Historical Pageant of Warkworth
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle
The pageant was organised by members of Warkworth War Memorial Institute. But it is clear there was wider village involvement in the event; and it probably involved actors from the Warkworth Players.
Place: Warkworth Castle (Amble) (Amble, Northumberland, England)
Number of performances: 2
1–3 August 1931
The pageant took place on Saturday 1 August and Monday 3 August 1931. It commenced at 2pm.2 Warkworth Castle is another of the historic homes of the Percy family and is famous as an important fortress near the border between England and Scotland.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer (Pageant Master): Kennedy, D.D.
- Mistress of the Robes: Mrs M. Urwin
- Assistants to the Mistress of the Robes: Mesdames G. Edward Carr, E. Carse, Ralph Carr, J. Alderson, Miss H. M. Huggup, Miss Waters and Mrs Sutton.3
- Dance teacher: Mr John Miller, Headmaster, CE School, Warkworth
The producer's name is given as D.D. Kennedy, Esq., JP.4
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Hon. Secretary: Mr W.J. Taylor
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Vincent, C.V.H.
C.V.H. Vincent wrote the script of episodes I and IV. C.W. Scholey—a member of a local amateur dramatic group—is named as responsible for the prologue; however it is unclear if he merely arranged the tableaux or if he was also responsible for writing the narration.5
Names of composers
The music used was traditional.
Numbers of performers250
The figure of 250 is an estimate; performers included men, women and children. The arrangement/script of the prologue was by C.W. Scholey and the Rev. R.R. Rider narrated it.
Object of any funds raised
Warkworth War Memorial Institute
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
A Bazaar was also held on the castle grounds within a tent. This included stalls selling fancy goods and produce, as well as refreshments. There were a variety of side-shows such as the Wheel of Fortune and a 'Fishing Pool', a 'Grand Exhibition of Angora and other Rabbits' and 'Clock Golf'.7
The Rev. R.R. Rider delivered narration while five tableaux were presented. The first four tableaux were based on 'panels in the pulpit of the Church of St Lawrence, Warkworth'; the last is based a window in York Minster. The tableaux were as follows:
1: Saint Lawrence distributing arms [sic] to the poor, AD 250: this involved four players in the roles of St Lawrence and three 'peasants'.9
2: King Ceolwulph of Northumberland resigning his kingship, AD 737: In addition to the king, the figures of the Bishop of Lindisfarne and two monks were seen
3: Abbess Hilda of Whitby greeting the Poet Caedmon, AD 679: the two main characters were joined by a nun.
4. Benedict Biscop building the Church at Jarrow, AD 682: this contained two monks in addition to Biscop.
5: St Cuthbert crossing over to Coquet Island, AD 684: St Cuthbert was seen depicted alongside four monks.
Episode I: St Cuthbert on Coquet Island, AD 684
The description of this episode given in the pageant programme is as follows:
The voices of St. Cuthbert and Oswald [a boy] are heard in the distance, Cuthbert is saying his daily Mass which is answered by the boy Oswald. Oswald enters, followed soon after by Cuthbert, the boy runs to the side of the arena and scans the horizon, he soon shews [sic] signs of excitement and runs back to Cuthbert to tell him who is coming. Oswy the Priest arrives, then the King [Egfrid], his attendants, soldiers and others, later on came the Abbess and her Nuns also Bertha [an orphan girl]. The King and the Abbess, who are brother and sister, entreat Cuthbert to leave his retreat and come back to the mainland to work among the people again who crying out for his return. Cuthbert however remains deaf to their pleadings, but is strangely moved by the story of Bertha, an orphan girl, who tells of a vision she has had, wherein an angel told her to go and bid the monk Cuthbert to return and be Bishop as Northumbria needed him. Bertha's beautiful appeal succeeds and Cuthbert consents to return and become Bishop of Lindisfarne; all kneel as he pronounces a blessing and then a Litany is sung as they depart.
In addition to the main players, there were performers in the roles of the king's attendants, soldiers, peasants and nuns. All together 64 players took part (29 men and 35 women.
Episode II: Harry Hotspur's departure from Warkworth Castle before the Battle of Shrewsbury, July 1403
This episode is informed by part I, act II, scene III of Shakespeare's Henry IV. The action is set in the courtyard of Warkworth Castle. The pageant programme states that 'the entry of the Men-at-Arms, Retainers, Ladies of the Household and Nobles' is portrayed as they arrive to 'wish Hotspur good luck in his undertaking'. The programme further states:
Lady Elizabeth Percy (Hotspur's wife) is there with her two children, the boy afterwards to become the second Earl of Northumberland... the old Earl (Hotspur's father) enters and greets Lady Percy and the children; Hotspur is cheered as he arrives all ready for his journey. Earl Douglas follows attended by a few of his men. Greetings are exchanged a few last instructions are given, and then Hotspur bids good-bye to the members of the Household, and takes an affectionate farewell of his wife and children. He is cheered again (and the famous Percy battle-cry ‘Esperance’ is shouted) as he departs with Douglas and his bodyguard.
In total, 63 players took part in the episode (30 men, 31 women and 2 girls in the roles of Percy's children—Henry and Elizabeth).
Episode III: The Hermit of Warkworth [16th century]
This fictional episode is presented in two scenes; it depicts some of the drama from Thomas Percy's well-known ballad, 'The Hermit of Warkworth' (first published 1771). In the first of the scenes, the Hermit enters and appears despondent. He hears someone crying and discovers Alianor who weeps at the loss of her lover. The Hermit goes out in search of him and hears a hunting horn. The pageant programme gives the following description of the rest of the drama:
the Hermit re-enters bringing on Sir Henry Percy, who clasps his lady love in fond embrace. Percy looking around wonders what place is this, and the Hermit indicates that the rightful Earl is banished and that the Castle is going to ruin and decay. Percy then rises and declares himself. The Hermit gazes at him in joy and amazement, prays to heaven and then blesses Percy who kneels, likewise Alianor who kneels...
The second scene in the episode depicts the story that the Hermit proceeds to tell the young couple. This features Sir Bertram of Bothal (who is in fact the hermit as a young man) and the lady in the tale is Isobel Widdrington; the 'Highlander' is the hermit's brother in disguise. The scene is described as follows:
Sir Bertram of Bothal... views the castle in which he knows his lady love is imprisoned; he plays his pipes and then, wearied out, lies down to sleep. A Highlander is seen coming along the Castle walls, he gives a low call, Isobel appears at the window and signals to him. After a second call she drops a rope ladder. The Highlander's second call wakes Bertram who sees Isobel descend from the window and steal away arm in arm with the Highlander; he first hides then dashes in upon them and attacks the Highlander whom he kills, Isobel recognises his voice and rushes in to stop him, but is struck down herself; Bertram is grief stricken, learns from her before she dies in this arms, that the Highlander who has rescued her is his own brother. Overcome with grief he attempts to kill himself, but is stopped by some Men-at-Arms... He is bound and takes away as a prisoner; the two dead bodies are each taken out on a bier.
This episode had a relatively small cast with only six named players.
'Country, Morris and Maypole' dancing were demonstrated in this interlude. The dancers performed two country-dances, two Morris dances and a demonstration of Maypole dancing.
Episode IV: King James III of Britain proclaimed at Warkworth Castle, 8th October 1715.
The pageant programme describes this drama as follows:
The action of this episode takes place at Warkworth Cross; some village children are playing round it, but are terrified at the entrance of Daft Janey, an old witch and slink off in terror; the sound of a Jacobite song is heard in the distance followed by the blowing of horns, and soon after a crowd of Jacobites enter headed by General Tom Forster, Lord Darwentwater [sic] and Father Buxton, the latter invokes the blessing of the Almighty upon their undertaking, after which General Tom Forster proclaims James Stuart as the true and lawful sovereign... The Rev. W Ion, Vicar of Warkworth, enters and protests against this but is howled down and hustled off the arena. Lord Darwentwater then urges the people to fight for King James, but Daft Janey warns him what will happen if he joins in the rebellion; the crowd become greatly incensed and throws her over the side of the arena, they acclaim General Forster's call to arms, take up the chorus of the Jacobite song again and follow him... The arena is empty, but the witch returns, points her stick to the Cross and exits muttering to herself.
The episode had around 100 performers, including men women and children and the Jacobite song was 'Will Ye No Come Back Again'.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Ceolwulf [St Ceolwulf] (d. 764) king of Northumbria
- Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
- Cædmon (fl. c.670) poet
- Benedict Biscop [St Benedict Biscop] (c.628–689) abbot of Wearmouth and scholar
- Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c.635–687) bishop of Lindisfarne
- Ecgfrith (645/6–685) king of Northumbria
- Ælfflæd [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
- Percy, Sir Henry [called Henry Hotspur] (1364–1403) soldier
- Elizabeth Percy [nee Mortimer] (1371–1417)
- Percy, Henry, first earl of Northumberland (1341–1408) magnate and rebel
- Douglas, Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas, and duke of Touraine in the French nobility (c.1369–1424) magnate and soldier
- Percy, Henry, second earl of Northumberland (1394–1455) magnate
- Forster, Thomas (bap. 1683, d. 1738) politician and Jacobite army officer
- Radcliffe, James, styled third earl of Derwentwater (1689–1716) Jacobite army officer
- Widdrington, William, fourth Baron Widdrington (1677/8–1743) Jacobite leader
It is unclear what musical accompaniment was provided but it is clear that some instruments were played in some episodes, horns for example, and it likely these were played live. A mixed voice choir from Amble sang at the pageant, the conductor was Mr J.T. Robinson. The arrangements of the songs used were by Dr W. G. Whittaker.10 Songs sung included the following:
- Traditional song: 'Blow the Wind Southerly' (prologue)
- Hymn: 'Faith of St Aidan'(episode I)
- Sung 'Litany' (episode I)
- Traditional Ballad: 'Chevy Chase' (episode II)
- Song 'The Water of Tyne' (episode III, scene I)
- Traditional song: 'The Oak and the Ash (episode III, scene II)
- Country Dance music: 'If all the World were Paper' and 'Mage on a Cree'(Traditional Revels)
- Morris Dance Music: 'Helston Furry' and 'Blue-eyed Stranger' (Traditional Revels)
- Traditional song: 'Bobby Shaftoe' (Traditional Revels, probably to accompany Maypole dancing)
- Jacobite song: 'Will Ye No Come Back Again' [music traditional, words by Lady Nairne], (episode IV).
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
A book of words was not produced; however, there was a programme. This is a slight booklet with only one illustration (of the castle and the river Coquet) in black and white on the front cover, but its content does give a clear description of the drama enacted. It cost 6d.
Other primary published materials
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, Saturday and Monday, August 1st and 3rd, 1931. No publication details.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Northumberland Archives, Ashington holds 1 copy of the programme, ref: NRO 07271/3/4/1
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- William Shakespeare, Henry IV (Part I).
- Thomas Percy, The Hermit of Warkworth: a Northumberland Ballad (first published anonymously London, 1771).
Shakespeare's, Henry IV part I, act II, scene III provided the drama of episode II.
Percy's verse is the basis for the narrative of episode III.
In the interwar years, when a rash of memorialisation took place to commemorate the fallen of World War I, not all war memorials created were granite slabs: some took the form of cultural and community centres. One such memorial was founded in the Northumberland village of Warkworth in 1921. Here a Memorial Hall functioned, and indeed still functions, as a place for all kinds of community meetings and activities.11 Such a living memorial to the dead of the Great War required upkeep, however, and the pageant held in 1931 was one of the many fundraisers required to finance the running of the hall. Like many pageants organised by institutions for charitable purposes, the performance was part of a larger attraction, in this case a bazaar. Unfortunately, we do not know how successful the initiative was as surviving press coverage has proved elusive, but if the weather was kind, it is likely that this event worked to the advantage of the Memorial Hall Institute. Reasons for thinking this include the fact that Warkworth Castle is a place particularly redolent of dramatic history; furthermore, although it is a small community, the village nearby had its own dramatic society. Indeed, many local theatrical performances were actually staged in the Memorial Hall. Therefore, all of the ingredients to make a pageant were on the doorstep, so to speak.
The pageant had a prologue, a dance interlude and only four episodes, but a great deal was packed into the performance of all of these. The prologue, for example, did not simply consist of some narration and some dance; instead, five tableaux vivant were presented. Ingeniously, these were based on sacred images found in the local parish church, and, in the case of the final tableau, on a window in the famous York Minster. All displayed aspects of the lives of famous saints. And a very famous saint featured in the first episode as well. This was St Cuthbert—an important figure in the history of the north of England. Often, in order to claim Cuthbert as their own, pageants in many localities in the north dramatized the roamings across the north made by Cuthbert's relics after these were removed from Lindisfarne and before their final internment at Durham. However, in Warkworth, no such clutching at theatrical straws was necessary, for Cuthbert did have a documented presence in this locality in respect of his meeting with Elfleda on Coquet Island in 684. This gathering was enacted in the pageant, accompanied by religious music provided by a choir, though some dialogue seems to have been involved. Dialogue was certainly part of Episode II, and in all likelihood this was Shakespearean. In this, Harry Hotspur's leave-taking at Warkworth was presented, before he rode off to defeat at the Battle of Shrewsbury. This was highly dramatic stuff, and again accompanied by appropriate traditional song, notably the ballad 'Chevy Chase'.
A literary theme and more high drama is continued in Episode III, which uses Thomas Percy's influential ballad 'The Hermit of Warkworth' as the basis for its story. From the programme notes, it can be deduced that that the pageant's organisers made an excellent job of condensing this long verse and the tragic tale it tells into an exciting drama that had great local resonance. The pageant programme admits that the tale is 'legendary' rather than factual but draws attention to existence of the nearby Hermitage as an important historical ruin.12 Following this, the audience were treated to a display of country dancing—a compulsory element of many pageants—and performed here without any pretence that this was set at an Elizabethan fair. Children and young people probably performed the dancing (their teacher was a local headmaster), and once more the choir provided music.
The final episode incorporated another aspect of the past that was regularly incorporated into north of England pageants—the Jacobite rebellions. In Episode IV, the fact that James Stuart (the Old Pretender) had first been declared King James III on English soil in Warkworth in 1715 was exploited. In this way, there was a return to authentic, but still colourful history; the episode probably carried some dialogue in terms of proclamation. No indication of a finale is included in the programme, but there may of course have been one where all the performers returned to the arena. It is a great pity that more has not been recovered about this pageant, and in particular in relation to how it was received. This information probably will be available through surviving local press and in the records of the Memorial Institute if these have been preserved. The Warkworth pageant provides a very good example of how even small, rural communities could have high ambition in the pageants they produced, and could use local history and legend in ways that successfully incorporated nationally important figures and internationally significant literary texts.
- The programme mentions contributions 'from Village and District' to the bazaar: see Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, Saturday and Monday, August 1st and 3rd, 1931 (no publication details), 15.
- Cover, Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle.
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, 14.
- Cover, Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle.
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, 3.
- Ibid. Scholey was a producer for the Warkworth Players—an amateur theatrical group; he was involved with the prologue as a producer but it is unclear if he also wrote the script of this. For Scholey's membership of the local theatre group see 'Warkworth Players Present Barrie', Morpeth Herald, 21 February 1936, 10
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, 15.
- It is presumed that this is a typographical error and should read 'alms'.
- Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations in synposes text are taken from Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle.
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, 14.
- For information about the origin of the Memorial Hall see the North West War Memorial Project's website, accessed 8 October 2016 at: http://www.newmp.org.uk/detail.php?contentId=9241
- Historical Pageant and Bazaar at Warkworth Castle, 9; for information about the Castle and Hermitage see the English Heritage website accessed 8 October 2016 at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/warkworth-castle-and-hermitage/history/description/
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historical Pageant of Warkworth’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1329/