The Grand Historical Pageant of Gloucester

Pageant type

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Place: Gloucester Park (Gloucester) (Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England)

Year: 1930

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 7


2–5 July 1930

2 July 1930 at 6.30pm; 3 July 1930 at 6.30pm and 8pm; 5 July 1930 at 3pm, 6.30pm and 8pm (and extra performance due to demand at 9.30pm).

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Rogers-Tillstone, H.F.
  • Musical Director and Conductor: Harold Chipp

Names of executive committee or equivalent


  • Chairman: T. Hannam-Clark
  • Organising Secretary: H.F. Rogers-Tillstone
  • P. Aas
  • Miss Awdry
  • S. Burge
  • H. Godwin Chance
  • Mrs Eliot
  • Mrs Pearce-Ellis
  • W.G. Fear
  • A. Gwynn
  • J.S. Hough
  • Mrs Hough
  • Morton Howard
  • Sidney Hunt
  • J.T. Jackson
  • Norman James
  • D.E. Milner
  • H.W. Nott
  • B. Price
  • J.O. Roberts
  • G. Romans
  • Miss B. Romans
  • Mrs F.C.J. Romans
  • F.J. Symons
  • W. Virgo
  • Mrs W.R. Williams
  • Scene I: Presented by ‘The Gloucester Mummers’ ADC. Producer: F Morton Howard.
  • Scene II. Presented by Toc H and LWH. Mourning Britons: The Gwalia Male Voice Party. Producer: A member of Toc H.
  • Scene III. Presented by The Robert, Duke of Normandy, Conclave of the Order of Crusaders. Producer: J.F. Buck.
  • Scene IV. Produced and Presented: Mrs K. Eliot, Miss B. Romans and Mrs W. Warner.
  • Scene V. Presented by the Gloucester Amateur Operatic Society and the Caer Glow Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Producer: Reginald Dutton.
  • Scene 6: The Siege of Gloucester by King Charles I and its Defence by Colonel Edward Massey. Presented by the Gloucester Amateur Operatic Society and the Caer Glow Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Producer: Reginald Dutton.
  • Scene VII. Visit of George III and Queen Charlotte to the Royal Infirmary, AD 1788. Produced and Presented: H.F. Rogers-Tillstone and Mrs Pearce-Ellis.

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

  • Rogers-Tillstone, H.F.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information

The takings for the four days of the carnival were over £6000.

The 7 performances of the pageant brought in £620. 0s. 6d.1

Object of any funds raised

The extension and modernisation of the Gloucestershire Royal Infirmary (part of a more general £20000 appeal).

Linked occasion


Audience information

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


On the final day the four performances drew a total attendance of 5845 (1078; 1707; 1382; 1678).

The gross attendance for the carnival numbered close on 50000.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

  • Motor Cycle Football Matches
  • Schoolchildren Demonstrations
  • Fancy Dress Parades
  • Theatrical performance
  • Dancing Exhibitions
  • Comic Dog Show
  • Exhibitions of Strength and Athletic Displays

Pageant outline

Scene I. The Coming of Man

Music, expressive of dawn. Then, elfin strains. A wood nymph runs on, accompanied by four attendant small fairies. A very brief dance ensues. An uncouth figure, symbolic of Brute-man, shambles on and watches the dancing fairies. He regards them wonderingly, dully, as something that he cannot understand. Perception of beauty is beyond him. The nymph and her suite, for their part, show no fear of him. If anything, their attitude is one of sympathetic pity towards him. He is an age-old, recognized thing in their world, and they accept him as such. The dance ends abruptly. The nymph and her attendants start off; the Brute-man snatches up a bough as a club. The fairies run back in terror. On to the scene there marches a small group—a Man, a Woman, a Youth and a Girl—representative of Primitive Intelligent Man. They are habited roughly, but with a touch of ornament here and there. They carry bows and arrows; they have simple pottery with them, and a bale or two of burdens. Manifestly, they form a family on ‘trek.’ Brute-man advances menacingly towards them, but the nymph stays him. The ‘family’ advance. Their bearing is calm and dignified. The fairies, recovering their courage, steal up to look at them, and lose their fear of them. Brute-man, giving away again to inborn ferocity, raises his club to fell the Man of the party, but is quelled to submission by the masterful mien of the other. The fairies make friends with the women. The Man and the Youth address the Woman, pointing onward towards the horizon. The party moves on, on its way, the nymph and her fairies encouragingly leading them. Brute-man hesitates for a few moments. Then, halting the group, he takes one of the bales on his shoulder. The nymph and fairies lead the party onward again, and, behind them, humbly follows the Brute-man, bearing his burden. And so, led by imagination and beauty, and with Brute-man subdued, the inception of man as a civilized force passes onward towards its goal.

Scene II. The Coming of the Romans, AD 43, and the Visit of Plautius, AD 47

In AD 43 the Romans occupied Caer Glow, making it a Roman Camp, and creating one of the most important Roman military and administrative centres in the country. This scene opens with a fight in AD 47 between a Roman Century and a Band of Insurgent Ancient Britons. The Britons are defeated and take to flight, six of their number being captured by the Romans who march them away. A Short Interval, representing the passage of one month. The Roman Century bring in the prisoners, manacled, to Glevum, the Roman name for Caer Glow. The Legatus Consularis (Governor of Britain), accompanied by some of his comates (the Quaestor: his financial Secretary and Civil Deputy; The Legatus: the Legionary Leader and the Legatus Consularis’s Military Deputy) with a guard of soldiers, arrives to inspect the Camp. The Legatus Consularis, taking the salute, inspects the Century and the prisoners, ordering the execution of the latter. During this scene a number of Ancient Britons, men and women, look on with downcast countenances. The British prisoners are then taken away and executed. As the bodies are carried away the Britons chant a death dirge in Welsh. The Legatus Consularis and his entourage then leave. A Roman Trumpeter announces the arrival and departure of the Legatus Consularis.

Scene III. The Funeral and Burial of Edward II, AD 1327

The scene represents the arrival of the bier, with its pall, in a great cart at the boundary walls of the City, accompanied by Benedictine Monks and Crusaders. The cortege is received by the Chief Master of the City Guilds, together with several of the great merchants and the Reeve appointed by the Citizens, these people representing the Council of Administration of the City. There is also a crowd of townsfolk and pilgrims. On being received at the City walls the bier is taken from the cart and borne by the monks, followed by nuns, all chanting, to the Abbot Thokey. The Abbot, accompanied by his Prior and six Benedictine monks, the monks chanting a Psalm, waits beside the bier, which is lighted by candles, to receive the body which is placed upon the bier, muffled drums being heard. The Abbot standing in front of the bier then receives rich gifts from pilgrims and places them on the bier for the building of the Cathedral as a monument to the Martyr. The bier is then borne away to the Abbey, the gifts subsequently used in the building of the Cathedral.

Scene IV. Visit of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, AD 1535

The arrival of the Royal Party is announced by the Herald with a tabard of the Royal Arms, and his trumpeter. The King and Queen Consort, accompanied by their Pages, Peers and Peeresses in attendance, proceed to thrones where they receive the homage of the civic dignitaries, the Mayor, the City Sheriff, the Master of the City Guilds, and other dignitaries. There are a number of townsfolk looking on and, after the homage is complete, the Mayor presents a purse of gold on behalf of the townsfolk to Anne Boleyn. Morris Dancers then enter and the Royal group pass from the thrones and dais to witness the dancing. At the conclusion of the dancing the Royal Party depart.

Scene V. Charles I and the Heralds, 1643

The King, having invested the City with his forces, immediately sends a trumpet with Phillipot, a Somerset Herald, and George Owen, a York Herald, with his summons to surrender within two hours. The King, with Prince Rupert, General Garrett, Commander of the King’s brigade of Horse Forces, and a body of his Cavaliers are standing on a dais. The King’s Herald and his Trumpeter announce the arrival of the Citizen envoys with a fanfare. These two Roundheads, after the King’s envoys have been received and the summons considered by the City Authorities, pass through the City watched and applauded by the Townsfolk. They are followed by two Cavaliers, the King’s Trumpeter behind them, and the Envoys with bent forms, but proud and surly mien, slowly approach the dais and are flanked by two gaily dressed, flaunting Cavaliers. The interior of the City is shown, the various activities of the besieged being depicted during the departure of the Envoys, while they are absent, and during the fighting. Charles the Martyr receives the reply and the Heralds are dismissed.

Scene VI. The Siege of Gloucester, 1643

Shortly after the dismissal of the Envoys there is a sortie from the City, an engagement taking place between the Roundheads and a force of Cavaliers. Fierce fighting takes place and is continued as the City men retire towards the City Walls. The Roundheads are defeated and retire through the great Keep, the King’s men following in hot pursuit, but, at the crucial moment, a heavy harquebus is fired from the City Wall, severely wounding the leader of the Cavaliers. In the consequent confusion, whilst the Cavaliers are picking up their Leader’s body, the gates are shut and the pursuers retire.

Scene VII. Visit of George III and Queen Charlotte to the Royal Infirmary, AD 1788

The Scene opens with the arrival at the Royal Infirmary of the Chairman of the Infirmary Committee, accompanied by the Mayor and other prominent townsfolk, together with Surgeons and Nurses, the Rev Whitefield having come up to speak to a group of Street Gamins, who are playing pitch and toss and are amongst the onlookers awaiting the arrival of the Infirmary Party and the King. The children are very rude to him and he retires in disgust, but Robert Raikes, the children’s friend, returns with Rev Whitefield and pacifies the delinquents. The King and Queen Consort, arm in arm, accompanied by the Princes and Princesses, Miss Fanny Burney and Court Ladies and Gentlemen, arrive in the City and process to the Infirmary, passing on their way the Street Gamins and a group of dancers. The Royal Party is then received by the Infirmary Reception Committee and Staff; and after greetings, His Majesty sits down to watch the Gavotte. The King then takes leave of the Reception Committee and, passing round the dancers, congratulates them with a gracious word, and goes on his way out of the City.

Scene VIII. March Past of all the Scenes

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Edward II [Edward of Caernarfon] (1284–1327) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Anne [Anne Boleyn] (c.1500–1536) queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer
  • George III (1738–1820) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Charlotte [Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz] (1744–1818) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and queen of Hanover, consort of George III
  • George IV (1762–1830) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Burney [married name D'Arblay], Frances [Fanny] (1752–1840) writer
  • Raikes, Robert (1736–1811) promoter of Sunday schools
  • William IV (1765–1837) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Augustus Frederick, Prince, duke of Sussex (1773–1843)

Musical production

  • The Group of Monks provided by the Ancient Order of Druids, Royal Gloucester Lodge, No 96, under the direction of Past-Arch D. Judd (by permission of Provincial and Grand Lodge Officers).
  • The Group of Nuns from the Three Choirs Festival Class.
  • The Monks and Nuns trained under the musical direction of F. Davies (Sir Thomas Rich’s Grammar School).
  • Orchestra: 58, consisting of violins, violas, cellos, double bass, flutes, oboe, clarinets, trumpets, trombone, tympani, piano.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Gloucester Journal
Cheltenham Chronicle
Gloucester Citizen
Western Daily Press
Gloucestershire Echo

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Programme of the Grand Historical Pageant of Gloucester. Gloucester, 1930. In Programmes for Productions by Gloucester Amateur Operatic Society later Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society, Gloucestershire Record Office. D12635/2.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Grand Historical Pageant of Gloucester took place in the summer of 1930 and was the top billed event of a fundraiser for the Gloucestershire Royal Infirmary—which was trying to raise £20000 for extension and modernisation. It was a medium-sized pageant, with seven performances, seen by around 10000 people. The pageant was mastered, written and even mostly organised by H.F. Rogers-Tillstone, the mid-forties headmaster of Thomas Rich's School Gloucester.4 As well as the pageant, there were fancy dress parades, physical exercise demonstrations, dancing, competitions, stalls, and shooting. A financial and popular success, and billed as ‘the Biggest Show of the Year’, it was yet another example of the continuing popularity of historical pageantry in interwar Gloucestershire.5

The pageant narrative began with a somewhat odd prologue that seemed to draw on a similar first episode in the Stanway Pageant of 1929. Titled ‘The Coming of Man’, it showed a caveman-like ‘Brute-Man’ interrupting dancing fairies and then threatening them. He is interrupted and then awed by ‘Primitive Intelligent Man’, who he then follows ‘towards the horizon’, representing, as the programme put it, the ‘inception of man as a civilized force’ passing ‘onward towards its goal.’6 Following scenes were much more conventional, beginning with the coming of the Romans in AD 43; the burial of Edward II in the city in 1327; the visit of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII in 1535; an episode that depicted some of the conflict of the Civil War, followed swiftly by an episode showing the Siege of Gloucester in 1643; and the visit of George III and Queen Charlotte to the Royal Infirmary in 1788 (with obvious reference to the contemporaneous purpose of the pageant); and finally a march past of all the characters. Though the pageant was heavy on royalty and, to a lesser extent, ecclesiastical history, it featured the ‘common folk’ of the city a great deal as well—as with many other 1930s pageants.

The Cheltenham Chronicle declared the pageant as the ‘crowning success of a day of wonderful achievements’, and described how Gloucester’s history was reproduced ‘with an accuracy and a wealth of picturesque imagery that compelled admiration’—though it also noted that the pageant would have been improved with dialogue.7 The Gloucester Citizen noted in the run-up to the pageant that it was such ‘spectacles’ that ‘develop civic patriotism’. Brining a ‘wider knowledge of the story of their city and county to both performers and audience’ would arose and develop a ‘sense of civic pride’.8 Indeed, after the pageant had finished, the Citizen now reflected that ‘If one was asked to say what was the dominant note of the Carnival, surely the reply would be—enthusiastic team work.’9 Certainly, performers from the top to the bottom of society were involved. The pageant succeeded in stimulating a local man, F.J. Cullis; inspired by the historical pageant, he wrote a booklet about Gloucester to further inspire and interest the young people of the town in the history of the city.10

The pageant was also a ‘tremendous attraction’ and thus a successful part of the fundraiser—and was even given an extra performance on the final day due to demand.11  A further pageant was held at Tewkesbury the following year and the Pageant was staged, with less success in 1936. The total takings for the four days of the carnival in 1930 was over £6000, of which the eight performances of the pageant brought in £620. 0s. 6d.12 The Gloucester Pageant of 1930 can show the historian several things. Firstly, and most simply, the continued popularity of historical pageantry in Gloucestershire in the inter-war period. Secondly, the continued use of pageantry in the ‘mixed economy of welfare’—supporting voluntarism to provide public welfare.13 And finally, the contemporary borrowing (or at least mimicking) of episodes from other pageants.


  1. ^ ‘Carnival Success’, Gloucester Journal, 12 July 1930, 16.
  2. ^ ‘Carnival Success’, Gloucester Journal, 12 July 1930, 16.
  3. ^ Programme of the Grand Historical Pageant of Gloucester. Gloucester, 1930. In Programmes for Productions by Gloucester Amateur Operatic Society later Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society, Gloucestershire Record Office. D12635/2.
  4. ^ ‘City Headmaster’s Tragic Death’, Gloucester Journal, 19 June 1937, 16.
  5. ^ Advert, Gloucester Citizen, 1 July 1930, 5.
  6. ^ Programme in Programmes for Productions by Gloucester Amateur Operatic Society later Gloucester Operatic and Dramatic Society, Gloucestershire Archives. D12635/2.
  7. ^ ‘Grand Pageant at Gloucester’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 5 July 1930, 7.
  8. ^ ‘Pageants and History’, Gloucester Citizen, 22 April 1930, 1.
  9. ^ ‘Carnival Reflections’, Gloucester Citizen, 7 July 1930, 4.
  10. ^ ‘Gloucester’s Ancient Birth Time’, Gloucester Journal, 6 December 1930, 7.
  11. ^ ‘Carnival Success’, Gloucester Journal, 12 July 1930, 16.
  12. ^ Ibid., 16.
  13. ^ 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 Grand Historical Pageant of Gloucester’, The Redress of the Past,