The Pageant of Streatham (1936)
Streatham is a district in the south of the Greater London area.
Place: Streatham Hall (Streatham) (Streatham, Surrey, England)
Number of performances: 3
21–22 February 1936
Friday 21 February and Saturday 22 February 1936 (both evenings and Saturday afternoon).
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer [Pageant Master]: Massey, E.C.
- Master of the Music: Mr Hubert Belton
- Comperes: Rev. D.M. Salmon and Rev. W. Charter Piggott
- Business Managers: Mr H.W. Bromhead and Mr H.P. Vicars
The pageant master was Miss E. C. Massey
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Debenham, Mary
Names of composers
- Belton, Hubert
- Mendelssohn, Felix
- Beethoven, Ludwig van
- Sullivan, Arthur
Numbers of performers100
£60 profit.1 £30 given to the Streatham Hall Fund.
Object of any funds raised
£30 given to the Streatham Hall Fund.
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
We sing of our glorious history,
Ringing the ages down,
From the tramp of the Roman legions,
To the hum of a busy town.
By the road of the Roman conquerors,
To our ancient village came,
Peasant and priest and noble,
Men and women of fame.
Our Saxon and Norman forbears,
But for us wisely and well,
So ‘tis of their work and worship,
We in this Pageant tell.
From the days of the ancient Saxons,
From the time of the Romans’ sway,
From the rule of a Norman Abbot,
Down the years to the present day.
The story of the centuries,
Round our ancient church has grown,
Let us thank our Christian forbears,
As we reap what they have sown.
Prologue. The Clerk of Domesday Book.
A Norman clerk enters, and wearily reads a few words of the entry in Domesday relating to Streatham. A mischievous minstrel enters, and teases the cynical clerk—who is dismissing the idea that the passage can mean or tell much at all. The minstrel sings of the meaning behind the entry—of the sounds and smells of home, as a background chorus murmurs ‘home, sweet home’. The clerk catches this sound, and asks the minstrel what he makes of the entry in Domesday; the Minstrel announces he will sing of some incidents in Streatham’s history.
Episode I. The Coming of the Monks to Tooting Bec
[It seems likely that the substance of this episode will have been the same as in 1925— the following is reproduced from that Book of Words.]2
Richard de Tonbridge, cousin of William the Conqueror, gave the manors of Streatham and Tooting to the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. A band of monks came from the Norman Abbey to found a monastery at Tooting. Gurth, Withold and other Saxons enter, and some begin to moan about how nothing good has happened since Norman William ‘and his bloodsuckers’ set foot in England. Withold, though, is optimistic, and says that England will continue to be living and mighty for a long time. They continue to argue whether the benefits of the Normans outweigh the negatives. The argument turns into a fight. Godwin, Eanswith and Aldyth enter and break it up. Guthlac rushes in looking for his mother and cries that Sweyne has fallen in the fish pond. Brother Martin comes in with the child, having rescued him, and intrigues the locals with his foreign voice. It turns out that Martin is an old friend of Godwin, studying together abroad. Martin asks after Streatham, and is then shown the way there. After Martin has left, the Saxons again argue about whether it is a good thing that Martin is likely to be establishing a French Abbey in the English lands—some insisting that the education will benefit the land. Martin re-enters, and gradually persuades the Saxons by telling stories of how the coming monks will bake their famous bread and ends the scene by declaring that the brethren will do their part to bring peace and good will into the land.
Episode II. The Days of the Black Prince, Fourteenth Century
[It seems likely that the substance of this episode will have been the same as in 1925— the following is reproduced from that Book of Words.]3
Villagers enter, eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Prince of Wales, who is on his way to see the rebuilt Streatham church. A Knight and his squire pass through, reach the church and praise the building. Joan and children enter, and play games. It transpires that the Knight is Joan’s father and has finally returned from war and prison in Spain, much to her delight. A dance then takes place, as the Knight watches—reunited with his wife and children. Villagers re-enter shouting ‘God Save the Prince’. The Black Prince enters with Sir John Ward, and thanks the villagers for their welcome. He reunites with the Knight—having fought with him at Poitiers. The Prince leaves. The Knight’s wife promises jewels to help the new church. The children discuss the motto on the Prince’s banner, ‘I Serve’, asking why it was not ‘I rule’. Another reminds them that it was the motto of Jesus—‘Who is King of us all.’
Episode III. The Master of the Revels, Seventeenth Century
[Taken verbatim from 1936 programme]4
Edmund Tylney, Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth and King James, was buried in St Leonard’s Church in October, 1610. Part of his duties was that of Censor of Plays, and we have evidence that he rigorously eliminated from Shakespeare’s text all quotations from Holy Writ and words that were blasphemous or objectionable. His monument in the South Porch reveals him as a pompous person consumed with family pride. The inscription consists almost entirely of a list of his aristocratic relations.
The Master of the Revels, Sir Edmund Tylney, enters, richly attired, and attended by his secretary. Tylney tells of his family’s long connection with the revels and the importance of his noble roots. He begins to reminisce, to the impatience of his secretary, who interrupts him to say that William Shakespeare is waiting for him to pitch a play for the revels (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Shakespeare enters and tells Sir Edmund about his play; Edmund accepts after being assured there is no offence in it. Edmund muses that Shakespeare has a pretty wit and some skill as a play writer. All leave, and then a dance from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is performed. Oberon then enters, and announces a wedding.
Episode IV. The May Wedding, 1695
[Taken verbatim from 1936 programme.]6
The marriage of the Streatham heiress, Elizabeth Howland, to the Marquis of Tavistock, on 23 May 1695, was probably the most important wedding that ever took place in Streatham. Through it the Dukes of Bedford became Lords of the Manor for about 120 years, and they still remain patrons of St Leonard’s Church. The young couple, who had not 28 years between them, remained after their marriage in the care of the bride’s mother, Mistress Elizabeth Howland; and their children, including the 3rd and 4th Dukes of Bedford, were born here. They themselves became the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Bedford five years later.
Young children enter and begin making daisy-chains, excitedly chatting about the wedding, and the noble title the bride will take. One of the girls pretends to be a bride, and dances around. Parents enter, and admire the girl, before talking of the upcoming wedding. Other Streatham folk stream in. They talk about the bride and bridegroom, expressing sorrow for the fatherless groom—his father having been executed—and about the money that the bride will inherit. The young girl who was pretending to be the bride now exclaims she’d rather have her dad than the money—to which the crowd react with laughter and exclamations of ‘That’s well said’ and ‘good lass!’ The crowd excitedly spots the fine folk from court, with the bride and bridegroom, promenading through the grounds to see the May blossom. Mothers tidy up their daughters as the party enters; the Streatham men pull off their hats, and the women courtesy. The young girl gives a posey to the bride, who accepts. The crowd shouts ‘God bless the bride and bridegroom’ and ‘Long live the young Lord and Lady’. A dance of the young folk takes place after the party has gone, watched by the elders laughing and applauding.
Episode V. Dr Johnson at Streatham
[The same as in 1925—apart from (according to the loose script in Lambeth Archives, IV/66/3/7(c)) the removal of the Girl Student of the 1925 pageant.]8
Dr Samuel Johnson was a constant visitor to Mr and Mrs Thrale at Streatham Place, and had a great love for St Leonard’s Church. Mrs Thrale and Mrs Burney, the author of Evelina, enter. They talk about Burney’s writing, and the impending visit of Dr Johnson, who they compliment for his charity work with poor pensioners. Mr Thrale, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr Johnson and Mr Boswell enter. They are debating the merits of tea, a new-fangled beverage—Dr Johnson being strongly in favour. The conversation turns to liberty—Dr Johnson arguing that ‘liberty without restraint is the lowest and most ignominious form of slavery’. He explains that liberty is a means to an end, and that men should use their liberty to do the good of Him who made them.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Shakespeare, William (1564–1616) playwright and poet
- Godwine [Godwin], earl of Wessex (d. 1053) magnate
- 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
- Piozzi [née Salusbury; other married name Thrale] Hester Lynch (1741–1821) writer Thrale, Henry (1728–1781) brewer and politician
- Burney [married name D'Arblay], Frances [Fanny] (1752–1840) writer
- Johnson, Samuel (1709–1784) author and lexicographer
- Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723–1792) portrait and history painter and art theorist
- Garrick, David (1717–1779) actor and playwright
- Garrick [née Veigel], Eva Maria [performing name Violette] (1724–1822) dancer
- Boswell, James (1740–1795) lawyer, diarist, and biographer of Samuel Johnson
Musical productionStage Choir: Members of Streatham Choral Society with members of the St Anselm’s Church; Choir of the Church of the English Martyrs with an unnamed orchestra. Performed pieces included:
- Overture. ‘Streatham Pageantry’, Hubert Belton.
- Opening Chorus. ‘We Sing of Our Glorious History’, Hubert Belton (Words by Rev D.M. Salmon, Rector of Streatham).
- Prologue. ‘Minstrel’s Song’ - ‘The Home by the Road’, Hubert Belton.
- Episode III. ‘Spring Song’, Mendelssohn.
- Episode III. ‘Fairies’ Dance’ (‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’), Mendelssohn.
- Interval. ‘Overture’ and ‘Revelry’, Hubert Belton.
- Episode IV. ‘Country Dance’, Hubert Belton.
- Episode IV. ‘Minuet’, Beethoven.
- Epilogue. ‘Henry VIII Song’, Arthur Sullivan.
As well as these new pieces, it is likely that music from the 1926 pageant was used—see entry for Streatham 1925).
Newspaper coverage of pageant
The Streatham News
Book of words
- Debenham, Mary H. The Pageant Play of Streatham. Streatham, 1936.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- At Lambeth Archives:
- Programmes and copy of script (3 items). IV/66/3/7.
- Streatham Antiquarian Society correspondence, including letters about the pageant. IV/66/10/3.
- Pageant notes. IV/66/89/26, 27.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The Pageant of Streatham was a small event that took place indoors at Streatham Hall for three performances in February 1936. It was a slightly altered version of the Streatham Pageant that had taken place at the Hall 11 years earlier, but larger, with the cast now numbering closer to 150 rather than the original 100. This time around the Streatham Antiquarian Society took a role in the organisation of the pageant. The Society had been set up in 1933 to study the history of Streatham ‘not only as a matter of interest, but to protect, as far as it can, its remaining amenities.’9 Some of the members of the Society, however, felt that the financial responsibility for producing the pageant was too high. Fortunately, the Rector, Rev D.M. Salmon, ‘stepped into the breach’ and undertook the responsibility for the pageant, supported by the Society.10 He in turn made an effort to more greatly involve all of the churches of Streatham, rather than just St Leonard’s.11 The Streatham News dubbed this ‘united effort’ a success and noted that ‘Even the Catholics joined in, so that every prominent denomination was represented.’12 Alongside the Catholics were Wesleyans, Congregationalists, and Baptist Ministers—seemingly the first time ‘the Churches of Streatham have united in connexion with anything.’13
In terms of the episodic narrative, there were a few changes. Firstly, the episode of St Leonard that had been the first episode of the 1925 pageant was removed. This could have been for two reasons. Firstly, because that episode was so specific to St Leonard’s Church, and thus would have perhaps ostracised the other churches which were taking part. Secondly, because the pageant in general was more strongly about Streatham’s history—in the 1925 pageant, the St Leonard’s episode had actually been set in France! The Coming of the Monks to Tooting Bec remained, as did The Days of the Black Prince, and Dr Johnson at Streatham. The Benefactors of Old Times in the Seventeenth Century was also taken out, though it is not clear why. Several scenes were added: a new Prologue that showed a Norman clerk compiling the Domesday Book and discussing the entry of Streatham with a playful minstrel; The Master of the Revels, a seventeenth-century episode that connected Shakespeare to Streatham through Edmund Tylney, the royal Master of the Revels who was buried in the town; and finally a May Wedding of 1695. This last episode was especially interesting, since it focused on the spectacle and glamour of a noble wedding but also highlighted the importance of local community and pride in being a commoner. In general, the pageant had lost the concentration on freedom and liberty that was the organising theme of the 1925 pageant, replacing this with more fun and a more local angle.
Though there were fewer performances than the first pageant in 1925, it was still deemed to be a ‘huge success’ with ‘huge audiences’ each time. The Streatham News noted that ‘there were one or two carping critics who thought the production compared unfavourably with that of a decade ago’, but it did not agree with them—apart from wondering whether the storyline could have been brought closer to the present. As the newspaper said: ‘Does Streatham’s history close with the passing from its midst of the Thrales and Dr Johnson? Everything we were shown seemed so remote; hardly believable, in fact. Even a scene at the close of the last century would have provided a tangible link with the past, something which we could really have believed in, and which, in truth, many residents could actually have remembered. I feel a great opportunity was missed here.’14
The historian Egerton Beck, at least, appreciated the pageant. He wrote to Harold W. Bromhead, Business Manager of the pageant and a member of the Streatham Antiquarian Society, to express his thoughts:
I must send you a line to congratulate you on yesterday’s performance, and am sorry that on account of severe eye trouble I must dictate it. We thought it an absolutely splendid performance; and as I had some experience of the 1911 Pageant of London I can quick realize the labour necessary for attaining such a perfect piece of work. I really do think that everyone concerned is entitled to the highest praise, and rather envied Rev. Salmon his privilege of saying so in public. As to the monks, had it been in church everyone would have taken them for what they represented.
Beck followed these words of praise with a pledge to help the Society in its work.15 According to the Streatham Antiquarian Society annual report for 1935/1936, Beck was not the only one thus enthused: the pageant, it argued, had led to a ‘considerable accession to the membership due to the publicity obtained’.16 The pageant also made a profit of £60, £30 of which was given to the Streatham Hall Fund. Undoubtedly it was only a small event. However, the Streatham Pageant was still a relative success—an example of both the continued role that pageantry played in civic life in the 1930s and also a rarer example of a pageant re-performance (though altered). Unsurprisingly, given its popularity and minor success, the Pageant was again staged in 1951.
- Letter to R.C. Chapman from the Streatham Antiquarian Society, 4 March 1936, Lambeth Archives. IV/66/10/3.
- Mary Debenham, The Book of the Pageant of Streatham (Croydon, 1925).
- Mary Debenham, The Book of the Pageant of Streatham (Croydon, 1925).
- [Programme], IV/66/3/7, Lambeth Archives.
- Script, ‘Episode III’, IV/66/3/7(c), Lambeth Archives.
- [Programme], IV/66/3/7, Lambeth Archives.
- Script, ‘Episode IV The May Wedding—May 23rd 1695’, IV/66/3/7(c), Lambeth Archives.
- Mary Debenham, The Book of the Pageant of Streatham (Croydon, 1925); script, ‘Episode V’, IV/66/3/7(c), Lambeth Archives.
- ‘First Annual Report of 1933/34,’ Annual Reports of the Streatham Antiquarian and Natural History Society. IV/66/2/1, Lambeth Archives.
- Letter to His Grace the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey, Bletchley, Bucks, from Streatham Antiquarian Society, 14 January 1936, Lambeth Archives. IV/66/10/3.
- ‘From 1066 to Dr Johnson’s Day’, The Streatham News, 28 February 1936, 6.
- ‘United Effort’, The Streatham News, 28 February 1936, 10.
- Letter to His Grace the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey, Bletchley, Bucks, from Streatham Antiquarian Society, 14 January 1936.
- ‘From 1066 to Dr Johnson’s Day’, 6.
- Letter to Harold W. Bromhead from Egerton Beck, 23 Feb 1936, Lambeth Archives. IV/66/10/3.
- ‘First Annual Report of 1933/34,’ Annual Reports of the Streatham Antiquarian and Natural History Society.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Pageant of Streatham (1936)’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1216/