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: firstname.lastname@example.org
All photographs are the copyright of Roger Poyser unless otherwise stated.