Lord Mayor’s Show

This page covers specifically the Lord Mayor’s Show up to 1642 – there will be a more general page for Civic Pageantry later.

Unbelievably useful links (so useful you might want to go to these first; don’t worry, we’ll still be here when you get back!) Map of Early Modern London – which has the surviving texts and, of course, maps of London. And the ongoing Civic London project for REED (Records of Early English Drama) will have much that will interest. Much of our work has been inspired by Professor Tracey Hill of Bath Spa University who has written variously on civic pageantry in Pageantry and Power: A cultural history of the early modern Lord Mayor’s Show, 1585-1639 and in relation to the writing of Anthony Munday in Anthony Munday and Civic Culture.

Triumph 1621

Lord Mayor’s Show 2021 Recon

On Friday 29th October 2021 we’re reconstructing (in a playful way) the Lord Mayor’s Show from 1621, four hundred years after the original one off show. The Sun in Aries was written by Thomas Middleton for the incoming Lord Mayor Edward Barkham of the Drapers Company.

The surviving text of the Triumph will be performed three times in the afternoon in the churchyard of St Mary-le-Bow Church by Beyond Shakespeare; with the support of the SRS Public Engagement Scheme, Bath Spa University, and St Mary-le-Bow Church.

The Pageant Master is award-winning theatre maker Robert Crighton, with our City Chronologer Professor Tracey Hill of Bath Spa University.

It isn’t possible to attempt a complete reconstruction of the Triumph due to the nature of the surviving text (and the shape of modern London), but we hope to capture the shape and spirit of the event near to the location of one of the devices.

To make these recon’s come alive, we need your help. We can’t recreate the full spectacle, and we can’t recreate a street of rowdy 17th century street folk – but YOU can!

We’d like volunteers to dress up, join the procession, become figures who watched and enjoyed the original pageants, and take this event up to the next level.

We need people to pretend to be: notable worthies, figures from history, the signs of the zodiac, one of the Virtues, whifflers and green men (or women).

Come up with your own costume ideas, or follow our guides and advice (details to follow) on how to look the part.

The show will be interactive, so the more you look the part, the more we hope you can engage with the event.

Not only that – they’ll be a (slightly silly) prize for the best costume on display over the afternoon!

Be part of the action, be the crowd to perform your own personal display of awesomeness.

If you’d like to watch the event, or be a little bit more involved, then get involved with the sign up form. We’ll be in touch and keep you in the loop with developments.

Social Media – do share the event with the hashtag #LMS1621 or #Triumph1621


The Lord Mayor’s Show – 1585 to 1639

To date, we’ve produced initial readings of every extant Lord Mayor’s Show, though there are other materials yet to look at. The Lord Mayor’s Show began in the early hours of (usually) the 29th October – starting at the Guildhall, a procession would head south to the river, get on barges and head to Westminster for the swearing in, returning to alight near St Paul’s. The Lord Mayor would then process along Cheapside where the primary Triumphs, or pageants, or devices (choose your favourite term) would be presented to him. These devices were made by master craftsmen, and the text written by (mostly) established playwrights of the day. See our handy route map below.

Every year a new series of pageants were commissioned, based on pitches that various creative teams presented to the incoming Livery Company. This would happen around September, so the production would only have a couple of months to be created. Though certain stock materials were available, especially if the companies chose an established team, new devices were important to give each show some fizz.

Whilst most of the devices generally appeared along Cheapside at various points, different teams threw in different stations. Sometimes the procession would pause after leaving the Guildhall to hear something at the Great Conduit, there might be speeches or water shows at Three Cranes as the Lord Mayor got onto the barges, and there was music and cannon fire throughout the procession, so it got noisy!

Sometimes the new Lord Mayor was greeted at Paul’s Stairs, having returned from his swearing in, following figures up to St Paul’s churchyard, where other events might occur. And devices from the water, or other points, might return to join the Triumphs along Cheapside. There were three primary points along Cheapside where pageants might be based, the Little Conduit, the Cross and the Standard – though it varies from year to year.

Having done a complete circuit, the Lord Mayor would dine at the Guildhall in the afternoon. Towards the evening he would return to St Paul’s (via Cheapside) for a service, and again, devices might be arranged along the way, sometimes with new speeches and business.

The Lord Mayor couldn’t escape the entertainment, as the devices followed him home – with additional speeches and pageants aligned outside his front door. Once you pop, the Lord Mayor’s show don’t stop.

As each year was different, there’s a wealth of difference to discover. The printed pageants don’t appear until 1585, and then the quality and the number of surviving texts varies enormously.

It all kicks off in 1585 with a familiar name, George Peele. Full playlist below, hours of Triumphant fun.

An itemised list of the Triumphs will be added below shortly…