The Pageant of the Border
Place: Warkworth Castle (Amble) (Amble, Northumberland, England)
Number of performances: 6
15–17 August 1935
The pageant took place at 3pm and 7pm each day.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer [Pageant Master]:
- Stage Manager: Mr Russell
- Music Master: Mr J. P.
- Ticket Secretary: Mr J.
- Controller of Tickets:
Mr J. Darling
- Mistress of the Robes:
Mrs H. Shaw
- Arena Superintendent:
Major T. Boss
- Scenic artist: Mrs M.
- Dancing Mistress: Miss
A. G. Bell
- Ballet Mistress: Miss C.
- Designer of Poster: Miss
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Chairman: Mr A.
- Treasurer: Mr Herbert
- Secretary: Mr C. J. S.
- Other members: Mrs E. E.
Robinson [Organiser of Bazaar]; Mr A. Urwin [Organiser of the Water Carnival].
For names of organisers, see 'Great Pageant at Warkworth', Morpeth Herald, 16 August 1935, 9.
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Vincent, C.V.H.
- Bede, Cuthbert
- Scholey, C.W.
C.V.H. Vincent wrote the script; in one newspaper report, he is described as a 'north-country librettist' (Morpeth Herald, 16 August 1935, 9). For episode four, Vincent based his script on a novel by Cuthbert Bede entitled The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green: an Oxford Freshman (see sources used in preparation of the pageant). C.W. Scholey wrote the prologue.
Names of composers
- Jobling, Norman R.
- Burn, J.P.
Norman R. Jobling composed most of the music used in the pageant; of particular note is the operetta performed as episode four. J.P. Burn, who was organist at Alnmouth Parish Church and music master at the Duke's School, Almwick, composed some 'incidental music'.
Numbers of performers250 - 300
The number of performers is difficult to assess since it is clear that some may have played multiple roles. Men, women and children, in roughly equal numbers, performed the pageant; horses were involved in some scenes.
- Total receipts: £1331
- Water Carnival profit: £2 11s 8d
- Profit from pageant and bazaar: £743 9s 2d
Object of any funds raised
Northumberland County Nursing Association
The sum of £743 9s 2d was raised by the pageant and bazaar and given to the County Nursing Association (Morpeth Herald, 27 September 1935, 10). The postponed Water Carnival realised a small surplus and this was transferred 'to the pageant and bazaar account' (Morpeth Herald, 20 December 1935, 3).
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 4000 - 6000
On the first day, around 2000 people were admitted to the grounds of the castle and a newspaper report states that the numbers were similar on the final day (Berwick Advertiser, 22 August 1935, 8). Not all may have attended the pageant; therefore, this figure is an estimate only.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
[Reserved Seats: 3s 6d; Unreserved Seats: 2s; Entrance Fee to the pageant for non-ticket holders: 1s; Entrance fee to the bazaar only: 6d.]
The pageant was accompanied by a large bazaar which took place on each of the scheduled days. A 'Water Carnival' and fireworks display were also scheduled to take place at night on August 17th, but this had to be postponed because of 'the state of the tide'. It was eventually held on Thursday 5 September 1935 and was entitled 'A Night in Venice' (Morpeth Herald, 13 September 1935, 5).
No details of this have been recovered but it likely consisted of an introductory monologue by a narrator.
Episode the First: The Saxon Period, AD 680
This scene is set 'on the green in front of St Peter's Monastery' and purports to show 'very fully' the 'everyday life' of this institution in Saxon times. The adoption by Benedict Biscop of Bede into the monastery is part of the drama. The episode had around 70 players.['Great Pageant at Warkworth', Morpeth Herald, 16 August 1935, 9.]
Episode the Second: The Tudor Period, AD 1497—Harry Tudor Visits Warkworth Castle
Set in the grounds of Warkworth Castle, this scene depicts a 'merry May Day with Maypole, Jesters and Dancers'. Henry VII is entertained by the activities during a visit to the castle where his host is the earl of Northumberland (sometimes called Henry the magnificent). The scene also features a Rogantide procession and Sir John Bladesmith (described as the 'parish priest of Warkworth) arrives accompanied by 'his choir and parishioners'. The episode had the largest cast with around 110 players, many of who performed the dances. ['Border Pageant's Success', Berwick Advertiser, 22 August 1935, 8.]
Episode the Third: The Stuart Hanoverian Pariod, AD 1715—King James the Third Proclaimed at Warkworth
This episode recalls 'the most notable event in the history of warkworth' when the Jacobite pretender—James Stuart—was proclaimed King James III for the first time on English soil at the market place in Warkworth by General Forster. He is seen in the company of Lord Derwentwater and a company of Jacobite soldiers. There were around 80 players made up of men and women. [The Pageant of the Border at Warkworth Castle on August 15th 16th 17th, 1935 (Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1935), 13.
Episode the Fourth: The Early Victorian Period -"Pretty Patty Honeywood"
This episode takes the form of an opera and the narrative is based on part III of a popular novel called The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green: An Oxford Freshman. It is enacted over three scenes; in the first, Verdant Green arrives at Honeywood Hall, described in this fiction as situated 'somewhere between Wooler and Ingram'. Here, Squire Honeywood entertains Green and his friends. In scene two, 'we are taken to a picnic in the grounds of Warkworth Castle'. The final scene shows the wedding of 'Pretty Patty Honeywood at Ingram Church'. [Ibid., 13, 15.]
Key historical figures mentioned
- Benedict Biscop [St Benedict Biscop] (c.628–689)
abbot of Wearmouth and scholar
- Bede [St Bede, Bæda, known as the Venerable Bede]
(673/4–735) monk, historian, and theologian
- Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and
lord of Ireland
- Percy, Henry Algernon,
fifth earl of Northumberland (1478–1527) magnate
- Forster, Thomas (bap. 1683, d. 1738) politician and
Jacobite army officer
- Radcliffe, James, styled third earl of Derwentwater
(1689–1716) Jacobite army officer
Mr J.P. Burn was master of music. Most of the music was composed by Mr Norman R. Jobling, including that of the fourth episode which took the form of an operetta. Burn, who was organist at Alnmouth Parish Church and music master at the Duke's School, Alnwick, composed some 'incidental music'; and C.A. Vincent Jones composed the 'May Queen Song', which featured in the second episode. The Rev. S. Landreth, MA, Vicar of St Bede's at Monkwearmouth, arranged the Rogantide procession, also in the second episode—this element included plainsong (Morpeth Herald, 16 August 1935, 9).
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- The Pageant of the Border at Warkworth Castle on August 15th 16th 17th, 1935. Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1935.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of Programme in the British Library
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Bede, Cuthbert. The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green: An Oxford Freshman. London and Edinburgh, 1885.
The narrative of the final episode is acknowledged in the pageant programme as being based on a popular novel by Cuthbert Bede (pseudonym of Edward Bradley), The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green. This was published initially in three parts with the first of these appearing in 1885; the novel had many subsequent imprints.
The pageant programme states that this pageant, which took place in 1935, was the third such event to be held at Warkworth Castle. It was organised by the Northumberland County Nursing Association, and the event was stated to be under the patronage of the Duchess of Northumberland. A pageant organised by the local War Memorial Institute was held at Warkworth Castle in 1931; however, details of either a previous or a later pageant have not been recovered. A fourth pageant (organised by the Women's Institute) was held at this location in 1939.
The growing popularity
of historical pageantry as a means of raising money for good causes is
highlighted by this event, which was held to provide funds for the local
district nursing service. Alongside a bazaar, the drama provided in the
accompanying pageant mixed history with legend, and even incorporated popular
fiction; its approach to the past appears to have been unashamedly populist.
Some of the long-established tenets of pageantry do appear to have been adhered
to, however, in that the performance took place at a site of great local and
national historical significance, and the entire event had an aristocratic
front woman in the person of the Duchess of Northumberland, who was patron of
the pageant. The duchess was an obvious choice as Warkworth is one of the
ancient fortresses constructed by the Percy family (who became the Dukes of
Northumberland); moreover, one of her relatives—Lady Victoria Percy—was chair
of the Northumberland County Nursing Association. The involvement of such county
celebrities was, of course, one of the added attractions of the pageant. On
each day, a glamorous dignitary formally opened the event: with the duchess,
aided by Lady Percy, appearing at the first day's pageant. On the second day,
however, something of the evolution of celebrity status in the twentieth
century can be detected. The person delivering the opening speech on this occasion
was a former music hall performer turned film actress called Violet Loraine—or,
as she was titled at the pageant—Mrs Edward Joicey. Mrs Joicey was London born
and bred, so it is assumed she married a Northumbrian; however, perhaps it was
simply enough of a draw that she was a film star and any local affiliation took
second place to this. Unfortunately, we do not have figures for attendance on
the day of her appearance. On day three, a local aristocrat resumed the job
when a member of the Neville family—Lady Barnard—did the honours.1
The bazaar was, presumably, the bread-and-butter money-spinner, but the pageant definitely aimed to swell the coffers of this charity more substantially. As to the content of the drama, after a prologue—for which we sadly have no details—there were only four episodes. This was a broad-brush approach to the past that for the most part concentrated on figures of local significance who nevertheless had national or indeed, international appeal. The first of these in episode one was Bede. In this, Bede is depicted as a boy about to embark on his career. This story was augmented by what was alleged to be an authentic depiction of the everyday life of a monastery.2 Nonetheless, the scene was also said to be 'lightened by allegory', though we have no details of what this entailed.3 The pageant programme makes clear that as far as the organisers were concerned, the presentation of appealing drama and truthful re-telling of the past were perfectly compatible; in light-hearted fashion its commentary on the episodes states that
For the purposes of Pageantry there are anachronisms of fact and fashion. Certain historical incidents are merged into one date, and the vernacular of each age is not strictly employed. We are confident, however, that the student of history will not find anything to offend his sense of scholarship.4
Such an approach continued in episodes two and three, each of which went over well-worn pageant territory: episode two covered a Tudor fair but in a somewhat novel fashion left Elizabeth I out of it in favour of the taciturn Henry VII, and episode three dramatised a locally-important aspect of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. The latter possibly employed elements of a tale that was widely recognisable even beyond the north-east of England, having been the basis of a then famous historical novel.5 However, dependence on popular literary interpretations of the past is most pronounced in the final episode. Covering the Victorian era, its entire narrative is based on scenes from a popular novel called The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green.6 This episode was also sung in the manner of an operetta. It appears that there may have been some misgivings about it, for the pageant's producer stated that it had been 'a bone of contention'. He went on, nevertheless, to defend it as 'something new' that had gone down as well as the other scenes in the end.7
The entire event also included floodlighting Warkworth Castle, and the village itself was decorated as for a festival.8 A further spectacle—a 'Water Carnival' involving illuminated boats on the river Coquet—had been planned for the final evening, but this had to be postponed until later because of tidal conditions. There was some rain as well over the three days, but despite this, the pageant was a critical and financial success and raised over £700 for charity.9 Warkworth Castle did seem to bring good fortune to pageants. The atmospheric setting was a clear attraction and Northumbrians made good use of it: this once mighty fortress would see more historical pageantry.
FootnotesPageant of the Border at Warkworth Castle on August 15th 16th 17th, 1935 (Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1935), 5.
'Great Pageant at Warkworth', Morpeth Herald, 16 August 1935, 9.
Pageant of the Border, 11.
The pageant programme does not specify this, but in describing the background to episode three, it does make mention of the character of Dorothy Forster. This woman (sister of General Forster) was the central figure in a popular novel by Walter Besant. Entitled Dorothy Forster: a Novel (first published London, 1884), the book dramatised the involvement of the Derwentwater family and others in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.
The novel in question was by Cuthbert Bede (pseudonym of Edward Bradley) and entitled The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green: an Oxford Freshman (first published in three parts; part one: London and Edinburgh, 1885).
Quoted in 'Border Pageant', Morpeth Herald, 23 August 1935, 12.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Pageant of the Border’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1434/