The Wolsey Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Christchurch Mansion (Ipswich) (Ipswich, Suffolk, England)

Year: 1930

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 9


23–28 June 1930

Six evening performances at 7pm and three matinees at 3pm.

Two dress rehearsals for children on 20 and 21 June.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Monck, Nugent
  • Assistant Producer and Stage Manager: Mr Henry Butcher, ARAM
  • Musical Director: Mr Cecil F. Smyly
  • Chorus Master: Mr Jonathan Job, FRCO
  • Hon. Dancing Mistresses: Miss Elsie Hockey (Court Dancers)
  • Hon. Dancing Mistresses: Miss Irene Lundie (Folk Dancers)
  • Hon. Mistress of the Robes: Mrs H. St G. Peacock
  • Hon. Assistant Mistresses of the Robes: Mrs T. Parker
  • Hon. Assistant Mistresses of the Robes: Miss M.C. Reade
  • Hon. Master Tailors: Messrs J.C. and C.E. Bayles (of J.F.B. Bayles and Sons, Ipswich)
  • Hon. Assistant Master Tailor: Mr E.A. Johnson
  • Hon. Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Frank Mason
  • Hon. Wardrobe Secretary: Miss C. Badshah
  • Hon. Property Masters: Mr A. Stearn
  • Hon. Property Masters: Mr Guy Maynard, FRAI
  • Hon. Assistant Stage Managers: Mr Raymond Green
  • Hon. Assistant Stage Managers: Mr Leonard T. Robinson
  • Hon. Company Secretary: Mr Geo S. Staunton, MBE
  • Chairman of Casting Committee: Mr Frank H. Smith
  • Hon. Prompter: Miss C. Podd
  • Hon. Master of the Stands and Arena: Mr Thomas R. Parkington
  • Hon. Chief Steward: Mr Phil W. Thompson
  • Hon. Publicity Secretary: Mr Lionel R. McColvin, FLA
  • Joint Hon. Secretaries: Mr E.E. Rope
  • Joint Hon. Secretaries: Mr Guy Maynard, FRAI


  • The Hon. Lady Quilter and Miss K. King arranged the folk dancing.
  • Period furniture provided by Mr F. Tibbenham.
  • Tabards for the canopy bearers, for the herald and for town servants, and the two canopy covers made and painted by the girls of the Municipal Secondary School under the direction of Miss Jarrett, Miss Davies, Miss Greig and Miss Horniblow.
  • Mrs F.A. Clifford designed and made all the Banners carried in the Procession of the Guilds, and other properties.
  • All other properties made by J.H. Murgatroyd, teacher in charge of the Handicraft Centre.
  • Costume designs executed by Miss R. Gibb and Miss N. White
  • The robes for Cardinal Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius provided by Messrs Wolsey Ltd Leicester, and made by Messrs J.F.B. Bayles and Son, Ipswich.
  • Some costumes lent by the Norwich Players.
  • Cardinal’s Coffin made by Messrs Edward S Singleton, Ltd.
  • Hired costumes by Messrs Clarkson, Fox, Nathan, Rose Shaw, and Simmonds.
  • Wigs by Clarkson.
  • Messrs Wootton’s assisted in the arrangements for ‘make-up’.
  • The Stewarding organised by the Ipswich YMCA and the Ipswich Toc H.
  • Loud Speaker installation by Messrs Mann, Egerton and Co Ltd.
  • Flood lights lent by the Norwich Players.
  • Catering by the Picture House Café, Ipswich.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Pageant Committee:

  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of Ipswich (Councillor A.L. Clouting)
  • The Deputy Mayor (Councillor J.F.C. Hossack, LRCP, FRCS, Edin., JP)
  • Sir Edward Packard, JP
  • Sir Archibald E. Garrod, KCMG, FRS
  • Alderman F.E. Rands, JP
  • Councillor K.J. Badsah, OBE, BA, JP
  • Mrs E.M. Fletcher
  • Thomas R. Parkington
  • Lt-Col F.W. Turner, TD, JP
  • Arthur Woolford
  • Major W. Rowley Elliston, TD, BA, LLB, JP
  • B.W. Elkington
  • J. Red Moir

Ladies General Committee:

  • Chairman: The Mayoress of Ipswich (Mrs AL Clouting)
  • 49 women in total

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: The Deputy Mayor (Councillor J.F.C. Hossack)
  • His Worship the Mayor (Councillor A.L Clouting)
  • Alderman F.E. Rands
  • Councillor K.J. Badshah
  • Councillor T.R. Parkington
  • Councillor Lt-Col F.W. Turner
  • Councillor A. Woolford
  • Major W.R. Elliston
  • Mr J. Red Moir
  • Mr G.S. Staunton, MBE

Ladies Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: The Mayoress of Ipswich (Mrs A.L. Clouting)
  • 14 women in total

Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor Lt-Col F.W. Turner
  • 5 men in total

Publicity Committee:

  • Chairman; Major W.R. Elliston
  • 3 men in total

Stands and Seating Committee:

  • Master of Stands and Arena: Councillor T.R. Parkington
  • 6 men in total

Players’ Comfort Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs A.H. Stagg
  • 11 women in total

Music Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr Urquhart Cawley
  • 13 men in total

Performers Committee (Dramatic Section):

  • 8 men, 5 women = 13 in total

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

  • Monck, Nugent
  • Shakespeare, William


Included material from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and a mystery play from the Chester cycle.

Names of composers

  • Byrd, William
  • Alison, Richard
  • Dowland, John
  • Morley, Thomas
  • Smyly, Cecil F.

Numbers of performers


Men, women, and children.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

400th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Wolsey.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 25000


The pageant was close to a sell-out (see summary).

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

21s.–1s. 6d.

Prices of Seats (excepting for the Matinee on Thursday 26 June 26):
1s. 6d., 2s. 4d., 3s. 6d., 4s. 9d., 5s. 9d., 7s. 6d. and 10s. 6d.
Prices of seats for the performance on Thursday afternoon 26 June:
2s. 4d., 3s. 6d., 5s. 9d., 8s. 6d., 12s., 15s., 21s.

Associated events

Civic luncheon.
Visit of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Pageant outline

Part I

The scene is an open space in Ipswich, June 19. Two ragged fellows enter, a Minstrel and a Mountebank. They bicker and joke, preparing to perform for money. They sing a song, mostly about ale, for a gathering crowd of townsfolk. The Wolsey Family enter – having persuaded young Tom to leave his books and see the play, before he goes off to Oxford with a priest to study. They discuss how clever and well fitted for the Church the young boy is – though Tom expresses worry about leaving, wanting to stay at home instead, declaring that there should be a place of learning in Ipswich. Morris dancers perform, and there is a procession of Guilds. ‘Three Kings’ then begin to give religious monologue as part of a nativity play based on the time of King Herod and his quest to slay the first-born sons. Herod enters, crowned in gold, and expresses his desire to find this prophesised ‘king of kings’ and maintain his reign. He discusses the prophecy with the Kings and the Doctor, and becomes increasingly irate. The Kings leave, Herod allowing them to do so – since he plans to use them as a way of finding out when the prophesised ‘King of Kings’ is born. Herod promises to slay this child, as well as the traitorous kings. After Herod has left, an angel enters with the star again, along with the three kings. They discuss the prophesised King of the Jews, and the three gifts they will give him. A tableau then shows the three Kings hailing the baby Jesus. The Angel warns the three kings to go another way on their return, to avoid falling into the hands of Herod. They leave, and it is the end of the play. The crowds depart. A priest and a monk come to the Wolsey’s and collect Tom. His mother asks him if he would like to be a King and wed a fair princess, to which Tom replies he’d rather ‘be the Pope, For he’s above all Kings and rules their hearts.’ The Monk takes the boy.

Part II

The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, and the Duke of Buckingham, enter. The men chat about Buckingham’s imprisonment, and discuss resentfully the growing pride, vanity and power of Wolsey, and his closeness to King Henry VIII. Wolsey now enters, with guards and secretaries. Wolsey and Buckingham eye each other with distrust, before Wolsey leaves. Buckingham is angered and wants to go to the King; Norfolk tries to calm him down, but Buckingham is resolute and speaks of treason. A Sergeant-at-Arms then enters and arrests Buckingham, on Wolsey’s orders, for treason. The sad Buckingham leaves, bidding farewell to Norfolk. A crowd enters, with King Henry, Cardinal Wolsey, Lords of the Council, Sir Thomas Lovell and others. The King and Wolsey are shown as being close, the former reliant on the latter. Queen Katherine enters and takes her place with the King. She complains about Wolsey's abuse of the tax system and is supported by Norfolk. Wolsey protests his innocence, and the King reverses the Cardinal’s measures. Wolsey steps out and instructs his Secretary to write to every shire of the King’s grace and pardon, claiming that it was his own idea. They all discuss the Duke of Buckingham, Katherine again challenging Wolsey—until he brings forth the surveyor to testify on his behalf about the Duke’s treason. The King then orders Buckingham’s trial. At a grand banquet thrown by Wolsey, the King and his attendants enter in disguise as French masquers and shepherds, pretending to speak no English. The King dances with Anne Boleyn, and is discovered by Wolsey. The King declares his interest in Boleyn. The merrymaking continues. Everyone exits, apart from two gentlemen, giving an account of Buckingham’s trial, and how he has been found guilty. They guess that the Cardinal is the one behind the push for charging Buckingham and speculate that the Commons hate Wolsey but love Buckingham. Buckingham enters under guard. He addresses the common folk who have come to see him, protesting, and bids his sad farewell. He exits. The two gentlemen again talk, now about Wolsey’s hostility towards Katherine. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk enter and discuss the King’s conscience having ‘crept too near another lady’. They blame Wolsey. Norfolk and Suffolk approach the King, who is sadly meditating. Wolsey enters, which lifts the King’s spirits. Wolsey introduces Cardinal Campeius and Gardiner to the King, as Norfolk and Suffolk look on critically. Campeius has come to serve as a judge in the trial Wolsey is arranging for Katherine.

After they leave, the scene switches to Ipswich. Crowds gather and talk about Wolsey building a college in Ipswich to rival Oxford. The civic guard, guildsmen, bailiffs, and port-men enter, before the Prior of Christchurch and his monks, the Prior of Butley Abbey, and other ecclesiastical figures. Lastly comes Thomas Cromwell, representing Wolsey. He announces Wolsey’s intention to found the school and dedicate it to the Blessed Virgin. The procession moves off. The scene switches to Anne Boleyn and an old lady, discussing the prospect of her becoming Queen, and their surprise and concern that Katherine could so easily be swept aside. The Lord Chamberlain enters and informs Anne that Henry has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Once the Lord Chamberlain leaves, the Old Lady jokes about Anne's sudden advancement in the King's favour. After they have exited, a crowd enters, dancing. Vergers and scribes then enter, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and Rochester and Saint Saph. Other priests, gentlemen and sergeants, and then Wolsey and Campeius then come on, followed by the King and Queen. Katherine’s trial is heard before the King and his courtiers. The Queen blames Wolsey for his conspiracies against her and refuses to stay for the trial. The King defends Wolsey and declares that his own doubts about the legitimacy of their marriage led to the trial. Campeius protests that the trial cannot continue without the Queen. The King grudgingly accepts and adjourns proceedings.

Part III

Wolsey and Campeius confront a sad and weakened Katherine. They claim to have not come to accuse. Katherine takes them at their word and makes an emotional protest about her treatment. Wolsey claims to have no part in the King’s wishes for divorce. She now realises that they do not have her best interests at heart, despite their protestations, and laments that she is alone and friendless. She gradually regains her composure and apologises to the Cardinals, and agrees that she will do the King’s wishes while she still lives. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Surrey, and the Lord Chamberlain are then shown plotting against Wolsey, joining forces in order to overcome him. Norfolk allays their fears by telling them that the King is turning against Wolsey because he has found out that Wolsey does not back his marriage to Boleyn. Wolsey enters, ignores the courtiers, and muses about the relationship and alliance between England and France, unaware that the King has learned of his opposition. The King enters and inquires after Wolsey, having found out about the great wealth the Cardinal has accumulated, and that the Cardinal is supporting his marriage to his face but not behind his back. The King sees Wolsey and converses with him, sarcastically showing his displeasure; Wolsey realises that he has lost the King’s favour. The noblemen thoroughly enjoy mocking Wolsey. Wolsey sends his follower, Cromwell, away so that he will not be brought down in the Cardinal’s fall from power.

After all leave, except Wolsey, who delivers his monologue. He dramatically says goodbye to his own greatness, declaring he is forsaken by all. Cromwell enters, aggrieved at what has happened, the men sharing sympathy. Cromwell loyally declares that Wolsey made good use of his power, to which the Cardinal hopes Cromwell is right. The Cardinal learns that Sir Thomas More has already been chosen as Chancellor; that Cranmer has been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury; and that Anne Boleyn, now married secretly to the King, has been publicly recognised as Queen. Wolsey bids farewell to Cromwell, and seemingly his hopes of court. Katherine is shown, sick, with her attendants, and is informed that Wolsey is dead, after falling ill following his arrest. Her attendant tells her that it is rumoured Wolsey repented, before dying in his sleep. Katherine gives a balanced appraisal of Wolsey—his pluses and minuses, and his pursuit of power. She blesses him to rest in peace.

Katherine falls asleep, and a vision takes place. Six figures, clad in white robes and wearing golden visages, enter and dance: spirits of peace. Katherine awakes and calls out for the spirits, but only her attendants answer. Her attendants muse that she is close to death. A messenger from the King arrives but is banished by Katherine for not showing respect. An emissary from the German Emperor now enters, claiming to have come at the request of the King who grieves for her weakness. The Queen muses that it is like a pardon after an execution. Katherine deteriorates and is eventually taken out. Two monks enter with lanterns, talking while the coffin of Wolsey passes. They muse how it is strange that one so powerful should be buried so hurriedly and like any thief. They assess Wolsey’s life—his origins in humble stock, his scholarly power, and his gifts to Oxford and Ipswich. They declare, before leaving, that his name will be upheld in the hearts of scholars for ever more. A raucous crowd gathers to watch Anne’s coronation, which then passes in a spectacular procession, as the pageant ends.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530) royal minister, archbishop of York, and cardinal
  • Howard, Thomas, third duke of Norfolk (1473–1554) magnate and soldier
  • Howard [née Stafford], Elizabeth, duchess of Norfolk (1497–1558) noblewoman
  • Stafford, Edward, third duke of Buckingham (1478–1521) magnate
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Lovell, Sir Thomas (c.1449–1524) administrator and speaker of the House of Commons
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England,
  • Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545) magnate, courtier, and soldier
  • Sandys, William, first Baron Sandys (c.1470–1540) soldier and courtier
  • Anne [Anne Boleyn] (c.1500–1536) queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII
  • Guildford, Sir Henry (1489–1532) courtier
  • Vaux, Nicholas, first Baron Vaux (c.1460–1523) courtier and soldier
  • Campeggi [Campeggio], Lorenzo (1471/2–1539) diplomat and bishop of Salisbury
  • Gardiner, Stephen (c.1495x8–1555) theologian, administrator, and bishop of Winchester
  • Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex (b. in or before 1485, d. 1540) royal minister
  • Cranmer, Thomas (1489–1556) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Longland, John (1473–1547) bishop of Lincoln
  • West, Nicholas (d. 1533) bishop of Ely and diplomat
  • Fisher, John [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535) bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr
  • Howard, Henry, earl of Surrey (1516/17–1547) poet and soldier
  • Chapuys, Eustache (1490x92?–1556) diplomat
  • More, Sir Thomas [St Thomas More] (1478–1535) lord chancellor, humanist, and martyr
  • Grey, Thomas, second marquess of Dorset (1477–1530) magnate and courtier

Musical production

Chorus: 114 women and 63 men.
Orchestra: 50 players—amateur musicians from local orchestral societies, with a small leavening of professional payers in the wood wind and brass.

Part III
‘Jenny Pluck Pears’, Dance.
Morley, ‘My Bonny Lass She Smileth’.
Smyly, ‘Ale Song’.
Smyly, ‘Orpheous and his Lute’.
William Byrd, ‘Blessed is he that Fears the Lord’.
William Byrd, ‘O God, that Guides the Cheerful Sun’.
Richard Alison, ‘Behold, Now Praise the Lord’.
Dowland, ‘Weep you no more, Sad Fountains’.
William Byrd, ‘Earl of Salisbury Pavane’.
‘Lady Banbury’s Hornpipe’.
‘Guid Man of Ballangigh’.
‘Helston Furry’.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

[Ipswich] Evening Star
Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art
The Times
Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs
Berwickshire News and General Advertiser
Bucks Herald
Derby Daily Telegraph
Dundee Evening Telegraph
Essex Newsman
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Gloucester Citizen
Gloucester Journal
Hartlepool Mail
Hull Daily Mail
Lancashire Evening Post
Northampton Mercury
Nottingham Evening Post
Tamworth Herald
Western Daily Press
Western Morning News
Yorkshire Evening Post
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Book of words

Book of Words Wolsey Pageant. Ipswich, 1930.

Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch: HD867/3/1.

Other primary published materials

  • Wolsey Pageant Souvenir Programme. Ipswich, 1930.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Ipswich. Copy photo. Wolsey Pageant at Christchurch Mansion. K681/1/262/1449.
  • Black and white image of Wolsey Pageant in Christchurch Park, on lawn outside the front of the mansion (1930). K681/1/262/2625.
  • Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch:
  • Ipswich. [photo] The Wolsey Pageant Grandstand. Distinguished Guests including Prince Edward in front row and named on reverse of photo (June 1930). K681/1/262/2370.
  • Wolsey Pageant Car stickers. HD867/3/3.
  • Bus timetable. HD867/3/4.
  • Leaflet about Wolsey pageant. HD867/3/2.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Wolsey Pageant was a mid-to-large scale event staged in Ipswich to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the town’s most famous son: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The pageant was directed and partly-written by Nugent Monck, Director of the Norwich Maddermarket Theatre and a famous pageant-master (having produced the Pageant of Norwich in 1926 and Blickling Hall (1925)). A pageant was the most apt form of commemoration, argued the Mayor, A.L. Clouting, and the chairman of the Executive Committee, J.F.C. Hossack, for several reasons. Firstly, because recreating the time in which Wolsey lived would provide an invaluable aid to understanding his character and career. A pageant could show both the romance and tragedy of his rise and fall, and also make Wolsey a living personality instead of a ‘mere name’. Secondly, Wolsey had a natural association with pageantry, as a man who ‘outbid all with his splendour’. Thirdly, as one of the few men whose career had been presented by a supreme dramatist (Shakespeare), the material for a pageant was already available. Fourthly, and most importantly, only a pageant could enlist ‘the help and interest of the whole community’.1 The pageant was seemingly a great success, and a particular triumph for the local government of Ipswich which took the lead in its organisation, as in many other early 1930s pageants.

In contrast to many other cities, Ipswich was still booming in 1930; the first fifty years of the twentieth century were an intensification of its late nineteenth-century economic and social growth, despite a weaker national picture. By this decade it had lost much of its rural identity.2 The town’s population continued to grow: to 80000 by 1921, almost 90000 by 1931, and to 105000 by 1951.3 The organisation of the pageant was dominated by the town council which had presided over this growth. As Peter R. Odell has written, Ipswich benefited from a strong and ‘pro-active’ local government. Ipswich was designated as a County Borough in 1888, and its council were ‘seriously’ involved in late nineteenth-century municipal socialism. It invested strongly in the port, in public health facilities (such as water supply and sewerage), in gas and electricity, and in education and culture—not to mention the construction of a set of worthy civic buildings, including the Town Hall, the Corn Exchange, libraries and museums. By the inter-war period there were also important public sector investments in entertainment and service facilities—of which the Wolsey Pageant could be viewed as one example.4

The pageant’s storyline was simple but intense with dialogue. Fortunately, microphones and loud-speakers were installed so that the words were clearly heard in the stands—though the press commented that ‘the voices often seemed to be separated from the speakers.’5 The pageant began with Wolsey, as a boy in Ipswich, watching a nativity play of sorts—the story of Herod and his fear of a powerful figure of religion perhaps acting as an allegory for Henry VIII and Wolsey himself. The rest of the pageant was mostly based on Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, which depicted a scheming and wily Wolsey plotting against Katherine of Aragon, and also secretly opposing Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Eventually he met his come-uppance, lamented by many but not by the gleeful Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk. At points Monck did leave the Shakespearean play—for instance, to show a representative of Wolsey founding a religious school in Ipswich. Along with the prologue, these aspects of the pageant were meant to demonstrate the great Cardinal’s love for Ipswich, despite the fact that he barely returned.

In an interview, Monck himself told the press that it was ‘more a commemoration play than a pageant’, due to its reliance on Shakespeare. He also used this interview as a chance to criticise other pageants as being ‘rubbish’, declaring that his script, by contrast, had ‘practically no stooping to sentimentality, either in the music or colouring’.6 He also lauded the locals, saying that ‘A pageant such as this does show people how in a big civic movement they can achieve a good civic result. The work is splendid.’7 Certainly, the pageant narrative was not very kind to Wolsey, showing his scheming machinations in all their underhandedness. A traditional historical pageant, with a series of historical episodes, argued the local newspaper, would have ‘given us a fuller picture of Wolsey than we now get’—and ‘certainly… a more charitable one.’ But it was ‘almost inevitable that it would have made a stronger appeal to benevolent sentiment than to intellect, with a resultant weakening of its tissue; it would have been too much shot through with the ruddy tint of local patriotism.’8 This surprisingly frank and unusually un-civic statement seemed to fit with Monck’s interview; one wonders whether the press truly believed it, or were just following the producer’s lead.

Nonetheless, the town took to the pageant and showed their local patriotism in other ways. Local people cooperated with the council in gaily bedecking the streets, and enthusiasm came also in the great rush of performer volunteers. One hundred Suffolk girls, for example, applied for parts as Henry VIII’s wives.9 Undoubtedly the highlight of the celebrations was the visit of the Prince of Wales. He arrived in his private plane at the aerodrome and saw the first twenty minutes of the pageant. At a special civic luncheon he gave a brief speech and acknowledged that Ipswich was ‘very proud to claim connexion with this great English Cardinal and statesman.’10 Such was the demand, the cast was duplicated, with some characters being played by two different actors - lots were drawn to decide which would play when the Prince of Wales visited.11 Not just individuals but associations also joined in the celebration; the pageant souvenir programme, at points, read like a civic directory of local societies, educational institutions, manufacturing firms and cultural institutions.

Press reportage in Ipswich was highly enthusiastic, but less so nationally. The Times declared that the pageant had been ‘conceived and carried out on a most imposing scale… [with] the whole town… [being] united in the enterprise.’12 But the newspaper had several criticisms. The dialogue of Henry VIII, it argued, was not easy for amateurs to grasp—these aspects of the pageant, then, were relieved when the processions and masques and dances occurred. Monck’s inventions for the pageant, the Times thought, were better (in this case at least) than Shakespeare’s. The newspaper also pointed out that the performers were too quick to anticipate stage directions, diminishing the realism of the play—as did performers wearing ‘pince-nez’ (a style of glasses seemingly archaic to the period) while they recognized and acknowledged their friends and family in the audience. Overall, though, they maintained that ‘the performance as a whole’ was of a ‘high standard’, and worthy of commemorating the life of Wolsey.13 The Ipswich Evening Star, naturally, highly lauded the pageant, describing it as ‘beautifully executed dramatic spectacle’; a ‘glowing feast’ of colour’; and a ‘spectacle never to be forgotten, magnificent in conception, triumphantly beautiful in execution, and profoundly inspiring in effect.’14

Despite the criticisms of the Times, however, the pageant seems to have been a great success. 25000 people saw one of the nine proper performances or two dress rehearsals, and it was close to being an absolute sell-out. A side grandstand for 400 people was seemingly put up at the last minute, the organisers having anticipated extra demand for tickets. At its close, there was a lot of applause, cheering and celebrating, with speeches from Nugent, other organisers, and the Mayor—all lauding the civic commitment of both the public and the performers.15 Though perhaps not a ‘true’ historical pageant, due to its lack of a chronological episodic narrative, the Wolsey Pageant was clearly a child of the historical pageantry movement. It serves as a reminder of the enthusiasm and drive that local governments still had in the early 1930s, despite trying national circumstances, and also the extent to which both performers and spectators would still rally to the call of pageantry.

Ipswich held several subsequent pageants, notably in 1951.


  1. ^ A.L. Clouting (Mayor) and J.F.C. Hossack (Chairman of Executive Committee), ‘Foreword’, in Wolsey Pageant Souvenir Programme (Ipswich, 1930).
  2. ^ Carol Twinch, The History of Ipswich (Derby, 2008), 103.
  3. ^ Peter R. Odell, ‘Ipswich: Twentieth-Century Challenges and Responses’, in Ipswich from the First to the Third Millennium: Papers from an Ipswich Society Symposium (Ipswich, 2001), 67.
  4. ^ Ibid., 67.
  5. ^ ‘Ipswich Pageant’, The Stage, 3 July 1930, 13.
  6. ^ ‘Wolsey at Height of his fame’, The Observer, 22 June 1930, 16.
  7. ^ ‘The Making of the Wolsey Pageant’, The Evening Star, 17 June 1930, 8
  8. ^ ‘Wolsey Pageant Week Opened at Ipswich’, Evening Star, 24 June 1930, 7.
  9. ^ Bucks Herald, 4 April 1930, 3.
  10. ^ ‘The Prince at Ipswich’, The Times, 27 June 1930, 11.
  11. ^ ‘Ipswich Pageant’, The Stage, 3 July 1930, 13.
  12. ^ ‘Cardinal Wolsey Pageant’, The Times, 24 June 1930, 12.
  13. ^ Ibid., 12.
  14. ^ ‘Wolsey Pageant Week Opened at Ipswich’, Evening Star, 24 June 1930, 7.
  15. ^ ‘Closing Night at Wolsey Pageant’, Evening Star, 30 June 1930, 3.

How to cite this entry

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