Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant
Place: Pickering Castle (Pickering) (Pickering, Yorkshire, North Riding, England)
Number of performances: 5
25–28 June 1930
Wednesday matinee at 2.30pm on 25 June, and four performances at 7pm.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Master of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Hudson, Gilbert
- Chairman of General Committee: The Rev. Canon England, MA (Rural Dean)
- Vice-Chairman of General Committee: The Rev. A.M. Bury
- Chairman of Dress Committee: Mrs J.L. Kirk, JP
- Secretary of Dress Committee: Miss M. Highfield
- Treasurers: Mr A. Lund; Mr G. Bown
- Master of the Music: The Rev. David E. Jones, MA
- Leader [of the Music]: Miss M. Jones
- Secretary: The Rev. F.W. Gill
- Ticket Secretaries: Mr T. Gibson and Mr H. Chipperfield
- Advertising Secretary: Mr E. Tracey Archer
- Editorial Committee: Mrs Kirk; Miss Watson; Miss Gale; Miss Highfield; Rev. A.M. Bury; Rev. A.C. Birch; Rev. D.E. Jones; Rev. R.A. Bundle; and the Chairman and Secretary
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Hudson, Gilbert
- Jones, David E.
- Birch, A.C.
- Perkins, Rev. Canon
- Highfield, Miss M.
- England, Canon
- Dearmer, Percy
- Wordsworth, William
‘Episodes III, VII, VIII, IX are by the Rev. D.E. Jones, Rev. A.C. Birch, Rev. Canon Perkins, and Miss M. Highfield respectively. Episode IV by Canon England adapted from Scene by Dr P. Dearmer. These were modified for dramatic purposes by the Pageant Master who is responsible for the rest of The Book, and acknowledged valuable suggestions as to Episode V from The Rev. E. Drakeford Lewis.’1 Episode I used adapted lines from Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Sonnet, no. IV, and episode VI quoted a short passage from no. XIX.
Names of composers
Numbers of performers500
As reported in the Yorkshire Gazette, 28 June 1930.
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 5000
More than 5000 saw the pageant.3
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
5s. 9d.–1s. 3d.
Admission 1s. 3d.
Seats 2s. 6d; numbered and reserved seats 5s. 9d. (all including tax).4
Associated eventsThe pageant ‘is the sequel to the convention of youth held in Pickering in 1929’. This was organised by the diocese of York, and the meeting was held in the memorial hall in Pickering.
The pageant opens with a verse dialogue between Drama and Contemplation. They acknowledge each other’s virtues, and Drama admits that ‘Your aid, wise friend, will grace my very mask/And make it worthier of the solemn task’ of re-enacting scenes from church history.
Episode I. The Outcast, about AD 57
An outcast, with a mark on his forehead, has been excommunicated by the druids. Meanwhile, a group of British travellers, carrying a wooden cross, arrives, led by the chieftain Ruoc. They look after the outcast, and Ruoc vows to proclaim the good news of Christ.
Episode II. St Alban, about AD 260
A Christian missionary and a young convert are in the custody of a band of Roman soldiers. A second band of soldiers orders their release, as it has now been decreed that Christians should not be persecuted. An officer explains to the missionary that Alban had been martyred and that he himself had witnessed it; he is carrying a piece of the martyr’s bloodstained clothing.
Episode III. St Patrick, flourished about AD 440
The scene opens with two women discussing Patrick, and then King Laeghaire arrives with druids and others. The druids tell him that Patrick defied the law by starting a fire on top of the hill of Tara. Patrick arrives, telling the king that his god has sent him with a message of peace. The king orders him to be seized, but the druids find themselves powerless to do so. Patrick proclaims the good news, and a hymn is sung.
Episode IV (in Two Parts). St Augustine, AD 584/597
The short first part, set in Rome, features abbot [sic] Gregory and his quip about the Angles being ‘angels’. [This is clearly intended to be Pope Gregory.] Part II features King Ethelbert, Queen Bertha and St Augustine, as well as Bishop Luithard. Augustine is welcomed to England. Ethelbert says that he will not change his religion but promises Augustine ‘shelter and protection’.
Episode V. King Eadwin and Paulinus, York, about AD 626
Paulinus, speaking to Queen Æthelburga, is hopeful that the king will be converted to Christianity—as is she. Eventually Paulinus gives Eadwin a sign, and he promises to follow the new religion. He vows to build a ‘house of God’, but woe is predicted for him.
Episode VI. St Aidan and King Oswald, Bamborough, about AD 635
Oswald and Queen Kyneburga are worried about the safety of the Christians in the kingdom, but Oswald knows that God protects ‘His children’. Aidan arrives and blesses Oswald and Kyneburga. Oswald invites Aidan to share refreshment with him, but Aidan says there is no time—he must go to Lindisfarne.
Episode VII. The Founding of Lastingham, about AD 659
Bishop Cedd, his chaplain Cynibil and others arrive at a ‘fearsome spot’ called Lastingham, where a group of robbers has just seized a local maiden. They plant a cross, and the villagers arrive with the maiden whom they have rescued and with a robber with a rope around his neck. They seem to want to make a sacrifice of the robber, but Cedd tells them that they intend to found a house of God on this spot.
Episode VIII. Caedmon, Whitby, AD 680
Abbess Hilda meets the ‘dumb herdman’ Caedmon, who tells her that he was visited in the night by ‘One’ who gave him the gift of singing. Hilda tells him that God has chosen him and that he will be ‘the first poet of our English tongue’. A minstrel and a group of children sing a song, ‘In Praise of Caedmon’.
Episode IX. King Alfred and King Guthrum, about AD 880
Set near Copmanthorpe. A Dane and a Saxon are happy now that their kings are at peace. Alfred and Guthrum arrive, with Queen Ealswitha and attendants. The two kings honour each other in verse, and they look on the ruins of Eboracum and the church of Edwin and Paulinus [at York]. They agree to build a new road, Guthrumgate [Goodramgate]. The abbot waves a manuscript of Bede’s history and praises this ‘noble work’, as well as the skill with which it has been transcribed.
Alfred withdraws from the crowd and assumes the role of a narrator: ‘We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what thou hast done in their time of old.’ Monks and nuns now chant, and then Drama and Contemplation conclude the pageant. The cast and spectators sing ‘All People That On Earth Do Dwell’, and there is a march past.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Alban [St Alban, Albanus] (d. c.303?) Christian martyr in Roman Britain
- Patrick [St Patrick, Pádraig] (fl. 5th cent.) patron saint of Ireland
- Lóegaire mac Néill (fl. 5th cent.) high-king of Ireland
- Pope Gregory I
- Augustine [St Augustine] (d. 604) missionary and archbishop of Canterbury
- Æthelberht I (d. 616?) king of Kent
- Bertha (b. c.565, d. in or after 601) queen in Kent, consort of Æthelberht
- Paulinus [St Paulinus] (d. 644) bishop of York and of Rochester
- Eadwine [St Eadwine, Edwin] (c.586–633) king of Northumbria
- Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
- Oswald [St Oswald] (603/4–642) king of Northumbria
- Áedán [St Áedán, Aidan] (d. 651) missionary and bishop
- Cedd [St Cedd] (d. 664) bishop of the East Saxons
- Cædmon (fl. c.670) poet
- Alfred [Ælfred] (848/9–899) king of the West Saxons and of the Anglo-Saxons
- Guthrum (d. 890) king of the East Angles
Musical productionThere was a 20-piece stringed orchestra and a choir from the Pickering Musical Society.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
- The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, June 25–28, 1930. Pickering, 1930.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The historical notes refer in passing to Bede and E.A. Freeman.
The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, also referred to as the ‘Pickering Missionary Pageant’, took place in 1930 at Pickering Castle, where an earlier pageant had been staged in 1910 (and another, according to the local press, in 1907).8 As in 1910, the pageant master was Gilbert Hudson, who had stepped in at the last minute for the Thirsk ‘historical play’ of 1930 and had also been pageant master at Scarborough in 1912. Another continuity from 1910 was the involvement of Rev. David E. Jones as master of the music; he was also responsible for part of the script for both pageants. It appears that the script of 1910 influenced the 1930 event in another way too: where the prologue and epilogue of 1910 had featured a versified debate between the characters of History and Imagination, in 1930 these figures were replaced by Contemplation and Drama.9
In most other respects, however, the pageant was different from the one in 1910. It was organised by the Pickering Rural Deanery and conceived of as a ‘sequel’ to a convention of youth in the diocese of York that had met at Pickering’s memorial hall in the previous year.10 The aim was ‘to inspire our young people with a clearer and grander vision of their splendid heritage; to make them realise the tremendous price once paid for the privileges they now enjoy; and to bring home to them the fact that the Call of the Master is still to a life of sacrifice and high adventure’.11 Accordingly, the episodes were all from the history of the church, and all were set in Roman or Anglo-Saxon times. Most were set locally in Yorkshire, but episodes featuring St Alban and St Patrick took the action elsewhere, and part of one episode was set in Rome.
Young people formed the bulk of the 500-strong cast, and each episode was enacted by people from different local parishes: Ellerburn (Episode I), Brompton and Snainton (Episode II), Ebberston and Allerston (Episode III), Kirby Misperton (Episode IV), Wykeham and Hutton Buscel (Episode V), Thornton-le-Dale (Episode VI), Middleton (Episode VII), Lockton and Levisham (Episode VIII) and Pickering and Newton (Episode IX, the Prologue, and the Epilogue).12 The Pickering Musical Society provided the choir, and there was a 20-piece stringed orchestra, although there are few details of the music that was performed. The script was written by various local people, with Hudson dramatising the whole thing, and the headquarters was at the ‘Church Rooms’ in Pickering. Organising the pageant was a challenge: until three days before the first performance, it was not possible to use the castle grounds for rehearsals, and Miss Gale of Pickering, who was in charge of this aspect of the pageant, had to travel from village to village directing the rehearsals. Permission to use the castle grounds had to be obtained from HM Office of Works.13 The cast members themselves bore the cost of daily travel to Pickering for the five performances over four days, helped by ‘generous terms’ provided by the London and North-Eastern Railway.14
Estimates of the total audience for the pageant are vague. The capacity was 1400, some of whom were accommodated in a grandstand, and there was parking space for 1000 cars. The weather was good, and apparently the grounds were full. The Yorkshire Gazette claimed that more than 5000 saw the pageant in total, and these included school parties from York, Scarborough, Malton, Hull and Bridlington.15 This was not a typical civic pageant, but it demonstrates the potential for church events to attract large audiences and to mobilise a number of local communities, including young people, behind the project of a historical pageant. The local press saw it as part of a nationwide ‘desire ... to resuscitate pageants’, and the success of this one probably influenced nearby Thirsk to stage another historical pageant in 1933.16
- The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, June 25–28, 1930 (Pickering, 1930), viii.
- References to the Yorkshire Gazette are to the local edition
- Yorkshire Gazette, 5 July 1930, 2.
- The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, June 25–28, 1930 (Pickering, 1930), iii.
- The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, June 25–28, 1930 (Pickering, 1930), iv; Yorkshire Gazette, 14 June 1930, 4.
- The historical notes give slightly different dates for the episodes; here the dates in the script are given.
- Yorkshire Gazette, 21 June 1930, 4.
- Yorkshire Gazette, 14 June 1930, 4; 28 June 1930, 4.
- The Book of the Pickering Pageant (or Historical Play), Arranged by Gilbert Hudson, August 10, 11, 12, 13, 1910 (Pickering, 1910), 1–3; The Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant (Pickering, 1930), 1–2.
- Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, iv; Yorkshire Gazette, 14 June 1930, 4.
- Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant, iv.
- Ibid., iii.
- Ibid., cover.
- Yorkshire Gazette, 21 June 1930, 4.
- Ibid.; Yorkshire Gazette, 28 June 1930, 4; 5 July 1930, 2.
- Yorkshire Gazette, 14 June 1930, 4.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pickering Rural Deanery Church Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1163/