Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Hanley Park (Stoke-on-Trent) (Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, England)

Year: 1930

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


19–24 May 1930 at 2.45pm.

Daily, Monday 19 May–Saturday 24 May, 2.45pm. 6 performances.

6 Dress Rehearsals for local children before the premier:

  • Monday 12 May, 6.30pm: School children from Stoke-on-Trent with teachers.
  • Tuesday 13 May, 6.30pm: School children from Stoke-on-Trent with teachers. Admission 1s.
  • Wednesday 14 May, 6.30pm: Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Choir Boys, Friendly Societies, Works Clubs and other Similar Organised bodies in parties.
  • Thursday 15 May, 3pm: Press Day. County School children in parties, 1s.; Women’s Institutes in Parties; Private Schools and Colleges in Parties.
  • Friday and Saturday 16 and 17 May, 7pm: County and Citizens’ Days.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank
  • Organising Director: Edward Baring
  • Master of Designs: G.M. Forsyth, ARCA, RI
  • Master of Music: John Cope
  • Master of Grand Stand: H. Goldstraw, ARIBA
  • Classical Dancing: Mr and Mrs Holdcroft
  • Folk Dancing: Miss G. Heath
  • Master of Horse: R.J. Carter
  • Costume Advisers: Messrs Huntbach Ltd., Hanley; Messrs Teetons, Hanley; Co-Operative Society, Burslem; Messrs Myott & Sons, Newcastle
  • Press: A.H. Eyre
  • Official Photographer: J. Templeman

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor A. MacLaren, MP
  • Vice-Chairman: Alderman E.T. Bird
  • Hon. Secretary: R.P.G. Williamson, MA, Director of Education
  • 42 men, 15 women = 57 total

For the Whole Bicentenary Celebration:

  • Patron: HM the Queen (Exhibition)
  • Patron: HRH The Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood
  • Vice-Patron: The Rt Hon. the Earl of Harrowby (Lieutenant)

General Committee:

  • President: The Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent (Alderman G.H. Barber, JP)
  • Vice-President: The Deputy Lord Mayor (Alderman W.T. Leason, JP)
  • Chairman: Sir Francis Joseph, CBE, JP
  • Hon. Secretary: J.W. Cooper
  • 64 men, 5 women = 69 total


  • Chairman: Alderman F. Hayward, JP
  • Hon. Treasurer and Secretary: T.B. Roberts
  • 9 men, 0 women = 9 total


  • Chairman: S.P. Brander
  • Hon. Sec.: J. Thomas, MA
  • 4 men, 0 women = 4 total


  • Chairman: W.K. Flint
  • Vice-Chairman: F.A. Challinor, MusDoc
  • Hon. Sec.: J. Thomas, MA
  • 20 men, 1 woman = 21 total


  • Chairman: E. Graham Laws, MA
  • Hon. Sec.: J. Cuckney, MA
  • 16 men, 0 women = 16 total


  • Chairman: Alderman W. Tunnicliffe
  • Hon. Sec.: A.W. Tonks
  • 65 men, 44 women = 109 total


  • Hon. Sec.: H.W. Maxwell
  • 7 men, 0 women, 7 total


  • Chairman: Harold Plant
  • Hon. Sec.: Cyril Moore
  • 14 men, 0 women, 14 total

Grand Stand and Grounds:

  • Chairman: Councillor R.H. Lloyd
  • Hon. Sec.: W. Poulson
  • 13 men, 0 women, 13 total

Reception and Housing:

  • Chairman: Sir Francis Joseph, CBE, JP
  • Hon. Sec: J.R. Walker
  • Hon. Sec: R.G. Riseley
  • 20 men, 8 women = 28 total


  • Chairman: W. Bingham
  • Hon. Sec.: G.H. Littledyke
  • 10 men, 0 women = 10 total

Pottery Exhibition:

  • Chairman: Ashley Myott
  • Hon. Sec.: Sidney H. Dodd
  • 11 men, 0 women = 11 total

Historical Exhibition:

  • Chairman: Alderman Miss F.A. Farmer
  • Hon. Sec.: H.W. Maxwell
  • 6 men, 1 woman = 7 total

Military Tattoo:

  • Chairman: Col. H. Clive, OBE, TD, DL
  • 8 men, 0 women = 8 total

Evening Displays:

  • Chairman: S.F. Smith
  • Hon. Sec.: T.B. Frearson, FSI
  • 28 men, 32 women = 60 total

Fancy Dress Ball:

  • Chairman: F. Ollier
  • Vice-Chairman: A.J. Averill
  • Hon. Sec.: T.W. Poole
  • 45 men, 15 women = 60 total

Street Decorations and Window Displays:

  • Chairman: Alderman. H. Leese KP
  • Hon. Sec.: H.E. Goodwin
  • 22 men, 0 women = 22 total

Officials of Episodes:

  • Prologue
  • Chairman: The Very Rev. Dean Emery, VG
  • Vice-Chairman: The Rev. L.V. Twiney
  • Producer: Miss Abraham
  • Producer: Miss O’Neill
  • Marshal: J. Moran
  • Marshal: Miss D. Abraham
  • Costumes: Miss F. Simcox
  • Props: L. Ness
  • Props: W. Lawrence
  • Hon. Sec.: The Rev. F.W. Stanbridge
  • 6 men, 4 women =10 total
  • Episode I
  • Chairman: Dr T. David Jones, MSc
  • Vice-Chairman: G.N. Buckley
  • Producer: O. Williams
  • Producer: J.S. Rhys
  • Marshal: A. Kelly
  • Marshal: W.H. Jones
  • Marshal: Mrs W.M. Johnson
  • Costumes: Mrs J.E. Williams
  • Props: John Myatt
  • Music: W. Rees Jones
  • Hon. Sec.: J.R. Walker
  • Hon. Sec.: R.G. Riseley
  • 23 men, 14 women = 37 total
  • Episode II
  • Chairman: The Rev. Prebendary Key
  • Vice-Chairman: The Rev. Prebendary Crick
  • Producer: The Rev. S.C. Stevens
  • Costumes: Mrs Folower
  • Hon. Sec.: The Rev. W.A. Rundell
  • 26 men, 13 women = 39 total
  • Episode III
  • Chairman: Alderman R. Beresford
  • Vice-Chairman: T. Stinton, MA
  • Producer: J. Dandy
  • Marshal: W. Forster
  • Costumes: Mrs Wenger
  • Costumes: Mrs Eric Young
  • Hon. Sec.: F.L. Wellings
  • 16 men, 23 women = 39 total
  • Episode IV
  • Chairman: E.G. Laws, MA
  • Vice-Chairman: T. Lowe
  • Producer: S.P. Brander
  • Marshal: G. Taylor
  • Marshal: E.M. Newman
  • Costumes: Miss E. Williamson
  • Props: H.R. Vodfrey
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss E. Viggars
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss A.D. Aidney
  • 14 men, 13 women = 27 total
  • Episode V
  • Chairman: A.G. Copeland
  • Vice-Chairman: H. Shipley
  • Vice-Chairman: Councillor W.H. Kemp, JP
  • Marshal: H. Walkington
  • Deputy-Marshal: Miss Diamond
  • Costumes: Miss Connie Hulme
  • Props: E. Bolton
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss D.H. Bettany
  • 10 men, 4 women = 14 total
  • Episode VI
  • Chairman: Major F.H. Wedgwood
  • Vice-Chairman: J.K. Werner
  • Marshal: Hensleigh Wedgwood
  • Marshal: H. Raybould
  • Costumes: Miss Phoebe Wedgwood
  • Props: H. Upton
  • Hon. Sec.: M.F. Valda
  • 9 men, 10 women = 19 total
  • Episode VII
  • Chairman: Alderman E.T. Bird
  • Vice-Chairman: J.R. Cooper
  • Producer: R.D. Jamison
  • Producer: R.J. Sumnall
  • Marshal: H. Miles
  • Marshal: H.J. Sutton
  • Costumes: Alderman Miss F.A. Farmer, JP
  • Props: Councillor W.H. Hough
  • Hon. Sec.: Miss C. Milner
  • 37 men, 24 women = 61 total
  • Episode VIII
  • Chairman: W. Walker
  • Vice-Chairman: W. Wallis
  • Producer: C. Dean
  • Marshal: C.L. Forrester
  • Marshal: Mrs Bullock
  • Costumes: Mrs Street
  • Props: H. Oakes
  • Props: E. Hulme
  • Hon. Sec.: J.T. Guest
  • Hon. Sec.: Mrs Dunn
  • 8 men, 3 women = 11 total

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

  • Challinor, F.A.
  • Thomas, John
  • Lewis, T.
  • Pape, T.
  • Russell, W.
  • Wedgwood, Josiah C.


  • Prologue. Words and Music by Dr F.A. Challinor, Normacot.
  • Episode I. Words by John Thomas, MA, Resident Tutor for North Staffs. Workers Educational Association under Oxford University, Dr T. Lewis, MA (University College of Wales, Aberystwyth), for the Welsh version of the Arch-Druid’s oration in Episode I.
  • Episode II. Words by T. Pape, MA and W. Russell, based on historical details supplied by T. Pape, MA, The County Grammar School, Wolstanton.
  • Episode III. Words by T. Pape, MA and W. Russell, based on historical details supplied by T. Pape, MA, The County Grammar School, Wolstanton.
  • Episode IV. Words by T. Pape, MA and W. Russell, based on historical details supplied by T. Pape, MA, The County Grammar School, Wolstanton.
  • Episode V. Words by John Thomas, MA.
  • Episode VI. Words by Colonel the Right Hon. Josiah C. Wedgwood, MP, DSO and John Thomas, MA.
  • Episode VII. Words by John Thomas, MA.
  • Episode VIII. Words by John Thomas, MA.

Names of composers

  • Williams, Ralph Vaughan
  • Cowen, Frederic Hymen
  • German, Edward
  • Grieg, Edvard
  • Elgar, Edward
  • Challinor, F.A.
  • Parry, Hugh
  • Mackay, George Frederick

Numbers of performers


Men, women, children.

Financial information

Profit: £4776

£4650 distributed to local charities, principally to hospitals. The total receipts from all sources, including the great pottery exhibition and the pageant of pottery, were £10435.

Object of any funds raised

Local charities, principally hospitals.

Linked occasion

Bicentenary of the birth of Josiah Wedgwood.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3000
  • Total audience: n/a


Grandstand plus enclosure space.

First performance 4000.1

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 6d.–½d.

Dress Rehearsals: 1s.–2s. 4d.

Pageant week: 11s. 6d., 8s. 6d., 5s. 9d., 2s. 6d. Standing enclosure: ½d.

Associated events

  • Thanksgiving Service at Stoke Parish Church with the Lord Bishop of Winchester preaching. (Sunday 18 May 1930, 10.45am).
  • Burslem Parish Church with the Lord Bishop of Lichfield preaching(Sunday 18 May 1930, 6.30pm).
  • Combined Service at Victoria Hall, Hanley with the Archbishop of New Zealand preaching (Sunday 25 May 1930, 10.45am).
  • Great Military Tattoo. Every Evening at 7.30pm. Prices 1s., 1s. 6d., 2s. 
  • Great Exhibition of Pottery. King’s Hall. Admission 6d.
  • Exhibition of Historical Pottery at Hanley Museum. Admission free. 

Programme of Events:
  • Monday 19 May: Band; Pottery Tableau by 1500 workers; Community Singing; Military Tattoo. 
  • Tuesday 20 May: Band, Boys’ Brigade Display (massed Drums and Bugle Band); Community Singing; Military Tattoo.
  • Wednesday 21 May: Band; North Staffs Folk Dancing Society; Boy Scout Display; YMCA Display; Military Tattoo.
  • Thursday 22 May: Band; Physical Training Display by 3000 Children; Salvation Army Massed Juvenile Band; Military Tattoo.
  • Friday 23 May: Band; Girl Guides’ Display; Boys’ Brigade Display (Massed Drums and Bugle Band); Pageant Film (Prices: 2s., 1s. 6d., 1s.); Military Tattoo; Pageant Fancy Dress Ball at Queen’s Hall, Burslem (Tickets 12s. 6d., including Supper).
  • Saturday 24 May: Band; Physical Training Display by 3000 Children; Boy Scout Display; Military Tattoo; Fireworks.

Pageant outline

The Prologue

True, ‘the Potteries’ is an industrial area—but an area devoted to the artistic development of industry. Hence the fitting Prologue, depicting the Goddess of Art (to the musical accompaniment of the Pageant Chorus singing an ‘Ode to Art’), coming on the scene gaily bedecked and suitably accompanied by her satellites. She bids Time unroll itself and in a most gorgeous scene, full of colour, life, and artistic reproductions of the ceramic products associated with this area from 1930 AD back not only 200 years to 1730 AD, but beyond the monastic productions of the Middle Ages, to the classical productions of Roman Civilisation, which disturbed the rudimentary beginnings of pottery of the Early Britons—who were known to be the inhabitants of North Staffordshire since at least 500 or 1000 BC. The Prologue itself is a short epitome of the Pageantry of Pottery throughout the Ages.

Episode I. Early Britons Urged by their Arch Druid to Resist the Occupation of the Romans under Suetonius Paulinus at Stoke-on-Trent, AD 58

The earliest names of hills, rivers, moors and other natural phenomena in North Stafford are of British, i.e., Brythonic origin—so it is natural to have the first episode introducing us to our early ancestors—the Celtic Brythons. They are depicted in a moorland scene, on a festival day, displaying their womenfolk carrying pottery vessels of all descriptions, while the men are harangued by the Archdruid in his gorgeous robes. The chief of the Druids is surrounded by his priests, poets, bards and harpists. News has reached the Druids that the Romans are going to make a determined effort to crush the Britons under the new leadership of the Roman Legions by Suetonius Paulinus. Almost suiting the action to the word, a Briton scout on horseback brings news that Roman soldiers have been sighted skirting the moorlands. The women and children seek shelter in the groves and the Britons rally, as if anticipating an attack—but the Romans pass by content with their leaden booty from Derbyshire on towards Chester, and the scene closes with a fitting Druidical prayer of thanks.

Episode II. St Chad Addressing British Converts when the Sons of Wulfhere were Murdered at Stone, AD 650

England has its St George, Wales its St David, Ireland its St Patrick, Scotland its St Andrew! Staffordshire has its Saint and patron—Chad! Many a church and sacred spot in and around the Potteries has been dedicated to his memory. Mighty indeed must have been his influence in the district. This episode depicts St Chad addressing his British Converts in a wood outside Stone. Among the audience are two royal princes of the Pagan house of Mercia. In the middle of a sermon, arrives the soldiers of the heathen King of Mercia, who, poisoned by the tales of Werboda, an evil counsellor, orders his princely sons to desist in their worship of the King of Kings. On their refusal to do this, the two sons are slaughtered much to the distress of the converts and Chad, who is joined by the Christian Erminilda—the mother of the martyred princes. This sad but stirring scene closes with a fitting message of comfort from St Chad.

Episode III. John of Gaunt Receives the Manorial Dues, Holds the Minstrels’ Court, and Presents the Wychnor Flitch, AD 1374

Many are the feudal dues and customs encrusted in our so-called modern system. This episode introduces the atmosphere of medievalism with its pomp and pageantry when John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was a powerful figure in Staffordshire life. The scene is laid at Tutbury Castle—the Royal Resident that John of Gaunt (so called because born in Ghent) prepared for Queen Constance of Castile. Here, we see the feudal tenants of the Potteries having their rents and dues read out, as recorded by the Manorial Steward. Then comes a touch of ribaldry of the Minstrels’ Court, where a King of the Minstrels is elected with the pomp and ceremony characteristic of the times, and the fun of the Episode winds up with the Wychnor Flitch trial, which is worthy of comparison with the more widely known Dunmow Flitch, given to un-pecked husbands and their spouses.

Episode IV. The Dissolution of Hulton Abbey, and its Surrender to the Commissioners of Henry VIII, AD 1539

The monks of Hulton and their Abbot of the Cistercian Order, in their striking robes, appear before the King’s officers to surrender their goods and chattels, books and bells. A public sale takes place, the Abbey is surrendered, the deed signed and the mournful and sad Abbot and his monks chant and pray as they see their treasures distributed.

Episode V. Pioneer Peasant Potters at Work and Play, AD 1630–1730

Scene I. [This scene is the first to show] personalities are associated with pottery. Here begins the paradise of the ceramic connoisseur. We meet Toft, Ashbury and Twyford, and the early ancestors of Wedgwood, with their contemporaries, Wood, Copeland and others in the mother village of Potterydom—Burslem. The domestic character of the pottery industry is emphasised in this Episode, where the local market preparations are depicted, with a loading of earthenware on panniered animals. The influence of foreign potting is hinted at, in the scene showing the arrival of a Court messenger with an injunction issued by Dwight, coupling the Wedgwood family with Elers and others.

Scene II. The scene of work changes into one of pleasantry and play at the Burslem Wakes with a gay Maypole Dance outside the ‘Jolly Potters.’

Episode VI. Incidents in the Life and Time of Josiah Wedgwood, AD 1784

In order to give a sense of unity to the seven phases of Josiah Wedgwood’s life and achievements, the whole episode is represented as the reverie or day dream of our hero, during one of his leisure moments in his country resident at Etruria. First he sees himself in:

Scene I. As an apprentice to his brother, Thomas, in 1745 AD.

Scene II. He sees himself watching the poor donkeys, mules and packhorses, breaking their legs on the wretched lanes and hole-filled tracks, smashing baskets of crocks and pots in the days before Turnpike Roads existed locally.

Scene III. Josiah goes back to the days of his partnership with Whieldon and here we are introduced to some of his contemporaries—Josiah Spode the First and John Wesley.

Scene IV. He urges his fellow manufacturers to petition Parliament for a Turnpike Road from Burslem to Liverpool.

Scene V. We see the cutting of the first sod by Wedgwood in the company of James Brindley and the Grand Trunk Canal Promoters.

Scene VI. We see Josiah as a Master Potter at the Ivy House and Works supervising the finish of his famous wares.

Scene VII. He is depicted on the Bridge at Etruria being congratulated by Dr Darwin, Dr Priestley, and others on his being elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society for his contributions to scientific knowledge.

Episode VII. Thomas Cooper and the Chartist Movement at Hanley, AD 1842

The famous Chartist orator—Thomas Cooper—is depicted addressing a peaceful gathering of Chartist supporters on Crown Bank, Hanley. After the speech and Cooper’s departure for the Manchester Convention, the Chartist Crowd is joined by miners on strike from Longton, headed by the police and the Militia. The crowd assault the police, pandemonium takes place and a riot ensues.

Episode VIII. Allegorical Portrayal of the Modern Potteries’ Industries

The allegorical representation is resorted to here because it is impossible to depict the development of the Potteries by referring to individuals, or even individual firms. One must resort to symbolism, where the play of the imagination and the skill of the artist can dramatise the drab facts of the industrial machine into a fanciful picture, to rouse enthusiasm and admiration. Here we see the Ceramic Queen with her many attendants representing ceramic colour, printing, etc., passing with the choicest of wares in exquisite colour and artistic forms. Then comes in regal state King Coal and his offsprings, without which there could have been no potteries in North Staffordshire. Completing the inseparable Trio comes Tubal Cain—a man of might—typifying the Metallurgical Industries of the locality—Iron, Steel, Copper, Brass, and Aluminium, etc.

Grand Finale and March Past

At the end of the Eighth Episode there will a magnificent massing of all the performers taking part in the Pageant. From every direction the various Episodes will march on simultaneously and take up their position in front of the Grand Stand. The brilliant colours of the dresses and banners, and the rapid but well organised movements of the performers, will provide a spectacle with the singing by Performers, Chorus and Audience, accompanied by the orchestra, of ‘O God our Help in Ages Past,’ that should make a fitting Finale.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Wulfhere (d. 675) king of the Mercians
  • Ceadda [St Ceadda, Chad] (d. 672?) abbot of Lastingham and bishop of Mercia and Lindsey [also known as Chad]
  • John [John of Gaunt], duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399) prince and steward of England
  • Blount, Sir Walter (d. 1403) soldier and diplomat
  • John Scudamore (c.1486–1571) Receiver General of the King
  • Cavendish, Sir William (1508–1557) administrator
  • Twyford, Joshua (bap. 1640, d. 1729) potter
  • Wedgwood, Thomas (1771–1805) chemist
  • Lawrence, Samuel (bap. 1661, d. 1712) dissenting minister
  • Wedgwood, Josiah (1730–1795) master potter
  • Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
  • Brindley, James (1716–1772) civil engineer
  • Gower, George Granville Leveson-, first duke of Sutherland (1758–1833) landowner
  • Grey, Charles, first Earl Grey (1729–1807) army officer
  • Gilbert, Thomas (bap. 1720, d. 1798) land agent and poor law reformer
  • Bentley, Thomas (1731–1780) porcelain manufacturer
  • Flaxman, John (1755–1826) sculptor, decorative designer, and illustrator
  • Bacon, John (1740–1799) sculptor
  • Darwin, Erasmus (1731–1802) physician and natural philosopher
  • Priestley, Joseph (1733–1804) theologian and natural philosopher
  • Franklin, Benjamin (1706–1790) natural philosopher, writer, and revolutionary politician in America
  • Boulton, Matthew (1728–1809) manufacturer and entrepreneur
  • Watt, James (1769–1848) engineer and manufacturer
  • Chisholm, Alexander (bap. 1792, d. 1847) portrait and historical painter
  • Cooper, Thomas (1805–1892) Chartist and religious lecturer

Musical production

100 orchestra and 500 chorus.
  • Unspecified pieces by Vaughan Williams, Cowen and Edward German. 
  • Grieg. ‘Death of Ase’ (Episode II—used to accompany the Martyrdom of Wulfere).
  • Elgar. ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ (Episode VIII).
  • ‘Old King Coal’ (Episode VIII).
  • Mackay. ‘Tubal Cain’ (Episode VIII).
  • William Blake. Jerusalem (Episode VIII).
  • ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’ (Grand Finale and March Past).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Evening Sentinel
Tamworth Herald
Gloucester Journal
Staffordshire Evening Sentinel
Derby Daily Telegraph
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Lancashire Evening Post
Western Morning News
Dundee Courier
Hull Daily Mail
The Times
Manchester Guardian

Book of words

Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant and the Josiah Wedgwood Bicentenary Celebrations: Book of Words. Stoke-on-Trent, 1930.

Price: 1s.

Other primary published materials

  • Stoke-On-Trent Historical Pageant, Military Tattoo, Pottery Exhibition. Stoke-on-Trent, 1930.
  • Handbook of the Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant, Military Tattoo, Pottery Exhibitions, and Bicentenary Celebrations. Stoke-on-Trent, 1930.
  • Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant and the Josiah Wedgwood Bicentenary Celebrations: Official Souvenir. Stoke-on-Trent, 1930.

References in secondary literature

  • Boyle, James R., McLeod, Keith A., and Roberts, Gaye B., Josiah Wedgwood and the Potter’s Arts. [Unclear place of publication], 1996. At 190-191.
  • Cannadine, David. In Churchill’s Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain. London, 2002. At 134.
  • Deborah Sugg Ryan, ‘“The Man who Staged the Empire”: Remembering Frank Lascelles in Sibford Gower, 1875-2000’ in Material Memories: Design and Evocation, ed. Marius Kwint, Christopher Breward and Jeremy Aynsle, Oxford, 1999. At 169.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Pageant Film held at Media Archive for Central England. See Accessed 10 September 2015.
  • All above published materials consulted in British Library.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant was one of the main features of a large and ambitious event staged to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of its favourite son and pioneering potter, Josiah Wedgwood.2 It was directed by Frank Lascelles, probably the most experienced and famous pageant-master of the period, and organised primarily by the City Council, with the support of local industrialists. Supporting Lascelles was Edward Baring, a director who had teamed up with several pageant masters and also occasionally led productions himself.3 In common with other early-to-mid-1930s industrial city pageants it had a distinctive economic ‘boosterist’ aim, while also providing an ideological and emotional bulwark against fears of economic dislocation and depression.4 A popular and financial success, the Stoke-on-Trent pageant shows the popularity that historical pageants could still have—even in large urban areas—in the tumultuous middle years of the inter-war period. After all, as the Gloucester Journal declared in April 1930: ‘It is already evident that, despite the uncertainties of the English climate, 1930 is to be a year of pageants.’5 As well as the pageant there was a whole host of other events—such as a military tattoo and displays by local schoolchildren and organisations (see associated events). The whole town was gaily bedecked in flowers, bunting, and decorations welcoming visitors, ‘transforming the Potteries into a carnival city’, as civic and economic motives were intertwined.6

Lascelles continued his distinctive approach at Stoke-on-Trent, using an extraordinarily large cast of 5000, and favouring spectacle, colour and movement over lengthy and turgid dialogue.7 The narrative of the pageant built a Whiggish history of ‘the development of a one-time insignificant spot to be one of the most famous industrial centres of the world’.8 It was, in many respects, an odd mix of the traditional methods that had been well-suited to historic small-town pageants in the Edwardian period, yet also the symbolic and ‘timeless’ evocations of industrial spirit that had become popular in large industrial urban inter-war pageants. This dichotomy was fairly evenly split into two parts. It began, predictably enough, with a scene of Romans and ancient Druids. Other common topics or themes were portrayed, such as the celebrating of a local hero (the Staffordshire ‘patron saint’, Chad); the ‘pomp and pageantry’ of medieval Britain, as shown in the court of John of Gaunt; and the dissolution of a local Abbey during the reign of Henry VIII. In contrast to many pageants, and those of the Edwardian period especially, there were no actual Kings and Queens directly present in the story. This reflects perhaps both the increasing 1930s emphasis on a ‘common’ history, as well as the lack of ancient history that Stoke-on-Trent had as a cohesive entity.

In the second half of the pageant, the focus was much more on the pottery industry. From the beginning there had been references to pottery. In the prologue, for example, many ancient pieces of pottery were shown, from the ‘monastic productions of the Middle Ages to the classical productions of Roman Civilisation’, and, in the first episode, the Celtic Brythons were shown carrying pottery vessels of all descriptions. In the fifth episode, however, the story became less symbolic and more specific, when ‘pioneer peasant potters’ were shown participating in the burgeoning industry of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. This set the scene nicely for the following episode, which portrayed the life of Josiah Wedgwood, presented as a day dream of the ‘hero’ from his humble apprentice beginnings to his election as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.9 The seventh episode, in a way, was a strange choice that did not fit easily into the rest of the pageant. Following a peaceful address from Chartist Thomas Cooper in 1842, the crowd of his supporters is joined by miners on strike. Pandemonium ensued as the crowd assaulted the police and a riot took place. Intriguingly, the Chartist leaders were played by members of the local Labour party, while the unemployed of the borough formed the crowd ‘aroused to enthusiasm’.10 This seemingly dangerously instructive episode was perhaps symbolic of the potential for dissent, but also reform, in depression-era Britain, or could simply just have been an exciting scene for spectators. Regardless, the eighth episode returned to pottery, with an ‘allegorical portrayal of the Modern Potteries Industries’ featuring a Ceramic Queen and King Coal, joined finally by Tubal Cain—‘typifying the Metallurgical Industries of the locality’. As was common, the pageant ended with a March Past and the singing of ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’.

For local people, it was stated in the celebrations Handbook, the appeal of pageantry was partly that ‘performers will learn their local history as they rehearse’ while ‘patrons, performers, promoters or spectators’ would all benefit from the ‘mass education’ of ‘noble scenes… stirring sights… mighty men… [and the] magnificent movements [that] have been associated with their corner of the world’.11 As Lascelles told a reporter in the run-up to the pageant, ‘There is no doubt in my mind that a pageant gives the people, especially the performers themselves, a sense of civic patriotism.’12 In this way, historical pageants were another weapon in the inter-war arsenal of local government authorities, as they attempted to create loyal and civically minded citizens.13 As the Manchester Guardian informed its readers, ‘All classes of the community are taking part in the [Stoke-on-Trent] celebrations.’14 Different groups from within the city took charge of different episodes—for example, Catholics (Prologue), the Welsh Society (Episode I), and Anglicans (Episode II).15 In a lecture given to the Young People’s Labour League in nearby Leek, the secretary of the Pageant Historical Committee, John Thomas, hoped that the ‘stimulus given by the dramatic presentation of the episodes in Hanley’ would induce more to come to classes organised by the Workers’ Educational Association.16 As fears of unrest grew during the Great Depression, civic pride and education were considered to be one solution. Thomas had organised a number of Workers’ Educational Association classes and summer schools in Staffordshire primarily for unemployed workers, the first of such experiments in the country.17

Indeed, like much of industrial Britain at this time, Stoke-on-Trent was facing severe problems. In the month of the pageant there was a massive total of 27183 unemployed in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, compared with 19535 for the previous year.18 According to the Ministry of Labour, about 25% of those covered by National Insurance were out of work in July 1930, as compared with a low of 9% in April 1927.19 The pottery industry more generally, like many other traditional industries, was in a slump.20 As the wealthy industrialist, President of the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the celebrations, Sir Francis Joseph, openly told the Evening Sentinel:

We are going through hard times. The productive power of the district is in desperate need of more orders. The celebrations are designed to be, and will be, a real help… One question I leave with everyone. Are you doing your bit?’21

The celebrations then were particularly outward facing, targeting not only the ‘inhabitants of the Potteries [who] love their native hearth now’ but also ‘Consumers, the world over’ and ‘numerous overseas admirers’ of ‘the vessels and utensils associated with the North Staffordshire Potteries.’22 Probably the most important aspect of the celebrations, then, whether stated by the organisers or not, were the exhibitions of pottery—both historical and modern—supported by nearly eighty local firms.23 As Joseph also declared in the foreword to the Official Souvenir: ‘The Pageant will re-create the past; the modern Pottery exhibition will visualise the present.’ It was, he said, the ‘hope’ of the organisers that ‘the world’ would ‘increasingly recognise the honest workmanship and sound value of our productions.’24 As well as these exhibitions, the souvenirs and guides for the pageant and celebrations were crammed full of adverts for firms selling pottery. Supporting this ethos of investing money and thus confidence in the pottery industry was the patron of the pageant, Princess Mary; opening and visiting the exhibition of modern pottery, she left with a pair of Delphinium vases, two tea sets, a morning set, and a clock set—‘thus giving stimulus to the “Buy British Pottery” campaign’, a 1920s initiative of the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation.25 As the Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald, told the town in an ‘inspiring’ public message:

Although British pottery still upholds its old reputation for excellence, in these days even the best wine needs its advertising brush. I hope, therefore, that your efforts this week will draw widespread attention, and will add to the prosperity of your local industry.26

The celebrations certainly seemed to achieve this widespread attention. On Wednesday, Ceramic Day, delegates of the Ceramic Society from the United States, Canada, Austria, France, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Italy, India, Japan, Sweden, Holland, Poland, Denmark, and Portugal were amongst those who had travelled to Stoke, many laying wreaths on Wedgwood’s grave.27 International interest reached its climax on Thursday’s Overseas Day, the penultimate day of the celebrations. Presiding at a civic luncheon to overseas representatives, the industrialist and Chairman of local firm Twyford, J.T. Webster, explained that the 200–300 firms making pottery in the city were sending between 20–60 per cent of their output overseas. His question, of course, was why not more? He was followed by G.M. Gillet, Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, who argued that ‘the road to better prospects’ would be found in linking up with ‘the great industrial countries overseas.’28 A celebration of Wedgwood, as a renowned brand on ‘an international scale, was one way to achieve this objective.29

Seemingly, however, support for the pageant element of the festivities was not forthcoming from all quarters at the beginning; on more than one occasion the Evening Sentinel lamented the ‘doleful pessimists… predicting that the Historical Pageant… will not be a success.’ A shortage of male performers, shored up by senior boys from secondary schools, was one sign that perhaps not all were eager to get involved.30 In a sense Stoke-on-Trent was a relatively new innovation—comprised of six distinct towns in the Potteries, federated into a Common Borough in 1910, and granted city status in 1925. Each original town had its own character; for example, Burslem was the ‘mother’ town; Hanley the commercial centre; and Stoke the railway hub.31 At the same time as the pageant there was also a battle taking place in Parliament over the potential annexation of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, opposed by apparently 97% of the people who lived there.32 Appeals to an overarching civic identity were perhaps slightly premature; the Evening Sentinel was overly hopeful when declaring ‘petty jealousies of the inter-town rivalry… that came to the surface during the early days of preparation’ had been ‘sunk for ever’,33 and that ‘Even Newcastle, facing terrible difficulties and discouragements, came along and produced one of the finest episodes in the Pageant.’34 In a way, then, the pageant’s portrayal of a common past attempted to invent a civic identity that was perhaps still not widely accepted.

In the end the pageant made a fairly impressive profit of £4776, which was distributed to local charities (principally hospitals).35 Crowds for the pageant were large, or even full, throughout the week—as an estimate, a minimum of 15000 saw the ‘pageant proper’, perhaps almost double when one takes into account the public dress rehearsals. Overall, the Evening Sentinel reported that ‘not fewer than 150000 persons witnessed the Pageant and the other exhibitions during the week’.36 It was mostly lauded as an exciting and positive spectacle. The only criticism of the Times was that, at 2.5 hours, the pageant was too long.37 The Manchester Guardian decided it was ‘a colourful and pleasant business.’38 The local ‘boosterist’ press, of course, declared the whole event a grand success, and the pageant ‘a truly proud and lovely thing’.39 The Evening Sentinel predictably declared that ‘we have reason to believe that all branches of the pottery industry will benefit increasingly as the result of the nation-wide and world-wide publicity’ from the celebrations.40 Of course, as we understand better now, the causes of the Great Depression were multifarious—both cyclical and structural, long-term and short-term. While events such as the Josiah Wedgwood celebrations could perhaps help in some small way, they were but small guards against worldwide depression. Unemployment stayed high in Stoke-on-Trent, reaching a peak of 33% in July 1931, and rarely dropped below 15% for the rest of the 1930s.41 Perhaps, at best, pageants and other civic celebrations could provide a fun but only momentary distraction from long-term changes and the tedium of unemployment and depression.


  1. ^ ‘Princess Sees Pageant Splendour in Hanley Park’, Evening Sentinel, 19 May 1930, 1.
  2. ^ Wedgwood was born in Burslem, one of the six Potteries towns amalgamated into Stoke-on-Trent in 1910.
  3. ^ Mick Wallis, ‘Delving the Levels of Memory and Dressing Up in the Past’ in British Theatre Between the Wars, 1918-1939, ed. Clive Barker and Maggie Barbara Gale (Cambridge 2000), 201.
  4. ^ See also the Leicester Pageant of 1932; Nottingham Pageant of 1935; the Bradford Pageant of 1931; the Manchester Historical Pageant of 1926; the Greenwich Night Pageant of 1932.
  5. ^ ‘Pageants and History’, Gloucester Journal, 26 April 1930, 4.
  6. ^ ‘Transformation Scenes in Stoke-on-Trent’, Evening Sentinel, 6 May 1930, 7; ‘Progress in Bicentenary Celebrations’, Evening Sentinel, 8 May 1930, 8.
  7. ^ Deborah Sugg Ryan, ‘“The Man who Staged the Empire”: Remembering Frank Lascelles in Sibford Gower, 1875-2000’ in Material Memories: Design and Evocation, ed. Marius Kwint, Christopher Breward and Jeremy Aynsle (Oxford, 1999), 169.
  8. ^ ‘Pageants and the People’ in Stoke-On-Trent Historical Pageant, Military Tattoo, Pottery Exhibition (Stoke-on-Trent, 1930), 5.
  9. ^ Ten of Josiah Wedgwood’s descendants took part in the episode. ‘Stoke Pageant’, Manchester Guardian, 19 May 1930, 16.
  10. ^ ‘Pageants and History’, Gloucester Journal, 26 April 1930, 4.
  11. ^ Handbook of the Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant, Military Tattoo, Pottery Exhibitions, and Bicentenary Celebrations (Stoke-on-Trent, 1930), 6.
  12. ^ ‘Pageants and History’, 4.
  13. ^ Tom Hulme, ‘Putting the City back into Citizenship: Civics Education and Local Government in Britain, 1918–1945’, Twentieth Century British History, 26, 1 (2015), 26-51.
  14. ^ ‘Stoke Pageant’, Manchester Guardian, 19 May 1930, 16.
  15. ^ ‘Episodes Rehearsed’, Evening Sentinel, 1 May 1930, 5.
  16. ^ ‘Historical Pageant’, Evening Sentinel, 9 May 1930, 4.
  17. ^ Cecil Scrimgeour, Fifty years a-growing: a History of the North Staffordshire District, The Workers' Educational Association, 1921-71 (Stoke-on Trent, 1973), 31-5, 40-1.
  18. ^ ‘Unemployment’, Evening Sentinel, 1 May 1930, 7.
  19. ^ GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Stoke on Trent Labour Market through Time | Work & Poverty Statistics | Percentage Unemployed by Category of the Insured, A Vision of Britain through Time, accessed 1 October 2014,
  20. ^ ‘Pottery Exports Slump’, Evening Sentinel, 14 May 1930, 4.
  21. ^ Sir Francis Joseph, ‘Stoke-on-Trent’s Great Opportunity’, Evening Sentinel, 10 May 1930, 1.
  22. ^ ‘Pageants and the People’ in Stoke-On-Trent Historical Pageant, Military Tattoo, Pottery Exhibition (Stoke-on-Trent, 1930), 5.
  23. ^ ‘The Genius of Wedgwood’, Evening Telegraph, 12 May 1930, 8.
  24. ^ Francis Joseph, ‘Foreword’ in Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant and the Josiah Wedgwood Bicentenary Celebrations: Official Souvenir (Stoke-on-Trent, 1930), np.
  25. ^ North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, North Staffordshire, Its Trade and Commerce (Stoke-on-Trent, 1928), 50.
  26. ^ ‘Premier’s Inspiring Bicentenary Message’, Evening Sentinel, 17 May 1930, 1.
  27. ^ ‘World Tributes to Wedgwood’, Manchester Guardian, 22 May 1930, 12.
  28. ^ ‘Scouring the World for Order’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 24 May 1930, 11.
  29. ^ ‘A Forthcoming Wedgwood Bicentenary’, Hull Daily Mail, 16 December 1929, 3.
  30. ^ ‘Historical Pageant’, Evening Sentinel, 7 May 1930, 4.
  31. ^ Shirley Harrison, History of Industry: Pottery (Stoke-on-Trent, 1983), 10.
  32. ^ ‘Stoke-on-Trent Bill: Extension of the City’, The Times, 2 May 1930, 11.
  33. ^ ‘After the Wedgwood Celebrations’, Evening Sentinel, 27 May 1930, 4.
  34. ^ ‘Magnificent Pageant of History’, Evening Sentinel, 19 May 1930, 1.
  35. ^ ‘Profitable Celebration’, Lancashire Evening Post, 31 July 1930, 4.
  36. ^ ‘Attendance of 150,000’, Evening Sentinel, 26 May 1930, 5.
  37. ^ ‘British Pottery’, The Times, 16 May 1930, 13.
  38. ^ ‘The Wedgwood Bicentenary’, Manchester Guardian, 16 May 1930, 12.
  39. ^ ‘Magnificent Pageant of History’, 1.
  40. ^ ‘Industrial Day’, Evening Sentinel, 22 May 1930, 6.
  41. ^ GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Stoke on Trent Labour Market through Time | Work & Poverty Statistics | Percentage Unemployed by Category of the Insured, A Vision of Britain through Time, accessed 1 October 2014,

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,