Re-enactment of events in the history of Bury St Edmunds.
This 1907 film, re-edited with additional titles in 1951, is preceded by a still of the cinematographer, Ronald Bates. Shot in the grounds of the Abbey in Bury St. Edmunds it features people in costume acting out sequences from the history of Bury St. Edmunds and the surrounding region.
Episode I: In the opening sequence, the Romans, civilians and military personnel relax in their Villa. They are attacked by the native population.
Episode II: This episode shows the martyrdom of King Edmund to save his people from retribution, following the murder of a Viking leader. The scenes follow the intertitles closely.
Episode III: People in early medieval costume, secular and religious, parade before the camera. The wooden shrine is in the background of the shots.
Episode IV: This shows King John in his dealings with the monks. Bury St. Edmunds Pageant.
Episode V:The Barons descend upon Bury St. Edmunds. Fitzwalter reads the Charter of Henry I from the steps of the Shine. The Barons kneel down and take the oath before the shrine of St. Edmund.
Episode VI: King Henry VI and Queen Margaret, the Court and Parliament arrive in Bury St. Edmunds in 1433. They are welcomed by the Abbot. The players are dressed in late medieval costume. In a melodramatic scene Humphrey of Gloucester denounces the treachery of Queen Margaret and Suffolk. They plot against him and then his body is returned to a distraught King.
Episode VII: This episode combines the Dissolution of the Monasteries with the Foundation of the King Edward VI Grammar School. It features the visits of two Tudor Queens, Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, who was the dowager Queen of France, and Queen Elizabeth I. The pageant depicts a 'Court Dance' and a 'Morris Dance', presumably a country dance. At the end of this episode the cast parade past the camera.
This film was shown to audiences in Newmarket Town Hall on the evening of September 7th 1907. During the interval the projector, which ran on oxygen and hydrogen, was knocked over and burst into flames. The audience of 500 panicked and several were killed in the rush to escape. Three people died as a result of burns sustained in the fire; several others were injured. Those dead were Mrs Sarah Starling, Clara Ashby and Martha Draffin, aged 14. It is believed that their clothes caught fire.
Villa Faustini, A. D. 61. The link between Boadicea and Bury St. Edmunds is tenuous. Bury was not a Roman town, although early historians thought that it was a possible site of the Villa Faustini. Many suggestions have been made for the actual site of this Villa, including Chelmsford, Maldon, Woolpit and Great Dunmow. Remains of an Iceni settlement or burial ground were found at Thetford, about fifteen miles from Bury. Bury St. Edmunds Pageant. Boadicea was the widow of the Iceni king, Prasutagus. According to Tacitus, Prasutagus made the Emperor his co-heir with his two daughters. This followed a device used by Roman landowners to ensure that their will was adhered to. Under this arrangement, the Emperor probably received a portion of Prasutagus's land and of his treasure. The Roman Governor, Suetonius Paulinus and the Provincial Procurator, Decianus Catus, attempted to claim the whole estate. They had Boadicea flogged and her daughters raped. In A. D. 60 (the date has been amended according to recent historical research) Boadicea and the Iceni rose in rebellion. They were joined by their southern neighbours the Trinovantes, driven from their lands near Colchester. In addition the Roman Seneca demanded immediate repayment of loans that he had made to Britons. Colchester, St. Albans and London were attacked and the Britons won some notable victories over the Roman army. Tacitus estimated that 70,000 'Roman citizens and their friends' were slaughtered. Retribution was swift and savage. Boadicea met Paulinus' army near Towcester on Watling Street. 80,000 Britons were killed. Boadicea escaped but died soon afterwards, possibly through illness rather than through the poison dramatically portrayed by Tacitus. Paulinus laid waste to the properties of the British tribes who had failed to support the Romans. Signs of devastation have been discovered as far to the south west as South Cadbury in Somerset. Edmund, King and Martyr, AD 855 - 870. Edmund, king of East Anglia, was killed on 20th November, 869 (870 in a year reckoned from the Autumn. )
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the incident. 870 (869). In this year the host went across Mercia into East Anglia and took winter quarters at Thetford; and the same winter Edmund the king fought against them, and the Danes won the victory, and they slew the King and overran the entire kingdom. In the 'Life of King Alfred,' Asser records the incident in similar terms. The Monastery, A. D. 903 - 1132. Canute introduced the Benedictine order to Bury. He rebuilt the Abbey and endowed the monastery. He offered his crown to the Shrine of St. Edmund as was the custom of the day. Edward the Confessor also endowed the monastery. He held the Shrine of St. Edmund in such high regard that he always made the last mile on foot. Abbot Samson, A. D. 1182 - 1211. Abbot Samson (or Sampson) was created Abbot in 1180. He worked hard to get the Abbey out of debt. He was a strong supporter of Richard I, visiting him in his German prison and trying to raise money for his ransom. After his death, King John waited for three years before confirming his successor. The Abbot's revenue was separate from that of the Abbey. If there were no Abbot then the income was the property of the King. This is probably the historical basis for the events shown in the pageant. With the support of Abbot Samson, the Barons met at Bury in 1214 to prepare the Magna Carta. Duke Humphrey, A. D. 1433 - 1447. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest son of Henry IV and the uncle of Henry VI. 'Suffolk' was William De La Pole, Earl, Marquis and Duke of Suffolk. He had emerged as one of Henry's most trusted advisers (Henry VI was notorious for his bad judgement) and had negotiate the marriage of Henry to Margaret of Anjou. He arrested the Duke of Gloucester at Bury in 1447. Gloucester and Suffolk were long standing opponents. Gloucester was a professional soldier and a long standing supporter of the war in France. He also wished to pursue claims to land in Flanders on behalf of his first wife, Jacqueline of Hainault. Suffolk was a supporter of finding a peaceful settlement to the war. The marriage between Henry and Margaret was intended as a part of this settlement but the terms were unfavourable to the English. In 1441, Suffolk had attempted to discredit Gloucester through his second wife, Eleanor Cobham. She was arrested for plotting to kill the King through sorcery. She admitted her trafficking in sorcery but denied any attempt on the life of the King. She was sentenced to a public penance and life imprisonment. Bury St. Edmunds Pageant. The spring Parliament in 1447 was called in Bury St. Edmunds to isolate the Duke of Gloucester from his power base in London. Humphrey arrived on 18th February. He was arrested in his lodgings by a group that included Suffolk. A charge of treason had been prepared but was never used. Humphrey died in custody within a week, probably from a heart attack. Rumours of his murder abounded and Suffolk was popularly held to be responsible. Suffolk was indeed banished, but not until 1450 and then because of his mismanagement of affairs in France. His poor diplomacy led to the loss of Normandy in 1450 and he was impeached by Parliament. Henry VI intervened to save Suffolk, banishing him for five years. The ship on which Suffolk travelled to France was highjacked in the English Channel and he was 'executed' by the crew.
The Dawn of a New Age. A. D. 1490 - 1550. Mary Tudor, 1496 - 1533. Mary Tudor, the youngest daughter of Henry VII, was married to the ageing Louis XII of France in 1514. After his death the next year she secretly married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, a friend of Henry VIII. He had been sent to France to negotiate her future, although this probably wasn't what Henry had in mind. She died at Westhorpe Manor and her funeral took place at Bury Abbey. She was buried there until after the Dissolution, when Henry VIII has her body moved to London. The Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries was passed by Parliament on 1536. Some piecemeal dissolutions had taken place earlier, but the attack on Bury St. Edmunds Abbey did not take place until 1538. Elizabeth I founded the Grammar School, but her main concern was to profit from the sale of remaining Abbey lands.
This film was made by Ronald James Bates. He put on cinema shows in Bury St. Edmunds during the early years of the twentieth century. Some of the original titles exist in the film, although the longer titles were added in by Mrs. Bates in 1951. The National Film Archive Catalogue suggests that this film may have been made by Gaumont
Ronald James Bates
The Abbey ruins, Bury St. Edmunds