Alex Jones

Playwright

The Worcester Pilgrim

Broadcast: BBC Radio 4, November 2003.

Worcester Pilgrim Picture
Performance at Worcester Cathedral

Play Synopsis

Radio play, broadcast BBC Radio 4 November 2003, later rewritten for theatre and performed at Worcester Cathedral, October 2006.

In 1987 a grave was excavated at the base of Worcester cathedral's southeast tower - a place normally reserved for royalty, senior godbrothers or the very rich.

But the man buried there wore simple clothes.

Beside him lay a cockleshell - the symbol of a pilgrim.

The play is based on research I carried out with the cooperation of the cathedral library. It speculates on how this humble man came to be buried in such a prestigious place.

Originally a radio play, I rewrote the play for stage and it was performed within the cathedral with a great cast, including David Hargreaves and the cathedral choir dressed as monks sang plainchant throughout.

A play that is an opportunity to include sacred music and a small choir... The year is 1403 and the monks are preparing a banquet for their bishop's representative, coming to collect money for his master.

But the door opens to reveal not the bagman but a ragged pilgrim heading for the shrine of St Wulstan.

The prior asks him to leave - and the pilgrim collapses on the steps.

The prior has so far been a supporter of the bishop and his corrupt ways.

But after the pilgrim has been taken away to be nursed, he sees a sign in the bloody footprints on the steps.

He becomes friends with the traveller and discovers he has a remarkable story to tell.

When the bishop's prelate arrives, the pilgrim challenges him and his attitudes, and the prior is forced to take a hard look at his own way of life.


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Play Reviews

The Guardian: Pick of the day - Archers fans will know Alex Jones as Clive Horrobin, the armed-robbing, horse-slashing sociopath brother of the saintly Susan Carter. But Jones is a writer too, the author of today's afternoon play: The Worcester Pilgrim (2.15pm, Radio 4). In 1987 a grave was excavated at the base of Worcester cathedral's shout-east tower - a place normally reserved for royalty, senior godbotherers or the very rich. But the man buried there wore simple clothes. Beside him lay a cockle shell - the symbol of a pilgrim. The play is based on research that Jones, who is local to the area, carried out with the cooperation of the cathedral library. It speculates on how this humble man came to be buried in such a posh spot. The year is 1403 and the monks are preparing a banquet for their bishop's representative, coming to collect money for his master. But the great door opens to reveal not the bagman but a ragged pilgrim heading for the shrine of St Wulfstan. The prior asks him to leave - and the pilgrim collapses on the steps. The prior has so far been a supporter of the bishop and his corrupt ways. But after the pilgrim has been taken away to be nursed, he sees a sign in the bloody footprints in the steps. He becomes friends with the traveller and discovers he has a remarkable story to tell. When the bishop's prelate arrives, the pilgrim challenges him and his attitudes, and the prior is forced to take a hard look at his own way of life... Phil Daost.

Radio Times: Choice - A ragged and bloody pilgrim set the cats among the ecclesiastical pigeons in today's Afternoon play on Radio 4 - It's 1403 and the Benedictine monks of Worcester Cathedral are busy preparing a feast when a ragged man with bleeding feet bursts through their doors, shouting at anyone who approaches him and demanding they grant him "some peace at last." Thus begins this drama by Alex Jones (who also plays Clive Horrobin in The Archers) about a mysterious pilgrim (whose body really is buried at the base of the tower of the cathedral). Too sickly to leave, the man gradually reveals his life story to the Prior. He was once a farmer cleric in a neighbouring county, but travelled the world in search of some spiritual understanding after all his family died from the plague. "I saw mankind for what it is - there is no peace in this world." he says of his journey. The Prior's attitude towards the Church is ultimately changed by a poor man's rage against injustice. And the weary pilgrim finally finds peace through the beauty of the cathedral choir's plainchant.

The Guardian - The Guide: Choice - In 1987 a grave was excavated in Worcester Cathedral in an area usually reserved for the church elite, but the cockleshell in the grave revealed that the man buried there was a pilgrim. Alex Jones' Afternoon Play - The Worcester Pilgrim (2.14 R4) is a flight of the imagination spinning off from this discovery; being the story of William Dunn, a poor pilgrim who arrives at the gates of the cathedral in 1403 and is turned away by the Prior before collapsing on the steps. He is taken in, and his Christ-like simplicity puts the decadence of the Prior - and the church itself - into question. David Hargreaves plays the pilgrim. WM.

Daily Mail - Pick of the day: Afternoon Play: The Worcester Pilgrim - How in 1403 did a humble pilgrim (played by David Hargreaves) come to be buried in one of the most illustrious grave sites in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral? This fascinating piece of speculative medieval fiction is written by Alex Jones who in his other career of acting, plays the decidedly ungodly Clive Horrobin in The Archers. PD