The Unsheathed Sword: Centenary Pageant at Reigate Priory
Place: Reigate Priory (Reigate) (Reigate, Surrey, England)
Number of performances: 11
4–14 September 1963, at 8pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Devised, written and directed by [Pageant Master]: Hummel, Cecile
- Chairman: Alderman G.H. Searle
- Hon. Secretary: J.H. Patterson
- Properties: D. Allen, P. Ashton
- Programme Production: J. Anderson
- Technical Director: P. Bleasby
- Musical Director: L. Fowler
- Stands and Staging: J. Langran
- Assistant Producer and Arena Manager: C. Macadie
- House Management: P. Mortimer-Smith
- Equestrian Adviser: N. Peters
- Treasury: H. Roberts
- Technical Adviser: M. Rubeck
- Publicity and Box Office: G. Simmons
- Committee Secretary: S. Walby
- Wardrobe: G. Webb
- Treasurer: E.J. Wills
- Mistress of Horse: S. Williams
- Episode One Producer: John Northover
- Episode Two Producer: Joyce Powell
- Episode Three Producer: Anthony Powell
- Episode Four Producer: Keith Louis
- Episode Five Producer: Penny Jennings
- Episode Six Producer: Geoff Miller
- Episode Seven Producer: Barbara Raglan
- Episode Eight Producer: George Robertson
- Episode Nine Producer: Geoff Miller
- Episode Ten Producer: Jean Osborne
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Hummel, Cecile
Names of composers
- Bartok, Bela
- Bax, Arnold
- Bliss, Arthur
- Chabrier, Emmanuel
- Clarke, Jeremiah
- Copland, Aaron
- Handel, George Frideric
- Ibert, Jacques
- Rossini, Gioachino
- Shostakovich, Dmitri
- Sibelius, Jean
- Stravinsky, Igor
- Williams, Ralph Vaughan
- Villa-Lobos, Heitor
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
Linked occasionCentenary of the incorporation of Reigate borough.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Scene One. Reigate in 1863
Thomas Dann, first Mayor of Reigate, wins the right to sit on the Bench as the Representative of the Burgesses of Reigate, ousting William Jollife who had opposed him.
Scene Two. Life as a Serf in 1380
The tyranny of power over the common man.
Scene Three. Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, 1381
The First attempt of the Common Man to break the power of the King and the Ruling Class
Scene Four. The Attempted Arrest of the Five Member. 1642
The Commons of England face the might of the King, and for the first time the Principle of Parliamentary representation is established beyond repeal.
Scene Five. Highwaymen and Smugglers
The sleepy little town of Reigate is untouched by high politics, but travellers on Reigate Heath run into danger from Highwaymen in league with Smugglers on their way from Brighthelmstone to London.
Scene Six. The Dorking Riots. 1833
The discovery of steam leads to the invention of machinery. The Agricultural workers riot, fearing redundancy, burning and destroying farm machinery. Might prevails and once more the Common Man suffers.
Scene Seven. The First Train Through Redhill. 1841
Steam brings advantages to many, and the coming of the Railways means the birth of Redhill as a place of importance in the borough.
Scene Eight. The Corrupt Election of 1865
Although the Common Man now has the right to vote as he wishes for Parliamentary representation, the full franchise and the secret ballot are still in the future, and bribery and corruption are rife in Reigate.
Scene Nine. The March of the Workless. 1933
Thirty years ago the Welfare State was still a dream and the depression of the ‘thirties brought hardship to the workers in the Borough. For the first time the Common Man of Reigate takes his courage in both hands and, defying Authority, pleads for his rights.
Scene Ten. Reigate in 1963
The Welfare State in Action. Each one of us carries the responsibility of Citizenship.
Key historical figures mentioned
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
The Unsheathed Sword: Centenary Pageant at Reigate Priory, Programme. Reigate, 1963. [Price 1s.]
Borough of Reigate Centenary Programme of Events, 1863-1963. Reigate, 1963.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of programme in Surrey History Centre, Woking, 7523/File 2.
- A film was made of the Pageant, ‘Borough of Reigate Centenary Film’: http://sasesearch.brighton.ac.uk/view/?film=6077 (accessed 1 June 2016), and can be watched on the BFI Player, http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-borough-of-reigates-centenary-film-1963-1963/.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
Reigate was no stranger to historical pageantry. A ‘Pilgrim’s Pageant’ was held there in May 1913 in celebration of a successful campaign to raise funds for the preservation of Colley Hill, a local open space. After the ceremony handing the place over to the keeping of the National Trust, hundreds of costumed ‘pilgrims’ trooped along a section of the Pilgrim’s Way to the hill, before engaging in Morris dancing and other scenes of medieval merry-making.1 There were further pageants at Reigate in 1937, 1951 and 1953, the latter (‘The Heritage of the Crown’) being one of the many examples of pageants held to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. These were two more pageants in the 1950s: ‘Surrey Cavalcade’ (1956) and ‘Priory Panorama’ (1959). It seems, however, that the 1963 performance was the last pageant to be held in the town, reflecting the nationwide decline of the movement in these years.2
That said, the 1963 pageant was a significant event nonetheless. Held to commemorate the town’s centenary, it was performed no fewer than eleven times in the grounds of Reigate Priory. Its focus was very much on the locality, the action tracing the history of the place from medieval times to the present day. In contrast to many earlier pageants, while the great events and developments of national history – notably the Peasants’ Revolt, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution – certainly featured, the accent was not so much on the great and the good and their local associations, but with the lot of the masses – in this case, the ‘Common Man’. This was a pageant that explicitly set out to present a narrative of progress from medieval degradation and oppression to the modern-day welfare state, the benefits and responsibilities of which were emphasised with particular strenuousness in the final scene. Summing up the theme of the pageant in one word as ‘citizenship’, the narrator, Humphrey Tilling, made this clear:
we have tried to show the struggle over the last 750 years of the Common Man against Authority, vested first in the power of the Monarchy, and now in the Power of the People.
It is easy to become tyrannical and the Workers, who now wield the Power, could easily become tyrants. Authority rests with each one of us, and it is our task to shoulder the responsibility and rule wisely. The Unsheathed Sword, symbol of the struggle of the Common Men and Women of England to obtain Freedom and Justice, is handed on from generation to generation. The present generation receives the sword and with it the great responsibility of useful Citizenship and the wise use of Power and Authority which is vested in every Citizen.3
The pageant still seems to find an echo in local memories, one resident of Reigate (Rosemary Major) recently recalling her appearance in the final scene, with her father driving a vintage car.4
- See Paul Readman, ‘Preserving the English Landscape, c.1870-1914’, Cultural and Social History, 5 (208), 203, 204-5.
- ‘Colley Hill is another good reason to party’, Surrey Mirror, April 4 2013: http://www.surreymirror.co.uk/Colley-Hill-good-reason-party/story-18607980-detail/story.html (accessed 1 June 2016).
- The Unsheathed Sword: Centenary Pageant at Reigate Priory, Programme (Reigate. 1963), unpaginated.
- http://www.merstham.co.uk/merstham/notice4.htm (accessed 1 June 2016).
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Unsheathed Sword: Centenary Pageant at Reigate Priory’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1171/