Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant

Other names

  • Dartford Pageant

Pageant type


Although the pageant depicted the history of the town of Dartford, Kent, it took place in Bexley, which is now within Greater London. Additional information drawn from 'Survey of Historical Pageants' undertaken by Mick Wallis; with thanks to Stuart Bligh of Bexley Local Studies Centre.

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Place: Grounds of Hall Place (Bexley) (Bexley, Kent, England)

Year: 1932

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 11


18–23 July 1932

Twice daily at 3pm and 8pm, apart from Friday 22 July where only evening.

Dress rehearsals for school children, members of friendly societies, works’ clubs and women’s institutes on 14, 15 and 16 July.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Director [Pageant Master]: Lascelles, Frank
  • Master of Grandstand: Gerald E. Burgess, Esq., LRIBA
  • Master of Music: Tracy Robson, Esq., ARAM
  • Organising Secretary: William Russell

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Committee:

  • Chairman: Frank Clarke, Esq., MP, JP, CC
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 38 men, 5 women, 43 total

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: E. Tratton Liddiard, Esq., MA, MBE
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 36 men, 6 women, 42 total


  • Chairman: Gerald E. Burgess, Esq., LRIBA
  • Secretary: H. Bull, Esq.
  • 18 men, 0 women, 18 total


  • Chairman: J.J. Hurtley, Esq.
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 20 men, 0 women, 20 total

Publicity and Press:

  • Chairman: H.E. Spencer, Esq.
  • Secretary: W. Geddes Esq.
  • 16 men, 0 women, 16 total


  • Chairman: J.J. Hurtley, Esq.
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 7 men, 1 woman, 8 total

Lectures and Public Meetings:

  • Chairman: Miss Fryer, BA
  • Secretary: Miss E.M. Bell, MSc
  • 16 men, 6 women, 22 total


  • Chairman: Major Pochin, MC, MA
  • Secretary: A.H. Surman, Esq., BA
  • 20 men, 17 women, 37 total

Afternoon Displays:

  • Chairman: F.J. Linggood, Esq.
  • Secretary: Frank L. Notley, Esq.

Designs and Costumes:

  • Chairman: Mrs Watson
  • Secretary: Miss Hardy
  • 42 women, 6 men, 48 total

Horse Committee:

  • Chairman: E. Waterman, Esq.
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 5 men, 0 women, 5 total

Central Workrooms Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs Robinson


  • Chairman: W. McBretney, Esq., BSC, AMIEE
  • Secretary: W.D. Hills, Esq.
  • 11 men, 1 woman, 12 total


  • Chairman: Tracy Robson, Esq., ARAM
  • Secretary: A. Paulin, Esq.
  • 22 men, 9 women, 31 total


  • Chairman: E. Waterman, Esq.
  • Secretary: W. Russell
  • 8 men, 1 woman, 9 total


  • Chairman: E. Wilson, Esq.
  • 18 men, 0 women, 18 total

Educational Exhibition:

  • Organiser: Frank L. Notley

Episode Committees:

Episode I: Crayford

  • Chairman: Mr H.G. Pearce
  • Vice-Chairman: Mr W. Ranshaw
  • Hon. Secretaries: Mrs A.R. Stacy and Mr B.T. Ellis
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr P. Rockcliffe
  • Stage Manager: Mr E. Redpath
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Mr P.C. Chalk
  • Marshalls: R.H. Thomas and Mr F. Arnold
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs G.M. Vernon-Hill
  • Properties Master: Mr A.H. Ball
  • Master of Music: Mr A.W. Standidge
  • Properties Committee: 13 men
  • Costumes Committee: 24 women
  • Sub-Committee for Lecture’s: 3 women

Episode II: Swanscombe, Stone and Greenhithe

  • Chairmen: Mr W.H. Robinson, MD, and Mr A.C. Davis, JP
  • Vice-Chairmen: Mr A. Entwhistle and Mr W.R. Lineham
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr W. Moore
  • Stage Manager: Mr W.N. West
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Mr F.F. Duerth
  • Marshal: Mr C.E. Clayton
  • Costume Mistress: Miss Williams
  • Property Master: Mr W.H. Hayes
  • Hon. Secretaries: Mr F.F. Duerth and Miss E.C. Pickett
  • District Representatives Stone: 3 women, 3 men
  • District Representatives Swanscombe: 2 men
  • District Representatives Greenhithe: 6 men, 2 women

Episode III: Bexley

  • Chairman: Mr P.H. Waistell
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr B.S. Noakes
  • Hon. Secretaries: Rev J. Bedworth Jones and Mr R.C. Sweet
  • Property Masters: Mr White and Mr Weait
  • Marshals: Colonel Roe, Mrs Knowles and Miss Tidd
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Miss M. Lucas and Mrs Antenbring
  • Producer: Mr Norman Paine
  • General Committee: 23 women, 21 men
  • Performers Committee: 21 women, 17 men
  • Finance Committee: 5 men, 1 woman

Episode IV: Dartford

  • Chairman: Mr B. Champion
  • Vice-Chairman: Mr A. Colville
  • Property Master: Mr W. McBretney
  • Secretary: Rev F.W. Jordan
  • Stage Manager: Mr J.D.S. Braemar
  • Lady Manager: Mrs Braemar
  • Treasurer: Mr J. Kinghorn
  • Rep on Music Committee: Mr E.C. Stables
  • Marshals: Captain B.E. Waterman and Colonel Clapham
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Robinson
  • Rep on Central Transport Committee: Miss Rye-Davies
  • Sub-Committee to deal with allocation of parts: 2 women, 3 men
  • Finance Committee: 2 men, 1 woman
  • Transport Sub-Committee: 1 man, 2 women
  • Costumes Sub Committee: 5 women
  • Committee: 11 women

Episode V: Erith

  • President: Mrs Frank Clarke
  • Chairman: Mrs A.T. Macdonald
  • Vice-Chairman: Rev W.M. Browne
  • Stage Managers: Mr R.H. Starkey and Mr F.H. Trollope
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Skjold
  • Property Mistress: Miss J. Watson
  • Treasurer: Mrs Canton
  • Secretary: Miss H. Wilson
  • Assistant Secretary: Miss D. Clarke
  • Members of Committee: 11 men, 9 women
  • Properties Sub-Committee: 3 women, 3 men
  • Representatives on central committees: 3 men, 2 women

Episode VI: Bexley Heath

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Spenser, Edmund
  • Pope, Alexander
  • Liddiard, E. Stratton
  • Rogers, M.H.
  • Jenkins, E.M.
  • Evans, Frederic
  • Surman, A.H.


  • Prologue. Words adapted, in the main, from the works of Spenser and Pope.
  • Episode I. Written by E. Stratton Liddiard on Historical Notes supplied by Miss C. Keen BA.
  • Episode II. Written by E. Stratton Liddiard on Historical Notes supplied by S. Priest, FGS.
  • Episode III. Written by M.H. Rogers, MA, Barrister at Law and M.W. Dalton, BA
  • Episode IV. Written by Miss E.M. Jenkins, BA.
  • Episode V. Written by Frederic Evans, MBE, MA. Historical notes supplied by Miss C. Keen, BA.
  • Episode VI. Written by A.H. Surman, BA, and E. Stratton Liddiard.

Names of composers

  • Grieg, Edvard
  • Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich
  • Elgar, Edward
  • Anderson, H.
  • Spain-Dunk, Susan

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Profit of £22. 8s. 2d.

Object of any funds raised

Local charities

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3000
  • Total audience: 30000

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

11s. 6d.–2s.

Numbered and reserved seats under cover: 2s. 4d.; 3s. 6.; 5s. 9d.; 8s. 6d.; 11s. 6d.
Reserved but not under cover: 3s. 6d.; 3s.; 2s. 4d.; 2s.

Associated events

Great Civic Service (Sunday 17 July 1932, 3pm) Hall Place, Bexley.

Afternoon Displays:
Tuesday 19 July:
  • 3pm. Displays by members of the St John Ambulance Brigade and British Red Cross Society.
  • 3.25pm. Folk Dancing Display by pupils of the Bexleyheath Central School for Girls.
  • 3.50pm. Infant Percussion Bands. Display by the Bexleyheath Woolwich Road, Welling Council and East Wickham Infants’ Schools.
  • 4.10pm. Demonstration of Gymnastics and Dancing by students of the Bergman Osterberg Physical Training College.
  • 4.40pm. Display by members of the Dartford Grammar School Training Corps. 
Friday 22 July:
  • 3pm. Display by Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.
  • 3.40pm. Physical Training Display by members of the Dartford Grammar School Officers’ Training Corps. 
  • 4.15pm. Push Ball Competition. Dartford and Bexleyheath Police.
  • 4.45pm. Vocal Selections by Choir of the Bexleyheath Central School for Boys.
  • 5pm. Physical training display by boys of the Welling Central School. 
  • 5.15pm. Tug-of-War Competition. Dartford and Bexleyheath Police. 

Pageant Ball at Crayford Town Hall (Friday 22 July 1932). Tickets (including supper) 10s. 6d.

Pageant outline


Clio, the Muse of History, enters the arena, attended by the Spirits of Pomp, Revelry, Joy and Grief. Clio addresses the audience, welcoming ‘England’s lovers’ to see the ‘coloured tapestry of time unfold’. Clio then addresses Father Thames, calling him to awaken. The Spirit of the Changing Year then enters, and also addresses Thames, prophesising that agriculture will grow up on his banks. The Spirit then turns to Promise (the Spirit of Spring), and instructs them to paint a picture of Spring. Nymphs of Spring then dance in. The Spirit of the Changing Year then instructs the Spirits of Summer, Autumn, and Winter, who respond in the same way. Clio then again addresses the audience, telling them of the historical people they will see.

Episode I

Scene I. Withdrawal of the Roman Legions, 350–418 AD

The scene is an open space on the road at Creccanford (Crayford). Roman legionaries assemble, awaiting soldiers from elsewhere, before they continue their march to march to the coast to defend the Western Empire against the Visigoths. A group of native women talk amongst themselves about the departure of the soldiers, joking that all they have done is ‘road-making and love-making.’ British Chieftains enter with attendants by one entrance; and another group of Britons by another. It transpires that the British Chieftains are working for Caesar and taking offerings and goods from the group of native Britons. They argue about whether submission to Rome is worth it for freedom and justice. A centurion then enters, followed by other centurions and the General. The British Chieftains hail Caesar, as British women who have married centurions lament their leaving. The centurions arm the Chieftains, instructing them to ‘take up the burden of your race’. A matron predicts the downfall of the Empire.

Scene II. Battle of Creccanford, 457 AD

Two boys, Caradoc and Cedric, enter with food, followed by women, children and men. They joke about their mother’s greed for pheasant legs, before talking about the rumour that the murderous Saxon Hengist has invaded—with Vortimer the son of Vortigern, their Prince, being caught in an ambush. Britons then rush in with arms and broken staves, wounded and distraught, crying that the Saxons are coming. Vortimer and Algar soon appear, fighting a rear guard action against Hengist and his soldiers. Eventually Hengist kills Votrimer, and Algar is struck down. The Britons flee, pursued by Saxons. A woman consoles her father as he dies, and laments the Romans leaving. A Priest enters and claims he can see the future, and a peaceful, holier, life. St Paulinus then enters with a cross and monks, who chant Dies Irae. Algar appears, and raises his hands in supplication, declaring Peace and Goodwill, before dying.

Episode II. Kentishmen Dictating Terms to Duke William, 1066

Scene I. The scene is Swanscombe woods overlooking the Thames. William of Normandy, advancing on London after the Battle of Hastings, is trapped and makes terms with Men of Kent. Count Sweyne enters with servants. Boys play in the background. Archbishop Stigand and Abbot Egelsine enter with villagers and attendants, and are welcomed by the local people. They are seated at their thrones. Robust villagers debate with the holy men about continuing to fight William—stating that his victory over Harold was a fluke. Egelsine instead, diplomatically, suggests that they may secure their privileges and customs by bargaining. An old villager suggests they set up a glade in which to ambush William, in order to force him into accepting terms. Count Sweyne sets the villagers to work creating the glade.

Scene II. Duke William enters with men, and they pitch their tent, having marched enough for one day. They settle down and play games. Villagers and Count Sweyne enter, hidden by boughs. They creep up and surround the tent, and capture William’s guards. Stigand and Egelsine move toward William and instruct him to accept the terms of the Kentish folk. He assents, impressed by their cunning.

Episode III. Edward the Black Prince at Hall Place, Blexley, 10 October 1361

The setting is the village green near Hall Place in the morning. A busy village scene—with pedlars, constables, vagabonds, offenders, and lepers—takes place. The locals talk about the Black Prince and his marrying the Fair Maid of Kent (Joan Plantagenet). A hunting party of the Lord and Lady of the Manor enters and talks with some of the better-born locals, before a horseman enters and announces that the Prince has wed the Fair Maid of Kent and is now approaching. The villagers gather and gossip excitedly, and a fair is set up. The Black Prince then arrives with his Lady Joan, and other nobles. The Lord of the Manor welcomes the Black Prince—who graciously talks to the locals and also releases a criminal from the stocks. Dancing takes place, and other frivolities. The Black Prince announces that he has enjoyed his day, and states that he sees ‘the unity that here prevails despite the heavy burdens laid upon you. But ‘tis you, young men and maidens, who are the guardians of our future. And, your service and industry, will bring peace and prosperity to this great land of ours.’ He gives out money as all cheer, before leaving to Hall Place.

Episode IV

Scene I. The Visitation of Dartford Priory, May 1373 AD

An Ale-Seller sets up a booth. Bystanders talk about the visit of the Lord Bishop, who has come to see their ‘worthy’ Prioress. The crowd begins to collect as a fair-like atmosphere builds, with dancing. The Lord and Lady of the Manor enter. A Miracle Play, depicting Noah trying to persuade his wife to board the Ark, takes place. A horn then sounds, leading to silence, as the chanting of Nuns grows louder. They enter in procession and take up position, awaiting the Bishop—who eventually enters with other clerks and vicars. The Bishop blesses the Nuns, before leaving. As the Nuns, led by the Prioress, go back into the Priory, the crowd also disperses.

Scene II. The Peasant’s Revolt of 6 June 1381

Peasants talk together excitedly, sensing that mischief is brewing. The Seneschal of the Manor tries to send the peasants back to work—but they refuse and he leaves. A tax collector enters with the frightened screaming daughter of Wat Tyler, followed by an angry crowd and the girl’s mother. He treats the girl contemptuously, to the anger of the crowd, who eventually rescue her. Wat Tyler and his men now enter, armed and carrying booty they have taken from the house of Thomas de Shardelowe of Dartford—who they also drag behind. Tyler, told of the assault on his daughter, stabs the tax collector without any argument. He announces that ‘So ends, and so shall end, all knavish tyrants. We will to the King!’ The crowd grows in fervour and is joined by Abel Ker and the men of Erith and Robert Cave and the men of Essex—also armed heavily. They all unite. The men of Surrey now enter and march on the Priory; they also are armed. The Prioress comes out, bravely, and is told by the Surrey men that they refuse to work for her any longer. She smiles but shakes her head. Dartford men and Wat Tyler intervene and tell the Surrey men that they will take all of their complaints to the King. Robert Baker, Stephen Hosteler and Will Hosteler of Dartford enter with a group of peasents, followed by a group of Knights. The peasants capture and force the Knights and Abbot to swear to take them to the King, which they do. Led by Tyler, the peasants resolve to march to the King. A Soothsayer predicts that Wat Tyler will be killed, but Tyler ignores him and leaves.

Episode V

Scene I. The Trimuphal Procession of Henry V along Watling Street on his Return from Agincourt, 22 November, 1415

Townsfolk assemble, as a Herald announces that the King of England and Heir of France will be stopping to give thanks to God for victories. The Abbot of Lesnes Abbey enters, as do nobles, and a company of Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. There is martial music and a song of soldiers can be heard. Companies of Bowmen, Pikemen, Footmen, and Seamen enter, each singing a song of victory in Agincourt, and ending their verse with ‘Hurrah for St George! Hurrah for Old England!’ The King’s Chaplains enter, led by Prior Thomas Elmham, followed by the King’s surgeons, Thomas Morstede, William Breowardine and Nicholas Colnet. A Royal Herald announces the King, who enters with his knights and nobles and princes. The King is on his horse, wearing a rich crown over his helmet. He faces his army, which also carries French prisoners of noble birth. The King calls for silence, and addresses the crowd, announcing that they will now thank God. Several prayers are then given in Latin. After this the King’s mood becomes jovial, and the Agincourt Song is sung—celebrating the King’s victory. Eventually the King bids farewell, and leaves, followed by his army, still singing.

Scene II. Henry V’s Funeral Procession along Watling Street on the way from France to London, 1422

Solemn music is heard. The funeral procession enters and is met by Edmund Lacey, the Bishop of Exeter. In front of the funeral car are priests bearing lighted candles. Behind follows the King’s charger led by an esquire. Following the car, as chief mourner, walks James I, King of Scotland. He is followed by the King’s brothers, John, Duke of Bedford and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Then comes Robert Babthorp, Controller of the Household, and finally the Duke of Exeter (uncle of the King). Queen Katherine enters with a great retinue of ladies. A solemn requiem is sung by the priests as the cortege enters, and the procession passes off to the music of the Immortal Legion.

Episode VI. May Day, 1515

Village maidens dressed for May Day enter. The Yeomen of the King’s Guard also enters, disguised in Lincoln Green. The May Queen enters. The Captain of the King’s Guard, disguised as Robin Hood, approaches the May Queen, informing her that they are turning Shooters Hill into Sherwood Forest. King Henry VIII enters with the Duke of Suffolk, Marquis of Dorset, Earl of Essex and other lords. Robin Hood enters, and informs the King that they will perform archery for him. The King is impressed, and joins them in archery—shooting down a goose, much to the crowd’s delight. Robin Hood again approaches the King and invites him for an ‘outlaw breakfast’ of poached venison. The King and Catherine accept, leaving to where the breakfast will be served. The real Robin Hood then enters, dressed as a shepherd, with other yeomen in disguises, including as the Bishop of Hereford. A humorous scene takes place, where the Bishop accuses the fake Robin Hood of poaching; Robin Hood panics and begs for pardon; Little John threatens the fake Bishop; and the fake Bishop then begs for pardon himself! After the Bishop is driven off, the May Queen is taken to the Royal Arbour, and a dance is performed. Henry VIII declares their dancing is graceful and their shooting keen. He ends by saying: ‘You foretell a time of beauty, hope and laughter: and in those very signs I see great promise of fame in years to come’ and ‘A changing world, made great by England’s changes, shall see unchanged this English countryside…’

Grand Finale

The leading characters and a number of the crowd from all episodes enter. A voice declares how the past has told of war and love, of violence and purity, of victory and death, and of gaiety and pomp. Men and women of every trade and occupation then enter, as the voice goes on to describe how the present tells of learning and of labour, of strength and skill, of saving and of serving, of courage and hopes. A young boy and girl then appear, as the voice proclaims the future. The youths take bundles of sticks and promise to ‘take up the burden of the years to come.’ The crowd sing the hymn ‘Oh God Our Help in Ages Past’, and fall back on their knees as the young boy and girl leave past them. As they reach the edge of a gold carpet, all lights go out except one, which is concentrated on the pair, who climb up a golden staircase and then turn to the audience. They put their bundles on the ground, hold hands, and raise their other hands fully outstretched upwards. The hymn ends; the crowd stands up; the lights come back on, and all sing ‘God Save the King’.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Stigand (d. 1072) archbishop of Canterbury
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Edward [Edward of Woodstock; known as the Black Prince], prince of Wales and of Aquitaine (1330–1376) heir to the English throne and military commander
  • Joan, suo jure countess of Kent, and princess of Wales and of Aquitaine [called the Fair Maid of Kent] (c.1328–1385)
  • Chandos, Sir John (d. 1370) soldier and administrator
  • Mauny [Manny], Sir Walter (c.1310–1372) soldier and founder of the London Charterhouse
  • Brinton, Thomas (d. 1389) bishop of Rochester
  • Tyler, Walter [Wat] (d. 1381) leader of the peasants' revolt
  • Henry V (1386–1422) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • John [John of Lancaster], duke of Bedford (1389–1435) regent of France and prince
  • Humphrey [Humfrey or Humphrey of Lancaster], duke of Gloucester [called Good Duke Humphrey] (1390–1447) prince, soldier, and literary patron
  • Beaufort, Thomas, duke of Exeter (1377?–1426) magnate and soldier
  • Babthorpe, Sir Robert (d. 1436) soldier and administrator
  • James I (1394–1437) king of Scots
  • Catherine [Catherine of Valois] (1401–1437) queen of England, consort of Henry V
  • Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII
  • Bourchier, Henry, second earl of Essex (1472–1540) magnate
  • Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545) magnate, courtier, and soldier
  • Tuck, Friar (fl. 15th cent.) legendary outlaw

Musical production

Choir of 500, orchestra of 100

Programme of Music:
Orchestral Music:
  • “Morning Mood”, Grieg
  • “Danse Des Mirlitons”, Tchaikovsky
  • “The March Triumphant Thunders” (Choral and Orchestral Overture), Sir Edward Elgar
  • “Enigma Variations”, Sir Edward Elgar
  • “Solemn Music”, H. Anderson
  • “Processional March”, H. Anderson
  • “Kentonia”, Susan Spain-Dunk

Choral Music:
  • March Triumphal Thunders
  • Britons Alert
  • Dies Irae
  • A Hunting We Will Go
  • With Hawk and Hound
  • Fainthful and True
  • Summer is a Coming In
  • Song of the Pedlar
  • Gloria (12th Mass)
  • Song of the Army 
  • Chant (A)
  • Chant (B)
  • Agincourt Song
  • Marching Song of the Army of Agincourt
  • Requiem
  • The Immortal Legions
  • Come Here’s to Robin Hood and Barbara Allen
  • Shepherd’s Dance (women only)
  • O God our Help in Ages Past
  • Bingo
  • Here’s a Health unto his Majesty
  • Fairest Isle
  • Lass of Richmond Hill
  • The Hunt’s up
  • John Peel
  • It was a Love and his Lass
  • National Anthem 

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
West Kent Advertiser

Book of words

Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant. Dartford, 1932.

Other primary published materials

  • Official Souvenir and Programme of Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant and Industrial Development Exhibition. Dartford, 1932.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre holds various programmes, cuttings and photographs.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Dartford Historical Pageant was one of the final civic extravaganzas produced by the famous pageant master Frank Lascelles. In his typical fashion,1 the pageant was a large and spectacular affair, with a cast of 4000, a choir of 500, an orchestra of 100, and a 3000-seat capacity grandstand (there was also standing room for another 4000). Taking part in the pageant were performers and organisers from the Districts (five Urban and one Rural) that made up the Dartford Parliamentary Division of Kent. Since the Dartford Division was not a municipal borough, and the District Councils thus lacked the power to spend public money on organising the pageant, £2000 was instead raised through voluntary guarantees. Frank Clarke, the MP for the Division and chairman of the Pageant General Committee, put a popular spin on this, declaring that ‘Local government bodies, industrial undertakings, employers and artisans are united in a common purpose to demonstrate that in the industrial future of this division they have a confidence that present clouds cannot darken.’2 As well as this industrial ‘boosterist’ aspect, the pageant was also part of a local and regional movement towards municipal incorporation in light of the ever-increasing growth of London.3

Alongside the pageant there was an industrial exhibition, organised by industrialists ‘with the object of making more widely known the excellent facilities in the area for a manufacturing centre’.4 Even though the profits were to go to local charities, the West Kent Advertiser also ‘hoped’ that there would ‘be a definite betterment of the economic conditions’ of the district.5 In this sense Dartford was by no means unique; many other industrial towns and cities had turned to historical pageantry as a means to boost industry and civic stability during the Great Depression. Examples included Carlisle (1928), Stoke-on-Trent (1930), Bradford (1931), and Leicester (1932). Frank Clarke, the MP for Dartford who had been elected the previous year, was explicit about this purpose. At a luncheon given by the three Rotary Clubs of the Dartford Division, he toasted the press, and told them that the pageant

not merely recalls our historic past, but is deliberately designed to mark the change of local conditions made in our time… this was an agricultural constituency with hardly more than half-a-dozen small townships or shopping centres. To-day, it is the largest industrial division of Kent.6

History and continuity was vital to this publicity exercise. As Clarke also told the press, the pageant showed how Dartford was reproducing ‘a succession of events unsurpassed in their indication of new epochs in our national story’ while also ‘adding the story of our vivid present, our industrial development.’7 Lascelles, following Clarke, said that ‘By the deeds of their ancestors they could show what had been achieved in the past and what the people of to-day could do for the future.’8 To those associated with the pageant, it was vital that this effort had come from the people—and would continue to do so. Lord Cornwallis, when opening the penultimate performance of the pageant, reminded the crowds that the pageant showed the history and enthusiasm of former citizens, while the industrial exhibition showed the present and future—‘the pioneering spirit based on pride of the country and ancestry that has carried England through the centuries from strength to strength.’9 The Lord Bishop of Rochester, Dr Linton Smith, gave a classic Civic Sunday pageant service sermon, reminding the 5000-strong crowd in the arena that the pageant helped ‘to recall the splendour of past history, the great deeds that had made this country what it is to-day’, including the ‘common or ordinary men and women of days gone by who had done their share towards making this nation of ours what it is.’ The pageant thus provided guidance; Smith warned that ‘We must heed the lessons of the past if we are to do our best for the future’.10

The pageant thus drew primarily on themes of local pride and the importance of the common people. Lascelles continued the expressive style that he had first pioneered at Oxford in 1907 and honed in the inter-war years, and used flood-lighting, microphones, and amplifiers extensively.11 He again also utilised the huge cast for large and colourful crowd scenes. As the Observer newspaper pointed out, however, the crowd was not just a mass of extras, but was ‘differentiated’—with both ‘low life’ and ‘high life’ shown clearly.12 This reflected a more general shift in the period; according to pageant-master Nugent Monck, ‘the central theme of modern pageantry’ was the depiction of the ‘influence of the crowd’, by which he meant ‘the increasing power of the man in the street to organize his life’.13 As Clarke also explained, the pageant’s episodes thus illustrated how ‘the ordinary natural instincts of our people became the paramount force, and how in a courageous spirit smilingly expressed the resolve of a self-reliant people overcame the difficulties of their times.’14 In the context of possible economic depression, such an ethos likely aimed at creating some local hope and buoyancy, and was a simple yet effective way to make pageants more relatable to large crowds of urban-industrial workers.

The Prologue, in classic historical pageantry form, showed a ‘Muse of History’ welcoming the audience to watch the unravelling of time and history. The two-part opening episode was equally characteristic, and featured the Romans (in this instance leaving the country), and then the Saxons (in a murderous invasion). Both scenes concentrated particularly on spectacle, and also on how the lives of the common folk were affected by wider historical change. The second episode, also made up of two parts, played on notions of Kentish bravery, cunning and pride by showing rural villagers tricking William the Conqueror into accepting terms beneficial to the locality. The third episode showed Edward the Black Prince visiting Hall Place in 1361, and concentrated on fun, frivolity, and celebration. The scene ended with the Prince, seemingly in a nod to the 1930s economic condition of Britain, predicting that ‘unity… here prevails despite the heavy burdens laid upon you. But ‘tis you, young men and maidens, who are the guardians of our future. And, your service and industry, will bring peace and prosperity to this great land of ours.’

The fourth episode was perhaps the most interesting and also most out of place, depicting as it did the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. A long scene, with much action and fighting, it seems unclear if a political point was being made by the author, Miss E.M. Jenkins. Certainly, the tax collector who kicked off the revolt was shown in a negative light—but Tyler’s response to the former’s apprehending of his daughter was also portrayed as cold and callous. But if Lascelles was celebrating Tyler’s insubordination, he did not show Tyler’s eventual stand-off with the King—which would seem to be a missed opportunity. It seems likely, therefore, that a pageant of West Kent would have been impossible to imagine without the revolt, and so Lascelles went for excitement rather than controversy.

The fifth episode returned to safer staples of pageantry, featuring the visit of a king—Henry V—to the area, as well as his funeral procession. Such scenes readily allowed for large casts, expressive music, and colourful costuming. In a similar vein, the sixth and final episode returned to the fun and frivolity of the common people, by depicting a May Day in 1515 and the japes of Robin Hood and his merry men. In this episode Henry VIII predicted a ‘changing world, made great by England’s changes’ but also an ‘unchanged English countryside’. The finale achieved the industrial promotion that the pageant and exhibition were aiming toward, by having men and women of every trade and occupation marching in, and youths taking up bundles of sticks to ‘take up the burden of the years to come’.15

At the same time as promoting industrial development and civic responsibility, the pageant also spoke to more general questions of the potential conflict between the Division and the growth of London, and the importance of Borough Incorporation in this light. According to Clarke, in the foreword to the pageant souvenir, the Division was ‘resolute in its refusal to be absorbed into the metropolitan area’. As he recognised, many of the inhabitants of the rapidly growing area were newcomers, attracted by its relative industrial prosperity. For them, the pageant was a chance to ‘more harmoniously mingle with the native community’ and thus create ‘a common bond of local association.’16 As with other pageants in the vicinity of London, such as Harrow in 1923, the Dartford Division Pageant tried to secure the vitality and independence of place through popular performance and the stimulation of civic pride.

As Willliam F. Blay, former Chair of the Urban District Council in 1926, explained to the West Kent Advertiser in early 1933, incorporation had several benefits (arguably similar to those that Clarke pointed out). Most important was its ‘status’ and ‘dignity’—vital for a body dealing with ‘the Government Departments, County Council, and neighbouring authorities’. As he went on to explicitly state:

There is also about a municipal borough freedom from attack by a neighbouring authority which a District Council does not possess. There is no instance on record of a borough being annexed against its will by a neighbouring authority, a very important matter when considering the rapid growth of outer London and the close proximity of this town to London.17

As the Times noted, Dartford’s incorporation was part of a more general movement of urban districts to incorporated boroughs, a ‘burst of municipal energy, especially on the outskirts of London’. The paper remarked that such ‘signs of patriotism’ were ‘especially welcome because the newly created municipalities are largely ‘dormitory’ towns’ of ‘Central London’. Indeed, it is notable that it was the Lord Mayor of London who performed the ceremonies at Dartford, Willesden, and Wood Green. As the Times reported, the Mayor saw the

ancient City and the metropolitan boroughs being steadily ringed round in their orbit by more and more satellite bodies, which are now to shine with increased radiance. It would be regrettable, though pardonable, if the dwellers in the new boroughs were to be content with merely sleeping in them, and were to reserve their civic pride for the scene of their daily labours. But clearly it is not so; in each case the grant of the new dignity has been acclaimed with unmistakable popular satisfaction.18

When making the case for the incorporation to a public inquiry authorised by the Ministry of Health, Clarke drew on a sense of local history by outlining both the esteemed past and the industrious present of the Division. Dartford, he argued, had ancient history; commercial importance; strong civic consciousness; strong local association; and was a pivotal town for ecclesiastical, judicial and governmental authorities. Standing proudly as an example of this spirit and history, he told the inquiry, was the industrial exhibition and historical pageant in 1932. Incorporation would, in his opinion, ‘add to the civic sentiment which the town’s history and tradition have aroused.’19

When it became probable that incorporation was going to be successful, the West Kent Advertiser responded by running a ‘Dartford—Past and Present’ series of articles, which told of the place’s ‘Proud History and Promising Future’.20 For the newspaper, it was vital that residents and ratepayers knew the history of the place: ‘How else can he acquire that feeling of pride which comes of knowledge that he is a citizen of no mean city?’21 The granting of a charter of incorporation was, perhaps unsurprisingly, celebrated not just with civic processions and ceremonies, but by another historical pageant: ‘Dartford in the Making’.22 Some 900 performers took part, depicting scenes in the history of the town from the Stone Age to the present day.23 A large civic celebration was thus another day ‘which would be outstanding in Dartford’s history’.24

To conclude, the Dartford Pageant of 1932 was both a success and indicative of wider trends in British social history. The Times reported that ‘All the episodes were carried out excellently; the blending of colour was charming’.25 The West Kent Advertiser, naturally, went overboard in its praise, reporting that the pageant was ‘one of the finest ever seen in the country… For sheer artistry, glorious life and colour, and efficient organisation… [the pageant] will stand out as a great triumph and a thing of joy that will linger in the minds of thousands, performers and sightseers, for long years to come’. The newspaper did have some small complaints, however—particularly the use of loudspeakers, which meant that performers had to be just the right distances from microphones, so limiting their movement.26 Though early performances were not as well attended as expected, by the end of the run the pageant was pulling in crowds of 8000. Altogether, attendance at the Pageant exceeded 30000 and the Industrial Exhibition 50000.27 The pageant made a small profit of £22. 8s. 2d., and the industrial exhibition a better return of £198.28

Frank Clarke had concluded his foreword in the souvenir by predicting that the pageant would ‘open this year a new page in the history of our Division—a page in which shall be written the simple, but not inglorious, story of how a resolute and cheerfully-disposed people won its collective way to a merrier and more prosperous Dartford Division.’29 In the sense that the pageant seemingly awoke a civic enthusiasm in Dartford and supported the town’s claim to incorporation, Clarke was probably right. With a profit, a fairly high attendance, and moderate plaudits in both local and national newspapers, the pageant was another example of the continued popularity of urban historical pageants in depression-era Britain. Dartford held a further pageant in 1951.


  1. ^ See entries for Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford and Leicester pageants. See also Deborah Sugg Ryan, ‘The Man who Staged the Empire: Remembering Frank Lascelles in Sibford Gower, 1875–2000’, in Material Memories, ed. Marius Kwint, Christopher Breward and Jeremy Aynsley (Oxford, 1999), 159-179.
  2. ^ ‘Press and Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 15 July 1932, 10.
  3. ^ Clough Williams-Ellis, England and the Octopus (London, 1928) is the classic treatise on the extensive suburbanisation that occurred in these years.
  4. ^ ‘Pageant of Kent’, The West Kent Advertiser, 15 July 1932, 5.
  5. ^ ‘The Black Prince Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 24 June 1932, 8.
  6. ^ ‘Press and Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 15 July 1932, 10.
  7. ^ Ibid., 10.
  8. ^ Ibid., 10.
  9. ^ ‘Kent’s Great Historical Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 29 July 1932, 2.
  10. ^ ‘Kent’s Great Historical Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 22 July 1932, 2.
  11. ^ ‘Great Moments in History’, The Observer, 17 July 1932, 15.
  12. ^ Ibid., 15.
  13. ^ Nugent Monck, ‘English Fond of Pageantry’, Portsmouth Evening News, 7 June 1938, 6.
  14. ^ Franke Clarke, MP, ‘The Member’s Foreword’, in Official Souvenir and Programme of Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant and Industrial Development Exhibition (Dartford, 1932).
  15. ^ For the quotations, see Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant (Dartford, 1932), np.
  16. ^ Clarke, ‘The Member’s Foreword’.
  17. ^ ‘The Effect of Incorporation’, The West Kent Advertiser, 17 March 1933, 3.
  18. ^ ‘Municipal Energy’, The Times, 20 September 1933, 11.
  19. ^ ‘The Borough of Dartford?’ The West Kent Advertiser, 3 February 1933, 8.
  20. ^ ‘Dartford—Past and Present’, The West Kent Advertiser, 10 March 1933, 3.
  21. ^ Ibid., 3.
  22. ^ ‘Historic Kentish Township’, The Times, 9 August 1933, 8.
  23. ^ ‘The New Borough of Dartford’, The Times, 14 September 1933, 7.
  24. ^ ‘When the Charter Comes’, West Kent Advertiser, 19 May 1933, 1.
  25. ^ ‘Pageant of Kent’, The Times, 19 July 1932, 12.
  26. ^ ‘Kent’s Great Historical Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 22 July 1932, 2.
  27. ^ Ibid., 2; ‘Kent’s Great Historical Pageant’, The West Kent Advertiser, 29 July 1932, 2; ‘The Pageant Result’, The West Kent Advertiser, 5 August 1932, 5.
  28. ^ ‘Dartford’s Pageant and Industrial Exhibition’, The West Kent Advertiser, 10 February 1933, 6.
  29. ^ Clarke, ‘The Member’s Foreword’.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Dartford Division of Kent Historical Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1047/