Pageant 2000: Picture Gallery

The Pageant leaflet.

The cast are addressed by Archbishop David Hope at the dress rehearsal.  [Photo: J. Cripps]
First performed in 1928, The Bishopthorpe Play, (later Pageant) was written by Canon Perkins and set against the historic backdrop of the Palace.  It aimed to represent, in theatrical form, the long and colourful history of our village, including the very first Roman settlers, the trial and execution of Archbishop Scrope in the thirteenth century, and the village of Charles I in the seventeenth century.  Since then there have been performances in 1930, 1954, 1956, 1965 and 1970 when it is alleged the then Archbishop had an unplanned part in the scene helping “riotors” gain access to the Palace. Nothing was heard of the pageant for nearly 30 years and indeed the 1988 publication, Bishopthorpe Remembered, speculated, “Will it ever be seen again?” Well, thanks to the efforts of the late Andrew Dunn and the generous co-operation of Archbishop Hope, it was, and complete with a new scene representing the village in the Second World War.

Few of us will forget those lovely summer nights of July playing to packed houses which included the Archbishop and the Lord Mayor of York. But more importantly, just as in 1928, it brought the community together forging new friendships and providing great fun for those who had acted before and those who had not, and ultimately helping to leave a lasting legacy, in the form of funds which have since been used to help various village groups and activities.

Liam Godfrey

Scene 1: 211AD. Thorpe on Ouse. A Roman Legion established a river fort at Acaster Malbis to protect Eboracum from ‘sea wolves’ approaching via the River Ouse.
Scene 2: AD630. Thorpe on Ouse. Wandering robbers meet a woman who acquaints them with the Christian philosophy of gentleness and peace.
Scene 2: AD630. The late Andrew Dunn, leading light of the Pageant project, playing a wandering robber.
Scene 3: In 1226 Archbishop Walter de Grey bought land and the manor house at Thorpe on Ouse from the Abbot of Kirkstall, Leeds.
Scene 3: 1226. Archbishop Walter de Grey addresses the villagers.
Scene 4: 1405. King Henry IV consulting lawyer, Sir William Fulthorpe at Archbishop Scrope’s trial in the great hall at the Palace.
Scene 4: 1405. Archbishop Scrope, found guilty of treason, is mounted backwards on a ‘sorry horse’ for the journey to Clementhorpe and his execution.
Scene 5: 1577. The Countess of Huntingdon prevails upon her husband, the Lord President of the Council of the North, to possess the Archbishop’s house.
Scene 6: 1633. Village children dancing in readiness for the visit of King Charles 1.
Scene 6, 1633. King Charles 1 entering Archbishop Neile’s grounds.

 

Scene 8: 1769, Enclosure of the common land. The woman who dared confront the Archbishop about where Gibbie the goose could graze.

 

Scene 11: 1940. The Home Guard.
The Finale: The cast singing, Let this be Bishopthorpe.
Martin Dudley remembers collecting his bottle of Pageant Ale from the beer tent during the interval.  See his comment in Pageant 2000 by Ian Hodson.

As Liam quoted – “Will it ever be seen again?”  It should be noted that, if anyone wishes to take up the reins, the Bishopthorpe Community Archive in the Village Hall houses extensive material relating to the Millennium Pageant, this includes administration and funding documents, photographs and ephemera.  An eighth pageant- will it ever be seen?

PAGEANT ALE: This may be an unlikely request, but – does anyone have a bottle of Pageant Ale they can donate to the Archive?

Contact Archive manager Linda Haywood to view or donate any pageant material: history@bishopthorpe.net

All photographs are the copyright of Roger Poyser unless otherwise stated.

Pageant 2000

“The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart….”

On Monday 24th July 2000, I was the last of the Pageant organisers on site at Bishopthorpe Palace. The previous day, many of the participants had turned up and cleared almost everything away, but the toilets, caravans, rubbish bins and generators had to wait for Monday collection.

For me there were feelings of pride at our success, relief at our avoidance  of disaster and pleasure in new friendships made.

So much had been done by so many people from Bishopthorpe and Acaster over the preceding year. A grant from the Millennium Fund had been secured, use of the Palace and its grounds generously granted by our Archbishop David Hope, the script written, the parts cast, many and frequent rehearsals held. Individuals and businesses kindly loaned their equipment, their animals and their services. We had identified suppliers and contractors for insurance, security, tent, stands, bar, toilets, etc. Licences had been obtained for the use of animals, children, toilets, explosives…

There were, of course, unanticipated problems to overcome. Some were quite major such as the need for access through Chantry Lane construction works. Others are trivial in retrospect but important at the time such as my (it can now be revealed) locking out the Home Guard between scenes. (Surely their predecessors would have learned to climb over fences!) Even the last job was not destined to be easy. A generator was too heavy to be towed out of the sunken garden. A tipper truck from Chantry Lane came to our rescue.

The week itself was a triumph. The sun shone. After the first night we had full houses. The performances went well. About a thousand local people enjoyed an event in which about two hundred friends and family participated.  Over £17,000 was raised for the villages.

Ian Hodson


And here are some further memories of the Millennium Pageant from Anona Dawick

I remember David Hope’s warm acceptance of our presence at the Palace, his willingness to allow us free access to the ground floor rooms and the ‘stable’ facilities and his very effective prayers for fine weather on each performance. Unfortunately the spell wore off a few weeks later when floods after torrential rain filled the Palace cellars!

I remember the humour and dedication shown by all the participants in the enterprise:  actors, stage crews, costume designers, choreographers, and front of house alike.

I directed three of the episodes in the production. I was especially grateful for the help of the Manager at Murton who provided the costumes for the Roman soldiers and drilled them, marching to the chant of “sin-dek’ (Sinister! Dexter Left Right). My second scene was a 16th century scene involved a dancing routine featuring the Volta and a pavane  which were coached by Sandra Smith and executed delightfully by the actors. I also loved the expressions of the maids who were peeping through a window of the Palace to watch the ‘toffs’ dancing.

My third episode featured a performance by our previous vicar. It was based on the flood of 1892. and John Bettridge designed an ingenious  boat constructed over his own trailer so it could be wheeled over the imaginary flood water to enable the Rev John Keble and two church wardens to disembark up the Palace steps. Several weeks later they would have needed a real boat!

The Millennium Pageant was certainly a wonderful occasion which enabled the whole village to come together and co-operate in so many ways. Fortunately the performance was professionally filmed so we  still have the video to bring it back to life. My thanks to everyone involved.


So many people; so many memories. What  is your Pageant memory?   Add your own reminiscences by using the ‘comment’ link at the top of the page, or email me at ian.hodson@bishopthorpe.net

As well as sending memories in via email, when the Village Hall re-opens, written versions can be handed in to the Bishopthorpe Community Archive.  We also have the facility to record memories for the Archive if anyone wishes to contact us through historygroup@bishopthorpe.net