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.
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.
THE PAGEANT PROPS TEAM
My involvement in the pageant started when a note dropped through our letter box inviting people in the village to help in various ways. I had recently set up a workshop in our barn with some woodworking machinery and I replied to say that I could probably help make some props and scenery. A reply arrived to say that before volunteering I should be aware of the list of props required – this included: 15 Roman soldiers’ uniforms complete with shields and swords; an assortment of staves; a large medieval chair (or throne); a Roman altar (portable); an effigy of an archbishop; 100 flaming torches; ways to simulate explosions (off stage); Army Bren guns and rifles for the Home Guard scene; and – particularly challenging – a boat to hold 3 people which could move across the tarmac in front of the palace.
It was clear that we would need a team of people to tackle these projects, so we got together a group of 6 enthusiasts with appropriate skills including John Lynch (builder) and Lin Taylor who had lots of relevant artistic skills. We had many meetings at our house to plan our work and do the research – for example, none of us had any idea what a portable Roman altar looked like – and the internet was not as widely used as it is today.
Making the boat was a challenge. Thankfully, Ian Jemison (Jemison Engineering) who lives very close to the palace, came to our rescue by making a metal front end (complete with wheel) to be joined on to my old wooden car trailer; this provided an excellent base on which a pretend wooden boat could be built. All this took time and my wife and I remember finishing the woodwork on the boat and painting it just a few hours before the dress rehearsal!
Luckily, we found a professional company which could supply the Roman soldiers’ uniforms and the flaming torches for the procession. A local military museum lent us the Army Bren guns and rifles. We set up a store for all the props and equipment in the Palace basement but looking after the guns and rifles was more of a challenge. We imagined the headlines in the press if some had gone missing – perhaps “arms cache in Archbishop of York’s palace raided”, so I found myself (with a helper) walking home after performances to store them in our house. A few neighbours were somewhat surprised to see guns on the streets of Bishopthorpe late at night.
Working as a props team turned out to be not only rewarding and good fun but also a way of making new friends. It showed us the value of having a community project which was sufficiently challenging to bring us together to work as a team.
Postscript. When Bishopthorpe Main Street was flooded a few months after the pageant, I remember a neighbour standing in about 3 feet of water, calling out to me “have you still got your boat?”
Could this be the last surviving bottle of Pageant Ale? Did you try it? When did you drink your last bottle?
There are more personal pageant memories in the public Comments section of this article.
If you don’t currently see these comments then Click Here to view the full article including the comments at the bottom of the article.
The memories and comments on this page show some individuals’ experiences of the Pageant and its aftermath. Many others took part in and enjoyed that week in 2000. I hope the recollections published here will provide for posterity some flavour not simply of what happened but of how village life was affected. You are still welcome at any time to add your comments, to help complete the picture.
One important fact still needs to be emphasised. Our Director, Andrew Dunn, worked almost full time on the project for months, helped and supported throughout by his wife, Romy. Sadly, Andrew is no longer with us, but it is to him that we should dedicate these reminiscences. Thank you, Andrew!
P.S. when the Village Hall re-opens, any written memories of the event 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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: email@example.com
All photographs are the copyright of Roger Poyser unless otherwise stated.
First York are now operating a half hourly frequency service during the day on Mondays to Fridays, and an hourly service in the evenings and on Saturdays. There is no Sunday service.
We are asked to travel only if it is essential, and face masks must be worn.
Seating capacity will be very limited in order to adhere to the social distancing rules, so be prepared for buses to be classed as full even if they appear to have empty seats. Electronic displays and First Bus apps will show the current free capacity on approaching services.
Please pay by card or by app wherever possible. Cash will be accepted if it is the only option. Bus passes will be accepted at any time of day.
Passengers are asked to be considerate to people with prams or in wheelchairs.
If you intend to continue a journey by another route, check in advance. Some services have been suspended.
It was not a simple process for an Archbishop of York to move into – or out of – Bishopthorpe Palace. This enormous building did not come fully furnished and each new incumbent was expected to supply the premises with fittings and furniture to suit themselves. Take, for example, Dr. Charles Longley who, in 1862, had only been Archbishop of York for two years when he was translated to Canterbury. He did not want the furniture he bought for Bishopthorpe and offered to sell it to his successor, Dr. William Thomson. If he did not want it, it would go for auction. The Archbishop-elect found it difficult to make up his mind. It would save him a great deal of expense moving into a large, fully-furnished house and, after all, as he wrote to Zoe his wife, “… we could replace dull carpets, etc. by degrees.” He continued, “But what is still more important, we should avoid the most serious evil of an auction in the house, which would pull it about and soil it terribly.” However, after sending a “good man down from London” to inspect Longley’s property, Thomson decided to forgo his offer and put up with an auction. And so, following extensive advertising in the press, the sale of goods began on 5th January 1863, and lasted for a further five days. The public flocked to the Palace to view and bid for the contents of each room. The array of dinner wagons, chairs made from mahogany, rosewood and walnut, sets of rich crimson satin Damask window curtains, four-poster and French bedsteads with chintz hangings was stunning. Also on sale were “superior copper articles” from the kitchen and furniture from the servants’ dormitories.
Soiled or not, the Palace eventually became home to the Thomson family where they lived for twenty seven years until the Archbishop died on Christmas Day, 1890. Having lived in one place for so many years, and having a wide range of interests, Archbishop Thomson had collected a prodigious number of items. Despite his misgivings about Longley’s auction, that was how his sons and executors decided to dispose of their father’s possessions. In March 1891, and with dealers arriving from London, the sale began at the De Grey Rooms in York with the 6,000 volume library. This first part of the auction took five days to complete.
A further day at that location was devoted to an array of Dr. Thomson’s miscellaneous effects which reflected his interest in photography and science: A large microscope, two telephone transmitters, map measuring instruments, glass-plate cameras, printing frames, negative boxes and other equipment for a dark room which suggests the Archbishop may have printed his own photographs. To this eclectic collection was added 1,000 ounces of silver, old coins, watches, and the cellar of choice wines. That day’s sale alone totalled £889.
The venue changed to the Palace for the next seven days. Numerous vehicles were engaged to convey visitors between York and Bishopthorpe where the items to be sold were displayed in the many rooms. These included two grand pianofortes, a harmonium, and an extensive wardrobe of linen, blankets and counterpanes; outside were carriages, harnesses and greenhouse plants. Biddings were reported to be exceedingly brisk and “fancy prices were realised.”
Whether, on this occasion, the “evil of an auction” left the Palace in a fit state for Dr. Magee, Archbishop Thomson’s successor has, unfortunately, not been recorded.
Linda Haywood, Bishopthorpe Community Archive
Auction Catalogue courtesy of Explore York Libraries & Archives. Reference: EPH/2/2620
Thomson, Ethel H., The Life and Letters of William Thomson, Archbishop of York, [London, Forgotten Books, reprint, 2015] pp 62-63.
The Yorkshire Herald, 28 February 1891, pp 1, 2
The Yorkshire Post, 3 March 1891, p6
The Yorkshire Herald, 7 March 1891, p2
It has not been easy to discover how the people of Bishopthorpe celebrated Victory in Europe in May 1945. Despite the many interviews which have been held with residents by the Bishopthorpe Local History Group, the end of the Second World War has hardly been mentioned. While the war, as a topic, featured throughout the recordings, interviewees first remembered how life was lived: When war broke out: “We were going brambling. We just continued, it meant nothing to us.” (a young Ken Baldwin); the Home Guard, “…he fell asleep stood up one day. He was that tired.” (Lily Foggin on her husband, Reg); Rationing: “Dear Mr. Dixon, [the butcher] he was marvellous. He kept us going all through the war, you know. Phoebe, our maid, once said, ‘Well, that’s been round the Knavesmire a few times’. The joint! But he was awfully good.” (Carol Woollcombe); and the Black-Out: “There used to be somebody about on their bike shouting, ‘Will you put that light out, please’. Yes, some people used to do it for a bit of fun, not knowing the seriousness of it. But we got over that, all of us.” (Audrey Bastard)
In May 1945 a good many villagers were not to be found in Bishopthorpe. Several were in the services spread throughout the world; some were still prisoners of war; some still fighting, for the war was not over until 15 August when Japan surrendered. It was this situation which led York City Council to take a subdued view on how to observe the end of hostilities with Germany. It was thought more appropriate that this should be a time of thanksgiving rather than celebration. However, for more than five long years, life had been hard for people at home and it was time to let their hair down.
On Monday 7 May, tension was in the air as everyone waited for an official declaration that Germany had surrendered. The announcement was not made due to US President, Harry Truman, accommodating demands made by Stalin. The Yorkshire Gazette reported that the citizens of York used their time to decorate the streets on a lavish scale and the evening was spent partying with Canadian, French and British servicemen. Two days holiday had been granted; most pubs managed to have supplies available and full advantage was taken of the fact that they remained open until 11.30pm.
The following day, Tuesday 8 May, rain fell throughout the afternoon and the city was strangely quiet. Then, at three o’ clock, Mr. Churchill made the historic announcement that the German forces had signed an unconditional surrender. Most people would have heard him on the wireless and, with the weather clearing, joyful crowds thronged the streets singing, shouting, and dancing to amplified music in Exhibition Square. Crowds jammed into Duncombe Place to see the floodlighting of the Minster while the bells pealed for the first time since war began.
Many Bishopthorpe residents would have gone into York and joined the excited revellers. But those who stayed behind enjoyed the village festivities too. The only two people who provided their memories of VE Day were Margaret Smith, nee Cox, and Eddie Waite, both of whom have since sadly died. Margaret, whose father was a sergeant in the Home Guard, told us of the bonfire on the school field where the Junior School now stands. “I remember going up on to the railway bridge to see the bonfires round about.”
Eddie Waite, a choir boy at St. Andrew’s at the time, also remembered with glee the same bonfire on the school field: “The RAF from Acaster made it with old ammo boxes. They also had wonderful rockets – military rockets – to set off. Unfortunately, one landed on Mr. Hutchinson as he was walking home down Copmanthorpe Lane and set his mackintosh on fire. Another rocket landed on Mr. Drury’s hen house and set that alight, but all the hens survived.” Eddie didn’t tell us how Mr. Hutchinson fared but, we hope he survived without injury!
We always welcome memories at the Bishopthorpe Community Archive. When lockdown has finished, please call in on any Monday afternoon 2.30 – 5.00pm, upstairs at the Village Hall or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
York-based ‘Keep your pet’ (KYP) is continuing to provide its valued service to pet owners, and will do so as long as sufficient of its amazing volunteers are available.
KYP volunteers and staff recognise how especially important the company and security of a pet can be at this time, not least in maintaining a routine and sense of normality. So far during the current crisis KYP, administered by Age UK York, has helped over 60 people.
However, having had to cancel its major fund-raising event of the year, the annual dog walk on the Knavesmire and other events, Keep Your Pet is instead asking people to join in a ‘virtual dog walk’.
Keep Your Pet clients, supporters and all other dog owners are invited to take part by submitting photographs of their dogs, with or without their owners, along with a minimum donation of £5 per entry.
Keep Your Pet will create a ‘dog walk gallery’ on its website, and photos will be submitted to the press.
Winning entrants will receive a virtual and (in time) a real rosette.
As with the traditional dog walk other activities are also on offer:
Whilst receiving a majority of its funds from Age UK York, Keep Your Pet cannot function at the current level without donations and fundraising events. Expenditure includes publicity & administration costs. Chair of KYP, Keith Martin said:
“We would love to see you at our virtual dog walk and we also welcome support for Keep Your Pet on a regular basis – details can be downloaded from the website here. We are still hoping that the actual dog walk can be rearranged for September 2020.”
How to enter
Entries should be sent between 3rd and 10th May 2020 to email@example.com. One photo of a dog with a suitable caption and/or one photo of owner and dog to enter the lookalike competition. Photos need to be in jpg format. In addition entrants can guess the name of the female puppy displayed on the Keep Your Pet website.
The details and conditions of the competition rules can be found at www.keepyourpet.co.uk
Entries will need to be accompanied by a minimum £5 donation. Donations can be made through PayPal on the website www.keepyourpet.co.uk or by cheque payable to Keep Your Pet and sent to: KYP Treasurer, 8 Cromwell Road, Bishophill, York, YO1 6DU. Name and address to be included so that receipt can be acknowledged.
The names of entrants need to be stated in the submission email. It will be assumed that there is approval for the picture to be posted online & published in the media unless otherwise stated. An address for the postage of rosettes should be included in the event of the entrant achieving one of the top three places.
‘Keep your pet’ (KYP) helps older & vulnerable people in York and Selby by looking after their pets during times of medical or other emergency, so that they can return to caring for their pet when they have recovered. KYP was launched in November 2012 by a partnership between RSPCA York & District, Age UK York, & Age UK Selby. A team of local volunteers offers dog walking, pet fostering, feeding animals or transport to a vet. A part-time organiser administers the scheme from the Age UK Priory Street office.
KYP works in three ways in that it benefits animals, their owners, & the volunteers, particularly those who are unable to keep an animal of their own but wish to have contact, or those whose own animals have recently died.
In August 1919, Bishopthorpe celebrated the peace following the First World War. The Yorkshire Gazette reported the event in some detail describing how the children sat down at tables outside The Ebor and enjoyed a sumptuous tea. They also received a souvenir of the occasion – a decorated Peace Mug. Now, after many years, one of the original mugs has come to light.
Our late, well-known butcher, Mr. Geoff Dixon, was interviewed in 2001 by members of the Bishopthorpe Local History Group as part of their Oral History Project. During the recording, Geoff revealed that he remembered the ‘Peace Tea’. He was only five years old at the time and recalled a lot of people attended and that Mrs. Walter Paver organised it. He surprised his interviewers when he told them that he still had the Peace Cup, as he called it, and searched it out to show it to them.
Earlier this year, I happened to read the transcription of that interview and wondered if the mug or cup, was still around. Sadly, Geoff died in 2009, and so I went to see his nephew, Robert Dixon, in the butcher’s shop. Robert told me, yes, he had the mug at home and would find it for me to photograph.
With thanks to Robert, the mug has now been recorded for the Bishopthorpe Community Archive and is displayed here for all to see. The mug, which is now over 100 years old, is in good order without a chip or crack in sight. The gold rim is just a little worn showing that Geoff must have occasionally enjoyed drinking tea from his memento.
On one side of the mug the colourful illustration depicts the Admiral of the Fleet, David Beatty, and Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. Sitting serenely between them is Britannia.
On the reverse the dates of both war and peace are recorded:
“Commenced Aug 4th 1914
Armistice Nov _1th 1918 (Note the number ‘1’ has faded.)
Peace Signed June 28th 1919″
To read further details about the 1919 peace celebrations in Bishopthorpe, follow the link here:
Bishopthorpe Community Archive
First Bus is now operating a reduced service on route 11.
From Bishopthorpe, there is a journey at 06-23, then at 07-20 and thereafter every 70 minutes to 19-00. Evening journeys are at 19-56, 20-35, 21-35 and 22-35.
The Saturday timetable starts at 07-20 and operates every 70 minutes until 19-00, and thereafter as weekdays.
Sunday Service 11S
First York’s website says this is operated by EYMS, which if correct is a new development. The EYMS site doesn’t seem to mention it.
A Saturday timetable will operate on Good Friday and Easter Saturday. Sunday timetable (if it exists) should apply on Easter Sunday and Monday.
York Pullman is operating only three journeys daily (Mon. – Sat.) timed at 08-35, 12-30 and 15-55 to York and at 11-34, 14-59 and 18-34 to Colton.
The current timetable is operating to ensure key workers, including health service and emergency workers, can get to and from their places of work and those without a car can still collect medical prescriptions or do their essential shopping.
The company is aware of the importance of maintaining services, but if further changes are necessary the details will be found on the First Bus Corona Virus web page.
The revised No 11 Timetables can be viewed and downloaded via these links:
Passengers are asked to pay with cards rather than cash where possible, and to observe government advice regarding hand cleansing, use of handkerchiefs, etc.
|Ainsty Ales||Home delivery & Drive through|
|Beadlam Grange Farm Shop||Call (ext 3) to arrange delivery|
|Bish ‘n’ Chips||Free delivery Tue-Sat if self-isolating|
|Burnholme Fisheries||Delivery of fresh and frozen fish|
|Co-operative||7am to 10pm every day|
|Early Bird Milkman||Milk and more|
|Old Sun Inn||Shop and takeaway|
|Pig And Pastry||Call on 675115 if you are isolated and need supper|
|Scott Lock||Emergency locksmith service|
|Tesco||Priority access 9-10am, Mon,Wed,Fri|
|Treeboom Brewery||Delivery and sales|
|Woodman||Deliver soup on Wednesdays, but not open otherwise|
Please pass on the details of all the shops in the above link who deliver to elderly neighbours who may not have the internet.
Remember to keep your distance when doing so.
For up-to-date details, please call in on
Lots of information and advice is available through the official channels, and there’s a whole load of correspondence and comments on the Bishopthorpe Community Facebook page.
However, we’re aware that not everyone uses Facebook so if you’re not on Facebook and there are items of local importance you think the community should be aware of, comments you’d like to make, or information you’d like to impart, please feel free to add your comments to this page.
Regretfully, the Bishopthorpe Community Archive which is housed at Bishopthorpe Village Hall, will be closed until further notice, owing to the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, if there are any Bishopthorpe history-related queries you are burning to have answered, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just to cheer you up in this gloomy lock-down period here, from the Archive, is a reminder of a more convivial time when people were able to to gather together to enjoy themselves. The following colourful images are of the festivities which took place in the village in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Further details about resumption of meetings when we know more about what is safe.