Alnwick Pageant

Pageant type


Performed by children from local schools

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Place: Alnwick Castle (Alnwick) (Alnwick, Northumberland, England)

Year: 1951

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


23–25 July 1951 at 6.30pm

(The first performance was held in the Guest Hall of the Castle owing to inclement weather.)

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer (Pageant Master): Mosby, F.
  • Producers: Mrs. Iceton, Dr. Manz, and Mr S. Harvey
  • Stage Manager: S.H. Bell
  • Properties and Stage Directions: Mr. J.R. Baty
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr. W.E.W. Cushing
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr. W.R. Miller
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss L. Lloyd (headmistress of the Duchess’s School)
  • Transport Officer: Mr. T. Burn

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

Mosby, F.

Names of composers

Williams, Ralph Vaughan

Armstrong, Jack

Numbers of performers


Financial information

  • The overall cost of the Festival was £178 15s 6d
  • Income from sale of Programmes: £21 19s 6d
  • The pageant made a profit of approximately £70
  • Net charge to the Council of £80 

(Morpeth Herald, 9 November 1951, 2.)

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

1951 Festival of Britain

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 5000 - 8000


2000 attended the first performance (Sphere, 4 August 1951, 28.)

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


(Most of the audiences were schoolchildren, who were given free admission).

Associated events

The final performance of the pageant was followed by a procession through the town. English Folk Dance Society annual festival on Duke’s School Playing-Field. 

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Passage of Princess Margaret North to marry James IV of Scotland, 1502.

(The subsequent scenes are all viewed by the Princess)

Episode II. ‘The Fair Flower of Northumberland’.

Dramatised ballad of a Scottish knight imprisoned in Alnwick Castle by the Earl of Northumberland.

Episode III. Sixteenth Century Morality Play, ‘Everyman’

Episode IV. Lincolnshire Dancing Farce ‘The Ravensby Play’

Finale. The Princess Departs

Key historical figures mentioned

Margaret Tudor (1489–1541) Queen of the Scots

Musical production

  • ‘Morpeth Rant’, Jack Armstrong
  • ‘Whittingham Fair’, Anon.
  • Unspecified music by Vaughan Williams

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Morpeth Herald
Berwick Advertiser
Hawick News and Border Chronicle

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



Alnwick had seen a number of pageants (1925, 1927 and 1928) and the tradition was revived for the 1951 Festival of Britain. The pageant was performed by children from fourteen local schools, led by F. Mosby, Headmaster of the Duke’s School. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who owned Alnwick Castle, were crucial patrons for staging the pageant and attended the first performance. The Alnwick Pageant was one of hundreds held to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951 (see entries for Headley, Boston, East Grinstead, and Bedale, among others).

The pageant had been mooted in January 1951. In May 1950, with developments well underway and Mosby declaring to the Morpeth Herald that arrangements were ‘now complete’ (possibly giving hostages to fortune), the Council made the unprecedented decision that it ‘would be prepared to consider any financial loss within reason.’1 Apparently the Council had been allowed to do this by the government, which may have agreed to underwrite any prospective loss. This allowed thousands of schoolchildren to attend the pageant for free, bussed in from miles around.

The Festival at Alnwick apparently had two opening ceremonies, which the Morpeth Herald compared to having two Popes based at Avignon and Rome. At a celebratory Church service, the Rev. Roy Backhouse declared that people ‘needed to-day to recapture something of the sense of the greatness of Great Britain’, citing the heritage of the North-East from the early church leaders Bede and St. Cuthbert. He told the congregation that when the people ‘thought of this Festival time by pageant or otherwise there must be thanksgiving in their hearts that so much good had been bestowed upon them.’2 

The Pageant was well received, with the Morpeth Herald stating that ‘The subject of the pageant was well chosen, not only for its local association, but because of its wider interest for the marriage of Princess Margaret Tudor resulted, a hundred years later, in the union of the crowns of England.’3 Thousands of schoolchildren witnessed each performance, despite poor weather which forced the first performance to be held indoors. After the final performance, there was a procession of all the performers through the town. The Chairman of Alnwick Urban Council, Mrs. A.C. Leath, stated that ‘The Pageant was outstanding’.4 Unlike many other Festival Pageants, the Alnwick Pageant (despite not charging admission to most of the children who attended), made a profit of around £70 which did something to make up for the £178 expended on the Festival.5 The town held a further Pageant in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Elizabeth II.


1. ^ Morpeth Herald, 25 May 1951, 5.
2. ^ Ibid., 13 July 1951, 7.
3. ^ Ibid., 27 July 1951, 2.
4. ^ Ibid., 10 August 1951, 4.
5. ^ Ibid., 9 November 1951, 2.

How to cite this entry

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