Pageant of Burley
Place: The Grounds of Merry Gardens (Burley) (Burley, Hampshire, England)
Number of performances: 2
22 June 1935 at 2.30 and 5.30pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
‘All Proceeds will be given to the society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts’
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
‘People of Burley! You are come to see
Pictured in passing scene the history
Of this your home. Two thousand years and more
Ere forest here there was; a thousand years
Before the birth of Christ, begins the tale’.
Bronze Age: Ancient Burley (c.1200 B.C.)
Enter men and women carrying skins and pots and children playing. They sit down in groups, going from one to other. Travelling smith and boy enter with a sack. The men go to meet him and he shows them his wares. Men barter skins and pots for weapons and axe-heads. Boy returns to look for axe-heads, but only a few are found.
S. Birinus: Christianity comes to Burley (A.D. 635)
Enter Saxon men and women, with a boy pointing in the direction from which he has come. All show consternation. Enter Birinus and monks with staff and lantern chanting a psalm.
Birinus: ‘Children of God! For whom our Lord has died/have ye not heard the tidings of His Love? Do ye not know that He has bade you cease/From worship of strange gods, and turn to him’.
He holds out his hand and the people shrink back, but one child runs to him and he blesses her. Birinus, with monks and child, exit and the people follow with interest.
Richard De Burley: The Manor of Burley is granted by Henry III (A.D. 1251)
Enter crowd of villagers talking. Enter Richard de Burley and wife, who are greeted by villagers. Sound of trumpets. King Henry and Queen Eleanor enter with attendants. All bow to them. King and Queen are conducted to seats Sir Richard Kneels. King appoints Burley to uphold his laws and protect his forest, and Richard submits. All exit.
Encroachment: An Elizabethan Forester encroaches on land and builds his hut (A.D. 1557)
Forester and wife enter. He: ‘Tis done! Her Majesty may send in vain; She cannot turn us from our home again.’ Enter their child. All dance. The Surveyor enters, looks at the hut, shakes his head but remounts and departs as he is unable to do anything. Exit Forester, wife and child towards the hut.
Burley Charities: Thomas Eyre makes his will (A.D. 1823)
Enter Eyre, an old man on the arm of Bernard Eckett. A lawyer and others carry the will and pen and ink. Eyre sits down: ‘Now can I lay me down to die in peace/For God has suffered me to end my task/I have endeavoured by help of God/To make the men of Burley, rich and poor/Fervent in charity, and quiet and true/Hand me my will for by it I bequeath/My all to burley and to Burley folk.’
Victorian Burley: Squire Esdaile attends the Maypole dance, on May day (A.D. 1852)
A maypole is erected. Enter a crowd of villagers from all entrances, who talk and exchange greetings. Enter Squire Esdaile and his lady who are greeted by the crowd ad sit at the side. Enter the May Queen with attendants who curtsies to the Squire. Enter children. A maypole dance is given. All clap. The sound of a bell announcing tea is heard.
Burley today: The Scouts light the Jubilee Beacon (6 May 1935)
Narrator: ‘People of Burley! Pray you still may be
Worthy of this your heritage, your God, your King.
Still is there work God gives to each to do,
Still must you labour in His Name, that men
In distant lands may see the light of Christ,
And men at home live happy in that light.
Pray, as for our Monarch now we sing
That not our Empire only, but the world
May be the Empire of our God, His King.’
Enter Scouts and Guides with wood who build a bonfire and form a ring around it. They stand at salute and Scout master shouts: “The King!” National anthem is sung by all, and the audience joins.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Birinus [St Birinus] (d. c.650) bishop of Dorchester
- Henry III (1207–1272) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Eleanor [Eleanor of Provence] (c.1223–1291) queen of England, consort of Henry III
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of programme in Hampshire Archives, Winchester, Reference: 53M77/PZ41.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
This is an example of a small-scale village pageant of the interwar period. Interestingly, the proceeds of the pageant were to go to fund missionary activities overseas. The focus of the pageant was squarely on the history of the locality, with – as might be expected – a pronounced Christian emphasis.