Bedale Festival Pageant
Place: Grounds of Bedale Hall (Bedale) (Bedale, Yorkshire, North Riding, England)
Number of performances: 2
17–18 July 1951
Performances were held in the evening of both days.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Archbold, Miss D.K.
- Producer: Mr Roger Winton
- Musical Director: Dr A.J. Bull
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Archbold, Miss D.K.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers1000
The grandstand cost £210. It is likely the pageant made a small profit.
Object of any funds raised
Festival of Britain and 700th Anniversary of the Granting of the Bedale Market Charter
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 2000 - 4000
1500 attended on the first night
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Episode I. Edward III granting the First Charter for Bedale Market 1251
Episode II. Bedale Men with the Black Prince assaulting the walls of Calais
Episode III. Building of the Church
Episode IV. Monastic Life
Episode V. The Pilgrimage of Grace
Episode VI. [Agricultural] Riots
Episode VII. A Railway Train Drawing Two Coaches of Passengers arrives at Bedale Station
Key historical figures mentioned
- Edward III (1312–1377) king of
England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Edward [Edward of Woodstock; known as
the Black Prince], prince of Wales and of Aquitaine (1330–1376) heir to the
English throne and military commander
Choir of 300 and orchestra from across the North Riding
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
After the abject—and costly—failure of the 1947 Bradford Centenary Pageant, the tradition was suppressed across Yorkshire, with Wakefield cancelling its own centenary pageant. Despite Leeds being one of the regional centres for the Festival of Britain, the local reaction to a costly event was muted, with one Yorkshireman (living up to the stereotype) reported as declaring ‘“Festival of Britain?... They want to call it Funeral of Britain.”’1 Despite plans for a number of events across North Yorkshire, there was a great deal of scepticism towards the venture. Fortunately, Bedale had already been planning to hold a pageant in commemoration of the seven hundredth anniversary of the granting of a market charter by Edward III in 1251. Miss Archbold, who had been Mistress at Aysgarth School since 1928, was engaged to write the script and already by April the Yorkshire Post announced that ‘rehearsals for six of the seven episodes are under way’, noting that patients at the local sanatorium were knitting ‘chain mail’ from balls of string.2 Much of this knitted armour went to clothe real soldiers: a hundred of the performers were taken from the nearby Catterick garrison, with the remainder of the cast being locals and pupils from Bedale School. At the head of these soldiers, naturally, was their commanding officer, Major-General C.M.F. White, who played Edward III, prompting the Yorkshire Post headline ‘General is King for Three Days’.3
There was a grandstand—‘It may be that we shall not have one as big for another 100 years’, declared one organizer, justifying the outlay of £210—which shielded the audience from the rain.4 Indeed, as with many pageants, the weather was poor throughout, but on this occasion it failed to mar an excellent event, the quality of which surprised the correspondent from the Yorkshire Post—who may well have had bad memories of Bradford’s pageant. As it was, the Post’s correspondent reported being ‘surprised and enthusiastic about the dimensions of Bedale’s pageant… One is so often used to seeing a couple of tired dray-horses representing a cohort of cavalry at rural pageants that to see scores of mounted knights, cavaliers and their ladies thundering across the grounds of Bedale Hall fired the imagination’, before going on to revel in the sight of ‘whole battalions of pike men in scarlet and silver—bowmen in russet and green: a life-size castle and a monastery full of monks.’5 Overall, many others were similarly impressed by the ‘beautifully told and magnificently staged’ presentation of ‘Seven hundred years of honourable, if rather uneventful, history’, which ‘wove a colourful tapestry out of the lives of earlier Bedale folk, great and small. It brought brilliant pageantry out of history and evoked from the past the stuff of the lives of the ordinary people.’6 The Post’s reporter added that ‘Perhaps the best compliment one can pay is that the cast matched the excellence of Miss Archbold’s script.’7
The Bedale Pageant was a typical celebration of English social history, and the ordinariness of everyday life, which characterised many of the Festival of Britain Pageants (see, for example entries for the Boston, East Grinstead and Rushden Pageants). The pageant was obviously a success because the town held a further pageant two years later for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, prompting the Yorkshire Post to declare that ‘The people of Bedale love a pageant. They put on one of the best of the Festival of Britain shows and have since donned fancy costume to serve in their shops or in the market whenever they have been able to find an excuse.’8
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 10 March 1951, 6.
Ibid., 2 April 1951, 2, and 7 April 1951, 2.
Ibid., 11 July 1951, 8.
Ibid., 18 July, 1951, 8.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 18 May 1953, 8.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Bedale Festival Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1365/