Stanmore Centenary Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Stanmore Recreational Ground (Stanmore) (Stanmore, Middlesex, England)

Year: 1950

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


22 July 1950 at 7.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Director of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Carpenter, Lilian
  • Director of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Rouse, Maisie L.
  • Stage Managers: Donald Graham; Thomas Norris
  • Organiser and Secretary: Stanley Crafter
  • Business Manager: Charles Kett
  • Lighting: Charles Pellow
  • Properties: Betty Crafter
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: May Bettles; Josephine Norris; May Pellow; Marjorie Fife
  • Amplification: P.G. Salmon
  • Lighting: Charles Pellow
  • Treasurer: Albert Bettles
  • Costumes and Wigs: Messrs Charles Fox and Co. Ltd
  • Chariot, Coaches and Horse: W. Munt, Radnor Hall Riding School, Elstree
  • Continuity Read by: Bernard Steel
  • Penny Farthing Bicycles: Mr F. Blakoe and the Ordinary Bicycle Club
  • Country Dancing: Peggy Dunn
  • Official Photographer: T.G. Dudley

Names of executive committee or equivalent

The Centenary Committee:

  • Chairman: The Rev. Dr E.F. Carpenter
  • Honorary Secretary: G. Paul
  • Honorary Treasurer: E. Dinsdale-Young
  • Mrs Carpenter
  • Mr and Mrs W. Adam
  • Mr and Mrs C.V. Rouse
  • Messrs R.A. Barron
  • D.E. Bowen
  • R.W. Byford
  • S.E. Crafter
  • J.F. Dunn
  • R.W. Jacquest
  • R.W. Jones
  • F.A. Lark
  • M.H. Lush
  • Rev. A.B. Menezies
  • C.H. Montague
  • F.H. Spear
  • J. Shrimpton
  • Miss H.M. Carrington
  • Mrs B. Fern

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

  • Bowen, David


Though he is uncredited, the pageant is based on Bowen’s Short History of Stanmore (np, 1950) to such an extent that he was almost certainly the author.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

The proceeds of the Centenary Week were devoted to the care and preservation of the Church ‘so that it may be handed on enriched to posterity’.

Linked occasion

Centenary of St John’s Church, Stanmore.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

  • 15 July, 2.30pm, Children’s Garden Party, St John’s (Evening Party, 8pm).
  • 16 July, Sunday Services.
  • 17 July, Centenary Church Service.
  • 18 July, ‘The Stanmore Flitch’: ‘The previous Flitch in Stanmore was so successful that it was agreed to include another one in the Centenary programme. To the couple, who, in the opinion of the jury, have achieved a married life of uninterrupted bliss, the traditional ham will be awarded.’
  • 19 July, ‘Green Fingers’: A Parish Drama by John Dunn.
  • 20 July, Centenary Ball, 9pm–2am, RAF Ballroom, Stanmore Park.
  • 21 July, Stanmore Festival of Music, RAF Hall, Stanmore Park.
  • 22 July, 2.30pm, Procession of the Pageant through Stanmore.

Pageant outline

Episode I. 500 BC. The Meeting of Molmutius, First King of Britain With the Druids

St. John’s (Stanmore) Dramatic Society.

This meeting took place on a site which we know as Stanmore Hill when it was decided that the occasion was worthy of a human sacrifice. The life of the boy was spared and King Molmutius continues on his way to Lymes Holm, the sacred grove.1

Episode II. 61 AD. Boadicea on Her Way to Londinium Passes Through Sulloniacae

North Stanmore Ratepayers Association.

The episode tells of an encounter between Queen Boadicea and two Roman Centurions as she passes through Sullonicae (a stronghold built on Stanmore Hill).

Episode III. 300 AD. The Angles and Saxons Destroy Sulloniacae

The Canons Park Community Centre.

200 years have passed during which the Romans and Britons live together in peace, but the country is now invaded by the Angles and Saxons. Sulloniacae is razed to the ground and after the battle there is nothing left but a heap of stones by the mere, which we now know as Stanmore Spring Ponds.

Episode IV. 793 AD. The First Saxon Church in Old Church Lane

The Church Lads’ Brigade, the First Stanmore Girl Guides and Brownies, and the Harrow Bowmen.

This tells of the origin of the first Saxon Church in Stanemera, which was built on the site of the old Roman Temple in Old Church Lane by the villagers.

Episode V. 1220. Stanmore is Pledged to a Usurer

[No information on performers]

‘Robert of Stanmore’, Lord of the Manor, owes money to the King and so pledges his lands at Stanmore to Bonavite, a usurer.

Episode VI. 1632. Consecration of the Old Brick Church by Bishop Laud

The St. John’s congregation.

Thanks to the generosity of Sir John Wolstenholme, this Church was built in Stanmore. The episode depicts the welcome given by the villagers to Bishop Laud, who arrives to consecrate the Church.

Episode VII. 1720. The Musician Handel at Canons

The Stanmore Choral Society.

The Duke of Chandos and his guests arrange a picnic in the grounds of his palatial home—Canons—and ask Handel to entertain them with music. Accompanied by some of his choristers, they render one of the Anthems composed by Handel in the Duke’s honour.

Episode VIII. 1735. Dick Turpin at Stanmore

Stanmore Dramatic Society.

This records how Dick Turpin, pursued by Bow Street Runners, passed through Stanmore. A young boy fetches him a tankard of ale from the ‘Abercorn Arms’ and later saves his hero by sending the Runners off in the wrong direction.

Episode IX. 1780. The First Stanmore Workhouse

The Mothers’ Meeting.

The Churchwardens were responsible for the maintenance of the first Workhouse which was on Stanmore Hill. The episode shows the overseers reading out the rules to the inmates on Sunday morning before their Church Parade.

Episode X. 1798. The Ninth Earl of Abercorn at Bentley Priory

The Stanmore Dramatic Society.

Staying at Bentley Priory as guests of the Ninth Earl are the poet Wordsworth, Sara Siddons, and Sir William and Lady Hamilton. A young Captain Copley persuades the Earl of Abercorn’s wife, the Marchioness, to elope with him, and the Marquis, on hearing of the plot, sneeringly invites the couple to do so in style in the family coach.

Episode XI. 1814. Louis XVIII of France Meets the Prince Regent at the ‘Abercorn Arms’

The St. John’s (Stanmore) Dramatic Society.

Louis XVIII, having been recalled to the French Throne on the defeat of Napoleon, journeys from Aylesbury to London in a triumphal procession. He is met at the ‘Abercorn Arms’ by the Prince Regent and local gentry who give him a Royal welcome.

Episode XII. 1849. The Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Present Church of St John the Evangelist in the Presence of the Dowager Queen Adelaide

The Mothers’ Union.

The present church was built with money raised by the inhabitants of Stanmore, together with £2000 given by the Earl of Aberdeen and £1000 by his son, the Hon. and Rev. Douglas Gordon, then Rector of Stanmore. The foundation stone is laid by the Earl in the presence of Queen Adelaide, who was living in Stanmore at that time.

Episode XIII. 1890. The Opening of the New Railway in Gordon Avenue

The Women’s Federation and the Stanmore Cricket Club.

After the opening of the newly constructed railway, which was brought to Stanmore for the convenience of Mr Frederick Gordon who himself bore the cost, the villagers repaired to the recreation ground to witness a village cricket match.

Episode XIV. 1925. A Portrayal of Contemporary Life in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

The Nursing Staff of the R.N. Orthopaedic Hospital.

Interlude. March Past

In 1939, war was let loose over Europe and the world, and the men and women of the services were to be seen day by day in the streets of Stanmore.

Includes: Personnel of the RA and WRAC, 571 Regiment; Personnel of the Middlesex County Wing of the ATC, RAF Bentley Priory; Nurses of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

Episode XV. 1945. The Induction of the Present Rector, Dr E.F. Carpenter, by the Lord Bishop of Willesden

[Performed by RAF and Clergy of Willesden Area]

In peace as in war, the work of the church goes on, and so in our final episode we turn another page in the book of Stanmore History with the induction of our present Rector by the Lord Bishop of Willesden, followed by the dedication of a newly born child to the future of the Church, while the spirits of Stanmore past keep their watch over Stanmore present.

‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’.
Blessing by the Bishop of Willesden.
‘God Save the King’.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni
  • Wolstenholme, Sir John (1562–1639) financier and merchant
  • Laud, William (1573–1645) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Handel, George Frideric (1685–1759) composer
  • Brydges, James, first duke of Chandos (1674–1744) politician and patron of music
  • Turpin, Richard [Dick] (bap. 1705, d. 1739) highwayman
  • James, Viscount Hamilton, ninth earl of Abercorn (d. 1814) politician and landowner
  • Wordsworth, William (1770–1850) poet
  • Siddons [née Kemble], Sarah (1755–1831) actress
  • Hamilton, Sir William (1731–1803) diplomatist and art collector
  • Hamilton [née Lyon], Emma, Lady Hamilton (bap. 1765, d. 1815) social celebrity and artist's model
  • Louis XVIII (1755-1824) king of France
  • George IV (1762–1830) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Gordon, George Hamilton-, fourth earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860) prime minister and scholar
  • Adelaide [Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen] (1792–1849) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, consort of William IV

Musical production

Augmented Orchestra of the University College School, under the direction of Mr F.A. Lark, FRCO. Fanfares by 3rd Cadet Regiment, Herts Yeomanry, RA. Pieces performed included:

  • ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’.
  • ‘God Save the King’.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times

Book of words


None available.

Other primary published materials

  • Programme of the Stanmore Centenary Pageant; Being a History of Our Village Through the Ages, Written by Constance Major to Commemorate the Centenary of the Present Church. Np, 1950. Price: 4d.
  • The Parish Church of Saint John, Great Stanmore, Centenary Week 15 to 23 July, 1950 Souvenir Programme. Containing a Short History of Stanmore [by David Bowen]. NP, 1950. Price: 2s.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • London Metropolitan Archives:
  • Copy of Programme. Reference DRO/014/Q/010.
  • Two film reels of pageant. DRO/014/L/014/001-002.
  • Information about the centenary celebrations and the pageant, accessed 14 April 2016,
  • Brief description of the silent pageant film, shot in black and white and colour, accessed 14 April 2016,

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The expansion of London, memorably described in H.J. Dyos’ classic study The Victorian Suburb: The Growth of Camberwell (1961)2 was a lengthy, inexorable process, as shown by this pageant. From the consecration of the new parish church in 1850 (which was Queen Adelaide’s last public appearance),3 it was forty years until the arrival of the railway in Stanmore which facilitated the commuter lifestyle made famous in John Betjeman’s poems describing the ‘Metroland’ of the areas to the north west of London.4 While the population barely changed during these years (from 1180 in 1851 to 1473 in 1891), it subsequently increased dramatically to 2688 by 1931.5 Stanmore Station on the Metropolitan Railway (now on the Jubilee Line) opened the following year, which caused the old village railway station to close to passengers in 1952.6

While pageantry was again in full flow by the late 1940s, having returned to its 1939 levels, 1950 saw very few performances. This was in expectation of the much anticipated Festival of Britain the following year, which saw a huge number of pageants held across Britain. Stanmore’s decision to hold a pageant as part of its wider centenary celebrations was, at least in part, an assertion of the parish’s independence from the London-centric festival and from London’s history. In fact, a proposed local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was postponed by the council until 1951 due to the pageant.7

The pageant had been mooted to the Harrow Council in November 1949, its proponents’ intention being to use the Stanmore Recreational Ground. While it seems quite obvious for pageants to be held in large open spaces, which were increasingly coming under the control of local councils, this required the council to close a park and allow the charging of admission to locals to access an area maintained by public funds, and also to bear the responsibility if anything went wrong. The proposed inclusion of seating and floodlighting was likely to damage the grass, which led to the passing of a resolution, despite opposition, to make the pageant reimburse the council for any damage to the property.8 There were good reasons for such precautions: as it happened, other pageants had run into significant difficulties in using the local park, one example being the Pageant of Wakefield (1933).

The Stanmore pageant organisers further went on to request that Harrow Council supply ten open vehicles for a procession of the pageant performers through the parish on the afternoon before the pageant performance. The council magnanimously agreed to five.9 Other events in the week-long festivities included a grand Centenary Ball, featuring Harry Knight and His Radio Octet and Claude Cavalotti, resident BBC saxophonist, as well as a day-long Festival of Music.10 Although there were a number of church services, including one presided over by the Bishop of Willesden, there was relatively little in the pageant of a religious nature, other than three scenes which featured the consecration of the church in its various iterations. Such eschewal of religious themes was common among pageants of this era. In the event, the final two episodes, including the one featuring the induction of the present rector five years previously, were never performed due to rain, and the pageant concluded with the arrival of the railway in 1890.11

While most of the scenes featured an historical character, such as Boadicea, Dick Turpin, or the Prince Regent, the pageant aimed at creating a specific historical heritage rooted in place—which distinguishes Stanmore from the larger suburban sprawl of the capital. David Bowen, whose A Short History of Stanmore was specifically written for the centenary, voiced the wider concern with the growing extension of the suburbs that the railway had brought:

1950 in Stanmore is the Centenary Year of the Parish Church. A week of colourful services and general festivity, attracting attention at home, as well, it is hoped, from guests from abroad, will soon be an integral part of the complex and fascinating historic pattern that began even before the Druids. What of the future? The land is now being developed more rapidly than ever before; it is served, and will doubtless soon be by-passed, by the Underground Railway—thoughts which suggest that the next few decades may change the landscape into something quite unrecognizable.12

However, Bowen went on, ‘Perhaps it is not too optimistic to hope, no matter what the future tastes of society and the developments of town and country planning, that Stanmore may preserve its ancient and historic beauty, and that its Church of St John the Evangelist may both witness to its traditions and shape the pattern of its new age.’13 In fact, the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act had made explicit provisions for a London ‘green belt’, first set out in 1919 and initially implemented in 1938, which would prevent the continuous urban sprawl.14 Eventually, after much wrangling, the green belt was positioned at the northern edge of Stanmore, so, although the parish was itself now a part of the continuous expanse of the urban area, it did at least have some green space on its doorstep.15 While the green belt is now under threat due to the demand for space to build housing in London and the Southeast, for the time being, at least, Stanmore’s residents can take comfort in not being linked to Watford.


  1. ^ All synopses taken from Programme of the Stanmore Centenary Pageant; Being a History of Our Village Through the Ages, Written by Constance Major to Commemorate the Centenary of the Present Church. Np, 1950
  2. ^ The Victorian Suburb: The Growth of Camberwell (Leicester, 1961).
  3. ^ A.P. Baggs, Diane K. Bolton, Eileen P. Scarff and G.C. Tyack, ‘Great Stanmore: Church’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton, Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, ed. T.F.T. Baker and R.B. Pugh (London, 1976), 105–107, British History Online, accessed 18 April 2016,
  4. ^ Adam Forest, ‘Metroland, 100 Years On: What's Become of England’s Original Vision of Suburbia?’ Guardian, 10 September 2015, accessed 14 April 2016,
  5. ^ ‘Great Stanmore CP/AP’, Population Statistics, Total Population, A Vision of Britain Through Time, accessed 14 April 2016,
  6. ^ Accessed 14 April 2016, Disused Stations, ‘Stanmore Village’,
  7. ^ Minutes of Harrow Council Open Spaces Committee, 28 April 1950, 1719–20, accessed 14 April 2016,
  8. ^ Minutes of Harrow Council Open Spaces Committee, 11 November 1949, accessed 14 April 2016,
  9. ^ Minutes of Harrow Council Open Spaces Committee, 28 July 1950, Paragraph 2001, accessed 14 April 2016, The decision was post-dated from 4 July.
  10. ^ Accessed 14 April 2016, ‘Parish Church of Stanmore Centenary Week’,
  11. ^ Accessed 14 April 2016, London Screen Archives, ‘Stanmore Centenary Pageant – A History of Stanmore – Reel 2’,
  12. ^ The Parish Church of Saint John, Great Stanmore, Centenary Week 15 to 23 July, 1950, Souvenir Programme. Containing a Short History of Stanmore [by David Bowen] (np, 1950), accessed 14 April 2016,
  13. ^ Ibid.
  14. ^ Accessed 14 April 2016, London Greenbelt Council, ‘History of the London Green Belt’,; Raymond Smith, ‘The Green Belt’, History Today, 23 November 2015, accessed 16 April 2014,
  15. ^ ‘Interactive Map: England’s Green Belt’, Telegraph, 28 November 2012, accessed 16 April 2014,

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Stanmore Centenary Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,