A Pageant of the Church in Colne

Pageant type


The pageant was the first of two church pageants held in Colne during Festival of Britain year. It was organised by the Anglican church of St Bartholomew, which is situated in the centre of Colne.

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Place: Colne Parish Church [St Bartholomew's] (Colne) (Colne, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1951

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


The pageant was staged in the churchyard between 4 and 9 July 1951; roads were closed in order to allow spectators to view it from the roadside.

The pageant was due to be performed on Wednesday 4 July and again on Friday 6 July 1951 at 8 pm. It went ahead on Wednesday, but bad weather on Friday forced its cancellation. However, it was given a second performance on Monday 9 July.2 The performance lasted for around 90 minutes.3

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Schofield-Clegg, Miss
  • Assistant Producer: Mr Speight
  • Assistant Producer: Mr Wrigley
  • Assistant Producer: Mr G. Salisbury
  • Properties: Frank Woodward
  • Properties: Allen Salisbury
  • Costumes: Mrs Wrigley
  • Dressers: Mrs Wrigley, Mrs G. Salisbury, Mrs H. Heaton, Mrs Astley and Mrs Taylor.


The pageant's producer (i.e. Pageant Master) was Miss Schofield-Clegg; her first name is not provided on any recovered record.4 The assistant producers and other helpers are mentioned in an article by Rev. J. Ross Mcvicar in the parish magazine, first names not being provided here either.5

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee

  • Chairman: Rev. J. Ross Mcvicar
  • Hon. Secretary: W. B. Riley
  • Other members: Miss Schofield Clegg; Mr Speight; Mr Wrigley; Mr G. Salisbury; Frank Woodward; Allen Salisbury and Mrs Wrigley.


An article by Mcvicar implies that a committee was formed from within the membership of the congregation in order to arrange a parish contribution to the Festival of Britain. Those involved chose to stage a pageant and all had a role in its production.6

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

  • Macvicar, J. Ross
  • Blake, William
  • Bunyan, John
  • Benson, A.C.
  • Rice, Cecil Spring
  • Thomson, James
  • Studdart, G.A.


The pageant's scriptwriter was the Rev. J. Ross Macvicar; he was rector of Colne Parish Church.7 The poem 'Jerusalem' from the longer work, 'Milton' by William Blake is sung at the end of scene one. The words of 'To Be a Pilgrim' by Bunyon are sung in scene six. 'Land of Hope and Glory', (lyrics by A. C. Benson) 'I Vow to Thee My Country' (lyrics by Cecil Spring Rice) and 'Rule, Britannia!' (lyrics from a poem by James Thomson) were all sung during scene nine. A poem by G. A. Studdart is read by the narrator in scene eleven.

Names of composers

  • Parry, Hubert
  • Elgar, Edward
  • Holst, Gustav
  • Arne, Thomas

The popular anthem, 'Jerusalem' to music by Sir Hubert Parry is sung in scene one. Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory', Holst's 'I Vow to Thee My Country' and Arne's 'Rule, Britannia!' feature in scene nine.

Numbers of performers


This number quoted in a news report seems to have referred only to dramatic performers and did not include those performing as choristers. There were numbers of child singers as well as adults, and the choirs concerned may have been sizeable. It appears that the two groups sometimes performed separately in the musical pieces. Scene eight included a rider on horseback.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

£13 8s 7d was raised from the sale of booklets sold in association with the pageant.9

Linked occasion

Festival of Britain

Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 5000


The total audience figure is an estimate. Over 3000 turned up to watch the first performance on Wednesday 4 July.10 A further large crowd was reported at the performance on Monday 9 July.11

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

This pageant was performed in the churchyard; roads were cleared to allow spectators to view the performance, which is therefore unlikely to have been ticketed. Certainly, advertisements for the event do not specify a charge; however, there may have been a collection taken.

Associated events

The town of Colne staged a number of events over a week as its contribution to the Festival of Britain in 1951, as follows:

  • Sunday 1 July: a peal of festival bells from Colne Parish Church and special morning services in churches across the town; followed by an open-air Christian rally in Alkincoats Park accompanied by a band and choral concert.
  • Monday 2 July: senior schools' sports finals on the cricket field
  • Tuesday 3 July: A schools' Open Day, an old folks' outing to Morecombe, a leaugue cricket match and a Festival variety concert in Alkincoats Park
  • Wednesday 4 July: a baby show in the Lesser Municipal Hall, the opening of the church pageant in the churchyard, folk dancing on the cricket field,
  • Thursday 5 July: junior schools' sports finals at Holt House, an old folks' concert in the Lesser Municipal Hall, and a variety concert in the park.
  • Friday 6 July: the Church pageant, a Carnival Dance in the Municipal Hall at which the Festival Queen was selected,
  • Saturday 7 July: a Festival Procession from the Market Ground to Alkincoats Park and a Gala in the park which included: bowling, tennis and putting finals, a fireworks display and a torchlight procession
  • Throughout the week, a Festival Play was performed in the Municipal Hall by the London Repertory Company; this was entitled 'Queen Elizabeth Slept Here'.

The following month another pageant entitled 'The Church Marches On' was staged indoors at the Municipal Hall, 13–16 August 1951.12

Colne Parish Church also held the following:

  • Sunday 1 July: A special communion service at 8.00 am in Colne Parish Church for pageant performers and the attendance of the Mayor at Matins at 10.30 am.13

Pageant outline


This begins with a 'Roll of drums' and ' a Bugle sounding Reveille'. The drummers were 'redcoated' and the bugler was positioned high in the tower of the church.14 The narrator then delivers a prayer. Children sing the hymn 'Christ Who Once was Among Us'.15

Scene One: The Roman Period, 79 AD

Roman soldiers are depicted marching on Colne. The narrator is Archbishop John Tillotson (described in the script as a 'native of Colne'). The archbishop introduces himself, stating that he is a son of a 'humble tailor' and that on this very site was once the grammar school where he received his early education. He goes on to tell of his career as a clergyman and his eventual appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury during 'tempestuous times'. Tillotson proceeds to announce that he will tell the story of Colne 'as it was once told to him', repeating the legend that Joseph of Arimathea had once travelled to Britain accompanied by the Christ child. The conquest of England by Julius Agricola is mentioned, as is the establishment of Christian settlements during Roman times—including that at 'Colunic'. The scene ends with the Archbishop asking that all sing the first verse of 'Jerusalem'. The parish youth club organised and performed in the scene.16

Scene Two: Paulinus, 601 AD

King Edwin and Queen Ethelburga are portrayed in this scene. The narrator states that he 'will pass o'er many decades, when the light of our faith but flickered... yet did endure'. He describes the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria wherein the 'heathen' Edwin rules and 'German gods were mostly worshipped'. The arrival of Paulinus is then depicted and the conversion of Edwin to Christianity is enacted. The narrator ends with remarks on the recent finding at 'Alkincoats' of the remains of a cross dating from this period. The hymn 'O Faith of England Taught of Old' is sung. The scene was organised and performed by members of the 'Parish Players'.

Scene Three: The Building of Colne Church [early 12th century]

Groups of villagers and of workmen perform in this scene. The narrator tells of a legend concerning the building of the church in which a site nearby at 'Church Clough' was originally chosen; but while it was being erected 'night by night... unseen hands' removed the building's stones and shifted them to the church's present site 'on this spot'. Eventually, Church Clough was abandoned and the new site accepted. The narrator then recites a rhyme which recalls the legend:

This church will ne'er be built aright
Up in the day, down in the night,
Build it upon old Colne Hill
And at Judgement Day 'twill be there still.

He then asks that all sing 'a song of to-day of Colne' for he would 'like to hear it'. The popular song 'Bonnie Colne' is sung. The scene was organised and performed by members of the Mothers' Union and the Young Wives Group.

Scene Four: The Restoration of the Church in 1515

The archbishop describes the development of the church, which was overseen by the Abbey at Whalley, but states that by 1515 it had become 'dilapidated'. On orders from the Archdeacon of Chester, local dignitaries of Colne were requested 'to repair and restore the building'. The narrator points out where these new additions were made and describes the area in front of the church as 'the playground of the town'. As he narrates, aspects of the latter are depicted as follows: 

  • Monks from Whalley passing through. 
  • Old Folk sitting on a seat gossiping. 
  • A May Queen crowned
  • Maypole dancers. 
  • Wrestling. 
  • A Jester
  • Sweet-sellers, Pedlers, Country-folk. 
  • Squires and ladies etc. 
  • Town Crier reading from a scroll.

The 'general hubbub' then ends and a wedding scene is depicted; a boy from the grammar school recites a verse addressing congratulations to the bride and groom who emerge from the church. The scene ends with the bride and groom moving out of sight and all assembled singing 'We Love the Place O God'. The episode was organised and performed by members of the Sunday School, and the parish Guide and Scout groups.

Scene Five: The Period of the Reformation, circa 1529 AD

The archbishop begins by remarking that much of the significance of the Reformation has now been lost, but 'we of my time were fighting still for just those things which that great time had started to make real for our beloved land'. He then launches into a speech about the history of the first printed bible in English. A curate then read from 'John Chapter 3, verses II to 21' [sic]. Throughout this narration, the drama enacted consisted of the following:

[A] Procession headed by 3 Servers carrying processional cross, a large Bible on a cushion, a model of the Church, others carrying banners. Men with wool packs trudging to Bradford.

The scene continues with singing of the hymn 'Lord Thy Word Abideth'. Following this, the narrator states that the reformed church in England merely freed itself 'from foreign rule' but there was continuity and 'it was still the old historic church of Dunstan & Anselm, of Becket & of Stephen Langton'. He ends by stating that although the greed of Henry VIII was to be deplored for it 'robbed the church of much of its beauty', Henry had simply 'freed their branch from domination by another branch' and that English Christians did not leave the Holy Catholic Church, hence each Sunday all affirmed this belief when reciting the Creed. The scene ends with singing of the last three verses of the hymn 'Thy Hand O God Has Guided'. The scene was organised and performed by members of the 'St George's' Group.

Scene Six: The Colne Witches, circa 1612 AD

This scene depicts 'witches silently gliding thro' the churchyard' and 'Katherine Hewitt being brought to [a] platform by police & then placed in the stocks'. After a while, she is taken out of the stocks and brought before a Justice; when sentence is pronounced she is 'dragged off to execution' with 'the crowd following behind'. The narrator tells the tale of what led up to the trial:

The story went that in 1612 about 12 a.m. on Good Friday a number of persons did dine at Malkin Tower, not far from here, and all of them were reputed witches. Among them were Alice Graie, known as ‘Mould-heeles’ [sic] and Katherine Hewet of this town, and, (alas related to my own dear Mother), Alice Nutter. These and others were brought before the King's Justices of Assize at Lancaster Castle, and first among them was indicted and arraigned before the great seat of justice... Wild were the tales which did prevail...17

The archbishop ends his narration by saying that all should be glad that these days are over,

and that 'by the teachings of Mother Church such superstitions have vanished'. The scene ends with singing of 'To be a Pilgrim'. The scene was organised and performed by members of a parish group called the 'Friendly Helpers'.

Scene Seven: The Period When Thomas Warriner A.M. was Curate of Colne 1645 AD

The narrator remarks that he has arrived at events from his own lifetime. He tells how Parliamentarians attacked the curate in his church but that the clergyman escaped when his congregation came to his aid. This drama was enacted during the narration. The scene ends with singing of a verse from the hymn 'God is a Stronghold and a Tower' followed by singing of 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!' The scene was organised and performed by members of the 'Parish Players'.

Scene Eight: Visits of John Wesley to Colne 1748 to 1786

In this, an attack on John Wesley by the Curate at Colne is depicted. The narrator describes Wesley's career and comments that he often came to Colne on his travels round England on horseback. He further comments that Wesley was often attacked whenever he arrived in Colne. The story told condemns the actions of the church's curate—George White—who is described as 'not a very worthy gentleman', and ends with the archbishop stating that Wesley eventually 'won hearts' in Colne but never encouraged his followers to leave the Church of England. The hymn 'Soldiers of Christ Arise' written by Wesley's brother Charles in c.1741 is sung at the close of the scene. Wesley appeared in the scene on horseback. The scene was organised and performed by members of the Mothers' Union and the Young Wives Group.

Scene Nine: War With France 1795

This scene takes place in the 'early days of the cotton trade' and some elements of this historical background are dramatised. The scene had a maritime theme and 'Patriotic Songs' were sung; during these, the figure of Britannia arrives. Other action includes a 'Recruiting Sergeant and Private offering the shilling to any who will join up' and some new 'Recruits falling into line'. The songs included 'Land of Hope and Glory', 'I Vow to Thee My Country' and one verse of 'Rule, Britannia!' Following this musical interlude, the narrator delivers a short explanation of the effects of war on Colne, in terms of the loss of young men. Mention is made of a popular officer called captain Barcroft who was a native of Colne and because of his local renown, responsible for high levels of recruitment. The narrative then moved forward to mention the sinking of the Titanic, and the fact that the bandleader—Wallace Hartley—came from Colne. At the conclusion of the scene, the audience are asked to join in singing the hymn 'Nearer My God to Thee'. The scene was organised and performed by the church's 'Sidesmen'.

Scene Ten: The 19th Century Great Restoration to Colne Church

This is a short scene. It depicts an argument that took place between parishioners in 1815 regarding the restoration of the church building. Some wanted to pull the church down and build a new one, others to effect repairs to the nave. As the narrator explains, the latter group won through. The drama depicts the opposing groups: one group standing at the church door, the other trying to oust them from this space. The script details that performers appeared as 'Gentlemen in top hats and women in straw bonnets'; and the narrator comments that both of these garments were once manufactured in Colne. The scene was organised and performed by members of the Mothers' Union and the Young Wives Group.

Scene Eleven: The First Three Rectors [1819, 1876 and 1908]

In this, the drama depicts three of the church's rectors during the course of the long nineteenth century. As each enters, the narrator speaks of their lives. The first of these is John Henderson who came to the church in 1819 and spent over 50 years there. As the first priest to be called rector at Colne, he is recalled for introducing a Sunday School. The narrator speaks about the ravages of industrialisation during this time. Henderson is seen engaged in his hobby of kite making; as he walks across the arena, several small boys holding kites approach him. The second is William Clifford who arrived at Colne in 1876 and was responsible for much of the rebuilding of the church that took place at the end of the nineteenth century in order to expand and modernise it. Clifford appears holding plans of the church which he unfolds at intervals as he looks up at the building. The final clergyman is Dr Stephen Peachey Duval who served from 1908 and throughout the years of World War I. Duval is recalled as learned; he is seen talking with 'choirmen' and 'boys and girls of the Sunday School' as well as with young men setting off to war. The scene ends with a procession and singing of the hymn 'For All the Saints Who From Their Labours Rest'.

Scene Twelve: To-day—1951

The scene opens with children singing hymn no. 134 from the Church and School Hymnal.

After this, the pageant script states that a depiction of the cotton trade today takes place but no details are given. The scene ends with a procession of all performers who then halt & with all the audience say together ‘We shall build on.’ The narration includes mention of World War II and the Festival of Britain taking place; the archbishop then states in a patriotic speech that

we must not deny the grandeur of our past. In very truth the Christian Faith had cradled our nation, nurtured it, encouraged its best qualities, tempered its worst. In our Christian Faith we had always found out soul... civilisations not built on God become vain or violent or vile.

The narration ends by asking 'Was it a dream that the Divine Child did step upon our shores with Joseph, the tin merchant, long ago?' This leads into a recitation of a poem by G.A. Studdart which takes the form of a petition and response. The scene ends with a further rendition of Blake's 'Jerusalem'.

National Anthem, Benediction and Bell Ringing

The scene begins with the narrator speaking a benedictory prayer. The pageant script describes the following activity:

After the Benediction, 2 servers fetching Archbishop Tillotson from the steps of the Parish Room & all 3 falling in behind the procession & moving with it into the Church, whilst the bells ring.

The pageant concludes with singing of the national anthem.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Tillotson, John (1630–1694) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Eadwine [St Eadwine, Edwin] (c.586–633) king of Northumbria
  • Paulinus [St Paulinus] (d. 644) bishop of York and of Rochester
  • Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
  • Alice Nutter (d. 1612)
  • Katherine Hewytte, alias Mould-Heels (d. 1612)

Musical production

Live singing accompanied much of the pageant.18 Children and adults performed this; for some pieces, the children performed as a separate choir. Organ music from the church was relayed via an amplification system. A harmonium, loaned by the local Primitive Methodist Church, was used, though it is not indicated where.19 Two drummers and a bugler performed in the introduction.

  • A drum roll and trumpet fanfare (introduction)
  • Hymn, 'Christ Who Once was Among Us', words by 'William St. Hill Bourne, music: Pastor Bonus (introduction)
  • Sir Hubert Parry, 'Jerusalem', words by William Blake (close of scene one and in scene twelve)
  • Hymn, 'O Faith of England Taught of Old', words by Thomas Alexander Lacey, music: Psalm 68 (close of scene Two)
  • Song, 'Bonnie Colne', words by Frank Slater (sung at the close of scene three)
  • Hymn, 'We Love the Place O God', words, verses 1-4: William Bullock and verses 5-7, Henry Williams Baker (close of scene four)
  • Hymn, 'Lord Thy Word Abideth', words by Henry W. Baker to the tune 'Ravenshaw' (scene five)
  • Hymn, 'Thy Hand O God Has Guided', words by E. H. Plumptre (close of scene five)
  • Hymn, 'To Be a Pilgrim', words by John Bunyan (scene six)
  • Hymn, 'God is a Stronghold and a Tower', words by M. Luther translated into English by Elizabeth Wordsworth, (scene seven)
  • Hymn, 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!', words by Katherine Winkworth, tune 'Paxis Praetetatis' scene seven)
  • Hymn, 'Soldiers of Christ Arise', words by Charles Wesley (scene eight)
  • Anthem, 'Land of Hope and Glory', words A. C. Benson, music Edward Elgar (scene nine)
  • Anthem, 'I Vow to Thee My Country'(scene nine)
  • Anthem, 'Rule, Britannia!, words by James Thomson (scene nine)
  • Hymn, 'Nearer My God to Thee', words by Sarah F. Adams (scene nine)
  • Hymn, 'For All the Saints Who From Their Labours Rest', words by William Walsham How (scene eleven).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Barnoldswick & Earby Times
Burnley Express
Manchester Guardian

Book of words


A copy of the original script survives; written by J. Ross Macvicar, it is entitled A Pageant of the Church in Colne.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Colne Parish Church Magazine: monthly issues for June 1951, 3-4; July 1951, 2-3, and August 1951, 2, 3 and 4.

Some press coverage mentions that a handbook to the pageant was produced, and the parish magazine details that 2000 of these were produced; unfortunately, a copy of this has not been recovered.20

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The Lancashire Archives and Record Office holds a copy of the original typescript, A Pageant of the Church in Colne, ref: PR 3172/14/60. It also holds and copies of the Parish Magazine, including those monthly issues that mention the pageant in June, July and August 1951: see Colne Parish Church Magazine, ref: PR3172/14/25.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Allison, T., Lectures on English Church History from the Earliest Times to AD 1702. London, 1905.
  • Carr, James. Annals of Colne. Manchester, 1878.
  • Curteis, G.H. Dissent in its Relation to the Church of England. London, 1872.
  • Hymns Ancient and Modern
  • Lewis, Rev. J.A. The Christ Child at Lammana: A Legend of Looe and Talland. Penwerris, 1936.
  • Mee, Arthur, ed. The Children's Encyclopaedia. 10 vols., first published 1908.
  • Perry, G.G. The Student's English Church History 3 vols., first published London, 1864.
  • The Church and School Hymnal.
  • The English Hymnal
  • Wakeman, H.O. A History of the Church of England. London, 1896.

A preface to the original typescript, written by the pageant's author, highlights these specific sources. In respect of the hymns sung throughout the pageant, the scriptwriter refers to these three standard hymnals in his preface.


In a year when pageants, organised by numerous organisations as well as municipal authorities, abounded across the whole of the British Isles, the town of Colne in Lancashire had the distinction of producing not one, but two church-led pageants. In this part of England, the persistence of a firm Christian faith and a vibrant programme of cultural activity organised within individual church parishes were particularly strong features of everyday life. Both the established church and a plethora of nonconformist religious institutions were keen to play their part in the Festival of Britain, and this is reflected in Colne's festival pageant duo. This particular pageant was the first of the two to be performed in July 1951 and it was organised by the town's central Church of England parish, and staged on the site of its twelfth century place of worship. Just a month later, in August, Colne's churches then came together in order to present an indoor pageant. This ecumenical initiative (organised by the Colne Church Council) possibly reflected the fact that many of the town's nonconformist churches were relatively small chapels, but it is also evidence of the spirit of co-operation and will to be inclusive that was a feature of much pageantry.

The Anglican church of St Bartholomew's had an ancient pedigree and was located in the centre of the town; thus it was generally referred to as the 'Parish Church'. It had a large congregation, and around two hundred of its parishioners took part in the pageant as performers. Choristers—both children and adults—performed, and a host of organisers pitched in at very short notice to make the event a success. The church also had the advantage of having its own amateur dramatic performers—the Parish Players—something that was not so unusual in this period and within this part of England, where churches were the centre of social life as well as places of spiritual renewal. The pageant team were led by the church's rector who also took on the task of writing the pageant as well as performing as its narrator. For the latter part, the Rev. Macvicar took on the guise of one of Colne's most famous former residents: John Tillotson, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1691 and served in this role until his death in 1694. Alongside this narration, various notable events and activities associated with the town were presented as mimes. Although Mcvicar’s narrative covered a wide historical range—from the Romans to the Second World War—overall, the stories told were confined to an ecclesiastical framework. Acting as an omniscient voice, the archbishop took the history of Christianity down the centuries and presented it in twelve scenes. Within these, although many monarchs are briefly mentioned, only one makes an appearance within the tableaux: this was the seventh-century Edwin, king of Northumbria. Edwin's enduring fame, many times enacted in church pageants in the north of England, was as a convert to Christianity. The likes of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I had fleeting mentions in the voiceover narrative, but were not included in the drama presented. Missing too are local aristocrats (even if they were church patrons) making this pageant a very non-elitist version of history.

It was also an intensely local tale for the most part, and whenever possible centred directly on the history of St Bartholomew's itself. The building's various restorations and several of its past ministers were focussed upon in many scenes. In these, once again the larger backdrop of wars, religious upheavals and economic and social change were simply that—confined to the background of the church's story. Yet regardless of such narrative parochialism, or indeed, perhaps because of it, this pageant was a winner. Much of the reason for this probably had to do with the musical accompaniment which was delivered by a choir of both child and adult singers. Well-known hymns were sung as well as rousing, patriotic anthems, and singing was a feature of nearly every episode.

The local press reported that an audience of approaching 3000 turned out to watch the first of two performances and remarks of 'wonderful!' and 'well done!' were among the general response.21 A letter to the press similarly praised the pageant commenting:

Too much praise cannot be given to all the persons taking part in the pageant; each one gave a life-like representation of the characters; their combined efforts produced a vivid portrayal of community life in our town through its known history... While I was standing in the crowd watching the pageant, I must confess to a certain amount of pride in that, I, too, was part of this old church... As the scenes passed by I mentally tried to visualise and measure the influence that this old church must have played in the spiritual and cultural development of our town.22

The view of the pageant may have been restricted for some in this large audience, who saw the drama from the roadside in front of the church, though a raised stage was used; but the fact that the building also sat upon a hill may have had a ameliorative effect. Amplification was employed successfully, but even if this had been ineffective, it may not have been a very significant problem. Mcvicar must have been well used to making his voice heard, and the choirs performing were often joined by the voices of the cast and the audience.

The drama also did not lack the popular touch. Items such as the Pendle witches (scene six), which had become a well-known historical narrative through fictional adaptations, as well as reference to the sinking of the Titanic (scene nine), were included in the programme—although both of these still prompted the singing of an appropriate hymn. A comic skit was also enacted in scene nine with 'antics' being performed by actors playing some of the town's new recruits to the Napoleonic wars. The story overall, was respectful of non-Anglicans, who must have made up a sizeable portion of the audience. The founder of the Methodists had a very sympathetic treatment in scene eight; and many of the hymns performed would have been familiar to nonconformists. This is not to say that the Rev Mcvivar's conciliatory approach to religious history did not attract some controversy; his clear aim of uniting Christian feeling attracted some scorn from one spectator, who stated that Mcvicar's views about continuity in the essentials of Christianity following the Reformation, delivered in the guise of Archbishop Tillotson, were frankly laughable. The letter finishes by expostulating, 'come off it Tillotson!'23 Nonetheless, this was probably a minority opinion: Mcvicar commented on the many letters of support he received from nonconformists; he also noted that even Roman Catholics had watched the pageant and been impressed by it. He recalled that a Roman Catholic girl had come to his door to buy a pageant handbook.24

Even the weather seemed to be on the side of the pageant. In the summer of 1951, heavy rainfall was reported in this part of England, but for its first performance the clouds cleared just in time in Colne and the pageant went ahead in late evening sunshine. The organisers were not so lucky for the second performance, however, which was rained off, but it was restaged a few days later and again attracted a large audience of around 2000.25

It is clear that Mcvicar threw himself into this initiative wholeheartedly; indeed his church committee only came up with the idea of a pageant at the start of May, and Mcvicar was given only one week to produce the text.26 This speed is evident from the many pencil annotations scribbled on his original script. It was his first attempt at writing anything like this, yet he did a good job in balancing a religious message with the more usual features of the pageant genre. By scene twelve, the pageant had brought the story of Colne Parish Church up to the present day; and at this point, local history did become conjoined with national history. In the final part of the narration, Archbishop Tillotson made sure to underline the point that the Christian faith had 'cradled the nation', and also that from his point of view it would continue to do so. Yet, this entire pageant did not need to trumpet English or British nationalism through fine speech, since its musical accompaniment was designed to raise the patriotic spirit at every available opportunity. From this point of view, it is a classic example of pageantry as a medium that simply could not help itself so far as flying the national flag is concerned. Even when ostensibly performed from a strict standpoint of localism, or in order to celebrate a particular ideology, patriotic sentiments carried the day.


  1. ^ 'Pageant of Colne Church', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 25 May 1951, 4.
  2. ^ 'A Memorable Week', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 13 July 1951, 4.
  3. ^ 'The Time the Pageant will Take', Colne Parish Church Magazine, July 1951, 2.
  4. ^ 'Pageant of Colne Church', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 25 May 1951, 4.
  5. ^ 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  6. ^ See the article by Mcvicar, 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  7. ^ Untitled article, Guardian 6 July 1951, 10.
  8. ^ 'Thousands Saw Colne's Long History Come to Life', Burnley Express 7 July 1951, 6.
  9. ^ 'Sale of Booklets', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  10. ^ 'Thousands Saw Colne's Long History Come to Life', Burnley Express, 7 July 1951, 6.
  11. ^ 'A Memorable Week', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 13 July 1951, 4.
  12. ^ 'Colne Festival Events', Barnoldswick & Earby Times ,22 June 1951, 4.
  13. ^ 'And Now the Pageant', Colne Parish Church Magazine, July, 1951, 2.
  14. ^ 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  15. ^ Unless otherwise stated, all quotation in the synopses is from the original typescript of the pageant. In this, pages are unnumbered. A surviving copy can be consulted at the Lancashire Archives and Record Office, ref: PR 3172/14/60.
  16. ^ For details of the organisers of scenes see 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  17. ^ Mcvicar appears to have been mistaken about the names of some of the Pendle witches. According to Laura Gowing the woman known as ' Mould-Heels' was Katherine Hewytte not Alice Graie; see Laura Gowing ' Pendle witches [Lancashire witches] (act. 1612)' in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition, accessed 2 August 2016 at http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/101067763/Pendle-witches
  18. ^ Details of the music are included in the script of the pageant see original typescript of the pageant, pages unnumbered at Lancashire Archives and Record Office, ref: PR 3172/14/60.
  19. ^ 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August, 1951, 3.
  20. ^ See Colne Parish Church Magazine, August 1951, 3.
  21. ^ 'Thousands Saw Colne's Long History Come to Life', Burnley Express, 7 July 1951, 6.
  22. ^ Letter from 'Geo. Whalley Nutter', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 13 July 1951, 4.
  23. ^ Letter from 'W. D.', Barnoldswick & Earby Times, 22 June 1951, 4.
  24. ^ 'A Pageant of the Church in Colne', Colne Parish Church Magazine, August 1951, 3.
  25. ^ Colne Parish Church Magazine, August 1951, 2.
  26. ^ See Mcvicar's commentary on the success of the pageant in Colne Parish Church Magazine, August 1951, 2.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Pageant of the Church in Colne’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1272/