Do You Padge?
With big costumes and bigger audiences, pageants were the pastime of choice in the early 20th century.
In the summer of 1905 a new contagion took hold in Britain. It was called ‘pageant fever’, or sometimes ‘pageantitis’, and it took an unusual form. In the town of Sherborne, in Dorset, some 800 people dressed up as historical characters to perform a series of scenes from its history, all under the direction of ‘pageant master’ Louis Napoleon Parker. Beginning with the foundation of the town in 705 and ending with a visit by Sir Walter Ralegh in 1593, the pageant contained 11 separate episodes. These included a battle between Saxons and Vikings, the formation of the Sherborne almshouses in 1437 and the dissolution of its monastery in 1539. The pageant was performed seven times and, in total, some 30,000 spectators saw it.