The Historical Pageant of Leicestershire

Other names

  • The Pageant of Leicester
  • The Leicester Pageant

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Abbey Park (Leicester) (Leicester, Leicestershire, England)

Year: 1932

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 12


16–25 June 1932

  • Thursday 16 June, 8pm
  • Friday 17 June, 8pm
  • Saturday 18 June, 3pm and 8pm
  • Monday 20 June, 8pm
  • Tuesday 21 June, 3pm and 8pm
  • Wednesday 22 June, 8pm
  • Thursday 23 June, 8pm
  • Friday 24 June, 8pm
  • Saturday 25 June, 3pm and 8pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank
Episode I:
  • Chairman: Major H.F. Stokes
  • Vice-Chairman: Rev. C.W. Weston
  • Secretary: Captain Bolland
  • Treasurer: Lt. H.G.T. Withington
  • Stage Manager: Edgar Tyler
  • Assistant Stage Manager: J.H. Astill
  • Properties: C.E. Sheffield
  • Wardrobes: Miss Leather and Mrs G. Andrews
  • Music Master: F. Carr
  • Marshal: Company Sergt-Major Girling
Episode II:
  • Chairman: Charles Lyle
  • Secretary Mrs R.A. Henderson
  • Assistant Secretary: Mrs Toone
  • Treasurer: Major R.A. Henderson
  • Stage Manager: W. Langley
  • Assistant Stage Manager and Marshal: C. Roberts
  • Properties: Kingsley Veasey
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Mrs Roberts and Miss Ellis
Episode III:
  • Chairman: Mgr. Barry-Doyle
  • Vice-Chairman: Thomas Lilley
  • Secretary: Miss M. Graham
  • Assistant Secretary: Mrs Kelley
  • Treasurer: Rev. Father George
  • Stage Manager: Countess Gabrielle de Wilden
  • Assistant Stage Manager: W. Sawbridge
  • Properties: F. Rich
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss Maine
Episode IV:
  • Chairman and Stage Manager: H. Twilley
  • Secretary: Miss M. Preece
  • Assistant Secretary and Treasurer: A.J. Riley
  • Assistant Stage Manager: A.J. Graham
  • Properties: W. Palmer
  • Costumes: Miss Christine Castle
  • Marshal: Oscar Rodhouse
Episode V:
  • Chairman: Rev. Canon G.E. Powell
  • Secretary: Miss J. Cooper
  • Stage Managers: A.H. Davy and A. Philip
  • Properties: R.M. Upjohn
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Mrs G. Rudd and Mrs C. Matthews
  • Marshal: Miss B.A. Thomas
Episode VI:
  • Chairman: Lt.-Colonel A. Halkyard, MC
  • Secretaries: Major C.M. Serjeanston, OBE and A.R. Coombes
  • Stage Manager: Lt. Colonel J.P.W. Jamie, MC
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Major J.C. Barrett, VC and Major F.M. Mantle
  • Costumes: Mrs A. Halkyard and Captain F.E. Oliver
  • Marshals: Captain C.D. Oliver; Lietuenant R.H.D. Sparrow; Lieutenant J.G. Squirrell
  • Properties and Horses: Lieutenant W.J. Phillips
Episode VII:
  • Chairman: Herbert Pochin
  • Secretary: A. Northfield
  • Treasurer: Henry Hancock
  • Stage Manager: Roy Pochin
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Miss Kitty Holland
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Mrs D. Gimson and Mrs Shipley
  • Marshal: Sydney J. Pick
  • Assistant Marshal: H.L. Porter

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • President: The Lord Mayor, Alderman W.E. Wilford, JP
  • Vice-President: The Deputy Lord Mayor, Alderman H. Carver, JP
  • Chairman: Councillor Chas E. Gillot, FCR.
  • Hon. Secretary: H.A. Pritchard (Town Clerk)
  • Hon. Treasurer: Alfred Riley, FSAA (City Treasurer)
  • Hon. Accountant: P.A.H. Bromwich, ASAA
  • Hon. Auditors: C.H. Bolton and Co. (Chartered Accountants)
  • Secretary: W.E.H. Allen
  • E.C. Barnacle
  • H.W. Bourne
  • W. Bradley
  • E.A. Burley
  • J.C. Burton, FRGS
  • Mrs O.J.B. Cole
  • W.F. Curtis
  • A.H. Davy
  • Miss Councillor E.C. Fortey, BSc, JP
  • W. Golland
  • Councillor T.J. Gooding
  • Alderman H.W. Hallam, JP
  • S.I. Heiman, ARCA
  • F. Shakespeare Herne
  • W.I. Hodgkins
  • F.J. Jackson
  • Mrs W. Keay
  • L. Kershaw, BSc, FGS, Assoc.M.Inst.C.E.
  • J.M. Kirkwood
  • L.E. Lavis
  • W.E. Legge
  • Miss D. Loweth
  • C. Lyle
  • Shirley March
  • Miss Miller
  • J.W. Ofield
  • Mrs C.F. Oliver, CBE, JP
  • Major T. Guy Paget, DL, JP
  • Herbert Pochin
  • H. Pool, M.Inst.E.E.
  • W.H. Riley, FRIBA
  • Councillor T.F. Richards
  • Mrs Councillor E. Swainston
  • H.L. Shepherd
  • A. Swan
  • J.W. Stops
  • F.R. Thomas
  • W.W. Waddington
  • R. Guy Waddington (deceased)
  • H.F. Watson
  • T. Wilkie

Acting Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor C.E. Gillot
  • Vice-Chairman: Councillor T.J. Gooding
  • Secretary: W.E.H. Allen
  • Master of the Pageant: Frank Lascelles
  • The Lord Mayor, Alderman W.E. Wilford, JP
  • F. Shakespeare Herne
  • Hon. Accountant: P.A.H. Bromwich
  • J. Cecil Burton, FRGS
  • H.A. Pritchard
  • A. Riley, FSAA

Finance Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor T.J. Gooding
  • Vice-Chairman: J.A. Hartopp
  • Hon. Secretary: P.A.H. Bromwich
  • Hon. Solicitor: Evan Barlow
  • 20 men, 0 women

Finance Sub-Committee for Tickets:

  • 4 men, 0 women

Reception Committee:

  • The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor, Alderman W.E. Wilford, JP
  • The Lady Mayoress, Mrs Wilford
  • Councillor C.E. Gillot
  • Frank Lascelles, Esq.
  • Mrs Oliver, CBE, JP
  • Major A.E. Burnaby, DL, JP
  • Mrs Burnaby
  • Major T. Guy Paget, DL, JP
  • Major C.M. Serjeantson, OBE, DL
  • Lt.-Col. R.E. Martin, CMG, MA, DL, JP
  • Sir Arthur Hazlerigg, Bart (Lord Lieutenant)
  • The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Leicester, Dr Cyril Bardsley, DD
  • Mrs Fielding Johnson
  • Cecil Gee, Esq.
  • Claude Bennion, Esq.
  • Evan Barlolw, Esq.
  • Thos. Morley, Esq.
  • The Rev. B. Uffen
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr W.E.H. Allen
  • 15 men, 4 women

Historical Committee:

  • Chairman: Major T. Guy Paget, DL, JP, CC
  • Vice-Chairman: F. Shakespeare Herne
  • Hon. Secretary: E.A. Burley, MRST
  • 23 men, 4 women = 27 total

Publications, Press and Publicity Committees:

  • Chairman: F. Shakespeare Herne
  • Vice-Chairman: P. Dobbie
  • Hon. Secretary: L.E. Lavis, AIPA
  • Chairman of Press Sub-Committee: H.W. Bourne
  • Vice-Chairman of Press Sub-Committee: T. Manock
  • Hon. Secretary of Press Sub-Committee: H.W. Watson
  • Chairman of Publicity Sub-Committee: F.R. Thomas
  • Hon. Secretary of Publicity Sub-Committee: H.L. Shepherd
  • Chairman of the Publications Sub-Committee: R.G. Waddington
  • Hon. Secretary of Publications Sub-Committee: A. Swan, BASc

Lectures Committee:

  • Chairman: W.H. Rippin, CC
  • Vice-Chairman: G.E. Fasnacht, MA
  • Hon. Secretary: Capt. H.G. Riley ARIBA
  • 17 men, 1 woman = 18 total

Music Committee:

  • Chairman: W.F. Curtis
  • Vice-Chairman: Major L.V. Wykes
  • Hon. Secretary: W.W. Waddington
  • 11 men, 2 women = 13 total

Materials and Costumes Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs C.F. Oliver, CBE, JP
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs Roberts
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Loweth
  • 63 women, 16 men = 79 total

Amphitheatre Committee:

  • Chairman: W.H. Riley, FRIBA
  • Vice-Chairman: R. Lisle
  • Hon. Secretary: E.W. Legge
  • 17 men, 0 women

Exhibition and Industrial Display Committee:

  • Chairman: J. Cecil Burton, FRGS
  • Hon. Secretary: Shirley March, ASAA
  • 14 men, 0 women
  • Amphitheatre Display Committee:
  • Chairman: Charles Lyle
  • Vice-Chairman: J.H. Cartwright
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss E.W. Miller, BA
  • Stage Manager: Captain S.L. Nathan
  • 16 men, 8 women = 24 total

Performers’ Committee:

  • Chairman: Herbert Pochin
  • Vice-Chairman: W. Langley
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs O.J.B. Cole
  • 16 men, 11 women = 27 total

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: Lawrence W. Kershaw, BSc, FGS, Assoc.M.Inst. C.E.
  • Vice-Chairman: G.S. Ingles, ARCA
  • Hon. Secretary: J.W. Ofield
  • 20 men, 1 woman = 21 total

Designs Committee:

  • Chairman: S.I. Heiman, ARCA
  • Vice-Chairman: G.E. Ingles, ARCA
  • Hon Secretary: Mrs Margaret E. Keay
  • 13 men, 15 women = 28 total

Shops Display Committee:

  • Chairman: W. Golland
  • Vice-Chairman: B.H. Crook
  • Hon. Secretary: E.C. Barnacle
  • 18 men, 1 woman = 19 total

Whist Drive Committee:

  • Chairman and Secretary: P.A.H. Bromwich
  • 9 men, 0 women

Street Decorations and Illuminations Committee:

  • Chairman: Thomas Wilkie
  • Vice-Chairman: R. Lisle
  • Hon. Secretary: W.T. Hodgkins
  • 11 men, 0 women

Horse and Trappings Committee:

  • Chairman: J.W. Stops
  • Hon. Secretary: F.P. Bradley
  • Hon. Veterinary Surgeon: C. Haywood, MRCVS
  • 11 men

Transport Committee:

  • Chairman: J.M. Kirkwood
  • Hon. Secretary: H. Pool, M.Inst.T.
  • 16 men, 0 women

Trades’ Procession Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor T.F. Richards
  • Hon. Secretary: F.J. Jackson
  • 14 men, 0 women


Patrons: Headed by The Duke and Duchess of Rutland, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty and Countess Beatty, and the Marquess and Marchioness of Blandford. The names of these notables were followed by an impressive list of nobility and large local industrialists. For the full list, see The Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir (Leicester, 1932), 7.

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

  • Hawkins, H. W.
  • Rippin, W. H.
  • Jordan, J. E.
  • Irvine, L. H.
  • Rippin, M. P.
  • Russell, P.
  • Turner, H. A.
  • Brockington, W. A.

Names of composers

  • Burrows, Ben
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Arne, Thomas
  • Holst, Gustav
  • Morley, Thomas
  • Dowland, John
  • Byrd, William
  • Ravenscroft, Thomas
  • Clarke, Jeremiah
  • Gardiner, William
  • Goodacre, Hugh
  • Groocock, Walter

'The whole of the Music has been arranged by Dr Ben Burrows, and a great deal was composed by him'.1

Numbers of performers


In addition to the human performers, there were: horses, mules, donkeys, dogs, hawks, blanc sanglier [boar].

Financial information

‘The net profit on the Leicester pageant subject to audit and to one or two possible slight modifications is stated to be £2402. 15s. 5d.’3

Object of any funds raised

Local charities


A committee was formed to distribute any profits to local charities, consisting of: the Lord Mayor, the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Bishop, the President of the Free Church Council, the High Sheriff, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the City Council, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the Chamber of Trade.4

Linked occasion

Final episode commemorated 50 years since Abbey Park was opened, and recreated that event.

Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Display of Local Industries at De Montfort Hall (16–25 June, closed Sunday). Opening Ceremony on Thursday 16 June, 3pm by the Viscountess Snowden, Chair to be taken by the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor (Alderman W.E. Wilford, JP). Daily, 11am to 9pm. Admission Free.
Variety show in the De Montfort Hall Gardens (16–25 June, closed Sunday). The De Suter Bros—Musical Clowns; James Hunter—the famous raconteur; Alec McGill and Gwen Vaughan—the argumentative pair; the Three Odellys—Sensational Acrobats; Haywood and Hay with Dorina—quick-change dancers; Carter and his Band. Performances daily at 3.30, 6.30 and 8.30pm. Admission: Adults 7d. and 1s., Children 7d. (any seat).

Programme of Other Events:
  • Friday 17 June: Day of Sportsmen
  • 3.30pm—Amphitheatre displays. Massed singing by 3000 children. Aerial Display by the Leicestershire Aero Club. Daylight fireworks. First railway excursion. Elizabethan market.
  • Saturday 18 June: Day of Industry
  • 3pm—Ox-roasting. Trades procession. Elizabethan Market.
  • Sunday 19 June: Pageant Sunday.
  • 3pm—Massed religious service in Arena. Addressed by the Dean of Manchester, Dr Garfield Williams and Bishop of Leicester and Rev B Uffen (3500 attended).
  • Monday 20 June: Day of British Empire 
  • 3.30pm—Amphitheatre Displays. Crowning of May Queen. Old English Games. Morris Dancing. Push Ball Match. 
  • Tuesday 21 June: Civic Day: Public Half-Holiday
  • Civic procession. Lord Mayor of London in state coach, Lord Mayors, Sheriffs, etc.
  • Wednesday 22 June: County Day
  • 3.30pm—Amphitheatre displays. Display of gymnastics by school children. Dancing by scholars. Elizabethan Market.
  • Thursday 23 June: Shops Display Day 
  • 3.30pm—Amphitheatre displays. Displays by Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Life Brigade, and Girl Guides. Motor Display by the Leicestershire Motor Club. Aerial Display by the Leicestershire Aero Club.
  • Friday 24 June: Day of Drama
  • 3.30pm—Amphitheatre Displays. Massed Singing by 3000 children. Battle of Flowers and carnival. Display of 24 troops of Scouts. Elizabethan Market.
  • Saturday 25 June. Children’s Day 
  • Flag Day.

Pageant outline

Episode I. British, Roman, Saxon, and Danish Periods

Scene I. A Village of Mud Huts on the Bank of the Soar, c. 50 AD

As rural folk work and play on the bank of the river, a horn is heard from outside Newarke Gate, and a man runs in waving a spear and shouting. The men arm themselves and gather in front of the huts, with the women and children behind. Men of the ninth Roman legion led by Ostorius Scapula, in a chariot, advance towards the villagers. Scapula then halts the men, and approaches the chief, holding out his hand in friendship. He declares that he comes in peace, and exchanges goods with the chief, before declaring the Roman intention to build a city with temple and market place. He exits with the soldiers, as some of the native British attempt to barter fleeces.

Scene II. The Churchyard of St Nicholas, 653 AD–680 AD

A group of Saxon Witan enter, carrying a chair and an image of Woden. King Peada enters, makes an offer to Woden, and sits, before the Witan place a crown on his head. Alfleda and her attendants, accompanied by Bishop Finan and Cuthwine, enter with a large processional cross—which Peada kisses. The image of Woden is now thrown down, as Peada and Alfleda kneel before the cross, and are blessed by Finan. Cuthwine is now also brought forward and seated, before Peada and Alfleda again kneel and are blessed by Cuthwine. A procession is then formed, headed by the Cross, and exits the arena.

Scene III. Outside the Walls of Leicester, 918 AD

Danish galleys appear on the water and come to shore. Ethelfleda, accompanied by the General and Saxon warriors, enter. The warriors form a rough line and advance towards the Danes. After a fierce fight the Danes flee or surrender, and the ships leave. The Saxons gather round Ethelfleda in triumph, before a procession is formed, headed by Ethelfleda, complete with Danish prisoners. All exit.

Episode II. 13th Century

Scene I. Leicester Castle, June 1201

Aldermen and townspeople enter, followed by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and other barons, and then Robert Fitzparnel, Earl of Leicester, with squires and attendants. Fitzparnel and Pembroke discuss the reign of King John, criticising the suffering he has brought and how they must fight for freedom. A burgess enters and informs them that King John has heard of their meeting and is approaching to take them unawares. Fitzparnel wants to confront the King, while Pembroke advises caution, declaring that they must meet elsewhere to frame ‘the Charter of our Country’s Rights.’ Fitzparnel agrees and declares: ‘here to-day in Leicester, England has found her soul.’ The Earls both now exit in haste. The King now enters and tells his men to search the town and find them. The Alderman, Lord of Leicester, informs the King that they have left for Hinckley, Harbro’ and Lutterworth. The King angrily declares that the Lord will entertain the King tonight and that the Lord’s priests ‘shall play the fool for us, and feel the whip if their jests please us not.’ All exit.

Scene II. Leicester Castle, June 1238

Simon Curlevache enters with the Aldermen and Jurats, soon followed by the Abbot of St Mary de Pratis, the Dean of St Mary de Castro, and finally Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, and various Knights and Ladies. De Montfort and Curlevache talk about De Montfort’s new position as Lord of Leicester, the former promising to be fair, just, and charitable, as well as to restore inheritance rights. Curlevache and others thank De Montfort. Knights and Templars then enter and call De Montfort away to the Crusades. All exit.

Scene III. Leicester Castle, 4 August 1265

Townspeople enter, followed by Henry de Ruddington, the Mayor, and the Abbot and Dean. The townsfolk and Mayor talk about a storm, and whether it signifies ‘some dire event’. Geoffrey de Skeffington enters and informs them that Simon de Montfort, son of the former Earl of Leicester, has been slain in the Battle of Evesham, part of the rebellion against Henry III of England. The crowd reacts with horror and declare him a saint and martyr. The Abbot informs the crowd that Simon is indeed a saint, before blessing people who kneel. All move slowly towards the Abbey, singing a hymn about Simon, ‘Leicester’s own citizen’, and his sacrifice.

Episode III. 14th Century

Scene I. Great Hall, Leicester Castle, c. 1390

Minstrels, dancers, acrobats, and beggars enter, followed by guildsmen, bowmen, trumpeters and heralds, and then by John of Gaunt, Constance and Ladies, and Wycliffe and Chaucer. Finally, King Richard II enters with his court. Richard greets Gaunt and Constance, before presenting William of Humberstone and Roger Knighton, who have a gift of cloth for Henry. The King thanks them and declares ‘May Leicester’s wealth Ever increase, and Leicester’s merchanting Prosper our isle, this blessed realm of England.’ Chaucer and Wycliffe then present the King with scrolls. The minstrels, bowmen and acrobats then entertain the King and the crowd. A parade of the Corpus Christi Guild enters through as all kneel to greet the procession, before joining on its end. After the procession exits, the blind beggar removes his bandage, the armless man reveals his arm, and two others throw away crutches before scurrying out.

Scene II. In Leicester, presumably the same period

Alderman John Reede enters, trailing a dummy cat soaked in aniseed, before exiting. The Mayor and party then enter, followed by a crowd with horses, mules, donkeys, and dogs. They trace the trail left by Reede, before returning in triumph with him. There is horse-play and cheering, before all exit.

Episode IV. 15th Century

Scene I. Before Leicester Castle, 1426

The Duke of Bedford enters with lords, squires and attendants, followed by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, mounted, then Henry, Bishop of Winchester, with an armed escort. Humphrey impetuously accuses the Bishop of wishing him ill and of being traitorous against past Kings. The Bishop in turn accuses Humphrey of prioritising his own ambitions over that of the realm. At this Humphrey angrily draws his sword, followed by his men. The Bishop’s escort responds similarly, before the Bishop signals them to stop. Bedford now advances and orders them to desist and to instead have recourse to the practices of Parliament, before taking all their weapons to the castle. The Mayor, burgesses and woolstaplers now enter; the Mayor addresses the Duke and declares his desire to present a petition to Parliament for a rebate on money taken by the King as a subsidy or toll on Leicester products. Bedford accepts the petition. King Henry VI, with his mother Catherine of Valois, now enters in a procession. Bedford advances and lifts up the boy King, before Henry kneels and is knighted, in turn then knighting other boys. All exit.

Scene II. In Leicester Forest, c. 1465

Lord Hastings enters with a mounted party, with hawks. Two rangers then bring in a bound deer poacher. Hastings declares ‘He’ll be sorry yet That he’s not rather striv’n in honest toil, As these good men who labour at the wool, Which is the source of England’s wealth.’ All exit.

Scene III(a). Near the old Bow Bridge, 1485

Richard III enters with his army, as does the Mayor, Bailiff and other townspeople, bowing as the King passes. The army crosses the bridge, before an old wise woman relates:

Didst mark where his armed heel struck ‘gainst the Bridge?
Where now his heel
Strikes on the stone,
Bloody Crook-back!
His head shall crack;
But he’ll not feel,
When he rides alone,
For he shall be cold
As any stone.
Bloody Crook-back!

Scene III(b). Battle of Bosworth, 22 August 1485

John, the Duke of Norfolk enters, with his forces fighting. Sir William Catesby desperately asks him to rescue King Richard III, who is fighting on foot after his horse has been slain. King Richard enters and declares ‘A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!’ Catesby asks the King to withdraw, but the King declines, instead declaring his intention to stand and fight, and to kill Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Richard III is consequently slain. The Earl now enters with Lord Stanley bearing the crown. Richmond declares victory, as Stanley gives him the crown. All exit, led by Stanley, to Leicester.

Scene III(c). Before Leicester Castle, no date given

King Henry’s army enters, followed by Catesby and other prisoners, and Richard III’s body in a sack behind a pursuivant blanc sanglier (a boar). The old wise woman declares: ‘See, Bloody Crook-back’s head hath struck the bridge!’ The Grey Friar begs of the King that they remove the corpse and bury it in the Church; the King assents, not without first describing it as ‘carrion’. The King and his men leave for the Castle Hall, as the body is born away accompanied by the Grey Friars singing ‘Dies Irae’.

Episode V. 16th Century

Scene I. A Street in Leicester, 1513

William Wyggeston greets the people of the town and its municipal officials, and, due to the profits his family has made from the woollen industry, declares that, with his brothers Thomas and Roger, he is going to found a hospital. Thomas adds that it will be dedicated to Our Lady and St Catherine and St Ursula, and also states his intention to found a new school. Wyggeston thanks them both. The Pentecost Procession, with the clergy of the local churches, enters with effigies of saints, with St Margaret leading the Dragon, along with other characters in the St George legend, while a pageant car, representing Hell’s mouth and filled with devils, closes the procession. The Lutterworth St George play is then performed.

Lutterworth St George Play

A humorous rhyming play in which Prince George fights the Turkish Knight. After bragging of his prowess, Prince George is cut down—to the horror of his father, the King of England. Fortunately a ‘noble doctor’ brings him back to life for the price of £10. Beelzebub enters and passes around a frying pan to the spectators of the St George Play, collecting money.

Scene II. The Abbey Gate, November, 1530

Kingston and Cavendish help a weary Cardinal Wolsey to dismount, as he complains that he has given too much diligence to serving the world rather than his God. The Abbot enters with brothers; Wolsey requests they give him space to ‘lay his weary bones… a little earth for charity.’ The Abbot allows him in, and promises to give care and rest.

Scene III. Bradgate,1553

Lady Jane Grey and Hugh Latimer enter, followed by Roger Ascham. They all greet each other, before Latimer extols the virtues of the countryside around Leicester. Lady Jane Grey, in turn, extols the virtues of learning. Lady Mary Sidney enters, announcing that her father will arrive with grave news. At this point the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, Lord Guildford Dudley, and the Earls of Pembroke, Arundel, Huntingdon and Northampton enter. They announce that the King has died, and, to a surprised and dazed Lady Grey, that she will now be Queen. After persuasion, she agrees, declaring ‘God grant that I may govern to His glory.’ Northumberland agrees, and then informs her that they must leave for London at once.

Episode VI. The Civil War, 17th Century

Scene I. Before the Walls of Leicester, 30 May 1645

A Royalist Officer with a flag of truce enters followed at ten paces by Lord Loughborough and unarmed Royalist officers. Colonel Grey, Sir Robert Pye, Captain Babington and the Mayor meet Loughborough’s party. Loughborough advises them to take terms of surrender, telling them that his Highness’s soldiers are raring to take the city. Grey tells Loughborough to instead tell the Prince to seek home again or ‘find a foeman worthy of him, and not to wage a war with stockingers.’ Loughborough tries to persuade them that the odds are not in their favour. While Sir Robert supports capitulation, the Mayor finds their terms of surrender to be an insult and declares that they will stand. Loughborough declares it is too late, as Parliamentarians are seen entering. The assault then takes place as Loughborough, Grey, Pye and the others leave. An intense battle between the Royalists and Parliamentarians then takes place. Eventually the Royalists are victorious; King Charles enters on horseback and declares ‘This rebel town was founded on its wool; I knew not that its walls were built of wool.’ All parade out.

Scene II. Before the Walls of Leicester, 14 June 1645

King Charles enters with Sir William, his secretary. Sir Matthew Appleyard and soldiers of Lord Loughborough then also enter. Sir Matthew tells the King that the rebels will soon arrive and that they must escape. Charles agrees and moves off with Sir Appleyard. Sir Arthur Hesilrige and Parliamentarian forces now enter, and capture Loughborough’s soldiers and Sir William. Captain Babington enters, and tells Hesilrige that Loughborough will surrender in return for safe passage for him and his unarmed men. Hesilrige tells Babington that they must wait for the General. At this point Cromwell enters with his soldiers; after Hesilrige informs him of the situation, Cromwell assents to let the opposing forces leave unarmed. All exit.

Episode VII. 18th and 19th Centuries

Scene I. The Open Road, ‘First Part of the 18th Century’

A busy road scene is shown, with crowds, farmers, horse-riders, wagons, and a religious procession.

Scene II. The Open Road, ‘Latter Part of the 18th Century’

Daniel Lambert, famous for being incredibly fat, and William Carey enter. John Wesley enters; Carey approaches and explains to Wesley his plan to begin missionary work for English Protestantism in India. Wesley assents to his plans and wishes him luck. All exit.

Scene III. Near Leicester, 1829

Two highwaymen lurk under trees, as a stage coach enters. They leap out and cry ‘Stand and deliver!’ The passengers, including John Ellis, George Stephenson and Robert Stephenson, are ordered out. A hunting horn is heard and huntsmen, including Thomas Paget, a local banker, enter with hounds. The Highwaymen gallop off. William Stenson, a director of Whitwick colliery, enters, as does John Ferneley, Sir Francis Grant, H. Alken and Lorraine Smith. Easels to paint the hunt are set-up. Stenson talks to Ellis, making sure that he and his party are all right following the attempted robbery. Stenson speaks to the Stephensons about the prospect of a railway for Leicester. George Stephenson tells them that his son Robert will undertake the task. Ellis responds by planning to call a meeting to form a railway company, and Paget promises to sponsor the scheme with a loan of twenty thousand pounds. All exit.

Scene IV. Leicester Station, 1841

The First Railway Excursion—Leicester to Loughborough—and Thomas Cook’s train is shown.

Scene V. Abbey Park, ‘50 Years Ago’ (1882)

A crowd enters, followed by the Mayor, with civic and county notables. The Prince and Princess of Wales then enter in an open carriage with an escort. The Band strikes up ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’. A man jumps on to the carriage and is arrested; the Prince kindly asks that he not be punished (the man is then released). The Mayor then gives a rousing speech, welcoming the royals, and declares: ‘This is truly a people’s park. We earnestly hope that this park will afford means for recreation and healthy exercise for future generations, and be to them the source of strength and gladness.’ He then grants the Prince a key as a memento of the day. The Prince declares the park open.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Ostorius Scapula, Publius (d. AD 52) Roman governor of Britain
  • Peada (d. 656) king of the Middle Angles
  • Finán  [St Finán] (d. 661) missionary and bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Ælfflæd  [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Wilfrid  [St Wilfrid] (c.634–709/10) bishop of Hexham
  • Æthelflæd  [Ethelfleda] (d. 918) ruler of the Mercians
  • Marshal, William (I) [called  the Marshal], fourth earl of Pembroke (c.1146–1219) soldier and administrator
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Montfort, Simon de, eighth earl of Leicester (c.1208–1265) magnate and political reformer
  • Eleanor, countess of Pembroke and Leicester (1215?–1275) princess
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • John [John of Gaunt], duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399) prince and steward of England
  • Howard, John, first duke of Norfolk (d. 1485) soldier and member of parliament
  • Catesby, William (b. in or before 1446, d. 1485) royal councillor and speaker of the House of Commons
  • Grey  [married name Dudley], Lady Jane (1537–1554) noblewoman and claimant to the English throne
  • Latimer, Hugh (c.1485–1555) bishop of Worcester, preacher, and protestant martyr
  • Ascham, Roger (1514/15–1568) author and royal tutor
  • Hastings, Francis, second earl of Huntingdon (1513/14–1560) magnate
  • Grey, Henry, duke of Suffolk (1517–1554) magnate
  • Herbert, William, first earl of Pembroke (1506/7–1570) soldier and magnate
  • Dudley, John, duke of Northumberland (1504–1553) royal servant
  • Fitzalan, Henry, twelfth earl of Arundel (1512–1580) magnate
  • Wyclif  [Wycliffe], John  [called Doctor Evangelicus] (d. 1384) theologian, philosopher, and religious reformer
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340–1400) poet and administrator
  • Anne (1665–1714) queen of Great Britain and Ireland
  • John  [John of Lancaster], duke of Bedford (1389–1435) regent of France and prince
  • Humphrey  [Humfrey or Humphrey of Lancaster], duke of Gloucester  [called Good Duke Humphrey] (1390–1447) prince, soldier, and literary patron
  • Henry VI (1421–1471) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Catherine  [Catherine of Valois] (1401–1437) queen of England, consort of Henry V
  • Hastings, William, first Baron Hastings (c.1430–1483) courtier and administrator
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Stanley, Thomas, first earl of Derby (c.1433–1504) magnate
  • Wyggeston  [Wigston], William (c.1467–1536) merchant and benefactor
  • Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530) royal minister, archbishop of York, and cardinal
  • Cavendish, Sir William (1508–1557) administrator
  • Hastings, Henry, Baron Loughborough (1610–1667) army officer
  • Pye, Sir Robert (c.1622–1701) army officer
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval office
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Hesilrige  [Haselrig], Sir Arthur, second baronet (1601–1661) army officer and politician
  • Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658) lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Grey, Thomas, Baron Grey of Groby (1622–1657) regicide
  • Lambert, Daniel (1770–1809) the most corpulent man of his time in England
  • Bakewell, Robert (1725–1795) stock breeder and farmer
  • Wesley  [Westley], John (1703–1791) Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism
  • Ellis, John (1789–1862) railway promoter and politician
  • Stephenson, George (1781–1848) colliery and railway engineer
  • Stephenson, Robert (1803–1859) railway and civil engineer
  • Edward VII (1841–1910) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and emperor of India
  • Alexandra [Princess Alexandra of Denmark] (1844–1925)  queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and empress of India, consort of Edward VII

Musical production

Pieces performed at the Pageant included:

  • Purcell. Battle Symphony and Song of Victory from King Arthur (Episode I, Scene I).
  • ‘A newly-discovered song by Arne’ (Episode II, Scene II).
  • Holst. ‘The Dargason’ (Episode III, Scene II).
  • T. Morley. ‘Now is the Month of Maying’ (Episode III, Scene II).
  • Dowland. ‘Awake Sweet Love’ (Episode IV, Scene I).
  • Byrd. ‘The Earl of Oxford’s March’ (Episode IV, Scene II).
  • Dirge, ‘Dies Irae’ (Episode IV, Scene III(c)).
  • Arcadelt. ‘Hear my Prayer’ (Episode V, Scene II).
  • Purcell. Overture No. 1 from King Arthur (Episode VI, Scene I).
  • ‘A metrical version sung to a tune by T. Ravenscroft’ (Episode VI, Scene II).
  • Purcell. Trumpet Tune (Episode VI, Scene II).
  • ‘The Green Coat boys sing a metrical version of Psalm 121 to tune “St Magnus” by Jeremiah Clarke’ (Episode VII, Scene I).
  • William Gardiner. Tunes (Episode VII, Scene II).
  • ‘The Lost Chord’ (Episode VII, Scene V).
  • ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ (Episode VII, Scene V).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
The Manchester Guardian
The Observer
Leicester Evening Mail
Leicester Mercury
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Hull Daily Mail
Grantham Journal
Derby Daily Telegraph
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser
Western Daily Press
Aberdeen Journal
Gloucestershire Echo6

Book of words

Pageant of Leicester: Text of the Episodes. Leicester, 1932.

Price 1s.

Other primary published materials

  • The Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir. Leicester, 1932.

Price 1s.

References in secondary literature

  • Begley, Siobhan. ‘Voluntary Associations and the Civic Ideal in Leicester, 1870-1939’, PhD thesis, University of Leicester, 2009.
  • Begley, Siobhan. The Story of Leicester. Stroud, 2013.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office:
  • Photograph of 3 prize windows at Leicester Pageant, 1932. 11D64/88.
  • 3 separate photographs of each of the 3 prize windows at Leicester Pageant, 1932. 11D64/89-91.
  • Photograph of non-prize winning window display at Leicester Pageant, showing sporting and sailing equipment, 1932. 11D64/92.
  • ‘Land of the ridge and furrow’, the song of the Pageant of Leicester. Words by Hugh Goodacre, music by Walter Groocock. June, 1932. DE1249.
  • Text of the Episodes –Pageant of Leicester, June 1932. DE2262/313/1.
  • Official programme for Pageant of Leicester. DE2262/313/2.
  • Photograph of Leicester Pageant, c.1932. DE3736/1841.
  • Extensive collection of photographs. DE3736/Events/215–271.
  • Minute Book, Pageant Committee, 1932–1934 & Drama Festival, 1937–1941, 1932-1941. DE4569/24.
  • Illustrated Leicester Chronicle: 'Pageant Review' edition, 1932. DE5249/3.
  • Leicester Evening Mail: 'Pageant Pictorial Souvenir' ,1932. DE5249/4.
  • Papers of WF Curtis, 1931-1932. DE6078.
  • Records of the Pageant of Leicester, 1932, and of the Lord Mayoral year of Councillor C E Gillot, 1943-1944, 1932-1944. DE6764.
  • Photograph of Leicester Printers' float, 1932. DE7142/5.
  • Leicester Pageant Photographs and Cartoon, 1932. DE8438.
  • Leicestershire Collection Illustrations. Pageants: Leicester,1932. V46.
  • Notes and Newspaper Cuttings, 20th century. M521/1-4.
  • Music Sheet: 'Land of the Ridge and Furrow—The Song of the Pageant of Leicester’, June 1932. M1381.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Bateson, Mary. Records of the Borough of Leicester to 1603. Cambridge: 1899, 1901, 1905.
  • Creighton, M. Simon de Montfort Earl of Leicester. London, 1876.
  • Nichols, John. History of Leicestershire. London, 1795-1815.
  • Skillington, S.H. A History of Leicester. Leicester, 1923.
  • Stocks, Helen. Records of the Borough of Leicester 1603 to 1688. Cambridge, 1923.
  • Thompson, James. The History of Leicester. Leicester, 1849.
  • Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeology Society.

Episode IV, Scene III(a): Words taken from Shakespeare, Richard III, Act V, Scenes IV and V.

It seems likely that the St George’s Play in Episode V is from W. Kelly, Lutterworth St George Play [unknown date/place of publication].


The Leicester Pageant of 1932 was locally a major event, with twelve performances and a cast of 5000 performers, utilising the Edwardian pageantry tradition through one of the most successful and best-known pageant-masters: Frank Lascelles. The choice to stage a pageant was undoubtedly made for reasons of local economic boosterism; while Leicester was mostly insulated from the Great Depression, this was a position it wished to protect. Similar pageants had been organized by Lascelles in Stoke in 1930 and Bradford in 1931. In the event, the Leicester Pageant also provided an opportunity for a vibrant associational culture, productive business class, and a forward-thinking municipal authority to cooperate in the encouragement of colourful and overt civic pride. Financially successful and positively reviewed, it gained widespread attention in both the local and national press.

As a Lascelles pageant it was peculiarly traditional in comparison to many others in the period. Apart from floodlighting, it had little innovative production value, instead using a classic combination of dialogue, mimed crowd scenes, and brightly colourful costumes. Also in common with Edwardian pageants, the properties were all made locally, and the chronologically ordered topics were historically accurate. The themes of the narrative were particularly familiar. It began with the Roman invasion, a classic opening scene, where the legionnaire Ostorius Scapula declared his intention to build a city with a temple and market place—connecting the arrival of the Romans with the civilising of the country. Most of the episodes connected Leicester to similarly important national changes, such as the invasion of the Danes, the Wars of the Roses, and the English Civil War. Royal patronage was also apparent including, of course, several scenes featuring Richard III. Still, there were many points of reference for events that were only locally important, such as the founding of schools, churches, and railways. Throughout the storyline the focus was either directly or indirectly on how the city had progressed, both industrially and socially, connecting the national life to the local. The official pageant song, written by local civic figure and scout enthusiast Hugh Goodacre, served as an overview of the themes of the pageant, drawing attention to Leicester’s role in the regal and political history of England, as well as encouraging a vision of Leicestershire as a rural idyll.7

While the pageant was truly historical and its narrative stopped before the present day, the idea that Leicester was modern and progressive was still an important part of the celebrations. When the Lord Mayor of London visited Leicester on the Civic Day, he also ceremoniously opened Leicester’s new £1000000 road, Charles Street.8 In welcoming the Mayor of London, the Mayor of Leicester declared his presence a ‘symbol of civic life and local government which means more to the homes and lives of our people than anything’, Leicester having a place in that tradition due to it being ‘the birthplace of freedom and civic government’—portrayed in Episode II, Scene I, where the nobles met to pre-plan the Magna Carta.9 This progressive focus was further highlighted in the souvenir for the pageant, which included representations of the new road as well as other important civic improvements in the city. Such an emphasis reflected the prosperity of the city and its identity as a powerful and progressive municipal authority.10 As Siobhan Begley has pointed out, the localist hyperbole was not completely appreciated by Viscountess Snowdon, who, when opening the pageant on industrial day, reminded the audience to remember that they were also ‘Britons and citizens of the world.’11

As with other traditional pageants, this civic narrative, according to the Mayor in the pageant souvenir, aimed to create a ‘more cheerful faith in our future… after seeing the early struggles and vicissitudes of fortune through which our City has been built from a tiny hamlet.’ This would be a particularly useful purpose in the context of the social despair of economic depression. Encouraged by their ‘forefathers, who [had] won through against such tremendous odds’, current citizens would ‘be inspired to go forward with renewed courage and a loftier aim to make our City worthy of its past achievements.’12 While ‘fortune’ was rather abstract in his foreword, the Mayor was much more upfront about the pageant’s civic and economic purpose in an interview with the Observer: ‘we are anxious to foster a civic pride among our people and to maintain our record as a prosperous industrial centre.’13 This economic purpose was further strengthened through a concurrent industrial exhibition at De Montfort Hall, displaying the wares of the city, and a large trades procession.14 If the purpose was mostly economic, it still also provided a chance to create better citizens and civic cooperation, the Mayor declaring that ‘never before has there been in our City such a unity of interest, such solidarity of purpose, and such a sense of achievement. All classes in the City and County have combined in common effort to vivify and glorify our historic past.’15 Lascelles, as usual, was more florid in his description of the ‘thrilling, throbbing, marvellous creation’, highlighting that ‘In the hearts and souls of the performers this magic dwell; it is they who have given body to the great visions of Leicester’s past, and her historical associations and her ageless story.’16 Associations and individuals from all over the city bought into this spirit and decorated the streets with flags and bunting.17

Press response to the pageant was as positive as the Mayor hoped. The Times was enthused, declaring the pageant ‘something more than a successful spectacular entertainment. It is an expression of civic pride, and the spirit which prompted its creation has spread among the people of the city’.18 The Manchester Guardian described the pageant as ‘excellently done’.19 The Hull Daily Mail was also gushing in its praise, describing the grand finale as ‘a scene of unforgettable splendour.’20 One Leicester resident, Laurie Pears, remembered that there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the schools of Leicester, encouraged through the teaching of the Pageant Song, and through the distribution of pageant badges.21 Certainly, it did no economic damage, either—making a profit of £2402. 15s. 5d.22 Leicester continued to ride out the depression, being named as the second strongest economy in Europe late in the decade. Another way of measuring the impact of the Leicester Pageant is in the influence it had on neighbouring towns. In Nottingham, a historical rival, it seemed to galvanise support for the pageant, the town not having aborted its first attempt in 1907. A pageant was subsequently held three years after Leicester.23 In Derby, too, the Mayor declared that it could not ‘be inactive while its neighbours are taking such a great interest in the progress and future development of their towns’, though this did not translate into a large pageant for that city.24 Indeed, Leicester itself had taken inspiration from another local rival, Northampton, whose recent pageant had made it ‘the hub of the commercial universe for a week’ despite it taking place during the economic depression.25

Despite the pageant’s huge success, there were some minor points of controversy. A couple of months before the opening night, a deputation of priests from the four Roman Catholic churches of the city threatened to encourage their flocks not to participate unless the lines ‘And here in our county the great Reformation, Took birth from the dark, as the morning from light’ were deleted from the official Pageant Song; the Committee wisely assented, and the deputation was satisfied.26 As Siobhan Begley has detailed, there were other signs of disaffection. On one night of the first Pageant week, youths had a battle with the police in the city centre, it being reported that they were the same youths who would hang around and jeer at pageant performers returning from rehearsals. Moreover, a plan to disrupt the Civic Day procession was discovered, and a sign saying ‘Welcome to the Slums’ in a poorer part of the city was found and taken down.27

Overall, however, these were isolated incidents that in no way truly damaged the success of the Pageant. Its importance to historians lies, first, as convincing evidence that a traditional pageant could still gain a huge deal of praise and success despite the many changes in format evident in other inter-war pageants. Secondly, the Leicester Pageant is vital in what it can tell us about the potential vitality of civic culture in the inter-war period. As Begley has pointed out, the civic culture of associational and municipal cooperation the pageant engendered, not to mention the thousands who either performed or spectated, offers a corrective to the historiographical tendency to see such action as moribund by the inter-war period.28 This was apparent in the months leading up to the pageant, when representatives from ‘almost every social, industrial and religious movement in the city and county’ attended public meetings to appoint pageant committees and ensure the successful planning of the event.29 In the event this cooperation paid off—financially and theatrically—and Leicester continued to be a rare example of a thriving industrial city in the inter-war years.


  1. ^ The Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir (Leicester, 1932), no page number.
  2. ^ ‘Leicester Pageant’, The Times, 15 June 1932, 8.
  3. ^ Nottingham Evening Post, 6 February 1933, 5.
  4. ^ Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir, 17.
  5. ^ Western Daily Press, 20 June 1932, 10.
  6. ^ It seems likely that the pageant was reported in many other local and national newspapers also.
  7. ^ Hugh Goodacre, ‘The Pageant Song—Land of the Ridge and Furrow’, The Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir, no page numbers.
  8. ^ ‘Leicester Pageant’, The Times, 22 June 1932, 10.
  9. ^ Siobhan Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations and the Civic Ideal in Leicester, 1870-1939’ (PhD thesis, University of Leicester, 2009), 64.
  10. ^ Davis Nash and David Reeder, Leicester in the Twentieth Century (Stroud, 1933), 122; Nick Hayes, ‘Civic Perceptions: Housing and Local Decision Making in English Cities in the 1920s’, Urban History 27 (2000), 211-33.
  11. ^ Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations’, 63.
  12. ^ W.E. Wilford, ‘The Pageant of Leicester’, in Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir, 3.
  13. ^ ‘Pageantry in the Midlands’, The Observer, 29 May 1932, 8.
  14. ^ ‘5,000 Costumed Performers’, Hull Daily Mail, 20 June 1932, 7.
  15. ^ Wilford, ‘The Pageant of Leicester’, 3.
  16. ^ Frank Lascelles, ‘An Appreciation of the Performers’, Historical Pageant of Leicestershire: Official Souvenir, 10.
  17. ^ ‘Leicester Pageant’, The Times, 17 June 1932, 12.
  18. ^ Ibid., 12.
  19. ^ ‘Leicester History Re-Enacted’, Manchester Guardian, 17 June 1932, 18.
  20. ^ ‘5,000 Costumed Performers’, Hull Daily Mail, 20 June 1932, 7.
  21. ^ Laurie Pears, quoted in Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations’, 77.
  22. ^ [no title], Nottingham Evening Post, 6 February 1933, 5.
  23. ^ ‘A Pageant for Nottingham: The Leicester Example’, Nottingham Evening Post, 6 November 1933, 8.
  24. ^ ‘Derby Call for New Industries’, Derby Daily Telegraph, 2 May 1932, 1.
  25. ^ Leicester Evening Mail, quoted in Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations’, 76.
  26. ^ ‘Pageant Song Annoys Roman Catholics’, Manchester Guardian, 16 April 1922, 9.
  27. ^ Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations’, 107.
  28. ^ Ibid., 62.
  29. ^ Leicester Evening Mail, quoted in Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations’, 72.

How to cite this entry

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