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.


Pageant memories from John Bettridge


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?”


Pageant Ale – courtesy of Martin Dudley

Could this be the last surviving bottle of Pageant Ale? Did you try it? When did you drink your last bottle?

Pageant Ale. Martin Dudley Remembers

More Memories

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!

Ian Hodson


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


8 comments on “Pageant 2000

  1. As Pageant Treasurer I was delighted that it was a great financial success, helped by the wonderful weather. It was a fantastic community event, many new and lasting friendships were made – a great time was had by all!

  2. I was in the Pageant, but one of my friends was getting married on the Saturday, so I only appeared in act 1 – then I could dash back for the reception!
    I played a Roman officer and a peasant called John Attwater who had been caught tickling trout. I can remember wearing a bright yellow blanket as my peasant tunic. I think it was the only costume left!
    I had signed up for the Pageant in 1999, and it happened that the Ebor Players were missing a couple of cast members for their panto that December. I ended up being the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, and am still doing the panto now, 20 years on.

    • I remember you at the auditions Paul, you were good, I remember feeling quite intimidated, not by your brawn, but acting ability.

  3. Thanks Ian, it was a wonderful event as well as kick-starting many other initiatives in the village.

  4. My wife Carol and I spent 18 months before finally settling on Bishopthorpe as a place to move to after many years working in Hertfordshire. We were looking for a large village close to a major town with good transport links, in the north of England to be near family and away from the crowded south. On the day we viewed out to-be home, we went to a pub called the Ebor Inn for coffee beforehand, and were amazed to see several clerics coming out at about 11.30. Interesting place this.

    We moved in at the end of July 1999. Shortly afterwards I followed up a notice in the village magazine, and cycled to the grounds of the Bishopthorpe Palace where something called the Bishopthorpe Pageant was being launched with a call for participants. I had done some acting at school and college and thought perhaps there might be something I could do. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, there were lots of people and a mise-en-scène was played out on the Palace steps from whence the Archbishop made welcoming noises., and names were gathered. I didn’t know anybody.

    I ended up playing four very different roles. In the first scene I was a Roman soldier, and we had been drilled and equipped so that we looked and acted the part – great fun! I even got a speaking line. I then played a helmeted and armed guard (I claim to be shown on the Pinfold history board thus attired), as Archbishop Scrope was horsed and led off to his execution, and then, notwithstanding the rule never to act with children and animals, played an eighteenth century vicar succumbing to an old goose in scene eight. Finally, I played a character known to older members of the community, the wartime bank manager and Home Guard member, where I pinched a bit of Corporal Jones in describing the fall of an air force plane. Through rehearsals and costume setups for each of the roles I got to know a whole range of people, of all ages and backgrounds.

    The five days of the show were amazing. The weather was sunny until dusk, the animals behaved, the children enjoyed themselves as did the sell-out crowds of families and friends. During the interval, collecting my bottle of Pageant Ale in the beer tent, the Archbishop apologized for standing in my way at the bar – not at all I said, it’s your place after all! The lights, sound systems and cameras worked, the cars got parked, the actors remembered their lines, the songs were sung in tune, the audience clapped – what a triumph! Not to mention five, yes five, after curtain parties at the Ebor!

    As a community event, the organization and participation could not really be bettered. Around ten percent of the population figure for Bishopthorpe helped to create the pageant, and a number equal to the population came as spectators. The management teamwork behind the scenes in sourcing or creating technology, publicity, scripts, costumes, insurance and security, permissions, props, refreshments, logistics and so on was immense. And of course a careful watch on income and expenditure ensured a profit was made; this was later used by the Millennium Trust to raise more funds and support local activities and enhance the village scene through visual and amenity improvements. The sensory garden, the pinfold and the village signs show this.

    In July 1999 I knew no one in the village. By the following August I could not walk down to the Co-op without be greeted by at least four people. Some of them became very good friends.

    Martin Dudley
    Resident 1999 – 2009.

  5. Steve Wilson remembers:

    I was lucky enough to land a part in the Bishopthorpe Pageant in 2000. I was to play Lord Huntingdon, President of the Council of the North. (My wife, the Countess, had prevailed upon me to possess the Archbishop’s house, and as I was ruled by my wife, I did as I was told.)

    The year was 1577.

    I had to enter the grounds of the Palace on a horse! Well, that was a first time for me. All I had ever ridden were bikes, a seaside donkey and a small Shetland pony. I rode quite well on the night and managed not to fall off. I was also to dance a Pavane with a group of players. It was more a walk than a dance so I completed that OK too.

    There was a vast cast, mainly villagers, who rehearsed for many weeks. It was great to meet old and new thespian friends, some of whom we see about the village to this day, but some, sadly, have passed away. The atmosphere was always good in rehearsals, everyone getting on well and enjoying each other’s company.

    I have to admit to fluffing a line on the night when the video was made, calling the Department of State the Department of Trade (in 1577 ???) causing some amusement in the Palace as we exited the stage!

    It was a great honour and privilege actually to be in the Archbishop’s Palace. We were able to use rooms inside to change. We could overlook the river from the terrace and wave at the pleasure boats as they passed. I don’t know what the passengers thought was happening with all the wonderful, colourful costumes. The atmosphere (especially with a full house for every performance) was electric. The weather kept dry and clear every night.

    We were very grateful to the Archbishop, Dr David Hope, for lending us his home for the week of the Pageant.

    Next one, 2030? Any offers?

    Steve Wilson

  6. Malcolm Bricklebank remembers:

    This was my second Pageant.

    The first was in 1970 when we first lived in the village. Then in 2000 I was given a second opportunity. With many others, I started on several weeks of preparation. I was Reader 1, and Angela Cape was Reader2. We saw every scene. Angela was only fourteen years old,but she did a splendid job and we got on very well. We learned a lot about the history of our village.

    There are many scenes which we will never forget: the trial of one of our archbishops who rode backwards on a horse to his execution; the scene involving a real goose….. The one I remember most was towards the end, when floods damaged the village Church by the river. Our former vicar, the Rev. Paul Rathbone, took the part of Horner, a villager, trying to get building work for his brother, Richard. The Rev. Paul’s Yorkshire accent, “my bruvver Richard”, was both authentic and surprising.

    The Pageant was a great opportunity to meet people from all corners of the village. So many people were involved. So many skills were used. This was a happy time. The village should do it again!

    Malcolm Bricklebank

  7. Malcolm understates his and Angela’s part. They were involved throughout the whole performance, explaining and introducing, using a script specially written for the 2000 version by John Dawick. Additionally, Malcolm was involved for months in planning the Pageant as a member of the Pageant Steering Group. IH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.