The Bridlington 1919 Peace Pageant

Once the war was officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, it was time for Bridlington to welcome the peace. A week-long celebration was masterminded by Robert Horspool, the art master at the Grammar School.

This was the greatest event ever organised in Bridlington. With over 400 people parading in period costumes and other events too, nothing before or in the one hundred years since has been on such a scale.  So claimed Bro Rick Hudson as he introduced his talk about the 1919 Peace Pageant.

Not surprisingly a lot of photographs were taken and Bro Rick showed some of these. Amazingly some cine film was also taken and his talk included clips from this too.

The pageant took the form of a parade on the Wednesday and Thursday through the streets by different routes showcasing Bridlington’s historical eras from pre-Roman tribes through to the Hanoverians. Characters in costume with links to Bridlington were represented from Walter de Gant, the founder of the Bridlington Priory, to Methodist John Wesley who preached here.

The Druid’s sacrifice, young Billy McGloon, was clearly the favourite of Bro Rick’s audience, as he was back in 1919 according to the press reports.

Also included on both days was a re-enactment of a Manorial Court of about 1760, and an Old World Fair on High Green with dancing into the night to Herbert Harper’s Excelsior Band.  The fair included children displaying old English dances and games, including Plaiting the Maypole.  Gunhilda and Ethelfreda told fortunes. There was a range of stalls, and exhibitions of boxing, club swinging, etc.

To start the week the town was presented with a WW1 tank. Other events included a sports day for children on the Friday.

With so many people taking part and thousands of spectators Bro Rick’s talk was as much about the people of Bridlington as the pageant itself. He showed photographs of a number of Bridlington people in costume and was able to give a brief biography of each.

The final event of the week was a thanksgiving service. Bro Rick’s final film clip showed the congregation leaving the Priory to which he added a 1919 hit song which complimented the mood. One lady spots the cine camera at the last moment, feels she hasn’t had enough exposure to the new medium, and comes through again, this time with a knowing smile on her face.

Sarah Ryalls gave the vote of thanks. She thanked Bro Rick for an excellent presentation and said she was enthralled by the costumes and the amazing photographs and cine film.

The Peace Pageant fired an interest in local history which inspired the formation of the Bridlington Augustinian Society a year later in 1920.