Grand Pageant at Ilston Valley
Place: Not Known (Ilston) (Ilston, Glamorganshire, Wales)
Number of performances: 2
19 September at 3pm and 6pm, 1936
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Author and Producer [Pageant Master]:
Phillips, D. Rhys
- Mistress of the Robes: Mrs. D. Rhys
- Chief Marshals: Talog Williams and J.D.
- Choir Marshals: Bryniog Jones, R.J.
Gwynne and Dd. Rees
- Secretary: Rev. Hugh Evansd
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Chairman: Cllr. John Lewis, JP
- President: D.R. Grenfell
- Chairman: Mrs. Henry Folland, JP
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Phillips, D. Rhys
Names of composers
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
John Miles and Thomas Proud are about to leave the Glass House in Thames Street, London, intent on spreading the gospel in Gower, their home. Ministers bestow blessings upon them. They are greeted by Admiral Sir Robert Mansell.
Miles and Proud arrive in the Ilston Valley. They are welcomed and led forward by a group of the Ladies of Ilston. A service begins with Proud praying and Miles preaching a moving sermon, telling of his perilous journey and his plans.
A letter has reached Miles from John Collman, minister of Barnstaple, stating that James Hardyn has crossed to Swansea bent on disrupting the church of Ilston. Hardyn and his associate Bowen arrive by horse and incite a mob of their followers. Gypsy maidens hold the attention of the mob through dances. The leader of the gypsies asks that Hardyn abandons his plan. Hardyn begins to waver, becomes penitent, and is welcomed by Miles.
A messenger brings news that Cromwell has arrived at Swansea on his way to Ireland, and will be visiting Ilston that afternoon. Miles meets Cromwell and delivers an address in support of the Lord Protector, who is presented with various gifts. Cromwell responds, recalling his Welsh ancestry in Glamorgan. He talks of his ideals for Parliament, and his desire to break the shackles of religion as well as his joy in seeing the church established in Ilston.
Scene V. 1660.
After the Restoration, the Baptist community begins to dwindle. The old vicar of Houghton arrives and calls for his keys, forcing Miles to flee to America, though not before addressing the congregation one last time. Lewis Thomas, his successor, pays tribute to Miles and recounts his services to religion in South Wales.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Miles [Myles], John (1620/21–1683) Particular
Baptist minister and founder of the Baptist movement in south Wales
- Mansell, Sir Robert (1570/71–1652) naval
officer and administrator
- Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658) lord
protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
- None known
Other primary published materials
- Pasiant Llanilltyd, Browyr, 1936. Grand Pageant at Ilston Valley, Gower, on Saturday, Sept. 19th, 1936. Swansea/Trerise, 1936.
References in secondary literature
- Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society. Volume 12, no. 1. 1983-84. At 48.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of Programme in the British Library
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Trafodion of the Baptist Historical Society, 1928.
The Pageant told the story of John Miles, the Baptist Minister, who established the Baptist form of worship in the local area and in South Wales more generally. The 1936 pageant was one of at least two pageants held in the Ilston Valley during the 1930s (a pageant had been at nearby Penrice Castle in 1924). The site of the church at which Miles had preached, almost certainly the site of the pageant itself, was subsequently abandoned by the Anglican congregation and fell into ruins. In the twentieth century it became a focal point for Welsh Baptists and on 13 June 1928 a ceremony took place to unveil a commemorative table; attended by David Lloyd George, it was followed by a civic reception at Swansea Town Hall.1
As the Cromwell Association remarks, the scene involving Cromwell was wholly fictitious: the Lord Protector’s very brief stay in Swansea en route to Milford Haven was in July 1649, two months before Miles established the church at Ilston: ‘There is no evidence that Cromwell ever met Miles, let alone traipsed out to Ilston.’2 D. Rhys Phillips (the Swansea chief librarian) was either taking liberties with the text, or was eager to believe more dubious accounts. Nonetheless, Cromwell can claim some Welsh ancestry,3 and it is certainly true that he remained popular in Wales into the twentieth century. Indeed, most of all, the Pageant demonstrates the affection for Cromwell among Welsh nonconformists, for whom he continued to be a hero, being seen as a great defender of faith and upholder of religious freedoms. The pageant, though small and held in a remote place, was significant enough to attract the attentions of the Manchester Guardian, a chief mouthpiece of nonconformist opinion. Though the Grand Pageant at Ilston Valley attests to the continuing importance of Welsh Baptism and lingering resentments over the Civil Wars (seen by many as a thwarted struggle for religious freedom), the Welsh Baptist church had begun to decline during the 1920s, the number of its adherents falling from 130000 in 1926, to 115000 in 1940, to around 93000 by 1960.4
Manchester Guardian, 13 June 1928, 20.
‘Cromwellian Britain – Ilston Glamorganshire’, The Cromwell Association, accessed 1 August 2016, http://www.olivercromwell.org/ilston.htm
Lloyd Bowen, ‘Oliver Cromwell (alias Williams) and Wales’, in Patrick Little, ed., Oliver Cromwell, New Perspectives (Basingstoke, 2009), 169.
S.J.D. Green, ‘The Legacy of Ecclesiastical Establishment’, in S.J.D. Green and R.C. Whiting, eds., The Boundaries of the State in Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1996), 306.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Grand Pageant at Ilston Valley’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1426/