Pageant of Gloucestershire

Other names

  • Gloucestershire Historical Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Grounds of Marle Hill House (Cheltenham) (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England)

Year: 1908

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


6–11 July 1908

Full Public Dress Rehearsals: Wednesday and Thursday July 1–2 at 5pm and Friday 3 July at 6pm; 4 July 1908 at 3pm for schools and colleges.

Pageant proper 6–11 July 1908, daily, afternoon.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Master of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Hawtrey, George P.
  • Master of the Music: C.J. Phillips
  • Master of Designs: Sydney Herbert, FRGS
  • Composers: Ernest A. Dicks, FRCO; Lewis Hann; Heller Nicholls
  • Assistants: E.H. Flood; Leslie Rea.
  • Assistant: Miss Ethel Griffiths
  • Managers: Baring Bros
  • Hon. Treasurer: R. Minett, MSAA
  • Masters of Properties: A.A. Dale; Sergeant-Major Brown
  • Mistress of the Dances: Mrs M.E. McLellan
  • Secretary to Managers: A.E. Davies
  • Costumier: Mrs F. Edwards
  • Milliner: Miss U. Barter
  • Property Maker: W. Brunsdon

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Management:

  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of Cheltenham (George Dimmer, JP, CC)
  • Vice-Chairman: Lieutenant-Colonel F.J. Ashburner
  • Plus 13 men, 2 women


  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of Cheltenham (Geo Dimmer, JP, CC)
  • Vice-Chairman: Lieutenant-Colonel Ashburner
  • Plus 44 men, 0 women


  • Chairman: Lieutenant-Colonel Ashburner
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Geeves
  • Plus 60 men, 12 women


  • Chairman: Commander H.F. Daubeny, RN
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs Elliott
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Dawson
  • Hon. Assistant Secretary: R. Owen Seacombe
  • Plus 33 men, 22 women

Colour and Design:

  • Chairman: J. Coates Carter
  • Vice-Chairman: Miss Ethel Griffiths
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Ethel Williams
  • Plus 8 men, 8 women


  • Chairman: The Rev Canon Gardner, MA, MusBac
  • Hon. Secretary: C.E. Rainger
  • Plus 19 men, 13 women


  • Chairman: G.B. Witts, JP
  • Vice-Chairman: W. Unwin
  • Hon. Secretary: Sergeant-Major Brill
  • Assistant Hon. Secretary: E.W. Deacon
  • Plus 26 men

Ladies’ Executive:

  • President: The Mayoress (Mrs Dimmer)
  • Vice-President: Mrs R.P. Paterson
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Blakeney
  • Plus 8 women, 0 men

Head Dress:

  • Chairman: Miss Maitland Reid
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Ward
  • Vice-Chairman: Mrs G. Turk
  • 1 man, 12 women


  • Chairman: His Worship the Mayor of Cheltenham (Geo Dimmer, JP, CC)
  • Vice-Chairman: Colonel R. Rogers, VD, JP
  • Hon. Secretary: A.D. Jenkins
  • Plus 23 men, 16 women

Press and Advertising:

  • Chairman: John Sawyer, CC
  • Vice-Chairman: W. Welstead
  • Plus 13 men, 0 women


  • Chairman: D.A. Lockwood
  • Vice-Chairman: J.T. Ireland
  • Hon. Secretary: Dr J.H. Blakeney
  • Plus 9 men, 4 women

Evening Entertainments:

  • Chairman: G.T. Pemberton
  • Vice-Chairman: F. Forty
  • Hon. Secretary: W.J. Bache
  • Plus 17 men, 0 women

Fancy Dress Ball Committee:

  • Chairman: F.F. Handley
  • Vice-Chairman: Colonel Rogers, VD
  • Hon. Secretaries: Ernest C. Carter, MD; C.E. Rainger
  • Plus 15 men, 13 women

Grand Stand:

  • Chairman: J.S. Pickering, MICE
  • Vice-Chairman: A.C. Billings
  • Plus 15 men, 0 women


  • Chairman: Captain Savile, RN
  • Vice-Chairman: Commander Daubeny, RN
  • Plus 11 men, 0 women


Patrons: Led by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and his wife, as well as Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise. Other nobility and ecclesiastical figures, as well as Lord Mayors of many towns and cities both in and outside the region.

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

  • Hawtrey, George P.
  • Ashburner, F.J.
  • Shakespeare, William
  • Milton, John


  • Written by George P. Hawtrey (apart from Episode II).
  • Lieutenant-Colonel F.J. Ashburner (Episode II).
  • Shakespeare. Henry VI, Part III, Act V, Scene V.
  • Milton. Comus.

Names of composers

  • Dicks, Ernest A.
  • Hann, Lewis
  • Nicholls, Heller
  • Elgar, Edward
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
  • Stanford, Charles Villiers
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Morley, Thomas

Numbers of performers

2500 - 3000

Men, women and children

Financial information

Grandstand: £684
Total subscriptions: £721, of which £109 was returned, leaving £612
Value of tickets sold: £5305

Total income: £6669
Expenditure: £5023

Disposable balance of £1076 (and in addition the disposal of the costumes, etc., was expected to realise £300–350).£284 was remaining due on the grand stand.

The entertainments income from tickets was £347, the total being £946, with an expenditure of £784, leaving a profit of £162, to which was added a proportion for local charities (£70), making a disposable balance of £232.

In total: estimate of between £1200 to £1300 in profit.

Object of any funds raised

Pageant: £400 to Lord Robert’s Veterans’ Fund

Entertainments: £300 profit allocated as follows:

  • Cheltenham General Hospital: £55
  • Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital: £30
  • Home for Sick Children: £25
  • Crèche: £5
  • Victoria Nursing Home: £50
  • Cleeve Hill Convalescent Home: £5
  • Female Refuge: £10
  • Nazareth House: £30
  • Unemployed Fund: £30
  • Gloucester Infirmary: £20
  • Tewkesbury Hospital: £10
  • Delancey Hospital: £10
  • Salvation Army Soup Kitchen: £5
  • St Peter’s Soup Kitchen: £5
  • Charity Organisation: £10

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 4000
  • Total audience: 25000


The Gloucestershire Chronicle reported that the covered auditorium was ‘crowded each day with some three or four thousand spectators’.1

The final performance was attended by 7–8000.2

The figure of 25000 does not include the many spectators who attended dress rehearsals.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

21s.–3s. 6d.

  • For public dress rehearsals: reserved and numbered seats 2s. 6d.; unreserved 2s.; Admission 1s.
  • For school and colleges performance run: reserved and numbered seats 3s. 6d.; unreserved 2s. 6d.; Admission 1s.
  • Usual ticket prices: 3s. 6d., 5s., 7s. 6d., 10s. 6d., 21s.
  • For last performance admission lowered to 1s. for admission and 2s. for unbooked seats on the back rows of the grandstand.

Associated events

Special sermons preached in various places of worship (at least 15 different churches) throughout the county (5 and 12 July).
Evening Entertainments held during Pageant Week, 6–11 July at 8pm:
  • Monday—Band of the Royal Marines, Portsmouth Division at Montpellier Gardens, Admission: 6d.
  • Tuesday—Promenade Concert by the Band of the Royal Marines at Pittville Park, and Gigantic Firework Display. Admission: 6d. 
  • Wednesday—Fancy Dress Ball at Town Hall and Winter Gardens. Tickets (including supper) 10s. 6d.; tickets 1s.
  • Wednesday— Entertainments by Clifford Essex and his Pierrots at Montpelier Gardens, Admission: 6d.
  • Thursday—Promenade Concert by the Band of the Royal Marines at Montpellier Gardens, 7.45pm, Mrs Jarley’s Waxworks, and Cinematograph Film of the pageant by Messrs Gaumont of London. The latter gave the performers in the Pageant the opportunity of seeing themselves as they appeared to the audience. 6d. 
  • Friday—7.30pm. At Montpellier Gardens. Concert by the Band of the Royal Marines, at 9pm. Children’s Fairy Play, illustrating an episode in the History of Cheltenham. Admission to gardens 1s. Reserved seats 3s. Unreserved seats 2s.
  • Saturday—Decorated Vehicle Parade and Battle of Flowers at Montpelier Gardens. Admission 1s. Front seats 1s. Second seats 6d. 

Pageant outline


Two heralds march down the hill and sound a fanfare to announce the start of the pageant. Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance plays, as the Chorus in boats, consisting of the Thames, Sabrina, Avona, the Chelt, and the Rivers and Streams of Gloucestershire, are seen approaching. The boats take up their position in front of the stand, as Father Thames introduces the pageant—explaining how the story will show how Kings and Queens and famous men played their part in Gloucestershire. The rivers, bickering, introduce themselves. Thames explains how the power of Rome came to Briton and how the natives, though feebly armed, fought for their homes ‘like men, as Britons will.’

Episode I. Caradoc’s Farewell, AD 52.

The episode opens with a procession of Druids, who eventually halt and sing a Hymn to the Sun. While they are singing, parties of armed Britons come upon the stage from either side. The leaders—Olwyn and Hunnoc—inform the Arch-Druid that the Romans are coming. General turmoil follows, as Britons run through screaming. A messenger brings news of the defeat of Caractacus and his betrayal to the Romans by the Queen of the Brigantes. He also tells them that Caractacus is being marched to the coast, so he can be sent to Rome for slavery (though this did not happen in reality). The Arch-Druid recommends a rescue mission. The enemy is heard approaching; the Druids greet them with a hymn of defiance, declaring that they will fight for their woods and fountains and the homes they cherish: their native land. The Romans appear, with Ostorius Scapula in command, and Caractacus and other prisoners in chains. The Britons ambush the Romans, but Caractacus pleads with his rescuers to abandon their attempt; they acquiesce. The Roman soldiers and captives pass, as the Britons chant a dirge for their noble chief.

Episode II. A Saxon Slave Market, AD 800.

The scene represented is a slave market in Saxon times. Bolderic, a Saxon thane, has made a raid on neighbouring foes and taken captive a Welsh princess and other maids and men. Up the creek towards Bolderic’s house comes a trading ship, whose captain—Syraunus, from Bordeaux—needs men of brawn to toil at the oar in place of rowers killed in a brush with British sea-thieves. His needs are supplied by Bolderic’s steward, and then Bolderic himself comes upon the scene, accompanied by his wife, borne in a litter, and followed by a train of female slaves. Syraunus wants not female slaves, but he is captivated by the beauty of a Welsh princess, who he buys—allowing her fellow-captives to be her handmaidens.

Episode III. Anselm Made Archbishop against his Will, AD 1093.

The scene is the precincts of the Abbey at Gloucester, where a Council is to be held. Bishops, Abbots, and Nobles are present: among them the Earl Gilbert of Tunbridge, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the formidable William of Warenne [NB: William (I) de Warenne, first earl of Surrey, died in 1088, and was succeeded by William (II) de Warenne]. They are joined by a Baron fresh from Normandy. Talk ensues about the misrule of the King (William II), who ‘hath broken well-nigh every law of God and man,’—especially his refusal to fill the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chair, now vacant for four years. While the talk goes on the King arrives and occupies his throne, and Bishops, Barons and Abbots take their places around: a Council begins. The King makes it clear he would rather be hunting! Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, reminds him of his coronation promises, and gently suggests that the See of Canterbury should be filled by Anselm, Abbot of Le Bec. The King grows angry and rejects the suggestion. All of a sudden the King falls into a fit; he calls for Anselm, and is now repentant. He appoints Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury. Anselm is amazed and terrified about the burden, but the King and Anselm’s monks from Le Bec plead with him to take the position. He very reluctantly is anointed, as all cry ‘Long Live the Bishop!’

Episode IV. After the Battle of Tewkesbury, AD 1471

When the episode begins the Battle of Tewkesbury is supposed to be taking place a mile away. Wounded men and stragglers cross the stage, and a thief slinks along with a bag full of loot which he has taken from the dead or dying. Queen Margaret, Oxford, and Somerset ride away, hoping to escape. A party of Yorkist horse, under Sir Hugh Courtney, gives chase and captures them. King Edward, his brothers and his escort, fresh from the battlefield, ride up, and Edward, Clarence, and Gloucester dismount. Soldiers enter with Prince Edward. The King challenges the Prince’s revolt; the Prince responds with taunts and insults, to the King, as well as Gloucester. The King is driven to anger, and he stabs the Prince, as do Gloucester and Clarence; the Prince falls dead. Queen Margaret asks to be killed too, but they spare her. Queen Margaret weeps for the young Prince. She begs to be killed, and asks for ‘that devil’s butcher, Hard-favour’d Richard’. As she is forcibly led out, Clarence muses that Richard is making a ‘bloody supper in the Tower’—referring to the murder of the young princes.

Episode V. Queen Elizabeth at Sherborne House, AD 1574.

The scene represents a Green adjacent to Sherborne House, with a great crowd that has come to see Queen Elizabeth and the village revels on the Cotswold Hills. Acting under the directions of the Bailiff, John Higgs sets up the Maypole, responding with ‘Aye, Zur’ to every order and every question. Then Old Tom, the Shepherd, approaches the Queen, tasked with a little speech, and to present her with a lock of wool. He is nervous. Milkmaids appear on the scene, followed by children with garlands, and then Morris dancers. Presently Mr Dutton, his wife, children, and relations appear, the crowd bowing as they approach. Then the Queen arrives, borne in a chair under a canopy by eight gentlemen of her Court, followed by a train of ladies and gentlemen. Her chair is placed on a convenient spot, and her retinue is formed up around her. At sight of the Maypole, the Queen suggests that it is somewhat out of season, seeing that the month is July. Mr Dutton tells her that, in her presence, it is always May—which pleases her greatly. Tom the Shepherd’s moment arrives, but he loses his courage—but gentle and firm pressure from the Bailiff helps him to find his tongue, and he gives his speech. The Queen thanks him. A Maypole dance then takes place, and finally, a parade of two sets of festive hobby horses—one set white, with black riders, the other black with white riders.

Episode VI. Sabrina. From the Comus of John Milton, Written AD 1634.

Father Thames introduces the story of Comus, a man who tricked weary travellers by giving them poison, which turned them into wild animals. The scene then depicts a lady, wandering through a wood, lost, and meeting Comus. He takes her to his haunt and places her in an enchanted chair. Monsters appear, scaring the woman, but she refuses to drink. After Comus fails to persuade her, her brothers eventually rush in with swords and throw away the cup. Comus runs off. The Attendant Spirit enters and explains that they need Comus’s wand to release the woman from the chair. The Attendant then thinks, and informs them that a gentle nymph nearby, Sabrina, could unlock the charm if she was invoked in a song. Water nymphs and Sabrina approach, singing a song as they do. Sabrina breaks the charm, and the lady rises, disenchanted, before going off with her brothers. Sabrina, after some pleading, then transforms the monsters back into humans.

Episode VII. The Siege of Gloucester, AD 1643.

The scene of the episode is outside the walls of Gloucester. The King’s demand for the surrender of the city (during the Civil War) has been sent in, and the answer is brought by Sergeant Major Pudsey and Tobias John. ‘They must be mad,’ is the comment of the King as he looks at their message: ‘Waller is extinct, and Essex cannot come.’ The messengers are undismayed, and, turning their backs on the King, walk off, amid the loud laughter of his courtiers. ‘Let the siege go forward,’ is the Royal order. Forthwith trumpets sound, soldiers are marched into position, and Charles and his staff ride off to various points. Meantime, Falkland and Chillingworth remain on the stage and discuss the situation. Falkland longs for peace; Chillingworth longs for the completion of his engines of warfare: ‘we could then,’ he says, ‘demolish those walls and come to blows with the crop-eared knaves.’ While they talk a sutler’s cart comes along, full of good sack. Cavaliers surround it, help themselves to drink, and burst forth into song, ‘Here’s a health unto His Majesty.’ While they are singing a mounted soldier comes up at full gallop. He brings news that a relieving army, under the Earl of Essex, is close at hand and that Prince Rupert has sent him forward to tell the King. The cavaliers go on with their carousal, and, changing their song, merrily shout: ‘Which is the properest day to drink?’ At the command of the Earl of Sunderland their shouting ceases, and new sounds are heard. From the far distance comes the strain of a Puritan’s hymn. At the same moment, Prince Rupert, with his cavaliers, gallops up and talks to the King. The end of the siege approaches; Rupert wants to fight, but Sunderland and Falkland think it would be a disaster. The King declares that they must march away. To the sound of trumpets the Royalist soldiers march off, as Parliamentary troops, led by the Earl of Essex, come over the hill. The city gates are flung open and citizens rush out and welcome their deliverers. The two leaders, Colonel Massey, Governor of Gloucester, and Lord Essex have saved the city, and the parliamentary cause.

Episode VIII. King George III at Cheltenham, AD 1788.

The episode opens with an introduction in which the Chelt (the river) describes how George III came to the town when he was ill to drink the waters, and was miraculously cured. The scene is the old Well Walk at Cheltenham. A crowd of people, of every rank and description, fill the stage. The Incumbent of Cheltenham (Dr Freeman), the Dean of Gloucester (Dr Tucker), and Mr Moreau, Master of the Ceremonies, meet and converse about the coming of George III, and his family. Presently the Royal visitors are seen approaching—the King, Queen, and three Princesses, attended by Colonel Digby, Colonel Gwynne, Miss Burney, and Miss Planta. As King George III comes down to the stage he meets a farmer, who does not know him. A talk ensues, in which the farmer expresses his opinion of the King: ‘…a good sort of man, but dresses very plain.’ The King declares that Cheltenham and the Vale of Gloucester is the finest part of his Kingdom. He also compliments the waters, its Sunday Schools, and its local theatrical performers. A minuet is performed. While it is in progress the characters from all the episodes gather round, and at the end of the dance they all sing the National Anthem. The whole mass then marches past; the Chorus in the boats sing the ‘Eton Boating Song’ and ‘Home Sweet Home’, and with ‘God Save the King’ played by the orchestra the Pageant comes to an end.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Ostorius Scapula, Publius (d. AD 52) Roman governor of Britain
  • Caratacus [Caractacus] (fl. AD 40–51) king in Britain
  • Clare, Gilbert de [Gilbert fitz Richard, Gilbert of Tonbridge] (d. 1117) baron
  • Montgomery, Roger de, first earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094) soldier and magnate
  • Warenne, William (II) de, second earl of Surrey [Earl Warenne] (d. 1138) magnate
  • Gundulf (1023/4–1108) bishop of Rochester
  • Anselm [St Anselm] (c.1033–1109) abbot of Bec and archbishop of Canterbury
  • William II [known as William Rufus] (c.1060–1100) king of England
  • Edward IV (1442–1483) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Margaret [Margaret of Anjou] (1430–1482) queen of England, consort of Henry VI
  • Vere, John de, thirteenth earl of Oxford (1442–1513) magnate
  • Beaufort, Edmund, styled third duke of Somerset (c.1438–1471) magnate
  • George, duke of Clarence (1449–1478) prince
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Edward [Edward of Westminster] prince of Wales (1453–1471)
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Cary, Lucius, second Viscount Falkland (1609/10–1643) politician and author
  • Chillingworth, William (1602–1644) theologian
  • Spencer, Henry, first earl of Sunderland (bap. 1620, d. 1643) politician and royalist army officer
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer
  • Devereux, Robert, third earl of Essex (1591–1646) parliamentarian army officer
  • Massey, Sir Edward (1604x9–1674) parliamentarian and royalist army officer
  • George III (1738–1820) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Charlotte [Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz] (1744–1818) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and queen of Hanover, consort of George III
  • Burney [married name D'Arblay], Frances [Fanny] (1752–1840) writer

Musical production

Leader of the Orchestra: Horace Teague
Accompanists: Miss Hayward; Mrs Ringer; Mr George Brunt
Boat Chorus Superintendent: C.H. King
Band for Rehearsals: Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, Bandmaster: J.P. Hatton; Band of the Royal Marines, Bandmaster: Lt George Miller, MVO, MusBac (Cantab)
Chorus of 100 voices
Amateur orchestra of 100+

  • Introduction. Overture. ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ No 1. E. Elgar.
  • Introduction. Chorus. ‘The Mistletoe’ (Welsh). Words by A.P. Graves.
  • Episode I. Hymn to the Sun (Druids March; Chorus from ‘Zauberflote’, Mozart).
  • Episode I. War Hymn. Music by Ernest A. Dicks.
  • Episode I. Dirge. Music by Ernest A. Ficks.
  • Episode II. Chorus. ‘On this Day’ (‘Diffyrrwch y Brenin’. Words by John Oxenford. Welsh Air).
  • Episode II. Song of the Gleemen. Words by Lieutenant-Colonel F.J. Ashburner, Music by Heller Nicholls.
  • Episode III. Chorus. ‘The Jolly Ploughboy’. Arranged by Sir C. Villiers Stanford.
  • Episode IV. Chorus (from Purcell’s ‘King Arthur’).
  • Episode V. Chorus. ‘Now is the Month of Maying’. Thomas Morley, 1595.
  • Episode V. ‘Come, Lasses and Lads’ (17th century).
  • Episode VI. Chorus. ‘Drink to Me Only’. Words by Ben Jonson.
  • Episode VI. Song. Music by Lewis Hann.
  • Episode VII. Chorus. ‘It was a Lover and His Lass’. From Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, Ernest A. Dicks.
  • Episode VIIII. Chorus. ‘John Peel’. Old Hunting Song.
  • Episode VIII. Eton Boating Song.
  • Episode VIII. ‘Home Sweet Home’.
  • Episode VIII. The National Anthem.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Manchester Guardian
The Times
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
Cheltenham Chronicle
Cheltenham Looker-On
Gloucester Citizen
Gloucester Journal
Gloucestershire Chronicle
Gloucestershire Echo
Leamington Spa Courier
Lincolnshire Echo
Tamworth Herald
Western Daily Press
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

Book of words

Gloucestershire Historical Pageant: Book of Words (Cheltenham, 1908).

Gloucestershire Archives. D5435/6/15.

Other primary published materials

  • A Souvenir of the Gloucestershire Historical Pageant, Cheltenham, July 6th to 11th 1908 (Cheltenham, 1908)

Price: 1s. Gloucestershire Archives. D5731/3/10/8.

References in secondary literature

  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture c.1890–1914’. Past and Present, 186 (2005), 147-199.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Many photos in the Cheltenham Graphic (Available in British Library and Gloucestershire Archives).

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Gloucestershire Historical Pageant was performed ten times to large audiences in July 1908. Over 2500 local amateur performers took part. It was, in all ways, a classic Edwardian pageant, drawing on the style and content of the original pageant-master, Louis Napoleon Parker. It was produced by George Hawtrey—one of the first masters to emerge following Parker, along with Frank Lascelles. It was a big success and seemed to kick off an enduring enthusiasm for historical pageantry in the county. Attendance was high, and the pageant made a handsome profit. It took place in Cheltenham—chosen not for its history, which was seen to be more recent than ancient, but for the scenic effects of the pageant ground, the town’s accommodation, and its good railway connections.3 The original idea had been for a much smaller children’s pageant, seemingly suggested by the local businessman Edward Baring, who went on to be an important producer of pageants in his own right in the inter-war period. But the children’s pageant was eventually replaced with a larger scheme that had begun at Tewkesbury, though Baring remained involved as a manager.4 The organisation drew on civic figures from across Gloucestershire but there was, unsurprisingly, a strong contingent from Cheltenham in particular. The patrons’ list was especially impressive, led by HRH the Duke of Connaught and his wife, as well as the famous pageant enthusiast, HRH the Princess Louise. Other nobility and ecclesiastical figures made up the rest of the list, along with the Lord Mayors of many towns and cities both in and outside the county. Its notability today lies particularly in its status as the first county-wide pageant—a theme that became much more popular in the inter-war years.

Pageant-master George Hawtrey was an Oxford-educated British actor and playwright. The Gloucestershire Pageant was his first foray into pageant-making. He went on to produce the massive Pageant of Wales in Cardiff the following year, before dying in 1910 of heart failure—brought on by a severe bout of asthma that had developed during his direction of the Chester Pageant that summer. Louis Napoleon Parker, in his 1928 autobiography, complained that a whole host of unworthy imitators had sprung up and commercialised his invention, but he regarded Hawtrey as an exception. As he remembered: ‘He told me at Warwick [1906] he was anxious to carry on; and hence-forward he was often with me in my crow’s-nest, and I was only too happy to tell him whatever he wished to know.’5 Hawtrey’s pageants thus unsurprisingly bore the mark of the Parkerian formula in almost all respects. The narrative began with two heralds marching down the hill of the arena and announcing the start of the pageant. As ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ was played by the orchestra, boats containing the narrative chorus (styled as the rivers of Gloucestershire—the Thames, Sabrina, Avona, and Chelt) arrived on the lake. Father Thames explained to the audience how the pageant would show Kings and Queens, and how they had played their part in the history of Gloucestershire. Thematically, it was a textbook Edwardian pageant: focusing on Gloucester’s place within a larger national story; using song and dance to enliven the scenes; drawing on Shakespeare; and ending with a march past and national anthem. As in Parker’s pageants, the props—some 3000—were made locally. They also showed a great deal of historical accuracy—even down to the number of studs on the Roman helmets, according to the Gloucestershire Chronicle.6 Perhaps the biggest difference was that Hawtrey’s effort was slightly more light-hearted in comparison with Parker’s. There were only eight focused episodes, in comparison to Parker’s pageant at Bury St Edmunds, which sprawled with episodes consisting of many different scenes. While there was dialogue, it was not as lengthy or weighty as Parker’s style. The pageant also had a lot of humour.

The first episode began with the Roman invasion and featured the downfall of Caractacus—as had the Warwick Pageant in 1906. The episode portrayed how the natives, despite their defeat, had battled with British dignity and spirit. The second episode showed a slave market, though it was unclear where exactly this was supposed to be. More to the point, it allowed for lots of dialogue, and the arrival of another boat on the lake—not to mention the inclusion of a beautiful Welsh princess. The third episode was more notably Gloucestershire-based, focusing on the Abbey at Gloucester. It showed an important council being held, where King William II (Rufus) appointed a reluctant Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury—thus connecting Gloucester to a much larger royal and ecclesiastical story. Like Parker, Hawtrey also drew on Shakespeare—using Henry VI for the fourth episode. The fifth episode would have also been familiar to fans of Parker’s pageants, since it focused on the Merry England of Queen Elizabeth I—probably the most popular pageant character of the Edwardian years. Like Parker, Hawtrey included Morris dancing and a Maypole in this episode. More originally, he also used Comus by John Milton for the sixth episode—a fantasy scene that bore no relation to the history of Gloucestershire, focusing as it did on the wicked Comus, who turned travellers into monsters. The seventh episode returned to Gloucester, and national history, by portraying the end of the siege of the town during the Civil War—and showing strong support for the ‘parliamentary cause’, which ‘saved the city’. The eighth and final episode was another Edwardian classic, showing, as it did, the visit of royalty (in this case George III to Cheltenham) and their over-the-top praise of the locality. At the end of the pageant there was a march past, before all sang ‘God Save the King’. The pageant’s narrative thus finished in 1788—slightly more recent than many of Parker’s pageants, but not by much.

Tourism was an important part of the purpose of the pageant.7 The first pages of the souvenir were focused not on the pageant but on Cheltenham’s industries—such as brewing. Local civic figure Colonel F.J. Ashburner, who was the author of the second episode and Vice-Chairman of the General Committee, thought that the town had not yet ‘been discovered in a modern sense’. The pageant, he argued, would be ‘an admirable agent for the advertisement of the town’—a position with which the Mayor of Cheltenham and Chairman of the General Committee, George Dimmer, agreed. A host of associated events was put on during the pageant to attract visitors, such as musical performances and concerts, a fancy dress ball at the town hall, and a decorated vehicle parade, and there was also the pageant Sunday church services. But the profits went to charitable purposes such as local hospitals, and the Veterans’ Relief Fund. There were also other reasons for holding a pageant. In his opening speech, John Bell, Lord Mayor of Gloucester, also played up the importance of his own town, as well as Cheltenham, in the story of the country, and declared: ‘England they considered a pattern to the world. Let Cheltenham be a pattern to England.’8 At the same time, the usual noises were made about the pageant dissolving tensions and bringing the community together locally. Canon Gardner, Chairman of the Music Committee, thought that it would ‘appeal’ to the ‘sense of loyalty and duty’ of local people, while the Mayor agreed, saying that it would ‘bring the people of Cheltenham closer together than in the past’.9 As the Cheltenham On-Looker put it, the pageant would have ‘educational value’ and also draw together ‘all classes in the furtherance of a common object’.10 In this respect, Gloucestershire’s pageant bore the same pursuit of ‘classless unity’ that was espoused by Parker.11

From the beginning public engagement had been notably strong, with the Mayor writing to newspapers, such as the Cheltenham Looker-On, to explain the importance of the pageant and many local public meetings being held—where Hawtrey would often lecture.12 When the pageant actually began, this engagement was rewarded with extensive news coverage—especially from the Cheltenham-based newspapers. The Cheltenham Chronicle reported that the pageant had achieved much; it had ‘brought people together, fostered good feeling, and brought all classes in the town into direct touch with one another, which, from every point of view, could not fail to add to the success of the town in general.’13 A correspondent for the Times also reported that it was the ‘prettiest’ that he had seen.14 The Tamworth Herald drew attention to the setting of the pageant and declared that ‘thanks partly to its lake and the good use made of it’, the pageant was ‘one of the prettiest and daintiest’ ever produced—though it noted that Gloucestershire did not have as much historical importance as others that had come before.15 Press opinion, both local and further afield, seems to have been entirely positive.

Both the public dress rehearsals and the pageant proper received large attendances, and over 5000 saw the fireworks on the Wednesday evening.16 Though there are no exact attendance figures, reports indicate that at least 30000 saw the pageant, and it is probable that the figure was even higher. The pageant made a very impressive profit of around £1200—about £68000 in today’s money.17 At the end of the final performance, Hawtrey was brought out to the cheering crowds, and crowned with a wreath of bay leaves, before being presented with a solid silver cigar box on behalf of the performers. As was already traditional, the crowd and performers then sang ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’18 The Mayor then gave a brief speech, telling the performers that he would ‘wish to come across this lake and shake hands with every one of you’. The audience applauded and cheered, as the Mayor went on to thank many others involved with the pageant.19 Hawtrey, after the pageant had ended, wrote to the local press to express his gratitude. He applauded the performers especially, arguing that ‘There are no unimportant parts in a Pageant. And that is why I wish to express my sincere and grateful thanks to everyone of the performers who took part… the whole body was animated by one spirit—a spirit of good will and good fellowship.’20

The Gloucestershire Historical Pageant was, in all senses, clearly a success. Unsurprisingly, then, an enthusiasm for historical pageantry in Gloucestershire continued (Mid-Gloucestershire Historical Pageant of Progress 1911; Stanway 1929; Chipping Sodbury 1934; Tewkesbury 1931; Stonehouse 1935; Gloucester 1927, 1930 and 1936; Cirencester 1953 and 1955, amongst many others). It may even contend for the crown of the most ‘pageant-mad’ county in England!


  1. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Gloucestershire Chronicle, 11 July 1908, 3.
  2. ^ ‘The Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 July 1908, 6.
  3. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 26 October 1907, 7; ‘The Gloucestershire Pageant’, Tamworth Herald, 11 July 1908, 6.
  4. ^ ‘The Proposed Gloucestershire Pageant’, Gloucester Citizen, 12 December 1907, 5; ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 4 July 1908, 5.
  5. ^ Louis Napoleon Parker, Several of My Lives (London, 1928), 297.
  6. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Gloucestershire Chronicle, 11 July 1908, 3.
  7. ^ Ayako Yoshino has argued that commercialism and tourism were an important part of the early Edwardian pageants. See Ayako Yoshino, Pageant Fever: Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England (Tokyo, 2011), 69–92.
  8. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Gloucestershire Chronicle, 11 July 1908, 3.
  9. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 30 May 1908, 21.
  10. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 4 July 1908, 5.
  11. ^ See Sherborne 1905 pro-forma.
  12. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 26 October 1907, 7.
  13. ^ ‘The Pageant Makers’ Ball’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 25 July 1908, 2.
  14. ^ ‘The Gloucestershire Pageant’, The Times, 7 July 1908, 16.
  15. ^ ‘The Gloucestershire Pageant’, Tamworth Herald, 11 July 1908, 6.
  16. ^ ‘Gloucestershire Historical Pageant’, Gloucestershire Chronicle, 11 July 1908, 3.
  17. ^ ‘Pageant Profits’, Cheltenham Chronicle, 12 December 1908, 2.
  18. ^ ‘The Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 July 1908, 6.
  19. ^ Ibid., 6.
  20. ^ Letter from George Hawtrey to the Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 July 1908, 8.

How to cite this entry

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