Berkhamsted Pageant Play, 1922

Pageant type


This entry was written by Laura Carter

Jump to Summary


Place: Grounds of Berkhamsted Castle (Berkhamsted) (Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England)

Year: 1922

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


5–8 July 1922

Two of the full rehearsals scheduled to take place in the Castle grounds were abandoned due to weather (rain).

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Hudson, Gilbert
  • Music Composition and Arrangement: Stanley Wilson
  • Music Director: Mrs F.G. Hawdon
  • Music Librarian: Rev. A.H.B. Reeve
  • Artist (cover and poster): Edward Popple
  • Mistress of the Robes: Miss Juana Hudson
  • Dramatic Secretary: J.S. Wright
  • Episode Marshal: R.S. Bale
  • Promoter: The Rector (Wm. C. Stainsby)
  • Official Photographer: J.T. Newman

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Officers of the Pageant:

  • Chairman of the General Committee: L Granville Ram
  • Chairmen of the Executive Committee: Capt R.H. Haslam and The Rector
  • Hon. Secretaries: G.E. Morrow and E.H. Sedgwick
  • Hon. Treasurer: G.E. Morrow

Chairmen of Committees:

  • The Book: The Rector (Wm. C. Stainsby)
  • Finance: L Granville Ram
  • Seating and Grounds: Rear-Admiral A.H. Smith Dorrien
  • Music: Mrs Holland
  • Publicity: T.W. Bailey
  • Castle: Havelock Collins
  • Wardrobe: Mrs Bavin (costumes hired from Mr De Fraine of Messrs. Simmons & Co.)
  • Properties: R.E. Webb
  • 6 male, 2 female


There are strong religious associations with St Peter’s Church and the Rector, which runs throughout the body of the pageant (but is less explicit in the G.M. Trevelyan scenes).

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

  • Hopkins, T.H.C.
  • Hudson, Gilbert
  • Morgan, Gladys
  • Trevelyan, G.M.


  • T.H.C. Hopkins: Episode VI.
  • Gilbert Hudson: Prologue, Episodes I, II, V, X, and words to ‘A Song of Berkhamsted’.
  • Gladys Morgan: Episode IX (with G. Macaulay Trevelyan).
  • G. Macaulay Trevelyan: Episodes III, IV, VII, VIII, IX (with Gladys Morgan), and Epilogue.1

Names of composers

  • Wilson, Stanley
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van

Numbers of performers


Total number of performers: 225 plus dancers and chorus (but some repeated in episodes, so probably c200). Prologue: 2 plus dancers. Episode I: 20. Episode II: 13 plus chorus. Episode III: 52.  Episode IV: 50. Episode V: 22 plus chorus. Episode VI: 16 plus chorus. Episode VII: 1 plus dancers. Episode VIII: 4 plus schoolboys. Episode IX: 6 plus schoolboys. Episode X: 38. Epilogue: 1 plus dancers and schoolboys. Men, women, children and horses appeared. There was a shortage of men for many of the episodes until the final rehearsals. Horses in Episode IV: ‘Horses ridden by the most splendid Norman knights came charging in at a gallop from beneath the trees, led by the Duke of William’.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

700th ‘birthday’ of the Church of St Peter, Berkhamsted

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a


During the performances, it rained for all except one. The choir had to be brought under a makeshift roof midway through. It was noted that at least the weather was perhaps historically accurate. Pageant performance was disrupted by regular train service on the North-Western railway line which runs immediately alongside the Castle grounds.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline


An orchestral prelude is followed by addresses to the audience and then dialogue between female characters Antiquity and Contemplation. The prologue closes with ‘Dance of the Four Seasons’ (performed by schoolchildren in seasonal costumes).

Episode I. Prehistoric and Bronze Age

Historical note on prehistory followed by two troupes of schoolchildren as Prehistoric and Bronze Age peoples, each doing a tableau and descriptive verse.

Episode II. Roman, AD 305

The historical disclaimer in the book of words explains that this scene uses fiction to illustrate the immediate local effect of the martyrdom of Albanus at Verulamium. The assumption of Roman activity is made on grounds that Roman coins have been found near Berkhamsted, but no evidence that the Romans had a fort at the future site of the Castle. An orchestral prelude is followed by a scene with Roman officers and a Christian missionary and his disciple. The officers release the prisoner because of the martyrdom of Albanus, ending all persecution of Christians. The officers exit and there is a short dialogue between the missionary and his disciple thanking God for allowing Briton and Roman to grow together in Christ. The scene closes with chorus singing a verse from William Cowper’s ‘Boadicea’.

Episode III. Saxon, AD 789

The historical note outlines the context of the scene and fills in gaps between the 4th and 8th centuries—the destruction of Romano-British civilisation and Christianity, and the coming of the heathen Saxons. The scene is set at the height of power of the Mercian Kings, chief of which was King Offa who very likely held court inside the earthworks of the fort at Berkhamsted (before it was built in stone). The scene depicts a treaty between King Offa and Boertric, King of Wessex. It opens with ‘Saxon Gleeman’s Song’ (written by Gilbert Hudson). Then there is a dialogue between King Offa and Edburga’s ladies, Edburga, and Egbert (Offa has just returned from hunting at Ashridge). They discuss Edburga’s engagement to Egbert (claimant to the Wessex throne) and Offa explains that this would mean war with Beortric. Offa seeks counsel from Archbishop Higbert. A confrontation ensues between heathens and Higbert over plans to rename days of the week from heathen names to Christian names. Higbert counsels Offa to marry his daughter Edburga to Beortric to avoid war with Wessex. Egbert tells Offa not to banish him—he has met with a warlock who has prophesied that he will be overlord of all English kingdoms. Edburga pleads her love for Egbert. Egbert is exiled, Edburga pledges to wed Beotric but claims he will wed her vengeance too (she later poisoned him). Egbert is exiled, and the scene closes with monks chanting and Egbert leaving alone.

Episode IV. Norman, AD 1066

The historical note outlines the context—William the Conqueror reaches Berkhamsted on his ravaging march from Hastings. William was met by a deputation from London at Berkhamsted (probably in the earthenwork fort on the site of the Castle) where he is invited to be crowned King of the Saxon nation. The note also explains that data from the Domesday Book entry has aided writing of the scene. The scene opens with Saxons (thanes of Harold, but also including heathen Saxon figures, e.g. a witch) in the burg at Berkhamsted, and depicts the coming of William to the gate. The Saxons yield the burg. Normans are on horseback. William shows no mercy to the Saxons, until they confess themselves his subjects. He receives a deputation from London and accepts their invitation, and the scene closes peacefully with William ordering for the castle to be built up strong and protected, and vowing to rule England and bring Saxon, Dane, and Norman together.

Episode V. Consecration of the Church, AD 1222

The historical note outlines the context—Hugh of Grenoble, Bishop of Lincoln, came to Berkhamsted to suppress the worship of nymphs and sprites. His successor Hugh Wells consecrated the church. The note also outlines the sources used to create the scene—the earliest tombstone in the church is dated at 1223; therefore, in absence of documentary evidence, 1222 can be taken as the year of consecration. The scene opens with dialogue between the tiler, mason, and carpenter and the bailiff of Berkhamsted, who have just been building the Church. They meet Robert De Tuardo and he is instituted as Rector. The new Rector recalls the banishing of heathen worship by the Bishop of Lincoln and calls upon the people of Berkhamsted to think of English and Norman as one, coming together in God and under the Church roof at Berkhamsted. Choir sings ‘Old Plain Song’.

Episode VI. Black Prince, AD 1363

The historical note outlines the context—the scene depicts Berkhamsted Castle at height of its importance and glory, but also notes ‘authentic’ aspects and ‘fictitious additions’ (boasting of the King and bickering of the ladies). The scene opens with the Black Prince (Edward) and the King (Edward III) and Queen (Philippa of Hainault). The King explains he must leave Edward for Windsor but counsels him to keep control of lords and knights and stop them from warring with each other in order to protect the legacy of their family. The Queen leaves her clerk Froissart with Edward. Royals exit. Lord Burghersh tells a prophecy to the ladies present and Froissart that Edward will never wear the crown of England but that it shall go to the House of Lancaster. The choir closes the scene with ‘Sumer Is I-Cumen In’.

Episode VII. Chaucer, AD 1400

The historical note explains that Chaucer was the Clerk of the Works to Berkhamsted Castle (although he never lived there, doing most of his work through a deputy). He is shown here giving a prophecy about the history of the castle during the 100 years after his death (1400-1500). This therefore fills in the gap from the end of last scene to the castle’s decay under the Tudors up to the first stages of the Reformation. The scene opens with the ‘Dance of the Daisies’, followed by Chaucer’s monologue (in verse), which looks back upon how the castle fell into decay and the residence at the castle of the Duchess of Cicely

Episode VIII. Foundation of the School, AD 1541

The historical note explains that the school was founded by Dean Incent under licence from Henry VIII. The scene is dialogue between Incent and Berkhamsted citizens. Incent outlines the reasons to found a school—notably religious study. Enter a quarrelling and fighting crowd of rowdy boys. The citizens lament they need a school to teach them manners. The citizens depart and Incent is left alone, and then schoolboys in modern dress enter singing their Latin Carmen.

Episode IX. Elizabeth, AD 1554

The historical note explains that during the early days of her half-sister Mary’s reign (Mary I), Elizabeth lived at Ashridge Manor House (on edge of Berkhamsted).These were dark and dangerous times for Elizabeth—she went from Ashridge to the Tower. An orchestral prelude is followed by dialogue between Elizabeth and her ladies in the castle grounds. Elizabeth laments living at Ashridge whilst she sees her father’s England go to ruin under Mary’s doctrine. Berkhamsted Castle is now as England is—in ruin and decay. Revelers enter from the school, Elizabeth wishes them well as good scholars. A deputation arrives from London under Mary’s orders to bring Elizabeth to the Tower; Elizabeth resigns to leave Ashridge the following day, despite the Lords of Berkhamsted wishing her to stay. The scene closes with a dance of ‘Shepherd’s Hey’.

Episode X. Nathan Payne, AD 1649

The historical note gives the name of the court document used to write the scene, which was communicated to the writer by Edward Popple (pageant artist). The scene features Nathan Paine, his wife, and Puritan townsmen. Paine is accused of fighting for Royalists (Cavaliers) in the Civil War; he proudly admits this, calling the execution of the king ‘the most horrible murder in history’.


The epilogue opens with address from Godolphin Roper of Berkhamsted Place, followed by scholars of Bourne’s school with their headmaster. They sing William Cowper’s hymn ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way’. Cowper then enters and delivers a monologue reflecting on the episodes of the pageant. The scene closes with peal of bells, a general assemblage, and the ‘Song of Berkhamsted’ (written by Gilbert Hudson), as well as a Hymn (in which the spectators are requested to join, standing). The performers than march past, with finale of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Alban [St Alban, Albanus] (d. c.303?) Christian martyr in Roman Britain
  • Offa (d. 796) king of the Mercians
  • Eadburh [Eadburga] (fl. 789–802) queen of the West Saxons, consort of King Beorhtric
  • Beorhtric (d. 802) king of the West Saxons
  • Hygeberht [Higbert] (d. in or after 803) archbishop of Lichfield
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Wells, Hugh of (d. 1235) bishop of Lincoln
  • Edward III (1312–1377) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Edward [Edward of Woodstock; known as the Black Prince], prince of Wales and of Aquitaine (1330–1376) heir to the English throne and military commander
  • Philippa [Philippa of Hainault] (1310x15?–1369) queen of England, consort of Edward III
  • Froissart, Jean (1337?–c.1404) historian and poet
  • Burghersh, Bartholomew, the younger, third Lord Burghersh (d. 1369) soldier and diplomat
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340–1400) poet and administrator
  • Cecily [Cicely; née Cecily Neville], duchess of York (1415–1495) Yorkist matriarch
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Cowper, William (1731–1800) poet and letter-writer

Musical production

Orchestra and choir, size unknown. The following pieces were performed:
  • ‘A Song of Berkhamsted’, specially composed for Berkhamsted Pageant July 1922, words by Gilbert Hudson, music by Stanley Wilson.
  • Verse from William Cowper, ‘Boadicea’.
  • Gilbert Hudson, ‘Saxon Gleeman’s Song’.
  • William Cowper, ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way’.
  • ‘Old Plain Song’ (unknown source).
  • ‘Sumer Is I-Cumen In’ 
  • Beethoven’s 5th symphony (closing music).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Observer
The Manchester Guardian
The Times
Berkhamsted Gazette and Tring District News
West Herts/Watford Observer
Berkhamsted Times

Book of words

Berkhamsted Pageant Play: The Castle Grounds July 5th-8th 1922 To Celebrate the 700th Birthday of the Parish Church: Book of Words. Berkhamsted, 1922.

61 pages. Copies at Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Library.

Other primary published materials

  • A Song of Berkhamsted Specially Composed for Berkhamsted Pageant July 1922 Words by Gilbert Hudson Music by Stanley Wilson. London, 1922. 7 pages, price 6d. Copy at Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store (donated to the Berkhamsted local history society by Muriel Newman, daughter of pageant photographer).
  • Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant Given in The Castle Grounds July 5th to 8th 1922 To Celebrate the 700th Birthday of St Peter’s Parish Church with Descriptive Article by Gilbert Hudson (Pageant Master), List of Performers, Photographs of the Episodes, etc. Berkhamsted, 1922. 30 pages. Copies at Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Library.

References in secondary literature

  • Mandler, P. History and National Life. London, 2002. At 71 (reproduction of photograph of G M Trevelyan portraying Chaucer in Episode VII).
  • Moorman, M. George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir. London, 1980. At 202-3.

There is no mention of Berkhamsted pageant in either G.M. Trevelyan, An Autobiography and Other Essays (London, 1949) or D. Cannadine, G.M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (London, 1992).

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store:
  • Souvenir. DACHT, BK 53.1.
  • Book of Words. DACHT, BK 53.2.
  • ‘Song of Berkhamsted’. DACHT, BK 331.1.
  • Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Library:
  • Souvenir. HALS, 791.624.
  • Book of Words. HALS, 791.624. (NB bound in the back of Souvenir).
  • Photograph album of St Peter’s Church (holding 4 photographs of 1922 pageant: 1 of general assemblage and 3 of Episode V. It also holds photographs of the 1931 Berkhamsted pageant). HALS, DP19/29/32.
  • For 1966 pageant: Scrapbook of pageant held in celebration of 900th anniversary of coronation of William I. HALS, DEX235/Z1.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Secondary material:
  • Cobb, J.W. Two lectures on the History and Antiquities of Berkhamsted. London, 1883 (first edition 1855).
  • Cox, J. C. The English Parish Church: An Account of the Chief Building Types & of their Materials during Nine Centuries. London, 1914.
  • Inventory of the Historical Monuments of the County of Hertford (Prepared under Direction of the Royal Commission of Historical Monuments. London, 1910.
  • Smith, W.G. Dunstable: the Downs and District, a Handbook for Visitors. Dunstable, 1904)
  • Victoria County History
  • Primary material (exact sources/location unspecified):
  • A copie of the Informations and Examinations taken before the Bayliffe and chiefe Burgesses of the Burrowe of Berkhamsted St. Peter in the County of Hertford on the 19th day of August instant 1649 upon Articles transmitted unto them from the Right Honourable the Councel of State exhibited there against Nathan Paine…of the said Burrough.
  • Domesday Survey.
  • Froissart’s Chronicles.
  • Leland the Antiquary.
  • License granted by King Henry VIII to found a school at Berkhamsted.
  • Archaeology/material sources:
  • Berkhamsted Common (barrows)
  • Roman coins found at Berkhamsted and surrounding area
  • Roman remains at Bulbourne
  • Tombstones at St Peter’s Parish Church

Although not referred to specifically, it is fair to assume that a good deal of documentary sources were deployed by G.M. Trevelyan for the five episodes he wrote, given his standing as an historian and his already notable publications.


Berkhamsted pageant play was performed four times from Wednesday 5 to Saturday 8 July 1922.3 The week was beset with poor weather, with rain interrupting every performance except one.4 A souvenir booklet produced after the event cheerfully remarked that the weather was perhaps at least historically accurate, although ‘the clothes of the choristers weepingly bemocked their merry words’ as they sang ‘Sumer is i-cumen in’.5 These downpours were particularly disruptive as the chosen setting was outdoors, amidst the atmospheric ruins of Berkhamsted castle. The castle served as a focus point for much of the pageant’s story. Originally the site of an Anglo-Saxon earthwork fort, the castle dates back to the eleventh century when an important Norman wooden motte-and-bailey castle was built defending the strategic route from London to the North West. The stone ruins that remained in the twentieth century were of walls added by Thomas Beckett in the twelfth century, when he was granted the castle as Chancellor of England.6

The 1922 pageant was principally a commemorative occasion, marking the 700th anniversary of the local parish church of St Peter. The church stood (and still stands) less than a mile south of the castle grounds, across the railway line and on Berkhamsted’s main high street. Careful efforts were undertaken to date the church’s foundation. The fact that a tombstone of the first known Rector was dated to 1223 led the organizers to finally settle on 1222 as the date of its consecration.7 But, as The Observer noted one week before the event, Berkhamsted possessed a history beyond that of the church full of ‘ample materials’ for some ‘vivid scenes’ in a pageant.8 Therefore, historically sound episodes could rely on the staple names of English history, including William the Conqueror, Chaucer, Edward III and the Black Prince, and (of course) Elizabeth I. Although exact figures are not recorded, around 200 performers were involved: men, women, schoolchildren, and live horses included.9 Organizers were hard-pressed to encourage enough male participation, which was only rectified at the last minute when some late-comers stepped in.10 Indeed, the whole affair seems to have been somewhat on the hoof. The pageant was threatened with a year’s postponement when planning was partly underway due to a perceived lack of time to prepare.11 Although female performers were in abundance, of the eight pageant committees formed, six were headed by men and only two by women (costume and music).12 The majority of the costumes were hired, rather than homemade, from a local firm called Messrs. Simmons & Co.13 This perhaps reflected the lack of preparation in the final months leading up to July 1922. However, a public meeting called by the Rector of St Peter’s Church apparently galvanised the townsfolk and committee, rescuing the pageant play ‘from its doubtful plight, and [it was] in due course brought to a most happy fruition’.14

The Rector himself, William C. Stainsby, undertook the role of ‘Promoter of the Pageant’. He considered the pageant to be ‘quite broadly civic…People of all persuasions are linked together in a friendly effort to portray the stirring scenes which follow’.15 The Chairman of the general pageant committee was Sir Lucius Granville Ram, a QC whose family occupied Berkhamsted Place (a sixteenth-century manor) and who rose to First Parliamentary Counsel to the Treasury in 1937.16 Similarly, patrons of the pageant included local landowners and political elites.17 Sir Frederick Halsey (by 1922 an octogenarian) who sponsored the pageant was from an old local family with strong military connections in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry. Like his father, Halsey had been an MP for Hertfordshire, tracing his ancestral roots back to Plantagenet royalty.18 Another notable listed patron was Lord Brownlow, a prominent local landowner who had also been a Conservative MP.19 Until his death in 1921, Brownlow had resided at the Ashridge estate, which constituted a good deal of the ‘unspoilt’ countryside on the north side of Berkhamsted. All of the advertisements in the souvenir booklet were for traditional family firms located on Berkhamsted’s main high street, such as Loosley the stationer who published the pageant literature, and Newman, the official photographer of the pageant.20

In contrast to the majority of the committee members, the pageant master was not a local figure. Gilbert Hudson had cut his teeth on the Edwardian pageant circuit in Yorkshire, stepping in at the last minute to help organize the Thirsk Historical Play of 1907 and later acting as pageant master for the Pickering Pageant in 1910 and the Scarborough Pageant in 1912. Hudson’s experiences in Pickering, staging an event in historic castle grounds, undoubtedly provided inspiration for Berkhamsted, which he defined as ‘essentially an historical play’.21 Apart from Episode VI, Hudson and the historian George Macaulay Trevelyan – who lived locally – composed the entire script. Hudson wrote the prologue and four episodes, and Trevelyan wrote the Epilogue and five episodes (although Episode IX was co-written with Gladys Morgan).22

The pageant began with a dialogue between two female muses, in which ‘Contemplation’ promised to breathe life back into a forlorn and tarnished ‘Antiquity’ (fittingly portrayed by Mary Trevelyan).23 The first episode, covering the Stone and Bronze Ages, was a nod to contemporary archaeological finds in the area around Berkhamsted. In the ‘Book of Words’ the prehistoric scene was accompanied by an explanatory note written by Charles Quennell, who was at the time expanding his publications with a series on everyday life in prehistoric England.24 Charles Quennell’s son Peter Quennel appropriately starred as one of the Bronze Age hunters in the second of two lively prehistoric sketches acted out by groups of schoolchildren, which opened the pageant.25

After a Roman scene depicting the impact of the martyrdom of St Albanus at nearby Verulamium, Trevelyan’s Saxon scene (Episode III) depicted the Mercian King Offa, holding court at Berkhamsted.26 Tensions between Christian power and Saxon heathen traditions are played out as Egbert is exiled by King Offa in his efforts to avoid war with the kingdom of Wessex. Episode IV portrayed one of Berkhamsted’s grandest moments. It saw William the Conqueror receive a deputation from London at Berkhamsted, and accept the English crown.27 In a dramatic entrance, the Norman knights galloped in on horseback from the thickets surrounding the ruins.28 The scene closed peacefully with William ordering the castle to be built up strong and protected, and with him vowing to rule England and bring Saxon, Dane, and Norman together, playing down the ‘Norman Yoke’ tradition.

The symbol of the Berkhamsted pageant was the Black Prince, who is rendered standing triumphantly in front of the castle on the pageant poster, ‘Book of Words’, and souvenir booklet.29 The Prince occupied the castle regularly in the mid-fourteenth century at the height of its glory. After the Prince’s exit in Episode VI (written not by Trevelyan or Hudson, but by one T.H.C. Hopkins) we hear of an ominous prophecy: that the crown will pass over Prince Edward and go instead to the House of Lancaster.30 Trevelyan’s starring moment came in Episode VII, which he wrote and took centre stage for.31 The scene saw Trevelyan as Geoffrey Chaucer, one time Clerk of the Works to Berkhamsted Castle, describing the fate of the castle during the fifteenth century as it fell into decline and was the home of the Duchess of Cicely.32 The impressive monologue reflected Trevelyan’s ‘celebrity’ status. The Manchester Guardian praised Trevelyan’s performance ‘in a most-becoming smoke-grey cap and suit’.33

As the medieval prestige of the castle faded, scenes shifted focus onto the tumultuous early-modern period, with Elizabeth I’s unhappy spell at the nearby Ashridge Manor during the reign of Mary I. The young Elizabeth is presented sympathetically as she wonders through the castle ruins and laments the fate of her beloved rural England under her half-sister’s rule:

Where were the Spaniards when the English yeomen
Rode through Castile behind the Black Prince Edward?
He in this Castle kept high state. Behold it!
Where hung his banners, hangs the mantling ivy
Where trumpets rang, owls hoot and foxes bark
And as this Castle is, so now is England.34

The pageant closed with a hymn written by the eighteenth-century poet William Cowper, who was born at Berkhamsted and christened at St Peter’s church (his father was the Rector).35 The hymn’s words underscore the strong religiosity at the heart of the pageant and its connections to the church establishment. This is most evident in the preface to the ‘Book of Words,’ written by the Rector, who saw the pageant as ‘taking the message of the Church outside its walls’, as well as ‘brilliantly dovetailing the sacred and secular’.36 Episode VIII, which celebrated the foundation of the grammar school in 1541, similarly emphasised the sobering effect of religious learning as a group of rowdy street urchins are transformed into uniformed choirboys singing their Latin Carmen.37 The pageant featured six full songs, as well as a performance of Beethoven’s fifth symphony as the closing tune. In particular, a special ‘Song of Berkhamsted’ was composed for the pageant.38

The 1922 pageant was ultimately deemed a modest success. It marked the beginning of twentieth-century pageantry in Berkhamsted. Another pageant was performed at Berkhamsted castle just nine years later, 24–27 June 1931, in order to raise funds for new parish buildings.39 The year also tied in with the bicentenary of William Cowper, whose place in the pageant was upgraded accordingly.40 The 1931 occasion featured more performances, including two matinees and a full dress rehearsal.41 The script used was very similar, with two extra episodes added in depicting Boadicea and the first Head Master of the school. Trevelyan was again involved in preparing the ‘Book of Words’, although by this point he had moved away from Berkhamsted. Likewise, Hudson reprised his role as Pageant Master. 42 In 1966 a much larger affair saw Berkhamsted mark the 900th anniversary of 1066, celebrating the town’s critical role in William the Conqueror’s accession to the English throne.43

By Laura Carter


  1. ^ This is consistent with the memoir of Trevelyan’s daughter, where she states that he wrote 5 scenes and an epilogue. See M. Moorman, George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir (London, 1980), 202.
  2. ^ M. Moorman, George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir (London, 1980), 202.
  3. ^ Berkhamsted Pageant Play: The Castle Grounds July 5th-8th 1922 To Celebrate the 700th Birthday of the Parish Church: Book of Words (Berkhamsted, 1922). Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store, DACHT, BK 53.2.
  4. ^ M. Moorman, George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir (London, 1980), 202.
  5. ^ Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant Given in The Castle Grounds July 5th to 8th 1922 To Celebrate the 700th Birthday of St Peter’s Parish Church with Descriptive Article by Gilbert Hudson (Pageant Master), List of Performers, Photographs of the Episodes, etc. (Berkhamsted 1922). Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Library, HALS, 791.624, 8. The souvenir booklet holds many photographs of the pageant scenes in action.
  6. ^ 'Berkhamsted Castle', English Heritage, accessed 25 July 2014,
  7. ^ Book of Words, 37.
  8. ^ 'Berkhamsted Church: Pageant to Celebrate 700th Anniversary', The Observer, 2 July 1922, 9.
  9. ^ This estimate is based on counting the individual performers listed in the Souvenir booklet. There were 225 performers listed in total, but some of them played multiple roles, making 200 a reasonable estimate. See Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, 14-20.
  10. ^ Ibid., 10. The problem of male participation was quite likely a result of war fatalities. Berkhamsted suffered quite heavily with many local men being killed in the First World War; see 'Berkhamsted Town War Memorial Scheme', 1919: DACHT, BK 8046.2.
  11. ^ Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, 6.
  12. ^ Ibid., 4.
  13. ^ Ibid., 10.
  14. ^ Ibid., 6.
  15. ^ Book of Words, 10.
  16. ^ J. Tomes, 2004, 'Ram, Sir (Lucius Abel John) Granville (1885–1952)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  17. ^ 'List of patrons', Book of Words, back cover.
  18. ^ 'Obituary—Sir Frederick Halsey', The Times, 14 February 1927, 17.
  19. ^ 'Death of Lord Brownlow', The Times, 18 March 1921, 13.
  20. ^ Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, 24 and 26.
  21. ^ Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, 10.
  22. ^ Book of Words, 11.
  23. ^ Ibid., 18-19.
  24. ^ Ibid., 20-21. M. Quennell and C.H.B. Quennell, Everyday Life in the Old Stone Age (London, 1921); M. Quennell and C.H.B. Quennell, Everyday Life in the New Stone, Bronze & Early Iron Ages (London, 1922).
  25. ^ Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, 14.
  26. ^ Book of Words, 23-30.
  27. ^ Ibid., 31-36.
  28. ^ Described by Trevelyan’s daughter thus: ‘Horses ridden by the most splendid Norman knights came charging in at a gallop from beneath the trees, led by the Duke of William’. In Moorman, George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir, 202.
  29. ^ Book of Words, front cover; Souvenir of the Berkhamsted Pageant, front cover. The motif was drawn by Edward Popple, a local artist and musician who was also Head Master of a local primary school; see J. Sherwood, 'Preserving History', Berkhamsted Review, June 2010, 13.
  30. ^ Book of Words, 44.
  31. ^ Moorman, George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir, 202.
  32. ^ Book of Words, 46-8.
  33. ^ 'Our London Correspondence: A Hertfordshire Pageant', Manchester Guardian, 10 July 1922, 6.
  34. ^ Book of Words, 53.
  35. ^ Ibid., 59.
  36. ^ Ibid., 10.
  37. ^ Ibid., 49-51.
  38. ^ A Song of Berkhamsted Specially Composed for Berkhamsted Pageant July 1922 Words by Gilbert Hudson Music by Stanley Wilson (London, 1922). Copy at Dacorum Heritage Trust Museum Store, DACHT, BK 331.1.
  39. ^ 'Berkhamsted Pageant', The Times, 24 June 1931, 18.
  40. ^ 'Cowper's Birthplace. Next Week's Pageantry at Berkhamsted', The Observer, 14 June 1931, 19.
  41. ^ 'Berkhamsted Pageant', The Times, 24 June 1931, 18.
  42. ^ 'Cowper's Birthplace. Next Week's Pageantry at Berkhamsted', 19.
  43. ^ 'Court Circular—Today's Engagements', The Times, 3 June 1966, 14; 'Scrapbook of Pageant Held in Celebration of 900th Anniversary of Coronation of William I', 1966. HALS, DEX235/Z1.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Berkhamsted Pageant Play, 1922’, The Redress of the Past,