Framlingham Pageant 1931


Framlingham held a pageant in 1931 with performances on 8th to 11th July.  This was a somewhat fanciful historical reenactment of events having a connection with Framlingham, performed in 8 “Episodes”.  It was an enormous undertaking involving around 800 people with 6 performances watched by a total of around 2,000 spectators. The Pageant performances took place on the Castle Meadow where there was a grandstand to hold around 800 people.

The proceeds of the Pageant were used to purchase the nearby Pageant Field as a recreational space for the town. 

There is a black and white movie of the Pageant lasting around 15 minutes (with no soundtrack).  We are investigating whether in due course we can publish it here.


A few facts (and see some illustrations below):

  • £500 to £700 needed to be raised by donations and guarantors.
  • Duke of Norfolk was President of the Pageant.
  • 4 evening performances and 2 matinees.
  • 600-700 performers, full choir of 80 plus orchestra. 35 horses, including Suffolks provided by Wm. Woodgate.
  • Needlework party made 300 costumes. 310 articles of head gear, hoods, hats and helmets. Mary Nicholls and friends made 180 cushions and 197 props.
  • Mr Lanman made a model of the castle and the Flodden helm.
  • 36 stewards, programme/ticket sellers
  • Performers had to wait and assemble in the castle, so could not see Pageant.
  • Rehearsals on 22 separate dates.
  • Covered grandstand on castle meadow.
  • Tickets from 2/4 to 10/6. Seating for over 800 people.
  • Pageant House booking office on Market Hill
  • Transport for those attending; LNER trains, Eastern Counties coaches, charabanc tours from distant towns and cars.

The Pageant consisted of eight Episodes based on various events in the life of the castle. The interpretation is somewhat loose. In Episode 1 for example, the castle did not exist in its present form and it is not proven that King Edmund ever fought at Framlingham. In Episode 5, the Duke of Norfolk is portrayed at the castle, whereas he was actually still in the Tower of London under sentence of death and was not set free until Mary reached London.

A brief outline of each Episode follows:

Episode 1     King Edmund Surprised by Ivar the Dane, 860

Fanciful story about Ivar the Danish chief who surprises King Edmund at his Framlingham stronghold. The blind mason is lead to Ivar and asks for reward for showing the weakest point in the wall. Fighting breaks out on the castle bridge. The blind man tells Ivar he has not seen Edmund, who escapes.

Episode 2     The Normans, 1067

William the Conqueror retains important strongholds, including Framlingham. Ralph de Wahr, first Earl of Norfolk arrives with his troops to take over the castle for the King. Roger Bigod is given a Manor.  The Thaine Ailmar refuses service to the King so his lands are given to Hugh D’Avranche.

Episode 3     Home coming of The Second Duke of Norfolk, 1523

Thomas Howard, Second Duke of Norfolk, at the age of seventy won the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Ten years later after providing further service to King Henry V111, he retires to his castle at Framlingham. The Duchess comes to greet him with her ladies and a party of girls with ropes of roses.

Episode 4     Funeral of The Second Duke of Norfolk, 1524

His body is taken from the chapel in the castle and conveyed to Thetford.  The cortege, including Chief Mourners, Kings of Arms, Heralds and Lords ride in black liveries, their hoods on their heads. The procession is headed by chanting White Friars. The Helmet carried in this Episode is the replica made by Harold Lanman.

Episode 5     Queen Mary at Framlingham castle, 1553

On the death of Edward V1, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen. Mary immediately rode from Kenninghall to Framlingham castle to raise her supporters. The news is received that Lady Jane Grey has been deposed and Mary is proclaimed Queen. On 31 July she set off for London with 30,000 loyal supporters, where she would be crowned Queen of England.

Episode 6     Escape of Catholic Prisoners from the Castle, 1601

The castle was used as a prison for Recusants who would not accept the Act of Uniformity. This Episode based on scant evidence relates to the escape of three Priests and a Layman while an Elizabethan fair is in progress. On their escape, they are drawn to a booth at the Fair where they exchange their clothes and are hustled away towards Aldeburgh in a moving caravan.

Episode 7     Nicholas Danforth’s departure to America, 1634

Nicholas Danforth arrives at the castle with his family and servants to bid farewell to Lord Howard before departing on his long journey to America.  The Lord is seen meeting Danforth on his return from a hawking party. Nicholas’s son Thomas would be granted land in Massachusetts and established the town of Framingham.

Episode 8     Procession of Sir Robert Hitcham’s Pensioners

Sir Robert Hitcham purchased Lowes Hundred, which included estates and the castle in Framlingham for £14,000.  He bequeathed this to Pembroke College in Cambridge. Part of his will required buildings in the castle to be dismantled to provide Alms Houses. This Episode has a procession of Pensioners from the Alms Houses. No photos have been found for this Episode.

For more information on the Pageant see the “Historical Pageants in Britain” site here and here

A selection of illustrations of the making of the Pageant that are held by the Lanman Museum.

Click on any of the illustrations for a larger version.