Cardiff Castle Pageant

Other names

  • Cardiff Pageant
  • Fete and Pageant in Cardiff Castle in Aid of the Students’ War Memorial Union

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Castle Gardens (Cardiff/Caerdydd) (Cardiff/Caerdydd, Glamorganshire, Wales)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


24–25 June 1931, 2.30pm

Dress rehearsals: 22 June 1931, 7.30pm (uncertain if public) and 23 June 1931 (public).

Pageant proper: 24 and 25 June 1931, 2.30pm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Master of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Redford, Hubert
  • Assistant: Mr Robert Roberts
  • Director of Music: Professor David Evans, MusDoc
  • Master of the Horse: Captain Lionel A Lindsay, MVO
  • Provost Marshal: Professor A.A. Read
  • Episode I Producers: Mrs Cyril Fox and Mr V.E. Nash-Williams
  • Episode II Producers: Dr H. Gordon Greaves and Miss E. Trotter
  • Episode III Producers: Rev. J.M. Cronin and Mr Hubert Redford
  • Episode IV Producer: Mr Hubert Redford
  • Episode V Producer: Mr Hayden Davies, Mr F. Nicholls, Mr Louis Thomas and Mrs L.S. Whitehead

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Principal J.F. Rees
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs J.F. Rees
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr D.J.A. Brown
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr A.R. Dawson
  • Plus 21 women, and 17 men

Pageant Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr Hubert Redford
  • Hon. Sec: Miss H.K. Haynes
  • Mr E.R. Appleton
  • Mrs Beatty
  • Mrs Brett
  • Miss C. Carr
  • The Rev. J.M. Cronin
  • Mr Hayden Davies
  • Mr A.R. Dawson
  • Mr Ernest Deere
  • Professor David Evans
  • Mrs Cyril Fox
  • Dr H. Gordon Greaves
  • Miss Greenlees
  • Mr D. Gruffydd
  • Mrs W.J. Gruffydd
  • Professor W.W. Grundy
  • Mr S.Y. James
  • Principal Ivor John
  • Mrs Marquand
  • The Rev. D. Mathew
  • Mr V.E. Nash-Williams
  • Mr F. Nicholls
  • Miss Ruth Parry
  • Dr Paterson
  • Mr J. Phillips
  • Principal J.F. Rees
  • Mrs J.F. Rees
  • Professor William Rees
  • Mrs William Rees
  • Mr Louis Thomas
  • Mr H.M. Thompson
  • Professor H.J.W. Tillyard
  • Miss Trotter
  • Mrs L.S. Whitehead
  • Mrs David Williams
  • Miss Lindsay Williams

Wardrobe Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs W.J. Gruffydd
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mrs Dyfed Parry
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs William Rees

Episode I:

  • Designer: Mrs W.J. Gruffydd
  • Designer: Mrs G.J. Williams
  • plus 10 women

Episode II:

  • Designer: Mrs Cresswell
  • Designer: Mrs Hemingway
  • plus 8 women
  • Episodes III and IV:
  • Designer: Mrs Dyfed Parry
  • Designer: Mrs Arnold Thomas
  • plus 10 women
  • Episode V:
  • Designer: Mrs H. Bassett
  • Designer: Mrs William Rees
  • plus 14 women

Stalls Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs J.F. Rees
  • Secretary: Mrs A.L. Selby

Arts and Crafts Stall:

  • Presidents: Mrs Grundy; Mrs Dunbar; Mrs Isaac Williams
  • plus 11 women

Artificial Flowers:

  • President: Mrs Gomer Davies

Baskets and Linen Stall:

  • President: Miss Turnbull
  • Vice-President: Mrs A. Callaghan
  • Secretary: Miss E.M. Turnbull
  • Treasurer: Mrs McSweeney

Beauty Stall:

  • President: Mrs Bowen Davies
  • plus three women

Cakes and Sweets—Jewish Ladies’ Stalls:

  • President: Mrs A. Hauser
  • Vice-Presidents: Mrs E. Reuben and Mrs F. Fligelstone
  • Treasurers: Mrs S. Shibko and Mrs W.M. Bogod
  • Secretary: Miss Eva Cohen

Children’s Stall:

  • President: Mrs J.F. Rees and Mrs D.R. Patterson
  • Secretary: Mrs A.L. Selby
  • plus 23 women

China, Glass and Fancy Baskets—Medical School Stall:

  • Presidents: Mrs A.W. Sheen and Miss Maclean, OBE
  • plus 14 women

Fruit Flowers and Vegetables Stalls:

  • President: Lady William James Thomas
  • plus 12 women

Federation of University Women—General Stall:

  • President: Mrs Bruge
  • plus 13 women

Hand-Made and Fancy Stall:

  • President: Mrs William Phillips
  • Vice-President: Mrs Morgan Watkin
  • Treasurer: Mrs David Evans
  • Secretary: Mrs Jenkin James
  • plus 13 women

Hoopla Stall:

  • President: Mrs J.T. Richards
  • plus 7 women

Newport—Sweets and Confectionary Stall:

  • President: Mrs Rocyn Jones
  • Vice-President: Dr Laura Rees
  • plus 8 women

Newport Fixed Prices Stall, 1s- and 2s. 6d.:

  • President: Mrs Lloyd Davies
  • Vice-President: Miss K. Morgan
  • Plus 8 women

Penarth Stalls:

  • Presidents: Mrs Bertram Sessions and Mrs Howard Neale
  • Plus 12 women

Quick Service Buffet:

  • Presidents: Mrs John Cochrane and the Rev. C.A. Clark

Light Refreshments (Association of Past Students):

  • Presidents: Lady Llewellyn and Mrs Iorwerth Clark
  • Plus 12 women

Ice Cream Stall:

  • Presidents: Mrs Emyr Humphreys and the Misses Cooper
  • Plus two women

Bran Tubs:

  • Aberdale Hall Students

Tobacco and Amusement Stalls:

  • President: Professor G.H. Livens
  • Plus 14 women and 1 man

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

  • Grundy, W.W.
  • Nash-Williams, V.E.
  • Paterson, Dr
  • Rees, William


  • Dramatic Prologue. Written and by Professor WW Grundy.
  • Episode I. Written by Mr V.E. Nash-Williams.
  • Episode II. Written by Dr Paterson.
  • Episode III. Arranged by Mrs J.F. Rees.
  • Episode IV. Written by Professor William Rees.
  • Episode V. Written by Professor William Rees.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

To raise funds for the extension of The [Cardiff University] Students’ War Memorial Union—which, only around ten years old, was already ‘quite inadequate as a social centre for some 1200 students’.1

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 45000


22 June [presumably a public dress rehearsal]
Tuesday 23 June: 15000 children at a public dress rehearsal].
Wednesday 24 June: 10000.
Thursday 25 June: Between 15000 and 20000.
It seems likely that, including the dress rehearsals, at least 45000 saw the pageant, or possibly more.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Alongside the pageant there was a more general fete, consisting mostly of stalls of food, homeware, and gifts, managed by an extensive number of small female-staffed committees. There was also a programme of entertainments, including coconut shies, sticking the ham, hoop-la, dancing on the green, and palm readings.

Pageant outline

Dramatic Prologue

Spoken by the Herald:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we here present
Before your view, event upon event.
Roman and Dane and Norman you shall see
Holding the stage awhile in pageantry!
For we are citizens of no mean city—
In need of no man’s patronage, nor pity.
Cardiff is past and present and to come,
And of its glories we but give the sum!
Haply in days afar, when we are dead,
This day shall be remembered. I have said.

Episode I. Constantine the Great Acclaimed as Emperor by the Roman Garrison at Cardiff, 306 AD

The Cardiff fortress is almost deserted, most of the garrison being in their quarters resting. Sentry groups remain, however. A dispatch rider brings news that the Emperor Constantine will soon arrive. The legionnaires pour out of their quarters and assemble. Constantine rides in at the head of his escort, and the Prefect, Postumius Varus, advances to pay loyal homage. He gives a speech, in Latin, saluting the Emperor. Constantine and his aides dismount, and proceed to the tribunal. The Emperor addresses a few words to the assembled legionnaires, reminding them of their prowess under his father, and exhorts them to loyalty to himself and the Empire. They are dismissed, and trumpets are sounded, before the whole of the assembled troops give the Imperial Salute. Constantine rides out slowly with his cavalcade, and the troops return to their quarters. The Herald announces the passing of six centuries, and the arrival of the Danes.

Episode II. The Home Coming of Vagn, the Jomsviking, 890

On Midsummer’s Day, the seaport is celebrating the Midsummer Fires. Though now Christian, the inhabitants still keep up Pagan ceremonies of the summer solstice—the bonfires, processions, and dances. A sacrificial meal is served, and celebrated with singing and dancing to music on the Welsh crwth [a stringed instrument], including Welsh and Norwegian dances. An alarm sounds, announcing the sighting of longships arriving. Vagn and Bjorn appear at the head of the bodyguard, and are welcomed enthusiastically. Vagn asks for the hand of Ingiborg in marriage; upon hearing from Bjorn of Vagn’s bravery, the chief assents.

Episode III. The Marriage of Mabel Fitzhamon to Robert, Earl of Gloucester

Part I. Typical Medieval Crowd of Inhabitants of Cardiff and District

Part II. Tableau Following the Marriage of Mabel Fitzhamon to Robert of Gloucester

Part III. The Girls of the Cardiff High School Perform the Masque of Arthur’s Blessing - King Arthur, grievously wounded, is brought by the Queens to the isle of Avalon, where he is healed. The quiet years pass. Ever and anon the restless winds bring news of Cymru. In 1122, they tell of the marriage of Lady Mabel Fitzhamon to Robert, Henry’s son. King Arthur sends his Spirits of Joy to shower their marriage gifts upon the bridal pair.

Episode IV. Henry II and the Man of Religion, 22 April 1172

It is Sunday morning outside the Castle; the royal bodyguard awaits the King and make final preparations, as a market bustles nearby. Henry II, mounted on a white horse, returning from Mass at the Chapel of St Piran Preparatory, enters the Castle to bid adieu to his host and hostess, Earl William and Countess Hawise. After entering, he is accosted by a religious man, who tells the King that if he enforces a ban on buying, selling and working on the Sabbath, all his undertakings shall be successful, and that he shall live a happy life. The King is troubled by the words of the prophecy; he has a vision of the Fair Rosamund, and calls to mind the murder of Becket. He tries to find the holy man to question him further, but to no avail. The King leaves the castle, the crowd cheering as he does so.

Troubadours Song

Episode V. The Grant of the Charter of Privileges to the Burgesses of Cardiff, 19 April 1340

Much dissatisfaction is present in the town among the burgesses due to rough treatment by the lord’s officers—from unfair gaoling to the seizing of common animals. A new charter was thus needed. A general meeting of the townsmen instructed their bailiffs to petition their Lord for a fuller granting of their privileges. On the morning of 19 April 1340, the daily life of the Castle is proceeding. Several songs and dances are performed by maidens, including ‘Sumer is Icumen in’. A loud knocking at the Castle Gate signals the approach of the burgesses, who enter, with the guilds of the town. Lord Hugh le Despenser and his wife emerge, attended by Abbots, Chaplains, and Knights. The Lord’s Chancellor reads out a new charter, confirming several rights of the burgesses and traders. The seal of the Lord is affixed, and is signed by the Abbots and Knights. The Lords retire, and the Burgesses return to the town for a celebration.

In Memoriam 1914–1918

[It appears that this followed the pageant, but it is not certain what form the episode took, beyond the inclusion of the following musical pieces.]

Last Post—Reveille

‘Our God, Our Help in Ages Past’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Constantine I [Flavius Valerius Constantinus; known as Constantine the Great] (272/3–337) Roman emperor
  • Henry I (1068/9–1135) king of England and lord of Normandy
  • Robert, first earl of Gloucester (b. before 1100, d. 1147) magnate
  • Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain
  • Urban [Gwrgan] (d. 1134) bishop of Llandaff
  • Henry II (1133–1189) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Cressy, Hugh de (d. 1189) administrator
  • Stuteville, William de (d. 1203) baron
  • Gundeville, Hugh de (d. 1181?) administrator
  • Clifford, Rosamund [called Fair Rosamund] (b. before 1140?, d. 1175/6) royal mistress
  • William, second earl of Gloucester (d. 1183) magnate
  • Valognes, Hamo de [Hamo fitz Geoffrey] (d. 1202/3) justiciar of Ireland

Musical production

Park and Dare Workmen’s Silver Band.
Conductor: Mr Haydn Bebb.
The National Orchestra of Wales.
Conductor: Walter Braithwaite.
College Madrigal Singers.

‘Troubadours Song’ (end of Episode IV).

‘Sumer is Icumen in’ (Episode V).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Western Mail and South Wales News
Daily Mail
Daily Herald
The Times
Manchester Guardian
Sunday Chronicle (Manchester)
Greenock Telegraph

Book of words

Fete and Pageant in Cardiff Castle in Aid of the Students’ War Memorial Union. Cardiff, 1931.

Price: 1s. J3/5/1. National Library of Wales.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, [1895x1939], Box 10, National Library of Wales.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Cardiff Castle Pageant of 1931 was the first major pageant to be staged in the city since the great National Pageant of Wales in 1909. In contrast to that pageant, its focus was local rather than national. Alongside the pageant there was a fete, consisting mostly of stalls of food, homeware and gifts, managed by numerous small female-staffed committees. There was also a programme of entertainments, including coconut shies, sticking the ham, hoop-la, dancing on the green, and palm readings. The purpose of the pageant was to raise funds for the Cardiff University Student’s Union building, which acted as a War Memorial, the movement for the original building having been started by ex-servicemen in the years following the First World War when ‘they were acutely conscious that there was something lacking.’3 In general, the pageant was true to the Edwardian form established by Parker and was a moderate success.

The driving force behind the pageant was the Principal of Cardiff University, James Frederick Rees, a historian of England and Wales in his own right, who acted as the Chairman of the Executive Committee. For Rees, as well as raising money, the pageant was orientated both towards creating citizenship and boosting the image of the city. As he said in the foreword to the souvenir, it ‘should do something to arouse interest in Cardiff’s past history among its citizens’ as well ‘advertise the City’s attractions among those who are yet as unacquainted with them.’ In particular, he posited the ‘enthusiastic co-operation of the citizens with the students’ as being vital for the future of the city.4 In a piece for the Western Mail and South Wales News pageant supplement, Rees elaborated further, drawing attention to the contemporary context and arguing that historical pageantry was ‘a significant counterblast to the pessimism of these days’—since ‘history is an account of constant change and adaptation’, showing ‘that our forebears found a way out when it often seemed to them that they were faced by overwhelming odds.’ In common with other English civic pageants in the early 1930s, then, the Cardiff Pageant was simultaneously a piece of economic boosterism and an attempt to encourage community feeling and stability.5 As Rees summarised:

A city conscious of its dignity and proud of its cultural achievements is the home of citizens animated by public spirit and eager to perform disinterested service. Civilisation, as the word tells us, is the product of such communities. We need to foster an historic sense in the modern world, and more particularly in great industrial and commercial centres.6

Working with the pageant to foster this historic sense was the Western Mail and South Wales News. In its special pageant supplement, it supported the event with articles on the history of the city, by Professor William Rees, alongside articles describing how Cardiff was the ‘Great Shopping City’.7 Directly comparing the 1931 pageant with the 1909 pageant, the Western Mail stated that the former was ‘of more limited scope, the episodes being drawn solely from the history of the city’ but argued that ‘what is lost in extent compared with the earlier pageant is gained in concentration of local interest, and there must be thousands of residents who are anticipating with keen pleasure the unfolding of the panorama of local history which will then take place.’8 Like Rees, or perhaps because of him, the newspaper also drew attention to the historical accuracy that formed the basis of the pageant: ‘It may be doubted if any other historical pageant among the scores which have been promoted in this country during the past quarter of a century has attracted the collaboration of so many experts in local history’, leading to ‘events set forth in detail as authentic as it is possible to be.’9

In terms of the production of the pageant, the episodes were a mix of tableaux in ‘dumb show’ and scenes with dialogue. The opening dramatic prologue drew attention to the civic rather than national basis of the storyline, declaring ‘…we are citizens of no mean city—In need of no man’s patronage, nor pity. Cardiff is past and present and to come, And of its glories we but give the sum!’ In terms of the incidents actually chosen, the pageant was distinctly ‘safe’, concentrating on visual spectacle rather than nationalist emotion, like many Welsh pageants. The first episode portrayed the Roman Garrison at Cardiff in 306 AD. The second episode depicted the marriage of Vagn and Ingiborg. The third scene featured the marriage of Mabel Fitzhamon to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and involved an interesting tableau, when the girls of Cardiff High School performed the Masque of Arthur’s Blessing. In this ‘play within a play’, King Arthur is shown awaiting the ‘news of Cymru’, and is seen sending Spirits of Joy when he hears of the marriage. King Arthur was a notable character of Welsh pageantry, seen to encapsulate the Welsh spirit of chivalry and national pride. That, in the pageant, he approved of the Anglo-Norman marriage, may suggest the relative Anglophilia of Cardiff and South Wales in comparison to the more boldly nationalist pageants of places like Anglesey. The fourth episode also portrayed the visit of a Norman, King Henry II, whose entry was greeted with cheers. More generally, the pageant avoided contentious historical issues; the main narrative ended in 1340, with the granting of a charter of privileges to Cardiff (a classic scene for civic booster pageants), thus dodging the Welsh Revolt of 1400–1415—a very popular scene in many other pageants, especially in North Wales. Of course, bearing in mind this motive for staging the pageant, there was an element of remembrance in the pageant, which ended with an ‘In Memoriam’ scene, where it seems the Last Post was played, followed by ‘Our God, Our Help in Ages Past’. This jump, from 1340 to 1914–1918, thus seems a little odd.

Despite its concentration on a very distant past, the pageant was, seemingly, a triumph. Despite only having four performances (two of which were dress rehearsals), it was seen by at least 45000 people—crowds that ‘delighted’ Lord Bute, a history enthusiast who had restored the castle and hoped that the people of the city, and South Wales more generally, would learn something of the history of the castle and its influence on the past.10 Principal Rees described how it was ‘generally agreed that the Pageant has been an enormous success in every way’, due, he believed, to using historical experts to write the episodes.11

Moroever, not only was the pageant a success at the time, it still holds interest and importance today. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, and in contrast to many (if not the majority of) contemporary historical pageants in England, it maintained a clearly factual and historical basis. Rather than using allegory or fictional or exaggerated scenes (beyond King Arthur, which was actually presented as a play rather than a factual episode), it stuck mostly to a basic historical narrative. Secondly, and linked to this historicity, its story also stopped in the 14th century, well before the present day, and indeed before contentious issues like the Welsh Revolt in 1400 or the Act of Union in 1601. Finally, based on its relatively high attendance figures, it demonstrates that—despite the audience being some way below the 200000 who attended the Welsh National Pageant in 1909 (which, it should be noted, had almost ten times as many performances) —historical pageantry could still pull in big crowds in Wales.


  1. ^ J.F. Rees, ‘Foreword’ in Fete and Pageant in Cardiff Castle in Aid of the Students’ War Memorial Union (Cardiff, 1931), National Library of Wales. 37. J3/5/1.
  2. ^ ‘The Grand Finale’, Western Mail, 26 June 1931, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, [1895x1939], National Library of Wales. Box 10.
  3. ^ J.F. Rees, ‘Foreword’ in Fete and Pageant in Cardiff Castle in Aid of the Students’ War Memorial Union (Cardiff, 1931), 37. National Library of Wales. J3/5/1.
  4. ^ Rees, ‘Foreword’, 37.
  5. ^ See proformas for the Stoke-on-Trent Historical Pageant of 1930; the Pageant of Leicester of 1932; and the Greenwich Night Pageant of 1933.
  6. ^ Western Mail and South Wales News Supplement, 23 June 1931, no page number. National Library of Wales. J3/5/2.
  7. ^ Ibid., 2 and 8.
  8. ^ ‘Cardiff Pageant’, Western Mail, 23 June 1931, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's Press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10.
  9. ^ Ibid.
  10. ^ ‘Cardiff Castle Pageant’, Western Mail, 25 June 1931, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's Press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10.
  11. ^ ‘The Grand Finale’, Western Mail, 26 June 1931, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's Press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10.

How to cite this entry

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