Arundel Historical Pageant
Place: Arundel Castle (Arundel) (Arundel, Sussex, England)
Number of performances: 3
14–16 August 1923, at 3pm.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Kirwan, Patrick
- Mistress of the Robes: Mrs. Kirwan
- Master of the horse: G.P.T. Drake
- Stage Director: J.E. Archbol
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Chairman: George William Hare
- Deputy Chairman: Dr. W.B. Heywood-Waddington
- Hon. Sec: E.J. Rogers
- Hon Treasurer: W.H. Gunner
- Assistant producer: J.E. Archbold
- G. Ambrose Lee, Arthur W.F. Somerset, Major Francis Skeet, Mrs. Eustace, G.P. Tyrwhitt-Drake (Arundel)
- Mrs. Johnstone and R.T. Goodsell (Bignore)
- Mrs G.M. Turnbull and H.S. Aylmore (Chichester)
- Violet, lady Beaumont and Capt. A.B.H. Day (Fontwell and District)
- Mrs. F.S. Beachcroft and Major Shiner (Petworth)
- Mrs. C.E. Last (Littlehampton)
- Alderman W.T. Frost and Mrs. Frost (Worthing)
- President: Her Grace, Duchess of Yorkshire
- Vice Presidents: Countess of March, Lord and Lady Leconfield, Sir William and Lady Bird, Lady St Mawr
- Chairman: G.P. Tyrwhitt
- Vice Chairman: A.B. Heywood Waddington and G.P.J. Drake and Mrs Ensdel.
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
- Byrd, William
- Henry VIII
Numbers of performers800
- Total Receipts: £2983.12.1
- Donations: 368.11, including Donation of £48.12.10 from Her Grace
- Probable expenditure £1260.4.2
Balance allocated to local hospitals:
- Arundel, Littlehampton, Chichester, Pelworth, Worthing: £300 each
- Bignor and Fontwell: £250 each
- Sussex County Hospital: £89.19.11
Object of any funds raised
To raise money for local hospitals at Arundel, Littlehampton, Chichester, Pelworth, Worthing, Bignor and Fontwell
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: 2000
- Total audience: 21000
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
- Reserved seats, 12s, 8s 6d, and 5s 9d.
- Unreserved Seats, 3s 6d.
- Standing room 2s 4d.
- Under 12s half price.
1. The Coming of Roger de Montgomery
[Each episode was organised by a particular locality, in this case Littlehampton.] Saxon tenantry and their leaders discuss how to greet the new Norman chieftain. Many show hostility, but on the arrival of Roger’s train headed by a party of monks, the Saxons become amenable and the chief announces that no one will be deprived of land, providing they assist him in war. He is loudly acclaimed.
2. King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, 1138
Fontwell and District
A knight rides around in full armour. Then Empress Maude and King Stephen meet.
3. The Visit of King Edward I to Arundel
In this episode there is an old English fair with sports and pastimes.
4. The Foundation of the College of Holy Trinity, 1376
The ceremony is conducted by the Bishop of Chichester with full liturgy. The singing of the choir as it proceeded across the ground came sweetly to the ears of all, the inspiring Veni Sancte Spiritus being chosen as the introduction of the display. ‘While this scene was being enacted the sound of distant church bells lent a charm to the proceedings.’4
5. The Earl of Arundel entertaining Queen Elizabeth
This scene takes place in London. Madrigals are sung and the Earls of Arundel and Oxford joust for the Queen’s affection.
6. William Waller lays siege to the castle
The Castle is held for the King and attacked by Parliamentarians led by William Waller.
7. Opening of the Barons Hall, 1815
The scene is a few days before the Battle of Waterloo, with musical entertainment, supper, a dance, and the burning of an effigy of Napoleon.
8. The Procession of the Earls.
A procession of all 36 Earls of Arundel finished by the current one.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Montgomery, Roger de, first earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094) soldier and magnate
- Stephen (c.1092–1154) king of England
- Matilda [Matilda of England] (1102–1167) empress, consort of Heinrich V
- Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
- Vere, Edward de, seventeenth earl of Oxford (1550–1604) courtier and poet
- Waller, Sir William (bap. 1598?, d. 1668) parliamentarian army officer
- Aubigny, William d' [William de Albini; known as William d'Aubigny Pincerna], first earl of Arundel (d. 1176) magnate
- Aubigny, William d' [William de Albini], third earl of Arundel (c.1174–1221) magnate
- Fitzalan, Edmund, second earl of Arundel (1285–1326) magnate
- Fitzalan, Henry, twelfth earl of Arundel (1512–1580) magnate
- Fitzalan, John (VI), seventh earl of Arundel (1408–1435) soldier
- Fitzalan, Richard (I), first earl of Arundel (1267–1302) magnate and soldier
- Fitzalan, Richard (II), third earl of Arundel and eighth earl of Surrey (c.1313–1376) soldier, diplomat, and royal councillor
- Fitzalan, Richard (III), fourth earl of Arundel and ninth earl of Surrey (1346–1397) magnate
- Fitzalan, Thomas, fifth earl of Arundel and tenth earl of Surrey (1381–1415) soldier and administrator
- Howard, Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-, sixteenth duke of Norfolk (1908–1975) courtier
- Howard, Henry, seventh duke of Norfolk (1655–1701) politician
- Howard, Henry Charles, thirteenth duke of Norfolk (1791–1856) politician
- Howard, Henry Fitzalan-, fifteenth duke of Norfolk (1847–1917) courtier
- Howard, Henry Frederick, fifteenth earl of Arundel, fifth earl of Surrey, and second earl of Norfolk (1608–1652) nobleman
- Howard, Henry Granville Fitzalan-, fourteenth duke of Norfolk (1815–1860) Roman Catholic layman and politician
- Howard, Philip [St Philip Howard], thirteenth earl of Arundel (1557–1595) magnate and alleged traitor
- Howard, Thomas, fourteenth earl of Arundel, fourth earl of Surrey, and first earl of Norfolk (1585–1646) art collector and politician
Between 2pm and 3pm each day, the Band of the Depot, Royal Sussex Regiment entertained the large crowds with a selection of tunes such as The Old Cork Road, The Spirit of Pageantry, Carmen, Rosamunde and All Souls Day.
- William Byrd, Earl of Oxford’s March, for Byrd’s tercentenary
- String Orchestra and madrigal singers trained by Miss Alice Verne Bredt
Newspaper coverage of pageantThe Times
Portsmouth Evening News
Southern Weekly News
Sussex County Herald
Sussex Daily News
Sussex Daily News
The Straits Times (Singapore)
Book of words
- Book of Pageant. London, Fleetway Press, 1923.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
- Preston, Joseph H. Arundel: A History of the Town and Castle. London, 1993. At 204.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Programme, Posters, Photographs and Minutes of Committees held at West Sussex Archives, Chichester, BO/AR24/1/7
Sources used in preparation of pageant
‘Astride mettlesome palfreys, four knights in armour will gallop to fight with lances set and pennons flying just as in the brave days of old—and all for the smiles of a fair lady!’5 The Arundel Pageant was a defiant reassertion of the place of the aristocracy in British society, and of the spectacular of medievalism, after a decade of war, social struggles and enfranchisement.
Defined as by ‘far and away the principal social event on the South Coast this season’,6 the 1923 Arundel Historical Pageant was wholly aristocratic in its ethos, in contrast with the civic pageantry of the pre-1914 period. Its committee and litany of presidents and backers—including the Duchess of Yorkshire, the Countess of March, Lord and Lady Leconfield, Sir William and Lady Bird, Lady St Mawr—read like the features page of Tatler. The President of the Committee was the sixteen year-old Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel. As the Graphic noted, ‘There is an old Sussex tradition to the effect that: ‘Since William rose and Harold fell / There have been Earls of Arundel’7—and the Pageant sought to cement this idea in a new era where ducal land was being slowly eaten up by the London commuter belt. The final scene, where all thirty-five former Earls of Arundel (the thirty-fifth’s widow was present)—made this unequivocally clear. As the Times reported: ‘In the middle, when all the representatives but one have appeared, there is left an empty space, and at the end this is filled by the present Duke of Norfolk, an attractive boy in hunting costume. In this boyish figure is the definite link with a tradition that goes back for more than a thousand years.’8 The headline of the Daily Mail, ‘Boy Duke Acts with Labourers’, could not make more evident that the pageant was a reassertion of aristocratic authority within a community which no longer appeared to need it.9
The committee initially wanted to do the pageant cheaply and on a smaller scale. The original cost was to be only £500, but this went up dramatically.10 In fact, the young Lord of Arundel was initially reluctant to hold the pageant within the grounds. The provisional site of the Pageant was the castle’s cricket pitch, and his worry was that holding it there would effectively put the pitch out of action for the entire cricket season. For this reason, Arundel town’s own cricket pitch was called upon to make the sacrifice. This decision sparked some public comment. The West Sussex Gazette wrote a long article noting that ‘The Castle, its traditions and modern opportunities, would seem to befit a national pageant run for some great national cause…Local geographical difficulties, however, as residents know, somewhat modify such prospects’.11 The report went on: ‘A pageant at Arundel Castle, and within its private grounds, connotes at least some close connection with the Castle and its participation in the various episodes. It was probably a disappointment to the local organisers to come to the conclusion that no part of the Castle grounds proper offers the accommodation needed, either for spectators or for participants.’12 The article warned readers that they ‘must not expect to see any part of the Castle, or any portion of its contiguous and dependent buildings from the pageant glade.’13 These and other such observations evidently had an effect, since the pageant was again relocated to Arundel Castle.
As clear from the comments of the West Sussex Gazette, the Castle site held a great deal of the Pageant’s appeal. Unlike today, very few castles could be visited by the public, and the chance to view one so splendidly intact, if only from the grounds, proved a great pull. The Times devoted most of its report to the castle itself, which, it noted ‘resembles a pageant in that it is largely made up of reminiscences of so many famous ages of history. It has been so battered by one age and restored by the next that no one now could call it a perfect work of architectural art.’14 As the reporter, breathless in more ways than one, remarked, the steep walk from train station to castle afforded both a view and heightened expectations, as a good walk aroused an appetite: ‘Thoughts and fancy are awakened by the sight of the long, steep High-street of the ancient town of Arundel, rising to the brow of the hill, where it is crowned by its massive Castle, which is surpassed for grandeur of architecture and storied antiquity only by Windsor.’15 The reporter present at the first performance the following day, who again remarked on the exertion of the hill, declared that ‘By the time the audience had made their way up the hill and into the Castle grounds they were entitled to some reward. They certainly received it.’16
Provided with an early snoop round the ground, the Daily Sketch, with the aid of many illustrative pictures, called the castle ‘A place to dream in! A place where next week dreams will come to life!’17 In a nod of the head to the new age of the mass franchise, the paper went on: ‘Not only in the castled halls alone are families and traditions fast rooted in the soil. Many a townsman and villager will boast ancestry centuries long. But the farther they count backwards themselves the more proudly does their story revolve around the mighty pile where the Earls of Arundel have held their state since Alfred’s day.’18
The organisers made sure that the pageant would attract as much attention as possible, decorating the high street with flags (presumably those of the Earls of Arundel). In the morning of the performance, ‘An aeroplane descended in the Castle grounds during the morning, and the river brought a large number of people from Littlehampton.’19 The Pageant was itself fairly standard stuff, recounting the past greatness of the Earls, including a medieval fayre and a visit by Queen Elizabeth—which surprisingly did not occur at the castle but at the Earls’ mansion in London. However, the audience was less interested in the dramatic effect of the pageant (which was almost wholly absent from reports) than the overall spectacle it offered. As the Times remarked, ‘The master of the pageant can make a perfect pageant, but it takes perfect weather to make a successful one, and to-day Nature allied itself with art in the kindest way to give a good send-off to the Arundel Pageant.’20 By all accounts, the weather throughout the Pageant was scorching, presumably making the steep walk up the hill to the castle an even greater challenge: ‘The spectacle was excellent, the sun was brilliant and the crowd was huge—and so the three days of this historic Pageant was thrice blessed!’21
From a financial point of view, the pageant was an unmitigated success. Despite costing £1260—more than double the sum initially envisaged—the Pageant made £2089 in profit. Unlike many stately homes which became financially unviable and were gifted or sold to the National Trust or other such body, Arundel Castle remained the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk. Nonetheless, the house opened intermittently when the family was not in residence, opening more fully to the public in 1947. After the thirty-sixth Earl’s death in 1975, the attempt to leave the house to the National Trust was suspended by his successor, the thirty-seventh Earl, and Arundel remains firmly in their hands—although open to the public between 25 March and 30 October.22 The 1923 Arundel Historical Pageant showed that the aristocracy could be turned into a viable tourist attraction on its own terms.
- Minutes from the Executive Committee, 2 and 29 September 1923, West Sussex Archives, BO/AR24/1/7
- Joseph H. Preston, Arundel: A History of the Town and Castle (London, 1993), 204.
- The Times, 14 August 1923, 9.
- Mark Phillips, Shoreham Herald, 2 April 2015, accessed 4 February 2016, http://www.shorehamherald.co.uk/news/nostalgia/the-arundel-pageant-of-august-1923-1-6666808
- Daily Mail, 30 May 1923, np. in Newspaper Cuttings File, BO/AR24/1/7
- Straits Times, 11 August 1923, 10.
- Graphic, 12 May 1923,
- The Times, 15 August 1935, 7.
- Daily Mail, 13 August 1923, 5.
- Minutes of Executive Committee, no date [February 1923?] BO/AR24/1/7 West Sussex Archives
- West Sussex Gazette, 12 May 1923, np. in Newspaper Cuttings File, BO/AR24/1/7.
- The Times, 15 August 1923, 7.
- Ibid., 14 August 1923, 9.
- Ibid., 15 August 1923, 7.
- Daily Sketch, 10 August 1923, 7.
- Times, 15 August 1923, 7.
- West Sussex Gazette, 17 July 1923, quoted in http://www.shorehamherald.co.uk/news/nostalgia/the-arundel-pageant-of-august-1923-1-6666808
- Accessed 5 February 2016, http://www.arundelcastle.org/plan-a-visit/2016-dates-and-times.html; Peter Mandler, The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home (New Haven, 1997), 251, 407-8.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Arundel Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1258/