Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North

Pageant type

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Place: Leazes Park (Newcastle upon Tyne) (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 10


20–27 July 1931

20, 21, 23, 24 July at 2.45 pm
22, 25 July at 2.45pm and 7pm.1
27 July at 2.45pm and 7pm (probably).

Each day of the scheduled performances was given a specific designation as follows:

  • Monday 20 July: Civic Day (opened by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne)
  • Tuesday 21 July: Durham County Day (opened by the Marquis of Londonderry, PC, KG, MVO)
  • Wednesday 22 July: Northumberland County Day (opened by the Earl Grey, DL)
  • Thursday 23 July: Empire Day (opened by Lord Stonehaven, GCMG, DSO)
  • Friday 24 July: Clergy Day (opened by the Lord Bishop of Durham, DD)
  • Saturday 25 July: Cumberland County Day (opened by the Duchess of Devonshire).2

Originally, the pageant was scheduled to close on Saturday 25 July, but it was so successful that two additional performances were held on Monday 27 July (times unknown, but presumably in the afternoon and evening).3

There were five dress rehearsals to which selected groups were admitted; these took place on the following days:

  • Tuesday 14 July at 6.30 pm (elementary school children in parties of not less than 20, accompanied by teachers, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyneside and immediate districts)
  • Wednesday 15 July at 6.30 pm (schoolchildren, choirboys, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Sunday Schools, Friendly Societies, Mothers' Meetings and other organised bodies)
  • Thursday 16 July at 3.pm - London and provincial press day (elementary school children in parties of not less than 20, accompanied by teachers, from the counties and towns outside Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tyneside)4
In November 1932, the pageant was restaged indoors at the Newcastle Empire Theatre with 800 performers.5

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Lightfoot, Lionel
  • Organising Director: Edward Baring
  • Music Director: H. Yeaman Dodds
  • Music Director: S.T.M. Newman
  • Music Director: Harold Oswold
  • Music Director: Ernest J. Potts
  • Mistress of Designs: Miss R. Willis
  • Master of Designs: Prof. E.M. O'R. Dickey
  • Official Photographers: Stuart, Photographers.6


The Pageant Master, Lionel Lightfoot, later went on to direct the very successful large-scale pageant in Carlisle in 1951. He was a solicitor by profession, but had a reputation in the world of amateur dramatics.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

  • President: The Marchioness of Londonderry, DBE
  • Chairman: Mrs Cuthbert Headlam CBE
  • Vice-Chairman: The Countess Grey, CBE
  • Vice-Chairman: Lady Baxter, OBE
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs T. A. Bradford
  • Hon. Treasurer: Miss Irene Ward, CBE
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss B. L. Turner

Finance Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs Cuthbert Headlam CBE
  • Vice-Chairman: T. D. Straker-Smith
  • Hon. Secretary: R. O. Jones (Nat. Prov. Bank)
  • Auditors: Messrs. Price Waterhouse & Co.

Architects Committee

  • Messrs. Cackett Burns Dick and MacKellar

Historical Committee

  • Chairman: The Rev. C.E. Whiting
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Headlam-Morley

Music Committee

  • Chairman: A. E. Belmont
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Dorothy Sanderson

Designs Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs Robin Houstoun
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Doreen Watson

Performers Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs Cuthbert Headlam CBE
  • Vice-Chairman: The Countess Grey, CBE
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Stewart Reid
  • Ass. Secretary: Mrs Turner-Brown

Reception Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs Cuthbert Headlam CBE
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss B. L. Turner

Lecture Committee

  • Chairman: The Rev. C. E. Whiting, DD
  • Hon. Secretary: W. T. McIntire, BA, FSA (Scot)

Grand Stand and Grounds Committee

  • Chairman: Harold Oswold
  • Hon. Secretary: R. Norman Mackellar

Housing Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs A. Knox Haggie
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Hepple
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Rose

Publicity Committee

  • Chairman: Councillor Dudley Appleby
  • Hon. Secretary: H. V. Armstrong, DCM

Transport Committee

  • Chairman: Harold W. Bettle
  • Hon. Secretary: T. E. Walker

Evening Displays Committee

  • Chairman: Councillor J. C. Lawson
  • Hon. Secretary: Richard G. Hall

Empire Fair and Exhibition Committee

  • Chairman: A. S. Wilkin.

Episodes Committees


  • Chairman: Miss D. Marsh
  • Vice-Chairman: Miss Irene Ward, CBE
  • Producer: Miss M. Bauche
  • Producer: Miss M. Harbottle
  • Marshal: Madam Hickford
  • Costumes: Mrs Daniels
  • Costumes: Mrs Fairley
  • Designs: Miss Brown
  • Hon. Secretaries: Mrs Milton & Miss Betty Hall

Episode I

  • Chairman: Mrs McConnell
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs Waggott
  • Producer: E. Graham Barrow
  • Marshal: D. Muir
  • Costumes: Mrs Muir
  • Costumes: Mrs Campbell
  • Costumes: Mrs Gairdner
  • Costumes: Miss Raper
  • Designs: Miss Blow
  • Hon. Treasurer: Miss B. Mackay
  • Hon. Secretaries: A.E. Miller and J. Steel

Episode II

  • Chairman: Councillor Pearson
  • Vice-Chairman: D. S. Davies
  • Producer: C. V. H. Vincent
  • Assistant Producer: G. A. Elliott
  • Marshal: G. Denson
  • Marshal: Mrs Milton
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Eastcott
  • Designs: John Heys
  • Props: F. J. Addison
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Eastcott

Episode III

  • President: Wm. Cochrane Carr
  • Chairman: W. Temple
  • Vice-Chairman: Miss Stewart
  • Vice-Chairman: N. Hunter
  • Producer: C. Foreman
  • Marshal: J. S. McConnell
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Hunter
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Cawthorne
  • Hon. Secretaries: Miss Lillian J. Herdman and Miss M. Wood

Episode IV

  • Chairman: Mrs T. A. Bradford
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs Roberts
  • Producer: Mrs Eric Jones
  • Costumes: Mrs Leeds
  • Designs: Miss Walker
  • Ho. Treasurer: Miss Bramwell
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Monica Sadler
  • Ass. Hon. Secretary: Mrs Rae

Episode V

  • Chairman: Mrs Hanson
  • Vice-Chairman: C. R. Stewart
  • Producer: Mrs Shiel
  • Marshal: J. Surtees
  • Mistress of Designs: Miss A. M. Kindberg
  • Master of Designs: The Hon. S. R. Vereker
  • Wardrobe: Mrs G. W. Forster
  • Horses: Mrs S. E. Wilson
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Norris

Episode VI

  • President: The Countess of Carlisle
  • Chairman: Mrs Fergus Graham
  • Vice-Chairman: Miss Watt
  • Marshal: Mrs Towill
  • Props: A Ronald Tassell
  • Designs: E. Scott Nicholson, ARIBA
  • Hon. Secretary: Lady Baxter, OBE
  • Assistant Hon. Sec.: Miss Janet Copland

Episode VII

  • President: The Lady Rayleigh
  • Chairman: T. D. Straker-Smith
  • Vice-Chairman: Lady Blackett
  • Producer: Brig-Gen. E. Riddell, CMG, DSO
  • Costumes: Miss Riddell
  • Designs: Mrs Norman Newell
  • Assistant designs: Miss Fletcher
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Kay

Episode VIII

  • Chairman: Mrs W. S. Wilson
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs A. Knox Haggie, JP
  • Producer: Mrs Angus McCraken
  • Marshal: Captain Vinning, RN
  • Wardrobe: Mrs. Stewart Reid
  • Hon. Secretaries: Mrs Batterbury, Mrs Nicholson and Mrs Craven.


Overall, women are well represented as office holders on nearly all of the committees. Of note too are the numbers of women with aristocratic titles in what were probably honorary roles. Mrs Cuthbert Headlam who was chair of the executive, also chaired a number of other key committees including the finance committee.8 The preponderance of women can be explained by the fact that the pageant was organised by members of the 'Women's Advisory Committee of the Northern Counties Area of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations'.9

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

  • McIntire, W.T.


The scriptwriter was W. T. McIntire, BA, FSA (Scot).10 He had been a writer on the Carlisle pageant in 1928 and would go on to write further pageants, for example the Chester Pageant held in 1937.

Names of composers



The music employed was either original or traditional; arrangers and/or composers are not specified in the Book of Words. It is assumed that the musical directors were responsible for the compositions and arrangements but unfortunately, individual pieces are not credited to their creators.

Numbers of performers


The pageant was advertised as having 6000 performers. The number included men, women and children and excluded the performers who were part of the orchestra and choir. Horses appeared in every episode and in the epilogue, and the high level of equestrian skill needed was commented on in the press. Oxen were used to pull the cart carrying the relics of St Cuthbert in Episode II.

Financial information

Precise figures have not been recovered, but newspaper reporting states that the pageant and Empire Fair together made a net profit of around £3000

Object of any funds raised

There were no intended recipients, but three hospitals did benefit from the profit made by the event including Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, Durham County Hospital (each received £400), and Carlisle Infirmary (£200). The remaining profit of around £2000 was allocated to the 'Women's Advisory Committee of the Northern Counties Area of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, which Committee was responsible for the promotion and organisation of the pageant'.13

Linked occasion

Empire Fair

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 4000
  • Total audience: 120000


With two additional performances added, it was reported that audiences had exceeded 120000.14

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 6d–1s. 1d.

For the original schedule of performances: seats in the covered stand cost 11/6; 8/6; 5/9; 3/6 and 2/4. Standing tickets cost 1/2. The covered auditorium held 4000. 15

Parking costs were as follows:

  • Bus or Charbanc, 2s.
  • Motor car, 1s. 6d.
  • Motor Cycle with Sidecar, 1s.
  • Motor Cycle, 9d.
  • Bicycle, 3d.16

At the two additional performances held on Monday 27th July, prices were reduced, but precise figures have not been recovered.17

For the dress rehearsals, prices were as follows:

  • For secondary, technical, private schools and colleges, Women's' Institutes, Mothers' Unions and similar organisations, admission to grounds and reserved but un-numbered seats were 2s. 4d. and 1s. 6d.
  • For all other groups tickets were priced at 1s. each.

Friday 17 July and Saturday 18 July at 7.00 pm (County and Citizens' Days)

  • Admission to grounds and seats on grandstand cost 2s. 4d., 1s. 6d. and 1s. 2d.

Associated events

The pageant took place as part of an Empire Fair held in the Palace of Arts in Newcastle. This presented an 'exhibition of light industries of the district'. Separate sections were given to Newcastle, Durham, Cumberland and Northumberland; each section was organised by a different committee. Women appear to have been to the fore as organisers; several aristocratic women were involved including Countess Grey, the Marchioness of Londonderry and the Countess of Carlisle. Period costumes also formed parts of the exhibition. A female dignitary opened the Empire Fair each day.18

Evening displays 'by numerous voluntary organisations' were also held on Monday 20th, Tuesday 21st, Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th July on the pageant ground at Leazes Park; in addition, on Monday 20 July the display closed with a 'Gigantic Display of Fireworks by Pains of London'.19 These entertainments commenced at 7.30pm each evening. Admission cost 2s. 4d., 1s 6d. or 1s. 2d.

Examples of entertainments included: on Monday 20 July:

  • The Band of the 72nd Barr. The RAF (TA)
  • Pyramids and Parallel Bar Exercises by the PCHA
  • Gateshead L &NER Temperance Union Choir. Conductor Mr George Robertson
  • Exhibition of Cumberland and Westmoreland Wrestling by Professor J. Spedding Robinson and Mr J. Hindmarsh
  • Gymnastics, dancing, Physical Training Exercises, etc., by Girls of Private Schools, arranged by Miss Edythe M. Williams
  • Classical Dancing, arranged by Mr C. J. Daniels
  • Winlaton Sword Dancers
  • Display by Newcastle School of Ju-Jit-Su, under direction of Professor J. Spedding Robinson
  • Scene - 'Retreat from Mons' by the Old Contemptibles Association.

On Tuesday 21 July there was a 'Great Jazz Band Contest', organised by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle.

On Thursday 23 July the following were presented:

  • The Band of the 72nd Barr. The RAF (TA)
  • Physical Training Display by Girls from Gateshead Secondary Schools, under the direction of Miss L. Bates
  • Felling Male Voice Choir, conducted by Mr T. H. Mearis
  • Display by Members of the Newcastle Aero Club.20

Pageant outline


Characters taking part in the prologue include Puck, the Spirit of the Borderland, and 'children of the three counties of Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland'.21 Puck enters in disguise, 'bearing the lamp of history'; groups of children follow, lured by Puck, who uses his lamp as a 'Will o' the Wisp'.22 When all the children arrive, they sing a song alongside the pageant choir. Puck reveals his true identity and sings a reply: 'Children of our counties three,/Mark this lamp of history'. The children come forward eagerly but Puck says they must first call forth 'the spirit of the North'. The children sing and dance in invitation to the spirit. The dance involves making configurations of a rose (representing Cumberland), a mitre (for Durham), and a tower (emblem of Northumberland). The spirit finally arrives in the form of a knightly figure clad in armour. He takes the lamp from Puck, raises it and states:

Roll back, ye years; time's current backward yield!
Rise from your tombs, and on this magic field
Stand forth, ye dead, in fleshly form revealed!

The opening chorus of Episode 1 commences while all involved in the prologue leave the arena. Junior performers were all pupils from dancing schools 'of the three Counties and the Young Britons'.

Episode I: The Emperor Hadrian commands the building of the Roman Bridge at Newcastle, AD 122

Three groups are involved in this episode. First of these are the Britons, including the following named characters: Amelduna, Queen of the Ottadeni; her daughter, Gwynned; her son, Osla; an aged warrior; Amelduna's trusted advisor, Galacus; the priestess, Synraiga; 10 British tribesmen and 5 British maidens. Second, among the Romans are the Emperor Hadrian; the legatus, Aulos Platorious Nepos; a military tribune; a centurion; as well as 'Metradores and Engineers', Hadrian's attendants, and officers and men of the Sixth Legion. Third, are the Picts, led by Brude the Pictish king. With him are his scouts and warriors. The pageant chorus opens with a song, which relates that although the Romans have gone from the north, 'Rome's mighty spirit lives on'. During this song, the Britons, led by Amelduna, enter; she is described as queen 'in the neighbourhood now the site of modern Newcastle'. Brude has summoned the Britons to a meeting and Amelduna protests at this humiliation and states that she wishes she had died, like her husband, fighting alongside the Romans. Galacus counsels that he has heard that the Romans have not deserted them but will return, and that Hadrian will soon arrive. Osla offers to ride out to meet the Romans and hasten their arrival, and the Britons urge their queen not to pay tribute to Brude. The priestess makes a sacrifice; from the animal's entrails she reads a sign that the Britons aided by Rome will be victorious against the Picts, and that the Romans will then stay on in Britain for 300 years.

The Britons become alarmed as Pictish scouts arrive. In their wake is Brude who 'bursts into the arena and makes towards the shrinking Ottadeni'. He demands his tribute but Amelduna refuses and declares that she 'appeals to Rome'. Brude is dismissive of her claim and states that in addition to his tribute of 200 cattle, he will take Gwynned and the other maidens. He orders his guards to seize the women but a blast of a Roman trumpet interrupts the struggle. The Romans appear, led by Osla. Roman auxiliaries easily subdue the Picts while the legionnaires sing their song: 'Victrix, Pia, Fidelis'. At the conclusion of this, Amelduna throws herself at the feet of the tribune, but he tells her to rise. The tribune addresses Brude and recognises a ring he is wearing as that of his 'friend Suidas of the ninth legion'. Brude is accused as a murderer. At this, Hadrian and his entourage, including Aulos Platorious Nepos, arrive. Hadrian orders that the Picts be put to death for insulting Roman allies and for destroying the ninth legion; the Picts are dragged off. Hadrian addresses the Romans and declares: 'Mark well this hill and this mighty river of Tyne. Here will I that the Roman Empire shall have its bound, and here will I have you build a strong fort'. He then orders the construction of the fort and of a bridge. Finally, when Platorious asks if this fortress will be enough to keep out the wild tribes of the north, he states he will build many forts and a wall from 'sea to sea'. Hadrian departs having left Platorious as his legate and accepted the thanks of Amelduna. Organisers and performers in this episode came from the districts of Tynemouth, Wansbeck, Wallsend and Morpeth.

Episode II: St Cuthbert's Body is brought to Durham, AD 995

The scene is set on 'Wardlaw Hill, a little to the east of where Durham now stands'.

Bishop Aldhun and some monks enter singing, accompanied by the pageant chorus; Cuthbert's body is carried on a cart drawn by oxen. All appear 'weary and travel stained', and one of the number, Brother Oswald, stumbles with fatigue and implores Aldhun that they rest on this spot. Aldhun agrees and asks the name of this place. Peasants appear; it is evident they have been woodcutting. They tell Aldhun the place is called Wardlaw and ask why Aldhun and his party travel. Aldhun explains and the peasants fall to their knees in adoration of 'the mighty saint'. Aldhun asks who owns Wardlaw and the peasants reply that it is the land of 'good earl Uhtred'; they warn that the Danes have landed at the coast and the earl has gone to meet them in battle. Aldhun then realises this is not a safe place and rallies all to leave, but the oxen refuse to move. A monk called Eadmer who is known to have visions, then exclaims that he has seen an apparition of Cuthbert, who desires that his resting place be made at Dunholme. Consternation ensues, as the monks do not know of this place; while this goes on, an old woman quietly enters. She states that she is looking for her strayed dun cow. A peasant says he has seen it grazing at Dunholme. Aldhun is joyful that they now know their 'journey's end', and the oxen carrying Cuthbert's remains start to move. The peasants offer their newly cut 'green boughs' as the 'first tabernacle of his sacred body on Dunholme's height'. As the monks make to leave, the earl and his wife, Ecgfrida, arrive. They have defeated the Danish 'sea-wolves' and rescued the nuns of Coldingham, who the Danes had captured. The rescued nuns, led by their prioress, enter singing. Uhtred welcomes Aldhun and the bishop informs the earl that the resting place for Cuthbert has now been revealed to them. The earl states that he will build a great church there in the saint's honour. The nuns prostrate themselves before Cuthbert's coffin and the prioress addresses Aldhun. She states that they too worship the 'wonder-working saint'. All then leave with the monks and nuns singing in Latin 'Fundamenta Eius'. Organisers and performers in this episode came from the districts of Gateshead, Houghton-le-Spring, Jarrow and Sunderland.

Episode III: Edward I and Bishop Bek, AD 1296

In addition to the two central characters, others taking part in this episode include: the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle; 23 'English Lords'; Princess Joan of Gloucester; Princess Elizabeth of Hereford; 24 ladies-in-waiting; servants; archers; foot soldiers; a 'Pursuivant'; pages; a jester; and a 'Chief Herald'. The Scottish contingent includes the Abbot of Aberbrothick [sic], and accompanying Scottish envoys. Also in the scene are actors in a miracle play, traders, friars, Morris dancers, minstrels, jongleurs, mountebanks, townsfolk and 'a leper'. The episode depicts an arranged meeting at Newcastle between Edward I and the 'puppet king' of Scotland, John Baliol [sic], at which Baliol fails to appear. Edward arrives with a colourful entourage at 'Newcastle town moor' during a fair day. The scene opens with the pageant chorus singing as crowds throng upon the arena. A constable clears the way for the mayor and his party who enter pompously. Edward is on horseback and as he reaches a dais, he dismounts. The royal household are arranged about the king who sits on a 'chair of state'. The mayor who offers a gift from the city greets the king. Edward praises Newcastle. Bishop Bek and his party then arrive; further greetings take place and the bishop apologises for being late, claiming that 'Durham's contumacious Prior... denied my right of visitation'. Edward offers to reward the bishop's 'zeal' and Bek states that Haddington and Berwick remain in the hands of the Scots, but 'rightfully belong to the see of Durham’. In response, Edward declares 'Berwick! The Scot! Words of ill omen'. He continues by denouncing 'Baliol' for failing to appear and calls him a traitor. The princesses approach the king and he asks that his daughters be well entertained while he goes off to war. The Chief Herald announces the arrival of the Abbot of Aberbrothick and other Scottish envoys. The abbot pleads on behalf of Baliol but the king dismisses the excuses offered and refers facetiously to Baliol by his nickname 'Toom Tabard' [empty coat].

Edward accuses Baliol of making an alliance with the French; the abbot denies this but Edward does not believe him. The king addresses the abbot saying, 'Go, tell your master that the hand which exalted him shall shortly abase him. The fool!’ Bishop Bek blesses the king and the English troops as they prepare to go to war with the Scots. Edward orders that a solemn mass be sung in St Nicholas's church. The episode ends with the bells of the church ringing; Edward announces, 'hard and weary is my task, but God hath set his hammer in my hand, nor will I lay it down till his will be accomplished'. The army then rides off. Organisers and performers in this episode came from Newcastle West.

Episode IV: Queen Philippa and the Battle of Neville's Cross, AD 1346

Part I: [untitled]

This episode is set 'in the neighbourhood of Red Hills near Durham'. It is presented in two untitled parts. In Part I, her chaplain Robert Eaglesfield accompanies Philippa of Hainault. Edward III is away in France and his wife is left to deal with the invading Scots. On the English side are a great many lords and ladies including, the Scottish claimant to the throne, Edward Baliol [sic], Sir Thomas Rokesby [sic], Lord Henry Percy and Lady Percy, Lord and Lady Neville, Lords Kirby, Hastings and Mowbray and John de Copeland. Also in the party are the bishops of York, Lincoln and Carlisle and the Prior of Durham. Within the Scottish contingent are David II, Sir William Douglas and the Earls of Fife and Montieth [sic]. A large number of performers play countrymen, soldiers and courtly attendants. Part I opens with the pageant choir singing:

From height to height, from keep to keep,
A chain of fire, the beacons glow.
Arise, and burst the bonds of sleep,
He comes in might—the foe, the foe!

As the chorus concludes, many frightened men, women and children enter the arena: they are in flight from the invading Scots. The Prior of Durham enters carrying the banner of St Cuthbert; he addresses all stating: 'be of good courage, for God and St. Cuthbert shall assuredly protect their own'. He advises the crowd that 'Lords Percy and Neville hasten to our aid'. At this, the queen and her entourage enter the arena. Philippa rides on a palfrey and expresses pity for the people; she asks Eaglesfield to see that 'they are succoured in Durham'. The prior speaks with Philippa and she expresses the hope that his prayers will be answered; at this the army, led by Percy and accompanied by the lords and bishops, begin to arrive. Alongside the army is Edward Baliol 'the dethoned king of Scotland'. Following greetings between Philippa and the Archbishop of York, the troops receive a blessing from York and they ride off to meet the Scots in battle. The queen departs the arena to await the outcome of the conflict.

Part II: [untitled]

The second part of the episode takes place close by Neville's Cross [near Durham] and opens with the pageant choir singing:

From Neville's Cross, Neville's Cross,
Throng the victors brave.
Captive in their hands they bring
Scotland's lords and wounded king.
Songs of praise to them we sing
Who the vict'ry gave.

At the conclusion of the chorus, the English leaders enter followed by cheering soldiers: they are met by the queen and attendants. The queen speaks with the archbishop who states that the 'earls of Murray and Strathmore, and many another Scottish nobleman are slain', and more are taken prisoner. The Scottish nobles are brought in prisoners. Finally, King David of Scotland, who has been captured by John of Copeland is led in. The queen behaves graciously towards the captive monarch and instructs her troops that although he is in league with the French enemy, he should be treated as a king. She orders ministration of his wounds; David is then led off.23 The archbishop also announces that the army has capturred the 'Black Rood of Edinburgh, Scotland's most sacred relic'; he orders it taken to the abbey. The scene ends with joyful singing of 'Te Deum' as all process out of the arena. Organisers and performers in this episode came from the district of mid-Durham.

Episode V: Marriage of Princess Margaret to James IV, AD 1503

The episode is set in 'countryside a little to the North of Berwick-upon-Tweed'. The choir sings a chorus that ends:

Now, when thistle mates with rose,
May our kindred realms repose.
O may these bands
With friendship's strands
Unite our ever warring lands.

While the chorus proceeds, the Archbishop of Glasgow and a large company of Scottish noblemen enter. A 'royal pavilion' is raised by attendants in the centre of the arena. The archbishop speaks with Lord and Lady Home, requesting that they receive the new queen at their castle during her journey northwards. The conversation makes clear that James is not coming to meet his new bride (whom he married by proxy) but will await her in Edinburgh. The duplicitous Lord Douglas enters the conversation and states, 'Berwick! Shame on us to see yon goodly burgh in the Southron's hands.' He is reproached by the archbishop who reminds him that this marriage is intended to 'end our discords for ever'. The queen and a 'brilliant procession' then enter and a formal conversation takes place between a Northumberland herald and a Scottish herald, after which each returns to their respective parties. The queen views the soberly dressed Scots and states that she is fearful; the earl of Northumberland replies that 'no Tudor ever showed fear' and he urges her forward to meet the Scots. The archbishop of Glasgow greets her and she notices the earl of Bothwell who acted as proxy for James at the marriage. The queen is offerred refreshments in the pavilion and while she drinks wine she watches a dance performed by ladies of the Scottish court. Most of the English party then make their farewells including Lord Dacre. Only the archbishops of York and Durham and the earl of Surrey remain from the English party.A messenger hurriedly appears on the scene announcing that the king is coming after all. Preparations are rapidly made and James IV rides onto the scene; he delivers flattery to the queen saying that he could not wait to see her. He then offers to escort her on her way to Fast Castle, while he returns to Edinburgh. The queen is carried out of the arena on a palfrey and all the remaining cast follow. Organisers and performers for this episode came from the districts of Blaydon and Consett.

Episode VI: Mary Queen of Scots at Cumberland, AD 1568

Part I: May 18th, 1568

The drama of this episode takes place outside of Carlisle Castle. The queen has fled south following defeat at the Battle of Langside. The pageant choir sing a song about this flight. Some Carlisle 'Burghers' and troops stand waiting for the arrival of the queen. The Burghers discuss her situation, which is judged to be one of entrapment. The queen arrives riding on a white horse. In the arriving company are Lord and Lady Lowther, Lord and Lady Curwen of Workington 'Mr William Fletcher (her host at Cockermouth) and other Cumbrian ladies and gentlmen'. Also travelling with the royal entourage from Scotland are Mary's associates: Villeroy de Beaumont (a French ambassador); Lord Herries; Lord and Lady Livingston; Lord and Lady Boyd; Willie Douglas and 'eleven other attendants who crossed the Solway with her in a fishing boat', including her companion Mary Seton. The queen appears 'travel-stained'. She is welcomed to Carlisle by Lowther who is embarrased by the situation. Mary behaves graciously and thanks the Curwens for thir hospitality; she makes them a gift of a small portrait of herself and a cup. Before giving these items over she calls for wine and drinks a toast from the cup saying 'luck to Workington Hall'. Mary is fatigued, and when asking where she is to lodge it becomes clear that she is to be effectively imprisoned at the Castle. The Scots are outraged, but Mary accepts her situation, saying 'a Stuart knows how to die'. The guards salute her as she rides through the castle gateway.

Part II: [untitled]

In between Parts I and II of the episode, the choir sing a song about Mary's imprisonment in the castle. Then the drama resumes with the Lowthers and their children in conversation with the captain of the guard outside the castle walls. Lord Lowther expresses sympathy for Mary and discomfort at being her gaoler. A football match between local men is taking place before the castle. The queen then arrives on horseback: she has been hawking. A chair is brought for her. She greets Lowther and enquires if a letter has arrived from Queen Elizabeth. On being told no letter has come she retires to the chair and observes the footballers, remarking that she envies their 'freedom'. A messenger wearing the livery of Lord Scrope arrives; he delivers a letter to Lowther that informs him he has been replaced as guard over Mary by Scrope and Sir Francis Knollys. The latter two then ride in. Scrope hands over a letter to Mary from Elizabeth. Mary eagerly tears it open, then having read its contents, begins weeping and tears the letter into pieces. Further humiliation comes when a trunk bearing clothes, requested by Mary from Elizabeth, is opened to reveal a mean selection in addition to a bolt of black velvet. Mary is told decisively that Elizabeth will not receive her: in despair, she instructs Herries to ride to London to plead her case at court, and tells the French ambassador he must 'protest against this outrage in all the Courts of Europe'. Mary and her attendants then file through an archway into the castle and the gates close behind her with 'a clang'. Organisers and performers for this episode came from the county of Cumberland.

Episode VII: Lord Derwentwater and Dorothy Forster, AD 1715

Part I: Lord Derwentwater's Departure

The pageant choir sings a chorus entitled 'Derwentwater's Farewell'. The drama takes place outside Dilston Hall near Hexham (the seat of the earls of Derwentwater) where a crowd of tenants are at work. Workers include a blacksmith, and a steward called William Grainger supervises them all. Lord and Lady Derwentwater, Charles Radclyffe (younger brother of the lord) and Mr Errington (the lord's friend) enter; servants including a 'negro' accompany them. A warrant has been issued for Derwentwater following the pronouncement of James III (the Old Pretender) as king in Scotland, and he prepares to leave Dilston. Errington advises Derwentwater not to join this 'ill-timed rising' and cautions that his beloved tenants will suffer for it. Lady Derwentwater, on the other hand, encourages him vociferously to go forward and support the Stuart cause. Troops are spotted approaching and while conversation ensues about whom the incomers might be, a group on horseback enters.

This party includes the Jacobite supporters Thomas Forster, Lord Widdrington, George Collingwood, Colonel Oxburgh and Robert Patten (a renegade curate of Penrith). They are followed by 70 men on foot and at the head of this column is a Northumbrian piper; the riders advance to the centre of the arena and dismount. Forster calls for water and when given this raises a toast to James III. Forster and the others, including Charles Radclyffe, encourage Derwentwater to join the cause and when he hesitates, accuse him of being 'loth to risk his wealth'. Lady Derwentwater joins with them and throws down her fan in disgust at her husband. Lord Derwentwater at last submits to this pressure and asks his tenants if they will support him. They reply 'we'll aal dee for ye, me Lord!' He then rallies his tenants asking them to fetch all the horses. Lady Derwentwater continues to offer effusive encouragement and her husband replies 'Ah, woman, little you wot the ruin you have brought upon our house'. A labourer then calls out that dragoons are coming and urges Derwentwater to flee; he makes off on horseback accompanied by his servant. At last, Lady Derwentwater expresses regret stating she has sent her husband to his certain death. Errington says that they must have courage for fate has willed this situation. All exit the arena.

Part II: Lord Derwentwater's Return

The interval between the two parts is meant to represent 'the disastrous course' of the 1715 rebellion and the imprisonment and execution of many Jacobites, including Lord Derwentwater, who went to the scaffold. The bell of the chapel at Dilston tolls and tenants mournfully await the return of Derwentwater's body. Dorothy Forster (a Jacobite sympathiser) and Mr Errington ride onto the scene. Dorothy has recently rescued her brother, Thomas, who had been captured. The two converse and it emerges that Lady Derwentwater is grief stricken. The funeral cortege arrives and the choir sings a mournful song about the death of the 'gallant Earl'. Lady Derwentwater joins behind the coffin and is supported by Dorothy Forster. She looks to a tenant for sympathy but is 'rebuffed'. Six white-clad young women throw flowers upon the coffin. The choir sings 'In Paradisun'. Organisers and performers for this episode came from Hexham.

Episode VIII: An Eighteenth Century Fair at Newcastle

The episode depicts the 'social life and amusements of the people of the North' at a fair held on Newcastle Town Moor in the 'second half of the eighteenth century'. Various groups of 'showmen' take up their places while a conversation ensues between members of a wedding party. Various traditions associated with weddings are discussed and displayed, such as the bride throwing her stocking over her shoulder. All dialogue is presented in dialect. A sword dance takes place. A milkmaid then dashes forward to claim that 'awd Margery' (who is described as a witch) has soured her milk. The crowd grab at the old woman and prepare to duck her when John Wesley appears on the scene. He attempts to protect Margery but the crowd turn on him too. Then a 'virago of a market woman' comes to the defence of both and the situation is defused. The attention of all is then distracted by the arrival of a 'train of pack horses and pack men'. Some men drink illegal Scotch whisky purveyed by a character called Sandy. Different scenarios unfold while the activities of the fair go on; these include maypole dancing and traditional Northumbrian games. A piper who is called Jamie arrives and is accused of deserting his fiancée: he appeals to Sandy for help to escape. The two make off, pursued by a constable. Meantime a crowd of countrymen arrive carrying a 'kern-baby' and various high jinks take place as this group celebrate bringing in the harvest. A London stagecoach rolls on and its fashionable passengers disembark; some locals are sceptical about this new mode of transport, and other older vehicles come onto the arena. A runaway couple whose 'post-chaise' has broken down rush on the scene. The would-be bride's father pursues the young people and arrives at the fair before the coach can be repaired; but after a comic argument, the situation is resolved amicably and they all retire to a local inn for 'a pint of claret'. Performers and organisers for this episode came from Newcastle central, east and north.

Epilogue, Grande Finale and March Past

The Spirit of the Borderland, together with Puck and the children who appeared in the prologue, all enter the arena. The Spirit reminds the children 'that it is not only from the great characters and events of history that they have received their inheritance'. He summons others from the past and shows the children 'some of the heroes of ballad and romance' and 'of daily life'. Among those presented are an eclectic mix of King Ida, the Venerable Bede, Henry Hotspur (Percy), Thomas Horsley (endower of Newcastle Grammar School), Lord William Howard (of Naworth), Sir John Marley (former mayor of Newcastle), Admiral Collingwood, inventor George Stephenson and Grace Darling. From balladry, Chevy Chase, Jock o' the Side and Hobbie Noble [border reivers], the Hermit of Warkworth and the Young Lochinvar, are presented.

While all these tableaux are ongoing the pageant chorus, Puck and the children sing individual verses about all of the characters as each enters the arena. At the close of this episode, the performers in these final tableaux then move to the corners of the arena and all the actors from previous episodes re-enter. A final sung verse ends with the lines:

So praise we all of high or mean estate
Who helped to make our Northern country great.

The choir then sings a 'Final Chorus'; as this proceeds the principal actor in each episode and of the final tableaux 'lays down before the Spirit of the borderland a gift symbolical of the heritage his or her age bequeathed to posterity'. For example, Bishop Aldhun offers 'an illuminated manuscript of the gospels' and Edward I lays down 'the hammer with which he began the forging of the unification of the realms of England and Scotland'. The epilogue ends with the choir, performers and audience singing of 'O God Our Help in Ages Past'. During this hymn, all the performers gradually exit the arena until only Puck, the Spirit and the children are left.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hadrian [Traianus Hadrianus] (AD 76–138) Roman emperor
  • Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c.635–687) bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Aldhun (d. 1018) bishop of Durham
  • Uhtred, earl of Bamburgh (d. 1016) magnate
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Bek, Antony (I) (c.1245–1311) bishop of Durham
  • John [John de Balliol] (c.1248x50–1314) king of Scots
  • Joan [Joan of Acre], countess of Hertford and Gloucester (1272–1307) princess
  • Philippa [Philippa of Hainault] (1310x15?–1369) queen of England, consort of Edward III
  • Balliol, Edward (b. in or after 1281, d. 1364) claimant to the Scottish throne
  • David II (1324–1371) king of Scots
  • Percy, Henry, second Lord Percy (1301–1352) soldier and magnate
  • Idonea (d. 1365) wife of Henry Percy
  • Sir Ralph [ii] Hastings (c.1322–1397)
  • Mowbray, John (II), third Lord Mowbray (1310–1361) magnate
  • Zouche, William (d. 1352) administrator and archbishop of York
  • Fossor, John (1283x5–1374) prior of Durham
  • Bek, Thomas (II) (1283–1347) bishop of Lincoln
  • Douglas, Sir William, lord of Liddesdale (c.1310–1353) soldier and magnate
  • Duncan (IV) Macduff, ninth earl of Fife (1289/90–1353)
  • Margaret [Margaret Tudor] (1489–1541) queen of Scots, consort of James IV
  • Percy, Henry Algernon, fifth earl of Northumberland (1478–1527) magnate
  • Blackadder [Blacader], Robert (c.1445–1508) administrator and archbishop of Glasgow
  • Alexander Hume, second Lord Hume (d. 1506)
  • Hepburn, Patrick, first earl of Bothwell (c.1455–1508) magnate and administrator
  • Douglas, Archibald [nicknamed Bell-the-Cat], fifth earl of Angus (c.1449–1513) magnate and rebel
  • Dacre, Thomas, second Baron Dacre of Gilsland (1467–1525) magnate and soldier
  • Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524) magnate and soldier
  • Sever [Senhouse], William (d. 1505) bishop of Durham
  • Savage, Thomas (d. 1507) administrator and archbishop of York
  • James IV (1473–1513) king of Scots
  • Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
  • Lowther, Sir Richard (1532–1608) landowner and soldier
  • Frances Middleton (d. 1597) wife of Sir Richard Lowther
  • Mary Seton (b. c.1541, d. after 1615)
  • Maxwell, John, fourth Lord Herries of Terregles (c.1512–1583) nobleman
  • Livingston, William, sixth Lord Livingston (d. 1592) nobleman
  • Boyd, Robert, fifth Lord Boyd (c.1517–1590) nobleman Lord and Lady Boyd,
  • Scrope, Henry, ninth Baron Scrope of Bolton (1533/4–1592) soldier
  • Knollys, Sir Francis (1511/12–1596) politician
  • Radcliffe, James, styled third earl of Derwentwater (1689–1716) Jacobite army officer
  • Charles Radcliffe, styled fifth earl of Derwentwater (1693–1746) Jacobite conspirator
  • Widdrington, William, fourth Baron Widdrington (1677/8–1743) Jacobite leader
  • Collingwood, George (c.1679–1716) Jacobite insurgent
  • Oxburgh, Henry (d. 1716) Jacobite insurgent
  • Forster, Thomas (bap. 1683, d. 1738) politician and Jacobite army officer
  • Patten, Robert (fl. 1715–1718) Jacobite chaplain and writer
  • Wesley [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
  • Ida (d. 559/60) king of Bernicia
  • Bede [St Bede, Bæda, known as the Venerable Bede] (673/4–735) monk, historian, and theologian
  • Percy, Sir Henry [called Henry Hotspur] (1364–1403) soldier
  • Howard, Lord William (1563–1640) antiquary and landowner
  • Collingwood, Cuthbert, Baron Collingwood (1748–1810) naval officer
  • Stephenson, George (1781–1848) colliery and railway engineer
  • Darling, Grace Horsley (1815–1842) heroine

Musical production

An orchestra of 100 musicians delivered musical accompaniment; and there was a choir of 500 voices.24 There were four directors of Music: H. Yeaman Dodds; S.T.M. Newman; Harold Oswold; and Ernest J. Potts. 25 Most of the music was original and individual arrangers and composers are not specified in the Book of Words. It is assumed that the musical directors were responsible for the compositions and arrangements.

Musical items included the following:

  • Untitled choral music (Prologue)
  • Song: 'Victrix, Pia, Fidelis' (Episode I)
  • Untitled choral music sung by the monks and choir (Episode II)
  • Untitled hymn sung by nuns (Episode II)
  • Psalm: 'Fundamenta Eius', sung by nuns (Episode II)
  • Untitled chorus (Episode III)
  • Untitled chorus (Episode IV, Parts I)
  • Untitled chorus (Episode IV, Parts II)
  • 'Te Deum', (conclusion of Episode IV)
  • Untitled chorus (Episode V)
  • Unspecified dance music (Episode V)
  • Untitled chorus (Episode VI)
  • Chorus: 'Derwentwater's Farewell' (Episode VII, Part I)
  • Chorus: Funeral song (Episode VII, Part II)
  • Chant: 'In Paradisun' (Episode VII, Part II)
  • Unspecified traditional music (Episode VIII)
  • Untitled chorus (Epilogue)
  • Final chorus (Epilogue)
  • Hymn: 'O God Our Help in Ages Past' (Epilogue).

Also, a piper (Edward Merrick) played in Episodes VII and VIII.26

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Berwickshire Advertiser
Dundee Evening Telegraph
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
Illustrated London News
Lancashire Evening Post
Newcastle Journal
Newcastle Evening Chronicle
Nottingham Evening Post
Sunderland Daily Echo
Manchester Guardian
Yorkshire Post

Book of words

The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words, One Shilling. Newcastle, 1931.

Other primary published materials

  • Handbook of the Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North & Empire Fair, 1931. Newcastle, 1931.
  • Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Official souvenir and programme. Newcastle, 1931.
  • The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Monday, July 20th, 1931 to Saturday, July 25th, 1931 at 2.45 pm Daily and on Wednesday and Saturday Evenings, July 22nd and 25th at 7 pm. Newcastle, 1931.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Northumberland Archives, Ashington holds:
  • 1 copy of the Booklet, ref: MOR/MU/233/85 (b)
  • Newscuttings regarding the pageant, ref: MOR/MU/233/85
  • Darlington Public Library, Local studies section holds:
  • 1 copy of the Book of Words, classification: U406h
  • The National Library of Scotland holds:
  • 1 copy of the Book of Words, shelfmark: HP3.80.1466
  • Tyne and Wear Archives, Newcastle holds:
  • 1 copy of the Book of Words, ref: DX1119/3
  • 1 copy of Official Souvenir and Programme, ref: DX1119/2
  • 1 copy of Official Handbook, ref: L/PA/1801
  • North East Film Archive and BFI online:
  • NEFA holds around 15 minutes of film of the pageant, catalogued as Film no. 21203.27 The British Film Institute have made this available to view online at: http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-historical-pageant-of-newcastle-and-the-north-1931-1931/
  • No

Sources used in preparation of pageant


Although not specified, it is likely that the pageant scriptwriter based some of the drama of Episode VII on a popular romantic novel by Walter Besant entitled Dorothy Forster: a Novel (first published London, 1884). This dramatised the involvement of the Derwentwater family and others in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.


One of the fundamental tenets of historical pageantry was, and is, that it brought people together in a common purpose. The Pageant of Newcastle and the North took this notion of communal involvement even further than most, involving people from a vast swathe of the north of England, including three counties and several major centres of population, not least of which was the city of Newcastle. In the north of England in 1930, morale was low and unemployment high; it was in these circumstances that the Women's Committee of the Northern Counties Area of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations decided that something must be done. The something they resolved upon was a pageant and an accompanying industrial fair.

The organisation emphasised that 'the political side' was not to the fore of their thinking and the pageant would involve 'all classes'.28 Clearly, some kind of social and economic initiative underlined this plan to bring the people of the north together, and ironically, given the depressed state of the economy, no expense was to be spared in making this a spectacular pageant and manufacturing display. Underlining this organisation's thinking was the premise that re-enacting the past could somehow alleviate social problems. However incongruous this scenario may seem to twenty-first century eyes, the assertion that pageantry could provide a boost to both local economies and individual and collective spirits seems to have grown in this period. The Border city of Carlisle pulled off this feat in 1928 with a civic week and pageant, and they were followed by Salford in 1930. Both of these pageants were held as economic and social booster-events, and both were big successes. Thus, the belief spread that a pageant could be a panacea, at least in the short-term. Whether or not we are persuaded by the idea that pageantry was an initiative driven by the social consciences of the privileged, the Conservative women seem to have got it right in this instance: for despite hard times, the pageant of Newcastle and the North was a phenomenal success. Moreover, given that 6000 performers took part, it is almost certain that people of all classes did indeed participate. Albeit local aristocrats and descendants of the high and mighty often took the plum roles, this type of allocation actually proved to be an added attraction.29 Were the oppressed miners and shipyard workers of Tyneside duped and distracted from legitimate protest? To make this argument would be to overlook some of the realities of the political landscape in the north in the interwar years. In the general election that would follow the pageant held in October 1931, for instance, all four parliamentary constituencies in Newcastle returned a Conservative candidate, and each with large majorities.30 This left the city without a single Labour representative in government at a time when industrial unrest in the north was always waiting in the wings.

This event also reflects the reality of the historical pageant landscape by the early 1930s. Although the Conservative women may genuinely have wished to bring the people of the north of England together to celebrate their common history, undeniably, the decision to stage the pageant on a grand scale was also a pragmatic one: by 1930 nothing less than an extravaganza could ensure that a city-based pageant packed in the crowds. By drawing on the resources—human and financial—of three counties together, a bigger show was easier to achieve. The fact that it took place in Newcastle rather than at the country estate of one of its many benefactors also underlines the rise of the industrial city as an acceptable home for pageantry. An 'Empire Fair' replaced the usual 'civic week' as the platform for the city-based pageant in this instance. In reality, the Fair was mostly a manufacturing display, but the use of this title was probably diplomatic, for it conveniently circumvented the problem of giving too much attention to the urban venue of Newcastle, given that the whole event had a wider geographic interest. Yet the use of this imperial appellation for what was in all but name a trade exhibition does underline the continuing importance, both materially and psychologically, of the idea of empire to the British national psyche. Furthermore, imperial connections evidently mattered to the confidence of Britain's manufacturing centres who still considered themselves as being at the heart of a great trading nexus. The Fair also enjoyed success and attracted many visitors, but as with most industrial shows to which a pageant was annexed, the pageant was the real, popular draw.

In order to ensure success, the organisers brought in some of the leading pageant professionals of the time; thus, Baring Brothers had a hand in the initial administration of the event.31 In all likelihood, it was Edward Baring in turn who brought in Walter McIntire as scriptwriter for the pageant. McIntire would go on to become a full time literary figure as editor of the scholarly journal Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, and author of many popular histories as well as pageants.32 He was a good choice, for as a writer he was sensitive to the need to include local stories, whether fact or fiction, in his pageants and wrote scenarios that were designed to bring maximum drama into re-enactments of the past. McIntire wrote eight episodes; these were bookended by a prologue and epilogue, both of which were enlivened by hundreds of child dancers. He seems to have aimed at keeping the drama moving and avoiding long waits between episodes.

The organisation of this pageant meant that most of the rehearsing could take place locally, for each of the episodes was assigned to organisers and players in particular localities. This was important, for this part of England covers a large area, much of which is rural; up until the final dress rehearsals, lengthy journeys for performers were largely avoided. In turn, each of the episodes also had its own producer(s). Overseeing all, however, was Lionel Lightfoot who would go on to make quite a name for himself in amateur theatre, and had already been Pageant Master at the 1928 Carlisle pageant.33 The involvement of key individuals such as McIntire and Lightfoot was to influence the 1931 pageant, for although it celebrated Border history on a wider scale than had been the case in Carlisle, it is evident that the Cumbrian take on the past tended to predominate. Overall, this pageant did not attempt wholesale innovation, but instead employed the tried and tested formula that had been used to good effect in Carlisle three years earlier. Thus it began with the Romans and ended in the mid-eighteenth century. The important industrial history of Newcastle (as one example) was simply left out. This is not to say, however, that this pageant never courted any controversy: unlike in Carlisle, the Scots did not always get a sympathetic treatment! Moreover, the reality of the border with Scotland was implicit in much of the storyline.

This borderland theme is evident from the start. Episode I predictably features the Emperor Hadrian; but it is the Roman rescue of the Britons from the duplicitous and scurrilous Caledonians that propels this episode, rather than the usual narrative of Druids and human sacrifice. The Pictish king is depicted as a barbarian who can only be warded off by the assurance of civilised Roman governance. Furthermore, the Britons wholeheartedly welcome Roman intervention, for it is made clear that they would do anything rather than be dominated by such uncivilised hordes. Planning for the wall of separation along the border ends the episode, and thereafter it is clear that this is a tale of those who identify with being south of this mighty divide. Another northern favourite takes the stage in Episode II: the corpse of St Cuthbert, tragically trundling hither and thither across the north to escape the repeated invasions of pagan Danes. Cuthbert was of course of huge importance to the story of Christianity's spread across the north of England, but the storyline applied by McIntire allowed Durham to gain its moment in the pageant spotlight as the site of the decision to build a great church in thanks for finding a final, safe resting place for Cuthbert.

The usual suspects of northern English pageants are even more in evidence in Episode III, in which Edward I takes centre stage. The terrible Scots are the pretext for his visit to Newcastle and it is from there, with proverbial hammer in hand, that he rides off to take them to task. The moral of this episode seems to be that the long road to Union began with Edward. As he always is in pageants in the north, Edward is presented as an enlightened, brave and wise ruler: one whose indefatigable spirit in the conflict with the Scots trail blazed the way to an inevitable outcome several centuries later. The story does come near to being rude about Scotland and the Scots; certainly, there is a dismissive tone, which extends to the Book of Words. Scottish names are constantly misspelled, for example, Baliol (instead of Balliol) and Aberbrothick (properly Aberbrothock). This kind of insidious defaming is not usual in interwar historical pageantry, and it is likely that McIntire was aware of the correct spellings. Episode IV offers further humiliation of the Scots, with their defeat at Neville's Cross in 1346. No mention is made at all of the northern neighbours' defence of their own sovereignty. Instead, the narrative strategy applied has something of a triumphant quality, and is a feature that once again distinguishes this pageant from most others of the time. Nonetheless, in this episode, the English queen behaves impeccably towards the enemy and is portrayed as magnanimous in victory: she not only spares the life of the captured Scottish king, but also orders that he be treated in a manner befitting his royal station.

The second half of the pageant continues in this line, with another female English royal showing the uncouth Scots how to behave in Episode V. This person is Henry VIII's sister Margaret, who is sent off to marry James IV of Scotland. This political strategy is shown very much from an English perspective. Set in the oft-contested territory of Berwick on Tweed, the English contingent are shown as a colourful and dazzling pageant travelling north. At this key place on the English side of the border they meet the Scots' welcome party, many of whom are depicted as drab, dour and bitter Presbyterians. The civilising influence of the English-born future queen of Scots is foregrounded when her husband finally takes the trouble to ride out to Berwick to greet her and ensure her wellbeing, even if he quickly hightails it back to Edinburgh. There is no let up in the parade of Scottish royal women, as the most famous of these features in Episode VI. Given over to the charge of Cumberland organisers and performers, this episode more or less reprised the drama featuring Mary shown in the 1928 Carlisle pageant. At Carlisle and again at Newcastle, Mary is shown at her most fragile and tragic in a generally sympathetic portrayal, which contrasts greatly with her treatment in pageants north of the Scottish borders. In many Scottish pageants, the tragedy of Mary's story is treated rather more equivocally for she was, and remains, a controversial figure. Once again, as she had at Carlisle, Lady Carlisle took the role of Mary for some performances and once again, she proved a popular choice.

The final episodes also reprised familiar northern pageant territory. Episode VII covers the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. This historical narrative is dealt with very much from a local standpoint, and McIntire employed, as many pageant scriptwriters had lately come to do, a well-known fictional storyline in order to enliven factual history and create extra romance. The tale dramatised was taken from the Victorian novel Dorothy Forster, and showed the entire Jacobite escapade in 1715 as a misguided venture that would only interrupt, but not stop the path towards permanent and amicable union between England and Scotland. The final episode was also of Cumbrian inspiration, and simply transposed the final episode of Carlisle's 1928 pageant to Newcastle at harvest-fair time. Local motifs were used, however, and McIntire even employed a Newcastle woman to rewrite his script for this episode in Tyneside dialect.34 Perhaps realising that he had depended overmuch in some episodes upon Cumbrian history, the scriptwriter further turned his attention to wider northern sensibilities in the epilogue. Here he embellished the finale to include many characters from legend that had an association or particular popularity across the north. Indeed, no opportunity was lost to squeeze in a bit more of the past without losing the audience's patience in an overlong presentation. In McIntyre' stated opinion 'nowhere could be found material richer in romantic and dramatic interest' than the north of England.35 To this end, the epilogue contained myriad, fast-moving tableaux of local heroes.

Given the success of this pageant, which enjoyed full houses and required two extra performances to satisfy demand for tickets, there can be no doubt that the history portrayed proved genuinely popular. McIntire was a knowledgeable historian but he was also unafraid of applying a popular approach to the past. Moreover, music and spectacle, rather than a complicated, lengthy script helped the drama appeal to a wide audience. A choir of 500 sang original choruses and was accompanied by a 100-piece orchestra. Equestrianism featured in most episodes: this was usually a winner with spectators, and proved to be the case at Newcastle. Providing yet more evidence that pageantry had entered into competition with cinema by the interwar period, it was said that riders at the pageant needed to have 'the pluck of a Buffalo Bill or a Douglas Fairbanks' in order to make their mark in this particular recreation of the past.36

Beyond ensuring the security of patrons' subscriptions, this pageant was probably never about making a financial return; its purpose was more complicated than mere profit. Yet a respectable income was made from both the pageant (including its evening attractions) and the Empire Fair; most of this sum of around £3000 was returned to the Conservative Women's Association, no doubt to further their work in the depression-struck north. However, hospitals in Carlisle, Durham and Newcastle did also receive charitable sums. Notably, none went directly to charities relieving the unemployed and underemployed. Yet at a time when loss was the singular trait associated with this part of Britain, the Newcastle and the North pageant proved to be a winner. One of the pageant's emphatically stated aims was to 'foster a feeling of legitimate pride in the wonderful history of Northern England', and it manifestly achieved this goal.37


  1. ^ Pageant Booklet: The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Monday, July 20th, 1931 to Saturday, July 25th, 1931 at 2.45 pm Daily and on Wednesday and Saturday Evenings, July 22nd and 25th at 7 pm (Newcastle, 1931), 1.
  2. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words, One Shilling (Newcastle, 1931), 31.
  3. ^ 'The Pageant', Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 28 July 1931, 6.
  4. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words, 105.
  5. ^ 'Historical Pageant' Sunderland Daily Echo, 10 November 1932, 8.
  6. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words, 105.
  7. ^ For all information on committees see the pageant booklet: The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 3.
  8. ^ For information about members of episodes' committees see The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words.
  9. ^ 'Newcastle Pageant', Yorkshire Post, 12 October 1931, 2.
  10. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 3.
  11. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1.
  12. ^ See for example, 'Pageant Realism', Gloucester Citizen, 8 May 1931, 5.
  13. ^ 'Newcastle Pageant', Yorkshire Post, 12 October 1931, 2.
  14. ^ 'The Pageant', Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 28 July 1931, 6.
  15. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1.
  16. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North, Leazes Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 12
  17. ^ 'The Pageant', Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 28 July 1931, 6.
  18. ^ 'Pageant Opening at Newcastle', Yorkshire Post, 20 July 1931, 12.
  19. ^ Advertisement, Sunderland Daily Echo, 18 July 1931, 7.
  20. ^ The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words.
  21. ^ Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations in the synopses text are taken from The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words.
  22. ^ Some excellent black and white film of this sequence featuring Puck as well as other parts of the pageant can be viewed online at The British Film Institute's BFI Player; accessed 16 September 2016, at http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-historical-pageant-of-newcastle-and-the-north-1931-1931/
  23. ^ In the Book of Words there is an error in the description of the king being led away in which David is mistakenly called 'Baliol'.
  24. ^ Advertisement, Berwickshire News, 21 July 1931, 2.
  25. ^ Unless otherwise specified, for all information about musical directors and pageant choruses see: The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words.
  26. ^ 'Newcastle Pageant', Newcastle Journal, 22 June 1931 [extracted from news-cuttings held in Northumberland Archives].
  27. ^ A description of the holding is available online at: http://www.northeastfilmarchive.com/videos/21203
  28. ^ 'A Woman on Wearside', Sunderland Daily Echo, 6 March 1931, 8
  29. ^ Several articles comment on this and it was clearly used as an extra draw in advance of the pageant; see for example, 'Pageant of the North', Nottingham Evening Post, 3 July 1931, 6.
  30. ^ For statistics on the election see 'UK General Election Results', accessed 16 September 2016 at http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/ge31/i14.htm
  31. ^ Several newspaper articles mention the involvement of Baring: see, for example, 'Newcastle Pageant: Performers Who Appear as Their Ancestors', Manchester Guardian, 17 July 1931, 15
  32. ^ McIntire had stepped in to rescue the 1928 Carlisle pageant when its amateur writer relocated from the Border city to London.
  33. ^ Lightfoot too had saved the day in Carlisle in 1928 when Pageant Master Frank Lascelles was taken ill.
  34. ^ McIntire acknowledged his thanks to 'Mrs Anderson': see The Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North July 20th-25th, 1931: Book of Words, 90.
  35. ^ McIntire quoted in 'A Pageant of the North', Nottingham Evening Post, 8 May 1931, 4.
  36. ^ 'Pageant Realism', Gloucester Citizen, 8 May 1931, 5.
  37. ^ 'A Pageant of the North', Nottingham Evening Post, 8 May 1931, 4.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Newcastle and the North’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1299/