The Stanway Pageant

Other names

  • The Stanway Pageant and Carnival

Pageant type


Winchcombe and District Hospital

Jump to Summary


Place: Grounds of Stanway House (Stanway) (Stanway, Gloucestershire, England)

Year: 1929

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


24 July 1929, 3pm and 6pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Master of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Palmer, F.C.
  • Master of the Music: Mr W.E. Haslam
  • Master of the Horse: Captain R.M. Leir
  • Master of the Greyhounds: Mr E. Pelly
  • Master of the Properties: Captain J. Seabrook
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Eliot
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Mr H.O. Barnett; Mrs F. Adlard; Mr George Pigache; Mrs Lishman
  • Secretary for the Committee: Rev G. Bennett

Names of executive committee or equivalent


Patrons and Patronesses: approximately 70, including Earls and Countesses of Coventry, Plymouth and Wemyss; other nobility; ecclesiastical and military figures; and other members of the public.

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

  • Palmer, Frederick C.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

The total receipts for the pageant and carnival amounted to £764. 18s. 7d.

The expenses came to £286. 4s. 8d., leaving a balance for the hospital of £478. 14s.

Object of any funds raised

Winchcombe and District Hospital

Linked occasion


Audience information

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


The local press reported large audiences, but it is not clear how big these were.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


  • 3pm performance: 5s., 3s., 2s., 1s.
  • 6pm performance: 1s. 8d., 1s., 6d.

Associated events

  • Opening Ceremony (2.30pm, Wednesday 24 July) by Countess of Plymouth. 
  • Carnival Day (Thursday 25 July):
  • Grand Carnival procession
  • Pushball Competition
  • Exhibition Lawn Tennis
  • Ladies v Gents Cricket Match
  • Grand procession of decorated motor vehicles
  • Numerous side shows and bazaar stalls
  • Dancing
  • Evesham Silver Band

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Coming of Man

[Synopses texts taken from the pageant programme: Gloucestershire Archives: D2218/2/5].

'Many thousands of years ago, when man was as yet unheard of in these Cotswold Hills, the Little People reigned supreme. The Hills, the valleys, the green woodlands and the cool forest glades echoed the laughter of fairies, elves and countless other tiny folk whose ruler was the lovely Queen Titania. It so happened that one beautiful July day (we hope so), the Queen held her court upon the green slopes of Stanway Hill. Everybody was happy, everybody sang and danced and hopped and jumped and fell about for the sheer joy of living. Suddenly, in the midst of the festivities, a tiny elf ran screaming with terror out of the woods. Before the frightened elf could gasp out a word the cause of his alarm became manifest. Out on to the broad ride that the fairies had made down the middle of the wood shambled a strange creature, clad in skins and carrying a huge wooden club. Its hair was long and mated and it was heaps bigger than the biggest goblin. Screaming with fear the little folk bolted for cover. Some say they left the Cotswolds for ever, but that is not true because the Spirit of Cotswold could not bear to let them go, and she hid them away so cleverly that people rarely see them nowadays. She hid them from this strange creature, who, as it happened, didn’t want to do them any harm. It stared after them in a bewildered sort of way, scratched its shaggy head, and then lumbered clumsily off into the shadow of the trees. The first man had arrived at Stanway.'

Episode II. The Fireworshippers

'Years and years and years after the first coming of man, strange tribes of Fire worshippers roamed over the Cotswolds. Their tombs may still be seen at Belas Knap, not far from Stanway. Their God was Baal, the fire giver, the Lord of light and heat, and to him after victories over rival tribes they used to offer up human sacrifices as thanksgiving. And in this episode we have a primitive drama of a Victorious King, a bloodthirsty Druid, a beautiful dancing girl, a jealous Queen and a human sacrifice.'

Episode III. When Winchcombe was the Capital

'The prehistoric days are dead. We have arrived upon the field of history. Baal no longer fills the groves with blood. Jupiter, Venus, and Apollo are but lovely memories. It is the year 716 AD, Odin and Thor are receding into the dim twilight of Asgard. A Cross has risen in the mystic east. Even here in these Cotswold Hills men gazing eastward see the wonder of its light filling the horizon. Steadily and surely it advances westward, growing ever larger and stronger day by day. In every town and village men are joining the new faith. Churches, abbeys, nunneries spring up like grass after rain. Men of great possessions give all they have for the greater glory of God. In Stanway the lords of the soil are two brothers named Odo and Thodo. Great thanes are these and mighty men of war, yet they have thrown down their stone carven Odins, their oaken Thors. They have been received into the new faith and as a sign of their heartfelt thankfulness they are giving even their beloved Stanway to the church. It is, of course, a great and solemn occasion. The King and Queen of Mercia, whose capital is, for the time being, Winchcombe, are to grace the ceremony with their presence. The Abbot of Tewkesbury will receive the deeds on behalf of his monastery. All the great lords and the high church dignitaries are arrived, resplendent in fine raiment. The Queen’s ladies are looking their loveliest. The Housecarls (the original of our Household Brigade) fill the hearts and turn the heads of the wenches. Royalty arrives. Everybody cheers. The ceremony takes place. When the proceedings have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion comes news of war. A spy has been captured. The Silures are on the warpath. A little moral persuasion and the spy gives away the whereabouts of his tribe. King Aethelbald and his warriors go forth to war amid a blaze of banners, a riot of cheering and the blessing of their Mother Church upon all their deeds.'

Episode IV. Olympick Games upon ye Cotswold Hills

'Imagine for yourself that it is a lovely morning and Charles I is King. Imagine, moreover, that there is High Holiday at Stanway, for Master Robert Dover is to give a reproduction of his celebrated Olympick Games for the delight of Stanway and the country thereabout. A quaint character this Robert Dover, the friend and almost perpetual guest of Sir Humphrey Guest, indeed, he died at Stanway and was buried in the Tracy vault which, alas, is no longer, having been destroyed by Cromwell’s sacrilegious Ironisdes. From all the villages for miles about the people flock to Stanway. And a great party of the nobility is over from Sudeley Castle. Ben Jonson, the great player, is there to see his friend Dover, two great wits together; and an architect and scenic designer Inigo Jones, who has lately made a fine new gateway at Stanway. You will pass under it as you enter. As for the games—they are truly marvellous. There is running and leaping and coursing and a famous troupe of Arabian tumblers, not to mention Muscelino the Strong Man in ordinary to the Duke of Florence. Then there is the singing and the dancing, the eating and the drinking, the fighting and the love making, a good, happy, wholesome day such as we English have always loved.'

Episode V. The Cavaliers Ride out to War

'The enemies of Charles the Martyr beset him on all sides. Cromwell and his psalm-singing hypocrites are in open rebellion. Sir Humphrey Tracy, like all decent Englishmen is loyal to his King. But the war has not yet come into Gloucestershire and Sir Humphrey remains at home awaiting developments. One afternoon, as he and Lady Tracy are walking together in the gardens, a troop of Lord Sudeley’s cavaliers arrives. The hour is at hand. The need is urgent. Sir Humphrey is ready. Sadly enough he takes leave of his lady wife. He is loath to go from his beautiful home, but he is a King’s man and with his King he will stand or fall. His horse is led out to him. He pledges the King in a cup of sack, with a rousing chorus song to go with it; and the gay cavaliers are still singing the chorus as they ride away over the hill—alas, many of them never to return. As for Sir Humphrey, he lost his estates. Stanway was confiscated (i.e., stolen) by the Puritans, who, many years later, allowed the rightful owner to buy it back again at an exorbitant price.'

Episode VI. Lord Elcho Comes to Stanway

'It is the year 1771 and the young Elcho, nephew of the famous David who gave his all to follow his beloved Prince Charlie into poverty and exile, has married the heiress of the Tracy’s of Stanway. She is bringing him to her Cotswold home. Once again, Stanway is on holiday. And mingling with the crowds of villagers, yeomen and county gentry one can imagine the ghosts of olden days peering in to see what manner of man is this young scion of Scottish nobility: and to judge by the cheering they are well content. Stanway is in good hands. The heiress has made an admirable choice. Then there is feasting and dancing and for the first time the Scottish nobleman sees the skill of the merry Morris dancers, who dance their very utmost to please him. How pleased must Lord Elcho have been with the beautiful estate his charming bride had brought to him.'

Episode VII. Finale

March past of all performers.

God Save the King.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Æthelbald (d. 757) king of the Mercians
  • Dover, Robert (1581/2–1652) organizer of the Cotswold Olimpick games
  • Jonson, Benjamin [Ben] (1572–1637) poet and playwright
  • Jones, Inigo (1573–1652) architect and theatre designer
  • Wemyss, David, styled sixth earl of Wemyss [known as Lord Elcho] (1721–1787) Jacobite army officer

Musical production

Choruses by the Winchcombe Choral Society under the direction of Mr W.E. Haslam, FRCO.
It is highly likely that there was an orchestra.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Cheltenham Chronicle
Gloucestershire Echo
Western Daily News

Book of words


It would appear that there was a Book of Words, as it is referenced in the programme, but a copy does not seem to have survived.

Other primary published materials

  • The Stanway Pageant and Carnival (Gloucester, 1929). Gloucestershire Archives. D2218/2/5.

References in secondary literature

  • Dakers, Caroline. The Countryside at War 1914–1918. London, 2013. Contains a photo of the pageant.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Programme. D2218/2/5.

    Gloucestershire Archives

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Stanway Pageant of 1929 took place in the grounds of the Jacobean manor house, Stanway House—just outside the town of the same name in Gloucestershire. It was a small affair, staged only twice, and followed the next day by a carnival. The purpose of the pageant was simple: to raise money for the Winchcombe and District Hospital which had opened twelve months previously to replace the overfull and overworked Cottage Hospital.1 It certainly attracted the support of local elites—there were approximately seventy patrons, including Earls and Countesses of Coventry, Plymouth, and Wemyss; other nobility; ecclesiastical and military figures; and members of the public. As the Cheltenham Chronicle put it, ‘almost everybody who is anybody in the district’ was a patron.2 The pageant was opened by the Countess of Plymouth, a daughter of Lord and Lady Wemyss, who were patrons of the hospital. Another of Lady Wemyss’ daughters, Lady Cynthia Asquith, took a leading role in the pageant as the Spirit of Cotswold, and was given star billing in the programme. Her brother appeared as the first Lord Elcho.3

History was treated very loosely in the pageant narrative; the organisers and author seemed to be mainly in raising money rather than creating any sort of coherent historical story. The pageant began with an undated ‘Coming of Man’ episode, which mixed myth and bad science, as Queen Titania, fairies, and elves were disturbed by a ‘strange creature’—a sort of caveman who represented the ‘first man’ in Stanway. The second episode was not much more serious—focusing on a King, a bloodthirsty Druid, a beautiful dancing girl, a jealous Queen, and a human sacrifice. In the third episode the story finally became more historical—as the programme noted: ‘The prehistoric days are dead. We have arrived upon the field of history.’ The episode depicted a royal visit in 716 AD to the neighbourhood and the going to war of King Aethelbald against the Silures. The fourth episode, not specifically dated, depicted the Cotswold Olympick Games in the seventeenth century—a tradition started by Robert Dover, a local lawyer, with the support of King James. The fifth episode showed local man Sir Humphrey Tracy responding to the call of the King during the English Civil War (during which the programme made very clear that the King was in the right!), and the sixth final episode showed the visit of Lord Elcho to Stanway in the late eighteenth century. This scene was a good excuse for feasting, dancing, and Morris Dancing. The finale was a simple march past of all the performers.

Despite the lax treatment of history, the Gloucestershire Echo was keen to stress the importance of a return to the past in the context of the ‘roaring twenties’:

It is only on such days of pageantry that the full significance of the past is brought home to us. The stately beauty of the old-time dresses, the sweet old songs that have been replaced by the strident West African sex-music that comes to us via the USA, the courtly manners that are, alas, no longer ours, all these things bring with them something of the glamour of the past. It is good therefore in these days of ever increasing hustle and vulgarity, when the gay cavalier has been replaced by the road-hog, and the inelegant, jazz-voiced flapper is the legitimate successor of ‘La Belle Dame san merci’, to be able now and again to turn aside, out of the senseless whirl of modern traffic, into some peaceful backwater where we may contemplate the sweeter, quieter, more civilised life that was vouchsafed to our ancestors.4

Along with the Gloucestershire Echo, the Cheltenham Chronicle was also quick to praise the pageant—declaring it a ‘delightfully coloured performance… for a very worthy cause’. All of the press reports made this latter point, and it is likely that, in such cases, criticism would have been considered rude and in poor spirit.5 Buoyed by the support of not only the press but the public as well, the pageant and carnival seemingly succeeded in their aim, raising £478. 14s. for the hospital—a substantial part of its £1440 yearly running cost.6 Crowds were reported as having been large, with most seats booked before the pageant actually opened—though it is not clear how many actually attended.7 The pageant was undeniably the main attraction; attendance for the carnival the following day was ‘not so large’.8 An undoubtedly small event, the Stanway Pageant is indicative of two specifically inter-war developments. Firstly, the continued use of pageantry in the ‘mixed economy of welfare’—supporting voluntarism to provide public welfare.9 Secondly, and in contrast to the Edwardian Period, the less serious way that history was often being treated in the historical pageants of the late 1920s and 1930s.


  1. ^ The Stanway Pageant and Carnival (Gloucester, 1929). Gloucestershire Archives. D2218/2/5.
  2. ^ ‘Pageant at Stanway House’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 27 July 1929, 7.
  3. ^ ‘Pageant at Stanway House’, Western Daily, 25 July 1929, 9.
  4. ^ ‘The Pageant of Stanway’, Gloucestershire Echo, 23 July 1929, 5.
  5. ^ ‘Pageant at Stanway House’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 27 July 1929, 7.
  6. ^ ‘Winchcombe District Hospital’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 19 October 1929, 7.
  7. ^ ‘The Pageant of Stanway’, Gloucestershire Echo, 23 July 1929, 5.
  8. ^ ‘The Stanway Carnival’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 27 July 1929, 2.
  9. ^ G. Finlayson, ‘A Moving Frontier: Voluntarism and the State in British Social Welfare 1911–1949’, Twentieth Century British History 1, no. 2 (1990), 183-206.

How to cite this entry

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