Carlisle Historical Pageant

Other names

  • Carlisle Great Historical Pageant.

Pageant type

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Place: The Sauceries, Bitts Park (Carlisle) (Carlisle, Cumberland, England)

Year: 1928

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


6–11 August 1928

Start date: Monday 6 August 1928 at 2.45 pm [opened by Lord Lonsdale].

Thereafter at same time on 7 August (opened by Theodore Carr); 8 August (opened by J.H. Thomas MP); 9 August (opened by the Mayor of Carlisle); 10 August (opened by the Bishop of Carlisle).

Closing performance: Saturday 11 August 1928 at 2.45 pm (opened by Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles).

Six full dress rehearsals were held from Monday 30 July–Saturday 4 August. On Monday and Tuesday, rehearsals were at 6.30pm and were specifically for an audience of parties of schoolchildren accompanied by teachers. Wednesday's rehearsal was also at 6.30pm for Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Choir Boys, Friendly Societies, Works Clubs and similar. Thursday was for County schoolchildren in parties with teachers; performances started at 3pm. Private schools, colleges and women's institutes could also attend but at a higher ticket price (see below). Rehearsal performances on Friday and Saturday were at 7pm and were for an audience of 'county and citizens’. The performances lasted between 2.5–3 hours.

The venue was an area of green space near to Carlisle Castle often used for performance and events.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank
  • Organising Director (Civic Week): Edward Baring
  • Master of the Music: Frederick W. Wadely, MA, Mus.Doc.
  • Master of Properties: E. Stevens
  • Master of Designs: E. Scott-Nicholson
  • Grand Stand and Grounds: Edmund Lund, MBE, T.G. Charlton JP, Percy Dalton AMICE and H. Foxall
  • Mistress of Costumes: Miss J. McLellan
  • Master of Horse: Capt. W.F. Ferris
  • Folk Dances: Miss Jean Stewart, Miss Dickson, Miss M.C. Stevens, Miss O'Donnell and Mrs Morrow
  • Hon. Treasurer: A. Crerar
  • Hon. Secretary: T. Gray.
There were also named 'officials' for each of the episodes as follows:

Episode I:
  • Chairman: The Mayor of Carlisle, Councillor Joseph Henderson, JP
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Allen
  • Props: J.W. Smith
  • Marshal: S.C. Turner
  • Hon. Secretary: H.W. Allen
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: H.W. Allen
Episode II:
  • Chairman: Miss Monnington
  • Costume Mistress: Miss Monnington
  • Costume Master: Sgt. Instr. Hankinson
  • Armoury: C. Stewart, J. Ellam, Sgt. Cuddiford
  • Marshal: Miss Monnington.
  • Deputy Marshal: Major Darwell, MC
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss R. Monnington
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: Miss Monnington and Miss Hassell
Episode III:
  • Chairman: Brig.-Gen. E. W. Spedding
  • Costume Mistress: Miss Broatch
  • Marshal: A.R. Lightfoot
  • Hon. Secretary: A.R. Lightfoot
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: A.R. Lightfoot
Episode IV:
  • Chairman: Fred Hare
  • Costume Mistress: Miss Bulman
  • Props: J. Routledge
  • Marshal: W.H. Reid
  • Hon. Secretary: T.E. Alderson
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: T.E. Alderson and W. H. Reid
Episode V:
  • Chairman: A.G. Moore
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs A. E. Clay
  • Marshal: G.W. Bowman
  • Hon. Secretary: L. Cavaghan
Episode VI:
  • Chairman: Hugh Jackson
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs James Steele
  • Props: A. Watt
  • Marshal: Mrs Iremonger (Deputy Chairman)
  • Hon. Secretary: G.S Wood
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: Hugh Jackson
Episode VII:
  • Chairman: Colonel A. Davidson
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs Isa Graham JP
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Sheddon and Mrs G. Mckie
  • Props and Men's Costume Master: Chas. Hulme
  • Marshal: H. Raffles
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Sewell
  • Representatives on Performers and Episodes Committee: Mrs L. Graham and Mrs Sewell.
Episode VIII:
  • Chairman: C. Colegrave-Scott
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Watt
  • Props: W.W. Hunt
  • Marshal: W. McDonald
  • Hon. Secretary: G. Irving and I.L. Gray
  • Representative on Performers and Episodes Committee: C. Colegrave-Scott
Episode IX:
  • Chairman: Mrs Saunders
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Aitken, Mrs Evans and Mrs Stevens
  • Marshal: Mrs Langridge
  • Deputy-Marshal: Mrs Maclaren
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Barnes
  • Deputy Secretary: Miss Dormehl

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Grand Council:

  • President: The Right Honourable the Earl of Lonsdale, GCVO (Lord Lieutenant of the County)
  • Vice Presidents: The Countess of Lonsdale; The Lady Mabel Howard; E. Scott-Nicholson Esq.; W. Theodore Carr, Esq., CBE, JP
  • Hon. Secretary: A.H. Collingwood, Esq. (Town Clerk).
  • Assist. Hon. Secretary: F. G. Webster, Esq. (Deputy Town Clerk).

Overseeing all other committees:

  • President: The Right Honourable the Earl of Lonsdale, GCVO (Lord Lieutenant of the County)
  • Vice Presidents: The Worshipful the Mayor of Carlisle, Councillor Joseph Henderson, Esq., JP; The Lord Advocate, The Right Hon. Wm. Watson, KC, MP; Major D. Darwell, MC; Captain Fergus Graham, MP

Other Committees:

Pageant Committee:

  • Chairman: Rev. Canon T.B.A. Saunders
  • Secretary: T. Gray

Executive and Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor J.C. Studholme
  • Vice Chairman: R. Davidson

Civic Publicity Committee:

  • Chairman: A. M. Beatty
  • Secretary: R. Davidson

Pageant Publicity:

  • Chairman: F. Robinson
  • Secretary: R. Davidson

Episodes and Performers:

  • Chairman: E. Gray
  • Secretary: C.R. Eddy

Designs Committee:

  • Chairman: E. Scott-Nicholson
  • Secretary: P.G. Hudson

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: E. Stevens
  • Secretary: L.E. Hope

The Grand Stand Committee:

  • Chairman and Secretary: F. Lund

Reception and Housing Committee:

  • Chairman: H.K. Campbell, MBE, JP
  • Deputy Chair: M. MacLaren
  • Secretary: Mrs Morrow
  • Deputy Secretary: Mrs Lund

Evening Displays:

  • Chairman: J.R. Cockbain
  • Secretary: T. Holmes

Children's Display Committee:

  • Chairman: J.R. Cockbain
  • Secretary: Miss Stevens

Lecture Committee:

  • Chairman: J. Duckworth
  • Secretary: D.J. Beattie

Industrial Exhibition:

  • Chairman: Major R.N. Carr, MC, JP
  • Secretary: A.G. Moore

Traders' Display:

  • Chairman: S.E. Shepherd
  • Vice Chairman: J. Bell
  • Secretary: J.B. Morley


The Earl of Lonsdale was both president of the Grand Council and overall president of all of the committees. He was assisted in both these roles by a number of high profile vice-presidents (four on the Grand Council and six general overseers of the other committees).

In addition to the office holders, there were a little over one hundred ordinary Grand Council members; but it is difficult to be precise about the exact number as some entries are for multiple members of the same family. Membership of this body was by invitation and included 29 women, one of whom was 'Eleanor Rathbone'; it is likely that this individual was the social reformer and later MP although no corroborating evidence has been found. The membership also included the Earl of Carlisle, Lord Rochdale, Lady Anne Bowes Lyon and Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck. Of note, there were seventeen Justices of the Peace and eleven armed service officers including a Brigadier-General and two Colonels.

On the Pageant Committee, there were 31 ordinary members; these included only two women (Miss Dickson and the Lady Mabel Howard). The Chief Constable (E. Spence), the Dean of Carlisle (Dr Venn Stewart) and the Mayor (J. Henderson) were members. Some of the Pageant Committee members also sat on the Grand Council.

The 14 committees varied in size. On the Exec & Finance Committee there were 10 ordinary members including the Chairman of the Pageant Committee (Rev. Saunders); and there were eight ordinary members of the Civic Committee. The Industrial Exhibition Committee was made up of 20 members (including office holders). Of the eleven ordinary members of the Lecture Committee, four were clergymen. All members of these committees were male. On the Grandstand Committee there were also 2 architects (T. G. Charlton and H. Foxall) and a further 10 members, again all male. However, on the Episodes Committee there were 50 ordinary members made up of 14 women and 36 men.

It is clear than some enthusiasts sat on several committees. The only instance of a woman only committee is that for Episode IX, managed by the Carlisle branch of the National Council for Women; and on the Reception Committee, half the members were women. However, women are poorly represented on most of the main committees. Given the surnames of some women, it seems likely that a few involved were the wives of male committee members.1

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

  • Eagles, J.S.
  • McIntire, W.T.


Prologue and Episodes I-VI: J.S. Eagles
Episode VII: J.S. Eagles and W.T. McIntire
Episode VIII: W.T. McIntire

No author stated for Episode IX or the Prologue.

The authors of this pageant receive very little distinction. Their names appear at the head of each episode's description in the Book of Words but are only given in the list of acknowledgements in the souvenir brochure. The main author, J.S. Eagles, was manager of the Carlisle State Management experiment. He left this post before the commencement of the pageant to move to London.2

Episode VIII (the '45) is said to have been based on the work of David Johnstone Beattie.3

David Beattie hailed from Langholm in the Scottish Borders and published his book, Prince Charlie and the Borderland, in the same year as the pageant; he was known as a writer and it is possible he was consulted although this is not explicitly acknowledged in pageant literature.

The episode on Kinmont Willie may have been based on the traditional ballad of the same name and which was collected in the Volumes of English and Scottish Ballads edited by Francis James Child (1847-48) as well as by Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders.

Names of composers

  • Wadely, F.W.

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Gross receipts: £11000–12000.4

Profit: £7000.5

Object of any funds raised

40 charities were said to benefit from the profit made, including: Cumberland Infirmary (£3500), Carlisle Nursing Home Association for Incurables (£550), Silloth Convalescent Institution (£550), Whitehaven Hospital (£100) and Crippled Children's Clinic (£100); other charities received unspecified amounts, including the NSPCC, St John's Ambulance Association and the Lifeboat Institution.6

The cost of the pageant was said to have been recovered by sales made ahead of the pageant's official opening.7 From total attendance figures, it is clear that there were a great many standing-room only tickets.

Linked occasion

Carlisle Civic Week

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 2500
  • Total audience: 78000



'over 10000 people witnessed 'the opening performance'.9

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 6d.– 1s. 2d.

1s. 2d. (standing).

3s. 6d., 5s. 9d., 8s., and 11s. 6d. (seats).

It is clear from the numbers who attended that many had standing-only tickets.

The tickets were sold through Thomas Cook outlets across the country and the ticket prices were based upon proximity to the royal box.10

Admission charges to the dress rehearsals were as follows:

On Monday 30th July, Tuesday 31st July, Wednesday 1st August and Thursday 2nd August (for county schoolchildren attending) tickets cost 1s.

On Thursday 2nd August (for private school pupils and teachers, college students and Women's Institute members attending), Friday 3rd August and Saturday 4th August (for county and citizens attending) tickets cost 2s. 4d. and 3s.

Associated events

Church service in Carlisle Cathedral (Sunday 5 August, 3 pm) and an RC Service of Benediction at Our Lady and St Joseph Church in Warwick Street, Carlisle (also at 3pm).
Industrial Exhibition.
Evening performances (military tattoo, firework display, fancy dress ball).

Pageant outline


Taking part in this are the Pageant Chorus of 500 singers and the character of Time.11 The Chorus sings 'Who shall now our eyes unseal?' and Time declares that he can 'truth reveal' by the light of his torch which enchants the place wherein it burns, so that the 'dead who wrought therein old deeds of weal and woe, [t]read there once more'. Time then lights the torch and conjures up 'the ancient spirits of this place'.

Episode I. Hadrian and the Roman Wall [c.AD 120]

The Chorus and Time also appear in this episode alongside several other named characters including 'Luel' the Headman of the settlement at Carlisle and Hadrian, who leads a detachment of Roman legionaries. The episode depicts an encounter between the two. The chorus introduced the scene:

Hadrian's men on Hadrian's Wall,
Along the road they come,
The road that starts from Eden's flood
And runs to Tiber's foam,
And crosses into Rome.

Following this, Luel and a number of Britons from the settlement enter together with Druids led by the Archdruid Gwynneth. A human sacrifice of a young girl is about to take place. Into this scene, the Romans suddenly arrive and Gwynneth and the other Druids leave having loosened the girl. Hadrian condemns the practice of human sacrifice and states that he will put Gwyneth to death and fine the 'town'. Luel appeals against this and states that such moves will incite trouble. In response, Hadrian states that Rome will 'hold them for thee' and there 'establish the bound of her empire'. He describes the wall to run 'from Wallsend where the Tyne joins the sea to Bowness, where the Solway shallows end...' A Briton declares 'a cheer for Rome and the wall and the army of the wall'. Hadrian declares his departure from Britain and Time states that the wall is in 'his safe keeping.'

Episode II. King Arthur and the Picts [AD 500]

The synopsis of this episode in the Official Souvenir describes this period as 'misty' and a 'dark place' following the abandonment of Britain by the Romans.12 It contains several characters including King Arthur, Merlin and 'Critho', the Pictish leader, as well as sections of performers playing the parts of Knights of the Round Table, British Prisoners and Pictish scouts. The episode opens with the Picts crossing the wall where they find the Romans have abandoned their station; at this, they pillage the town of Carlisle and carry off British prisoners. King Arthur and his Knights come to the rescue of the prisoners who recognise Arthur and proclaim him their king. The episode ends with Merlin foretelling the conquering of Britain by the Angles. The chorus again has some of the lines in this short episode.

Episode III. St. Cuthbert [AD 685–875]

This episode contains two scenes. The first is set in the year 685 AD when Carlisle is ruled by King Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria. It begins with the King's wife (Irminburga also sometimes called Iurminburg) and his sister (Ethelfleda also called Ælfflæd) who are seen with the nuns of the Carlisle Sisterhood awaiting news of Ecgfrith's campaign against the Picts. Onto the scene Cuthbert, then Bishop of Lindisfarne, arrives accompanied by a mystic named Herebert. Cuthbert sees a vision in which the King dies in battle, the news of which causes the Queen to faint. A horseman then arrives confirming the King's defeat and death. The party of women then depart.

In scene II, 200 years have passed. The Bishop of Lindisfarne is now Eardulf. It opens with the Bishop and the Abbot of Carlisle (Eadred) accompanied by seven monks bearing the body of Cuthbert in its coffin being greeted by a 'white-haired novice of the Carlisle Monastery'.13 This happens because Lindisfarne has been sacked by the Dane, Halfdene. The party who have taken charge of Cuthbert's remains have been wandering Northumbria for seven years seeking refuge. An order is given that a chapel will be built in Carlisle to honour Cuthbert whose remains are then taken to safety in Ireland. These are short scenes, mostly consisting of dialogue: there is singing in scene II.

Episode IV. Carlisle and the Norman Kings [1092 and 1132]

There are larger numbers of named characters and groups of performers in this episode than in previous ones. It has two scenes. In the first, Dolfin, the son of the Earl of Northumbria appears with his Chaplain and some troopers; he has lately been in battle with the Normans. Carlisle is then part of the Scottish fiefdom and Dolfin is its overlord. Ranulf Le Meschyn and a group of supporters successfully challenge this party and, following this, the King of England (Rufus) appears with his Queen, Ethel of Scotland; he declares Carlisle to be English: '...the land of Carlisle shall be safe and wax fat as English ground.'14 Dolfin is sent into exile and the King further orders the building of Carlisle Castle using the labour of Dolfin's vanquished men to fell trees and quarry stone from 'the Picts' wall' built by 'Hadrianus, a pagan emperor of Rome'.15 The building is put in the charge of the Flemish master builders (the Flemings). The building of a cathedral is also ordered, and Ranulf is appointed Earl of Carlisle.

Ranulf later succeeds to the Earldom of Chester and therefore must forfeit the title of Carlisle. In scene II, Henry I arrives in Carlisle; during his visit he creates the Bishopric of Carlisle, gifts walrus tusks to the church (said to be still preserved) and provides for a settlement of Augustinian monks to serve the church (Black Canons). He divides the land of Carlisle into two kingdoms (Carliol and Westmaireland) and further into several baronies. The King declares the town itself as his own personal demesne to be in the charge of a sheriff rather than a feudal lord. The appointed Barons, the Canons and eminent members of the town then form a procession before the king.

Episode V. King Edward I [1307]

This episode has a single scene and a large number of characters and crowds including, Edward, Queen Margaret, the Papal Legate, McDoual of Galloway, an executioner, a great many southern English nobles, local nobles and the King's soldiers and courtiers. The scene takes place when Carlisle is the seat of the English parliament and on the eve of the campaign against Robert the Bruce. Having been captured by McDoual, two brothers of the Bruce are brought before Edward; he orders their execution and afterwards knights McDoual as reward for his support. Meanwhile news arrives that Bruce is holding his own; the Papal Legate (Pedro D'Espagnol) consents to denounce Bruce and the cathedral bells are rung to announce this. The Queen asks the ladies of the court to dance in order to lighten the mood of the King, who afterwards calls for his arms and horse in order to go off to battle. The court then moves off leaving Edward alone in the arena. The episode ends with the chorus singing of the death of Edward in battle.

Episode VI. Mary Queen of Scots [1568]

Together with Mary, there are around twenty named characters in this episode, alongside groups of townsfolk and Cumberland gentry; also returning to the scene is the figure of Time. There are two parts. In the first, which is set on the 18th May, Mary has newly fled Scotland following the battle of Langside and has written to Elizabeth of England asking for mercy. She arrives at Carlisle Castle where Sir Richard Lowther, the emissary of Elizabeth, invites her to stay until he has received his orders from the English Queen. Mary's supporters object to her being kept in the same place as prisoners. The French Ambassador to the Scottish court who has accompanied Mary is asked to relay this protest to France whereupon he states:

I will do what I can. But your Queen has run into an unbaited trap; and it is a bold cat that would filch a mouse from Queen Elizabeth.

In scene II, set ten days later, Mary and her entourage are seen watching a game of football played by lads of the town. Mary states to Lowther that, 'it is eleven days since I wrote to my royal cousin' and asks if an answer has been delayed. Mary is told that she is now a prisoner. This scene again ends with the chorus singing, in this instance about the tragic Queen.

Episode VII. Kinmont Willie [1596]

There are three scenes in this episode, which is set first in Carlisle and then in the surrounding Border country. In scene I, the Mayor and bailiffs of Carlisle are seen closing the gates of the town at dusk. Townspeople are enjoying a country dance in the street before sunset and the curfew; one states 'Devil take the reivers! Have we naebody that can keep them at heam at night?’ 16 The Mayor ushers them home and reminds them of the law and that this is to make sure that 'no Scot remains in the city'.17 At this there is a commotion and ten men of the Musgraves appear with Kinmont Willie bound and showing signs of a struggle against his capture. One of the townspeople spots that this is Kinmont Willie, the 'worst thief on the whole Border'.18 Willie is led off to be imprisoned in the castle. The crowd of townspeople are being forced back from the town gate; in this throng a woman (Lizzie, who is Kinmont Willie's daughter) and a man (Jock) exchange words. It is evident that they are a clandestine couple.

In scene II, there is a meeting between the Laird of Buccleuch (the Scottish Warden) and Lord Scrope (Warden of Carlisle Castle); Buccleuch demands the return of Kinmont Willie and Scrope refuses. Lizzie, having been hiding in the town, suddenly appears and throws herself at the feet of the English warden: she pleads for clemency for her father to no avail. Lady Scrope also appeals to her husband to let Willie go in order to improve relations between the English and Scots, but she too is unsuccessful. Jock then appears and tries to reassure Lizzie that Buccleuch will come to the rescue.

Buccleuch and his men are seen at dawn in the final scene outside of Carlisle's walls; they carry ladders and tools. Jock appears and is challenged; he relays information to Buccleuch about the whereabouts of Willie who is quickly rescued. Jock, who is from a family (the Elliots) who are enemies of Willie's family (the Armstrongs), is rewarded for his help by being granted permission by Willie to marry Lizzie. Willie and his rescuers scale the wall and take off on horses. Scrope in pursuit fails to catch up with them, but he captures Jock. Lady Scrope again intervenes and this time her husband grants her wish stating: '[t]his is a weary world, and yet I love a brave deed, and this was a gallant deed.'19

Episode VIII. The '45 [1745]

This episode contains a great many performers in order to represent Cumberland's troops and the supporters of the Prince, including pipers and Highlanders. In scene I of this episode, Charles Edward has been victorious at Prestonpans and Carlisle prepares defences. Soon Scottish pipers playing 'Charlie is My Darling' can be heard beyond the city wall, and in the scene within the city a Scot (Jimmy) is placed in the stocks for having drunk the health of the Prince. Other drinkers tease him, but in a friendly way. The Deputy-Mayor of Carlisle appears and pompously reproaches the drinkers for doing nothing to help defend their town. Another citizen (Dr Waugh) who also arrives on the scene takes the deputy-Mayor to task about Carlisle's inadequate defences. He is joined by the Commander of the Garrison and fellow soldiers; the Commander states that due to the incompetence of local leaders the 'city is lost'. Carlisle surrenders to the Jacobites and the people welcome the end of the siege; Jimmy is freed from the stocks. The Highlanders march into the town followed by the Prince who is given lodgings in English Street. This scene is played for comic effect and ends with the crowd issuing cries such as 'Come on, see the Hielanders put t'kaber on t'Sauceries'.20 Jimmy then goes off to join the Jacobite rebels having the general support of the townspeople.

In scene II, the Prince has departed Carlisle and left it in the charge of John Hamilton. A crowd of townsfolk are gathered when Jimmy appears back onto the scene stating that:

he is 'a deserter. These Jacobites are no gentlemen. Little drink, no plunder. No! henceforth your Jimmy is a loyal Hanoverian. George II, God Bless him.

Jimmy also delivers the news that the Jacobites have fled Derby. Onto this scene, the retreating Jacobite army appears causing alarm until the artillery fire of Cumberland's army is heard. A white flag is then seen flying over the castle; the Jacobites are led off to their fate. The scene ends with a young Scottish girl spotting her lover among the prisoners. She cries:

Aye, they'll kill thee, they'll kill thee, and tha' head wi' its
bonny yellow curls will moulder on Carel Yetts,[Carlisle Gates]
but I’ll watch o'er thee, I'll watch o'er thee...21

In this scene, most of the action and exposition of the narrative is given over to the townspeople and the tone is generally light-hearted up until the end when a note of pathos is introduced.

Episode IX. Carlisle and Gretna Green [c. 1797]

There is no recorded author for this episode and most of its action takes place as a tableau depicting a fair on the Sauceries on Easter Monday. The scene is lively with market sellers, a fortune teller, a Punch and Judy show, gypsies and townsfolk. Children are seen at play and there is dancing among the youths. A Constable is seen chasing a witch; when he catches her, she is placed in stocks. A blacksmith is also seen at work.

After some time a post horn is heard and a chaise arrives. Out of this coach a young couple emerge, looking nervous; they call for the blacksmith who arrives to repair their chaise. The horn sounds again and this time the coach approaching contains a man. The crowds impede his progress and in a temper he leaves his coach and makes his way through the crowd wielding his whip as he goes. This is the father of the young woman and he takes the young man to task while the crowd look on. The horn sounds for the third time announcing the arrival of John Peel accompanied by a pack of hounds. Peel intercedes and reconciles the quarrel when he says:

Come, now, come. We're fellow sportsmen.
Give young blood a chance. I took my bride to Gretna,
and never have I been sorry for my bargain.

The father gives way and the crowd then sings the traditional song 'John Peel'.


This consists of a closing monologue given by Time as all the performers from previous episodes re-assemble in the arena. This speech is generally patriotic and admiring of the past. It is delivered in verse, for example:

Behold your sires! They toiled and fought;
Their deeds resound in Border lay;
Could ye accomplish what they wrought,
Ease-loving offspring of today?
All who give thee of their good,
Brain or heart of hand,
Share with those who gave their blood
For their fatherland.

Time then reads a passage from Ecclesiastes, and, following this, the choir sings 'Oh God Our Help in Ages Past'. While this is being sung Time's torch is handed from one principal character to another, beginning with Hadrian and ending with John Peel.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hadrian [Traianus Hadrianus] (AD 76–138) Roman emperor
  • Ælfflæd [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain Merlin [Myrddin] (supp. fl. 6th cent.) poet and seer
  • Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c.635–687) bishop of Lindisfarne
  • William II [known as William Rufus] (c.1060–1100) king of England
  • Henry I (1068/9–1135) king of England and lord of Normandy Edward I
  • Margaret [Margaret of France] (1279?–1318) queen of England
  • Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
  • Mary Seton (b. c.1541, d. after 1615)
  • Scott, Walter, of Buccleuch, first Lord Scott of Buccleuch (1565?–1611) landowner and border reiver
  • Armstrong, William, of Kinmont (fl. 1569–1603) border reiver
  • Charles Edward [Charles Edward Stuart; styled Charles III; known as the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie] (1720–1788) Jacobite claimant to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones
  • Peel, John (1776–1854) huntsman

Musical production

Drums, fifes and bagpipes were used for episode VIII (The '45). It is clear that original music was an essential element of this pageant, and publicity in a variety of places states that there was a choir of 500 voices and an orchestra of 100 musicians. However, few further details have been recovered about the nature of the music.

For most of the pageant, the music was original and composed by Dr F.W. Wadely. There were 24 numbers, half sung by the pageant choir and the remainder by individual performers. Exceptions to this were some traditional pieces included which were as follows:
  • Charlie Is My Darling (Episode VIII).
  • John Peel (Episode IX).
  • Come Lasses and Lads (Episode IX).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
Aberdeen Journal
Hull Daily Mail
The Yorkshire Post
The Nottingham Evening Post
Cumberland News

Book of words

The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words. Carlisle, 1928.

Price 2 s. Initial print run was for 8000 hardback copies.24 Copies in Tullie House Museum Colls. and Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle and elsewhere.

Other primary published materials

  • Pageant of Carlisle: Official Souvenir. Price 1s, Carlisle, 1928 .
  • Carlisle Historical Pageant, Souvenir Programme. Carlisle, 1928.
  • Carlisle Great Historical Pageant 6-11th August 1928. 16-page summary booklet, Carlisle, 1928 .
  • Carlisle Historical Pageant. Pocketsize, 4-page leaflet, Carlisle, 1928.
  • Carlisle Journal : Civic Week Supplement , 3rd August, 1928.
  • Carlisle Industrial Exhibition and Great Historical Pageant. Booklet, Carlisle, 1928.
  • Carlisle Historical Pageant: Book of the Music of the Pageant. Carlisle, 1951.

It is unclear if the Book of the Music of the Pageant was produced in 1928 or 1951: the same music was used for the later pageant. The style of the book suggests the later publication date.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The British Library holds a copy of the Book of Words and the Souvenir Programme. Also a copy of a pamphlet written by W.T. McIntire, BA, FSA, Scot, entitled Carlisle Historical Pageant, August 6th to 11th 1928: A Description of the Pageant as Illustrated by the Series of Paintings upon the Walls of the Pageant Hall, Silver Grill, Carlisle, Carlisle, 1928.26
  • Tullie House Museum, Carlisle holds examples of all published materials, plus photographs, and a variety of ephemera including souvenir biscuit tins and printed invitations in its collections.
  • Rehearsal and performance timetable
  • Script of the episodes, including the parts later cut; preceded by list of cast, number of entrances and exits of each character, music, props, horses used
  • Performers Register, Episodes VIII -IX
  • Sundry Rough Notes on casting
  • Performers Register
  • Committee's names and addresses
  • Carlisle Civic Week and Pageant: Pageant Committee Minute Book (1927-8)
  • Box. DX/872:
  • Carlisle Historical Pageant: Book of the Music of the Pageant.25
  • Copy of booklet, Carlisle Great Historical Pageant
  • Copy of 'Civic Week Supplement'
  • Advertising stickers
  • Template of letter re subscriptions & asking for support
  • Folder. CA/C/18/8:
  • Carlisle Historical Pageant, souvenir supplements to the Cumberland News, dated 4 and 11 August 1928.
  • Souvenir pamphlet;
  • 2 souvenir sets of Postcards [9 different images];
  • Folder. DX1576/16:
  • Cumbria Record Office hold a large amount of material related to the pageant including published material, photographs and primary documents associated with the organisation of the event; these are stored in multiple, different accessioned boxes and folders. Selective accessions as follows:

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • English and Scottish Ballads, edited by Francis James Child (1847-8).
  • Traditional folk songs


In the Official Souvenir Book, a foreword written by the Pageant Committee Chair, the Rev. Canon T. B. A. Saunders, records that the pageant was envisaged as part of a planned 'Civic Week' that had been organised by the city's Chamber of Trade and Commerce. It was hoped that while the civic week would support trade, the pageant would 'promote a feeling of common citizenship in a healthy and pleasant way'. The foreword goes on to claim that 'there is a real danger, in these hustling days, lest historical memories should fade out of sight...'27 Thereafter the pageant grew into a larger event than was originally imagined, and a leading figure in the world of historical pageantry, Frank Lascelles, was appointed as Pageant Master. Saunders implies that the commercial aspects of the Civic Week appeared to be slightly eclipsed by the pageant and he writes that

the greatest interest has been taken, and the hardest work put in, not with a view to material gain for the city, but to stimulate knowledge of its history in the hope of making our citizenship more united in the resolve to be worthy of so interesting a past...28

In the event, the exhibition of Carlisle's varied and thriving industries proved to attract almost as many people as did the pageant; and while Saunders perhaps suggests that the pageant was an event conceived with much less of an eye to mammon and having loftier social aims, it made a tidy profit nonetheless.

Civic pride was writ large in the entire programme of this week which showcased Carlisle's good fortune as a place whose progress, as the local manufacturing magnate W.T. Carr put it, 'has been largely uninterrupted over the past one hundred years'. Carr went on to applaud the high level of employment in the city and the 'steady' nature of this as compared with other industrial centres.29 Yet Carlisle as a Border settlement had a well-known turbulent past, and it was this story that the pageant set out to tell. The Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria, Lord Lonsdale, who performed the opening ceremony on the first day, proclaimed that no city had more ‘right to a pageant’.30 Here was a 'stirring and romantic story'; and the pageant would give 'a birds' eye view' of it.31

The writer of the pageant, J.S. Eagles, did not defer from tradition in the structure of his narrative, and the linking figure for the episodes was the ubiquitous Father Time, played throughout the event by no less than the Dean of Carlisle Cathedral, the Rev. Henry Stuart. Indeed, this was a pageant very much in the ideal style. It had a clear aim to educate and this was stated at the head of the letter sent out in the appeal for guarantee funds.32 It did not aim to raise money for any particular cause, nor, from its inception, did it lack willing engagement from an array of prominent citizens. However, in treading a careful route Eagles produced a somewhat worthy script, much of it in somewhat stodgy blank verse. When Eagles resigned his post in Carlisle and relocated to London at the end of 1927, another writer was engaged in the script, a local historian W.T. McIntire; it is notable that the episodes in which he had a hand have a rather lighter touch and include some comic moments. Overall, however, and again in keeping with tradition in pageantry, what the Carlisle pageant aimed for was spectacle in terms of the number of performers, the costumes and props, and the venue, which was said to be ideal in terms of forming a 'natural arena'.33 Underlining all of this was the appointment of Lascelles who was by then known for his promotion of a colourful vision in pageants.

For the opening episode of the pageant, there could scarcely have been much choice about which theme to take: Carlisle was ever famous for being the main township along Hadrian's Wall and this ancient structure represented 'the dawn of authentic history' for Carlisle.34 Undertaking this was another force to be reckoned with in promoting the district in modern times: the railway workers who were placed in charge of the episode and played the parts of centurions. In the script, the Romans are a welcome force that comes not to conquer but simply to establish the bounds of their empire and ensure the safekeeping of the indigenous people who can then manage their own affairs, but under Roman influence in a more civilised manner—no more human sacrifices!35 The symbolism of Hadrian's Wall as a lasting reminder of the greatness of the Roman Empire is then declared to be in Father Time's hands. However, in deciding what to record following the departure of the Romans, the Pageant Committee and Eagles who sat on this, were on less sure historical ground; as committee minutes show, their initial choice to take the Carlisle story forward was for King Arthur, and they stuck with this, however antithetical it may have been to historical accuracy. Essentially, in Episode II, the mythical Arthur takes the place once occupied by the Romans as the city's defender against barbarism, in this case the Picts (played by the local Border Regiment) who breach the abandoned Roman wall and take prisoners from among the peaceful and civilised Britons. This is the first indication of the vulnerability created by being situated on a border within this pageant's narrative, but such strife would prove to be a lingering theme which gathered pace as each episode unfolded. The use of Arthur to fill the potential void of this ‘misty time’ is of interest; at the end of the episode Merlin predicts that although Arthur has come to the rescue on this occasion, in the future the Angles will come and will successfully conquer. However, the spirit of Arthur will always remain ready to ‘awake in the hour of utmost peril’. Fanciful though the Arthurian episode is, this message was perhaps especially meaningful a decade after the Great War.36 It is also the only, albeit oblique, acknowledgement of this most recent conflict: for although an episode on the war was considered briefly, at the very beginning of the pageant's plans, this was evidently quickly rejected.37

The influence of Christianity is dealt with in Episode III via the locally significant figure of St Cuthbert; at the outset of planning for this, it was suggested that the Roman Catholics take charge of this episode but this was rejected in favour of a non-denominational approach, thus conforming to pageant prescriptions.38 Nevertheless, there was an accusation following the pageant that anti-Catholic bias was present in the script suggesting some tensions around religious affiliations in Carlisle.39 Moreover, despite the importance of this part of Cumbria's history, an impression is formed that it is included in order to maintain some sort of chronological momentum in the narrative: it has two scenes with two hundred years in time separating them. However, it did have a celebrity figure as its organiser and also performing in the part of the Abbess of Carlisle, Lady Mabel Howard, who also induced some of the county ladies of Carlisle to play nuns. On the other hand, Episode IV on the Norman Kings was organised by local schoolteachers. In this, the English identity of the region is finally established. The ascendancy of King Henry and the importance to the monarchy of Carlisle’s position as a fortress is allegorically depicted with the building of Carlisle Castle and the use of stones from Hadrian's Wall in the foundations of this new structure. This powerfully characterises the beginning of a different era in which Carlisle becomes a key frontier town for the English nation. Of note also, in the telling of this story, is that it is Flemish builders who are in charge of this task; this is a further allusion to the city's ancient but continuing ability to absorb many incomers in the interest of commerce. This is a turning point in the overall narrative of the pageant and with the exception of final episode IX, the remaining episodes are all concentrated on conflict of one type or another with the Scots.

The national boundary that was to be so troublesome within Carlisle's history did indeed place it in the ‘cockpit of the wars of the Borders’.40 While the arrays of characters that take centre place in much of the remainder of the pageant are perhaps conventional, they are colourful and, again, many of the local aristocracy enthusiastically played their ancestors! The cast included the Duke of Norfolk and, notably, Lady Carlisle, who played Mary Queen of Scots. As the pageant narrative unfolds, however, it is shown that an accommodation with the Scots is eventually reached. This is depicted in Episode VII through the colourful legend of the Border Reiver, Kinmont Willie. This popular tale of a renegade Scot manages to amply display English common sense and ability to overturn injustice. In the story, Willie escapes from his capture by vengeful English forces but, despite the havoc he has wreaked, respect is shown for his gallantry. Though Willie lives to raid another day, the unruly Scots are shown to have been tamed by this experience and Willie makes peace with a rival Scottish Border family and allows his daughter to marry into this. A similar capitulation characterises Episode VIII, 'the '45', where the central Scottish character of Jimmy deserts the Highland army and declares himself henceforth ' a loyal Hanoverian'. This ascendancy of English and indeed British identity is emphasised, perhaps with heavy-handed symbolism, in the final episode organised by the Carlisle branch of the National Council of Women, generally formidable organisers, although, perhaps predictably, this gendered choice of management was influenced by the fact that the episode involved crowd scenes with many women and children taking part. Into the folksy, traditional atmosphere of the Carlisle Fair on the eve of industrialisation, John Peel arrives triumphantly blowing his hunting horn and replete with horses and dogs. The scene involves a couple who have eloped and are on their way to Gretna to be married; Peel paves their way. The historical figure of Peel, although a Cumbrian, was also of course associated with a romantic type of rural Englishness. Interestingly though, the accompanying riders with hounds were played by members of the Dumfriesshire Hunt from just across the border.41

Initially, the pageant was supposed to be but one initiative of the city's Civic Week, one that, as the Week's President stated, was aimed at filling 'the part of the artistic poster in the advertising of the world's most famous commodities... [We] are depicting the Carlisle of the past in the hope it will create an interest and develop a knowledge of modern Carlisle'.42 Yet it is doubtful if many pageant organisers and participants shared this view as plans for the pageant developed and it grew into a very large-scale event. On the ground in Carlisle, there may well have been less than lofty competition ongoing between pageantry and the more staid attractions of Civic Week. One of the pageant's advertising leaflets states:

Carlisle will be en fete during Pageant week and
Attractions have been arranged for each evening including,
Great Torchlight Spectacle & Tattoo,
Band Concerts, Fancy Dress Ball,
Grand Firework Display,
Decorations & Illuminations
also an
Industrial Exhibition.

There is a suggestion in documents that describe the pageant's organisation that some businesses were reluctant to release employees to take part in the pageant which was held each day in the late afternoon. This was particularly true of the City Council which made it clear in a letter that it expected willing employees to make use of their own leave for this purpose. By the end of June, the episodes committee reported that they were still short of 500 men.43 Despite this, the Council held firm and it appears probable that the Border Regiment again came to the rescue in also providing men for the Jacobite scene among others.

The pageant succeeded nonetheless because of a combination of brilliant publicity involving cheap railway fares, widespread advertisement, prestigious participants and royal patronage, as well as meticulous management on the ground including by a great many ex-military men, good weather for most of the week, and the timing of the whole event during the peak holiday month. The climax of the performances was the attendance by Princess Mary on the final day.44 How far the Civic Week achieved the aim of putting Carlisle on the map however, is moot and raises questions about the common use of historical pageantry as a vehicle for business regeneration. It does seem that if successful, as Carlisle was, a pageant could simply eclipse other ambitions; but in the event of failure, it may of course have taken a good deal of the blame for a disappointing Civic Week.


  1. ^ Carlisle Journal (Civic Week Supplement). Copy of this newspaper available for consultation at Carlisle Records Office. CA/C/18/8.
  2. ^ ‘Carlisle Pageant’, Hull Daily Mail, 30 May 1928, 7.
  3. ^ '1745 Rising at Carlisle Pageant', The Scotsman, 31 July 1928, 6. Beattie hailed from Langholm in the Scottish Borders and published his book in the same year as the pageant; he was known as a writer and it is likely he was consulted.
  4. ^ ‘Carlisle Pageant: Gross receipts’, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 16 August 1928, 12.
  5. ^ ‘Carlisle Pageant Profits’, The Aberdeen Journal, 29 March 1929, 8.
  6. ^ 'Carlisle Pageant: Allocation of Profits', The Scotsman, 27 March 1929, 15.
  7. ^ 'Opening of Civic Week, Success of the Pageant', The Scotsman, 7 August 1928, 5.
  8. ^ Quoted in ‘Carlisle Pageant’, The Yorkshire Post, 16 August 1928, 12; it is presumed that this figure includes attendance at rehearsals.
  9. ^ 'Success of Pageant', The Scotsman, 7 August 1928, 5.
  10. ^ ‘Carlisle Pageant’, Hull Daily Mail, 30 May 1928, 7.
  11. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words specifies only the chorus and character of Time in the opening scene; however, in a Souvenir leaflet, perhaps printed later, the characters of 'the 'Princess of the South and her Train' and the 'The Princess of the North and her Train' are also described. See Carlisle Great Historical Pageant (Carlisle, 1928) 5.
  12. ^ Pageant of Carlisle: Official Souvenir (Carlisle, 1928) np.
  13. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 38.
  14. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 45.
  15. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 50.
  16. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 71.
  17. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 72.
  18. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 73.
  19. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 78
  20. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 86.
  21. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words (Carlisle, 1928) 88.
  22. ^ 'Carlisle Pageant: A Mishap at Rehearsal', The Scotsman, 6 August 1928, 6.
  23. ^ Described in the Carlisle Journal: Civic Week Supplement, 3 August 1928, np.
  24. ^ Inserted note in the 'Minute Book of the Pageant Committee', Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle. DX872/1.
  25. ^ The edition was likely published in 1951 when the pageant was again staged; the music and script were largely unchanged.
  26. ^ The Silver Grill bakery and restaurant was well known in Carlisle for many decades. Following the pageant, one of its dining rooms was renamed 'Pageant Hall' and a number of paintings were commissioned to line its walls. When the Silver Grill finally closed its doors sometimes in the 1970s, the paintings were disposed.
  27. ^ Pageant of Carlisle: Official Souvenir, np.
  28. ^ Pageant of Carlisle: Official Souvenir, np.
  29. ^ W. Theodore Carr quoted in The Carlisle Journal Civic Week Supplement, 3 August, np. Carr was the head of the city's famous biscuit manufacturers of the same name and a former Liberal MP for the Carlisle constituency. He acted as a Vice President on the Pageant Grand Council.
  30. ^ ‘Carlisle’s Industries Opening of Civic Week, Success of the Pageant’, The Scotsman, 7 August 1928, 5.
  31. ^ The Rev. Saunders quoted in the Carlisle Journal Civic Week Supplement, np.
  32. ^ Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle, folder. CAC/18/8.
  33. ^ 'Carlisle Pageant: A Gorgeous Spectacle', The Scotsman, 3 August 1928, 10.
  34. ^ The Rev. Saunders quoted in the Carlisle Journal Civic Week Supplement, np.
  35. ^ For discussion of the representation of Romans as civilisers, see Ayako Yoshino, Pageant Fever: Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England (Tokyo; 2011), 99-139.
  36. ^ The Carlisle Historical Pageant Book of Words, 29.
  37. ^ Minutes of the Pageant Committee, entry for April 29th, Cumbria Record office, box. DX/872.
  38. ^ Minutes of the Pageant Committee, entries for 29 April and 30 May 1927.
  39. ^ ‘Grey Carlisle and Red Rome: An Unhistorical Pageant', the Tablet: International Catholic News Weekly, 13 October 1928, 6-7.
  40. ^ A. Creighton, President of the Civic Week, quoted in Carlisle Journal Civic Week Supplement, np.
  41. ^ 'A Gorgeous Spectacle', The Scotsman, 3 August 1928.
  42. ^ A. Creighton, Carlisle Journal Civic Week Supplement, np.
  43. ^ Minutes of the Pageant Committee, entries for June, Cumbria Record Office, box. DX/872.
  44. ^ The pageant was opened by a different celebrity on each day beginning with Lord Lonsdale on Monday. Each successive day was opened by a locally well-known figure culminating in royal patronage on the closing day.

How to cite this entry

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