The Lacock Pageant

on Tuesday, 14 July 2015. 1 Posted in Abbey

The Lacock Pageant was first held in 1932 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the laying of the first stone of Lacock Abbey.  The pageant was intended to recreate a day in the life of a Medieval community with Ela, Countess of Salisbury (founder of the Abbey) who was played by Matilda Talbot, nuns, knights and craftsmen all represented. 

Ale wives issuing ale in ivory horns

The part of Bishop of Salsibury was given to the Bishop of Southampton and ‘C’ company from the 4th Wiltshire Regiment played the role of pikemen.  This was a truly communal event with widespread participation from residents in the village, Bowden Hill and the surrounding area.  This included Mr. Ring, village blacksmith, Mr Gerish, the stonemason and Mr. Tayler, village coal merchant, amid many more.  Over 200 performers in 13th century dress participated in the pageant depicting all walks of medieval life.

Countess of Salisbury protected by guards in processionThe pageant programme includes a map of the abbey and the various stalls and events that occurred throughout the abbey and its grounds.  Various stalls included the bakers, butchers, smithy and carpenter who were all played by local residents.  A grandstand was erected to view various processions including knights, pikemen, clergy and of Ela, Countess of Salsibury on horseback. Various spectacles such as jousting on horseback and on foot, wrestling and Morris dancing took place. A tea, buffet and licensed tent were also in place.

Pageant Flower SellersOn a lighter note, a witch played by Mrs. Drewitt roamed the cloisters scaring children and visitors alike.  Meanwhile St. George was victorious in slaying the dragon.  A particular favourite of visitors was Miss Self and her goose ‘Douglas’.  Miss Self played the part of the goose girl at the pageant with her three geese that were well trained to walk on a string lead and eat from her hand.  Apparently much amusement was had when Douglas, on his lead, joined the crowd in running away from the witch just like a dog would have done. 

The pageant proved to be a success with local newspapers reporting that thousands of visitors had attended the day event.  It was so successful that they repeated the feat the next year over three days on 31st May, 1st June and 3rd June 1933.

Line of children in costume on the High Street

The Lacock Archives hold a variety of photographs of the Pageant as well as other photographs being stored in the Local Studies collection.  In addition to this, there is a Lacock souvenir book detailing the event, a timetable and including a map of the various stalls.  There is also correspondence between Sir Harold Brakespear (architect) and Matilda Talbot about the arrangement of the event and the organisation of the procession in minute detail.  Sir Harold Brakespear also advised on the position of the chapel for the Pageant which he had previously excavated since it had been destroyed during the Reformation.

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