashdown, St Albans – Caen, 1909: ‘In the Footsteps of the Conqueror’ (St Albans, 1909): St Albans Central Library, LOC.944.2.
  27. ^ Rotary Club pageant programme, 1933, Off.Acc.1162/3579, HALS.
  28. ^ St Albans Review, 21 April 1977, 10; 1 July 1977, 6.

How to cite this entry

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