The Salisbury Peace Pageant

Other names

  • The Children’s Peace Pageant
  • Salisbury Through the Ages

Pageant type

Jump to Summary

Performances

Place: Victoria Park (Salisbury) (Salisbury, Wiltshire, England)

Year: 1919

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1

Notes

28 July 1919

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Stevens, Frank
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Mrs Stevens:
  • Conductor: Dr Alcock, MVO
  • Honorary Secretary: Mr N.J. Wills

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Peace Committee:

  • Chairman: James Macklin, Mayor

Tea Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr F. Sutton

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

  • Stevens, Frank

Names of composers

  • Alcock, W.G.
  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers

540

Dogs, hawks, horses, a donkey, a pony, and a (dead) deer.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

n/a

Linked occasion

The Treaty of Versailles (Declaration of Peace)

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 20000

Notes

This is an estimate. See Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury (Salisbury, 1919), 5.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

Entry was to be had for what was described as ‘A small fee.’2

Associated events

  • A procession of all the performers plus 3500 other children began at 2pm, starting at the Bishop’s Palace, by Exeter-Street Gate, before ending in Victoria Park, the site of the pageant.
  • Following the pageant the Salvation Army Band and the Comrades Band performed selections, and later on there was dancing.
  • For children too young to take part in the pageant there was a tea party.

Pageant outline

Prologue

Slowly across the arena the figure of Fame, dressed in gold and white and carrying her trumpet, enters, followed by Father Time, carrying his hour-glass and scythe. Moving into the centre of the arena, Fame blows her trumpet, summoning the dead to awake and signalling the beginning of the pageant.

Episode I. The Dim Past, prehistoric

Summoned by Fame, a band of prehistoric hunters enter, led by a man and a woman, brandishing stone implements and dancing around a slain beast. Father Time announces that long ago men like this lived in New Sarum. The prehistoric man tells, in few words, of the life of that time, comforted by Fame, before the woman illustrates known arts, pottery and spinning. One man, mauled in the chase of the beast, falls exhausted upon the ground. No-one helps him apart from one woman, ‘an everyday occurrence when life was cheap and in constant conflict with the animal world.’

Episode II. The Coming of Rome

With a sweep of his scythe Father Time summons the Romans. Singing a boastful marching song, the Romans enter, led by an officer. Behind the invaders are porters dragging baggage, ‘the old-time counterpart of the military transport now so familiar [to] citizens of Salisbury.’ The General makes a boastful speech and is admonished by Time, who, nevertheless, praises the greatness of the works of Rome.

Episode III. Cynric the Saxon

This scene details the Saxon occupation. Cynric and his queen, ladies, pages, peasants and thralls are at the centre, representing the occupation. Cynric then advances towards Father Time and presents himself, and is ‘greeted by Fame [with] the proud title of “Father of the English.”’ Father Time announces that ‘Saxon blood and courage still doth run Within the English veins to-day.’3

Episode IV. Domesday at Old Sarum, 1086

William the Conqueror summons to Old Sarum all the estates of the kingdom to do homage and to receive their lands afresh under the condition of military tenure. Crowds surround the great personages, kept in place by soldiers. A Bishop carries the Domesday scroll.

Episode V. Bishop Poore’s Rogation, c.1220

Another sweep of Time’s Scythe opens the episode. This scene marks the decline of Old Sarum and the birth of New Sarum. In the reign of Richard I the military occupants of the castle bully the Churchmen to the extent of barring them out of their own Cathedral after a Rogationtide procession. The scene details this procession, led by Bishop Poore with all his regalia, and followed by churchmen as well as a figure of the hideous dragon with dragon-beaters, chanting. They approach Father Time and Fame, who are sympathetic.

Episode VI. The First Charter, c.1227

King Henry III arrives with Hubert de Burgh, William Longuespee, the Earl of Salisbury and his wife Ela, the foundress of Lacock, Bishop Poore, William de Wanda, and the first Mayor and Mayoress of Salisbury. The citizens cheer the King, while friars from the newly-established Friary mingle with the citizens. The King grants the charter to much cheering. With miniature chain of office over a scarlet robe the first Mayor of Salisbury exchanges fraternal greetings with the present Mayor, ‘and his jovial grin is good to see.’

Episode VII. The Lady Ela, 1240

In a beautiful gown the Lady is seen at the centre of ladies dressed equally richly, attended by pages and bearers. On her way to take her Abbess vows at the Abbey of Lacock, she bows and says farewell to her attendants, before leaving to meet the awaiting current Abbess.

Episode VIII. The Garter Countess, c.1340s

Catherine, Countess of Salisbury, is accompanied by a little group of ladies, her squire, jester, banner-bearers and singing girls—who perform the old Garter Song.

Episode IX. Parliament at Salisbury, 1384

This scene details the jovial holding of parliament at Salisbury (on two occasions in the reign of Richard II). Mounted in the centre are King Richard and John Montacute, accompanied by Lady Montacute and others—including a body of Montacute’s retainers, singing girls, peasants, and a jester on a donkey.

Episode X. Dame Agnes Bottenham, presumed late 1300s

A figure representing Charity enters, sheltering an infant beneath her cloak. Dame Bottenham, who fed the hungry and clothed beggars, enters, surrounded by those wanting charity—beggars in rags, women carrying doles of bread, cripples, and general miserable characters.

Episode XI. York and Lancaster, 1483

An episode from the Wars of the Roses. The central point of the episode is the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in the market-place, and the disgrace of Bishop Widville, who was concerned with the plot of the Duke. Characters representing Red Rose and White Rose confront Fame, contending for laurels; both ‘are justly rebuked as “emblems of unhappy days.”’ Richard III rides away with his followers, followed by the Bishop, and the Duke of Buckingham with the executioner and his axe—‘ominous of the coming tragedy.’

Episode XII. Elizabeth of York at Salisbury, c.1480s

The crowd of citizens greet the Queen of Henry VII happily and with an ovation. A group of merry country girls dance around the Queen, before some cry ‘God Save the Queen’ to which she replies ‘God save you, my people.’ She salutes the Mayor and leaves.

Episode XIII. The Tailors Revel, some point between 1485-1509

This humorous scene was essentially a pageant within a pageant in the period of Henry VII, the citizens of Salisbury organising revelry including a Giant representing St. Christopher, and a Dragon, Hob-Nob, who chases some of the boys and girls around the arena. Music and dancing takes place, before the leader, a merchant, ‘explained its purport in good Wessex accent, and won the approval of Fame and Time.’

Episode XIV. Merrie Sarum, some point between 1509-1547

A May Day Festival in the period of Henry VIII including the traditional figures of Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Little John and a group of Morris Dancers. The May Queen enters riding a pony, festooned with Roses. The company sing ‘Summer Is Icumen In’, while other dancers perform. A lady at the head of the party speaks of ‘the growth of freedom amid the selfish clash of warring creeds, and the children who in every age sang the song of hope.’4

Episode XV. John Ivie: Mayor, 1627

Upon a note of heroism, tinged with sadness, the episodes end. With a visitation of the plague in 1627, the Mayor leads a procession of citizens, clad in black, some demented, others ministering to stricken ones, and boys with doleful bells shouting ‘Bring out your Dead’—and, at the very end, a cart filled with wealthy persons seeking to escape to a place of safety. John Ivie is acclaimed as ‘Sarum’s Hero Mayor.’

Finale. Peace and Conclusion, present day 1919

Father Time avows himself a-weary, but is reminded by Fame of the five years of war, represented by five Black Sisters, shrouded in black, and having arms manacled. Slowly, sorrowfully, they come to Time for judgment. Time is merciful, and the Black Sisters unveil; each wears a chaplet of laurel. Fame instructs the crowd, in their freedom, to look bath at those that died for their country. The figure of Peace then enters bearing a golden branch of olive to set the Black Sisters free. Peace proclaims freedom from the Years of War, and greets them in a sisterly fashion, as the fetters fall from their arms. Speaking of the horrors of war, Fame prophesies:

No more the boom of cannon,
The deadly drone of aircraft overhead
Blindly its flaming death to shed
Its undiscerning hate.

At which point the ‘deadly drone’ is heard, as a plane actually flies overhead (‘an incident that served to show the care that had been bestowed upon the Pageant, an incident so fortunately arranged that most people took it as a happy coincidence’). Fame presents the Mayor of the war years in Salisbury with a golden emblem of Peace. The whole of the cast then sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, led by the band of the Comrades of the Great War. As they sing they advance slowly, form a semi-circle, and complete the song.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Cynric (fl. 6th cent.) king of the Gewisse
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Matilda [Matilda of Flanders] (d. 1083) queen of England, consort of William I
  • Lanfranc (c.1010–1089) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Osmund [St Osmund] (d. 1099) bishop of Salisbury
  • Alan Rufus (d. 1093) magnate
  • Poor [Pauper], Herbert (d. 1217) bishop of Salisbury [also known as Poore, Herbert]
  • Henry III (1207–1272) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Burgh, Hubert de, earl of Kent (c.1170–1243) justiciar
  • Longespée [Lungespée], William (I), third earl of Salisbury (b. in or before 1167, d. 1226) magnate
  • Ela (or Isabel), countess of Salisbury (b. in or after 1190, d. 1261)
  • Montagu [Montacute], John, third earl of Salisbury (c.1350–1400) magnate and courtier
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Woodville, Lionel (c.1454–1484) bishop of Salisbury
  • Stafford, Henry, second duke of Buckingham (1455–1483) magnate and rebel
  • Elizabeth [Elizabeth of York] (1466–1503) queen of England, consort of Henry VII
  • Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
  • Ivie, John (c.1580–1665) magistrate and goldsmith

Musical production

An orchestra performed several pieces:

  • Dr Alcock, MVO. ‘Marching Song of the Romans’ by Frank Stevens (Episode II. The Coming of Rome).
  • ‘The Dargasson’ (Episode XIII).
  • Sellingers Round, ‘The Beginning of the World’, attributed to Cecil Sharpe (Episode XIII).
  • ‘Summer is Icumen in’ (Episode XIV). 
  • Elgar. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (Finale).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Salisbury Times
Salisbury and Winchester Journal

Book of words

n/a

There seemingly was a book of words, but no copy survives.

Other primary published materials

  • Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury. Salisbury, 1919.

Price: 1s. This is the closest to a book of words that exists but is more an overview.

References in secondary literature

  • Withington, Robert. ‘Post-Bellum Giants’. Studies in Philology, 18, no. 1 (1921), 1-9.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The souvenir can be consulted at the Swindon and Wiltshire History Centre library in Chippenham.
  • There is video footage of both the procession and the pageant: ‘Peace Celebrations at Salisbury’, film id: 1934.10, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/peace-celebrations-at-salisbury.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

n/a

‘Every one of the dresses was made from designs taken by the Master from authentic sources, old illustrations, Wilton House pictures, tombs in the Cathedral, or armour in the Tower of London.’5

Summary

The Peace Pageant of Salisbury was the main event of the celebrations in the city following the Treaty of Versailles. It took place a week after the first official Peace Day of 19 July 1919—somewhat fortuitously, since the weather on that day was not conducive to outdoor events. Its driving force was Frank Stevens, the curator of the Salisbury, South Wiltshire, and Blackmore Museum, who acted as both author and Pageant Master—his wife taking the position of Mistress of the Wardrobe.6 Almost entirely acted by children, apart mainly from the characters of Father Time, Fame, and Peace, who essentially narrated the pageant, it was light on dialogue and moralising, instead combining joviality with pathos. One of several peace pageants that took place in 1919, with others in places like Nottingham, Oxford, Bradford, and Lewes, it was Salisbury’s ‘first attempt at pageantry upon an ambitious scale’.7 Successful and popular, it was a bold attempt to entertain yet also reflect on both local history and the horror of the First World War.

Each episode was performed by a different school, with headmasters acting as producers. The entire cast of the pageant, grouped into their respective episodes and carrying banners emblazoned with the episode title, first took part in a procession to the pageant ground, many dancing and cavorting along the way. Along the streets of the city, bedecked with bunting, were crowds of cheering spectators, including some men in armed forces uniform. This carnival spirit also infused the performance of the pageant. There were fifteen episodes in total, yet they took place rapidly and with little dialogue—as surviving footage of the pageant shows.8 What little dialogue there was came mostly from Fame and Time, who acted as the guides through the past of the town, often conversing and conveying judgement upon the historical characters portrayed. In the Wars of the Roses scene, for example, the two quarrelling sides were rebuked by Time and then ordered away by the angry Fame.9

Within the pageant there were also plenty of moments of humour. At one point, for example, the boy representing the first mayor of the city bowed to the current Mayor, who returned the compliment—much to the delight of the audience.10 Towards the end of the pageant there were two scenes in fast succession that had music, dancing, and even a dragon chasing the boys and girls around the arena. Robert Withington, a contemporary writer on pageantry, was particularly pleased to see the attention given to folk traditions—like the inclusion of the St. Christopher Giant model, a centuries-old figure in Salisbury celebrations. As he happily concluded, ‘despite the changes wrought by the war, beneath an upheaval which seemed cataclysmic, English civilization still endures, and the spirit of the folk remains the same.’11 In general many of the common themes of pageantry were evident. It was totally a local production, much to the pleasure of the Salisbury Times. The visitation of Kings and Queens, and the staging of nationally important events like Parliament, were linked directly to the locality; episodes which showed the independence of the borough, such as the granting of the charter, were included; and the triumphs and tribulations of the past were used to inform the present and the future.

Overall, humour, enjoyment and celebration were certainly the mainstay of the narrative. Beneath the fun and frivolity, however, there was still serious intent. As the Salisbury and Winchester Journal recognised, it could be regarded ‘purely’ as ‘spectacular entertainment’; yet, for ‘minds that delved beneath the surface’ it was also an educational exploration of the ‘retrospect of the dead for the benefit of the living.’12 There were many direct and indirect references to the English spirit; in the Cynric episode, for example, Time announced that ‘Saxon blood and courage still doth run Within the English veins to-day’.13 The conclusion however was undoubtedly the most powerful and poignant scene. Five sisters, dressed in black and representing each year of the war, entered with their arms manacled. Coming to Time for judgement, they unveil and reveal their wearing of a chaplet of laurel representing victory. Fame declared:

And in your freedom proudly look ye back
On hero sons and daughters, wives and sisters
Who to the call of duty rallied
Forsaking case, to serve the Motherland.
And serving, nobly, died, that She might live;
Or maimed and crippled, backward crept, like babes
Unto the mother’s breast for comfort, in their ill.
And those who live, how shall I tell their fame
In camp, in field, in hut, or hospital?
Brave men, fair women, high and low,
Both great and small, of you it shall be said
Unto the end of Time, ‘Twas nobly done.

The figure of Peace then entered bearing a golden branch of olive to set the Black Sisters free. Peace proclaimed freedom from the Years of War, and greeted them in a sisterly fashion, as the fetters fell from their arms. Speaking of the horrors of war, Fame prophesied:

No more the boom of cannon,
The deadly drone of aircraft overhead
Blindly its flaming death to shed
Its undiscerning hate.

At this point the ‘deadly drone’ was heard as a plane actually flew overhead.14 After the Mayor of the war years was presented with a golden emblem of peace, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ was sung.

Taking place only one year after the cessation of hostilities, it is perhaps trite to say that this episode was likely very emotional. As the Salisbury Times recognised, the inclusion of the figures of War and Peace made the pageant ‘topical’.15 Using the fun of pageantry was arguably a way to balance the extreme emotion and ‘topical’ nature of the final scene, and the experience of recovering from the war more generally. As the Times declared, it ‘achieved a victory over some of the ruthless recollections of War’ and gave ‘spiritual refreshment and recreation… to the thousands because it stands for a new note of hope in life which had become very drab in the years of war.’16 That it was children in the pageant was significant; as the book of words declared, ‘These are the children! God be thanked for them! In every Age they sing the song of Hope that died upon the weary lips of those who went before them.’17 The pageantry of youth, performing the past, thus also represented the future.

Seemingly covered only in the local press, unsurprising when one considers the extent of peace celebrations, the response was nonetheless highly positive. The Salisbury and Winchester Journal declared it a ‘triumph’, while the Salisbury Times called it the city’s ‘best celebration of the coming of Peace’.18 Certainly, it was not perfect; many of the massive crowd of 20000—impressive considering the population of the town was around that number—could not hear the singing, let alone the talking.19 Yet it epitomised a moment of memory and hope, and one expects that the Salisbury Times’ declaration that ‘None of those who were present, either in the capacity of participator or spectator, will ever forget the scene’ was probably not unrealistic.20 It is perhaps significant that Salisbury’s peace pageant, based as it was primarily on children and fun rather than staid municipal and civic ritual, was so praised and enjoyed, when some municipal authorities in Britain struggled with social unrest during the peace celebrations. In the most prominent and extreme example, the Luton town hall was burned down by unhappy and unemployed servicemen after the Mayor read out the proclamation of the King.21 Pageantry instead provided an opportunity for the community to come together, rather than local officials to assert their power. As the Salisbury Times concluded:

It will never be possible here, or elsewhere, to forget the war, but after this the horror of the war will be mercifully veiled by the rose colour of the Pageant. There is much to regret, much to make amends for, much loss that is irreparable, but after all it is the Pageant note that there is still very much to live for, and astonishing success and happiness to achieve, provided we dwell together in unity and pull together in our Peace Projects as in our Peace Pageants. And why not?22

It was, seemingly, the only pageant to take place in Salisbury in the twentieth century. The idea was floated again in 1927, as part of the 700th anniversary of the town’s charter, but Stevens decided that a pageant would take too much time to prepare—deciding that: ‘On the other hand a dignified procession, well-done, could be organised in the time, which would represent the past and present activities of the city, and their hopes for the future.’23 While almost a static procession rather than a ‘true’ historical pageant in the vein of pre-1914 events, the Salisbury Peace Pageant combined love of locality and the humorous energy of the young with the recent memory of sacrifice, and staged an event which was both popular and moving.

Footnotes

  1. ^ According to the Souvenir, Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury (Salisbury, 1919), 5.
  2. ^ ‘The Children’s Pageant’, The Salisbury Times, 25 July 1919, 8.
  3. ^ ‘The Children’s Pageant’, Salisbury Times, 1 April 1919, 3.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury (Salisbury, 1919), 3.
  6. ^ Robert Withington, ‘Post-Bellum Giants’, Studies in Philology, 18 (1921), 1.
  7. ^ Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury (Salisbury, 1919), 3.
  8. ^ ‘Peace Celebrations at Salisbury, 1918-1919’, British Pathe, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/peace-celebrations-at-salisbury/query/PEACE+PAGEANT. Accessed 4/08/2015.
  9. ^ ‘The Children’s Pageant’, Salisbury Times, 1 April 1919, 3.
  10. ^ Ibid.
  11. ^ Withington, ‘Post-Bellum Giants’, 9.
  12. ^ Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury, 3.
  13. ^ Ibid., 11.
  14. ^ Ibid., 38.
  15. ^ ‘The Children’s Pageant’, The Salisbury Times, 25 July 1919, 8.
  16. ^ ‘From Pageant to Memorial’, The Salisbury Times, 1 August 1919, 2.
  17. ^ Ibid.
  18. ^ Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury, 3; ‘The Children’s Pageant’, The Salisbury Times, 25 July 1919, 8.
  19. ^ ‘Salisbury Census Information’, http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getcensus.php?item=Salisbury; ‘From Pageant to Memorial’, 2. Accessed 4/08/2015.
  20. ^ ‘From Pageant to Memorial’, 2.
  21. ^ See Brad Beaven, ‘Challenges to Civic Governance in post-War England: The Peace Day Disturbances of 1919’, Urban History, 33 (2006), 369-92.
  22. ^ ‘From Pageant to Memorial’, 2.
  23. ^ ‘Salisbury’s 700th Anniversary’, Western Gazette, 18 February 1927, 4.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Salisbury Peace Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1182/