Ramsgate Historical Pageant and Charter Jubilee Celebrations
Place: Ellington Park (Ramsgate) (Ramsgate, Kent, England)
Number of performances: 9
16–21 July 1934
- 16, 17 July at 7pm
- 18 July at 2.45 and 7pm
- 19 July at 7pm
- 20, 21 July at 2.45 and 7pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Organising Director [Pageant Master]: Baring, Edward
- Producer: Nugent Monck
- Master of Grandstand: A. Adlington, Borough Engineer
- Master of Designs: A. Moody
- Press Agent: A.H. Eyre
- Director of Music: Cecil F. Smyly
- Master of Horse: Councillor E.R.A. Hodgman
- Master Of Properties: S.V. West
- Chairman: His Worship the Mayor, Ald. E.E. Dye
- Vice-Chairman: Deputy-Mayor, Councillor S.D. Pallin
- Ald. Florence Dunn
- Ald. J.S.G. Langley
- Ald. C. Nixon
- Cllr. E.R.A. Hodgman
- Cllr. A.B.C. Kempe
- Cllr. H. Stead
- Cllr. P. Turner
- Cllr. F.A. Waterhouse
- Hon Secretary: H.G. Curtis
- Asst. Hon. Sec: W.E.C. Vincent
- Hon. Treasurer: H. Oliver Jones
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Finance and Reception Committee
- Chairman: The Mayor
- Chairman: Cllr. Rev. Fr. F.A. Waterhouse
- Chairman: Cllr. L.F. Davey
- Chairman: A. Moody
- Chairman: W.V. Goodram
Lecture and Historical Committee
- Chairman: Cllr. H. Stead
- Chairman: Ald. J.S.G. Langley
Grandstand and Grounds Committee
- Chairman: Ald. J.S.G. Langley
- Chairman: Councillor P. Turner
- Chairman: Cllr. A.B.C. Kempe
Horse Gymkhana Committee
- Chairman: E.R.A. Hodgman
Pageant Ball Committee
- Chairman: Ald. J.S.G. Langley
Episode I Committee
- Chairman: Cllr. W.T. Smith
Episode II Committee
- Chairman: Cllr A.B.C. Kempe
Episode III Committee
- Chairman: Father Waterhouse
Episode IV Committee
- Chairman: W.F. Saull
Episode V Committee
- Chairman: Rev. C.P. Cowland Cooper
Episode VI Committee
- Chairman: Major C.S.F. Witts
Episode VII Committee
- Chairman: E.F.G. Chapman
Episode VIII Committee
- Chairman: Rev. D.A.J. Cardozo
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
- Haworth, Herbert
- Tomblings, P.B.
- Fornsete, John of
- Morley, John
- Smyly, Cecil F.
- D’Ace, Charles
- Williams, Ralph Vaughan
- Byrd, William
Numbers of performers4000
The celebrations as a whole made a loss of over £10991
Object of any funds raised
In aid of Ellington General Hospital
Linked occasionThe fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Borough.
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: 4000
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
10s 6d–1s 3d
A fanfare is heard. While the chorus are singing the prelude, a young girl enters. This is Mildred of Minster, daughter of the Kings of Mercia. She is accompanied by attendants and a standard bearer with the banner of Ramsgate. Children dancing and a gun is heard. The children exit hurriedly.
Episode One. The Romans Under Caesar Invade Britain, BC 54
A local tribe of Britons has received news that enemy ships have been sighted off the coast, and the men have gone to help to prevent a landing. A merchant from Gaul is roughly handled by the Britons for allegedly sympathizing with Rome. Olwen, the local chieftain’s wife, intervenes on his behalf. The Druids foretell military disaster but then peace and contentment under Roman rule. Cunobelin enters in flight before the legions, retiring to the Stour Bank. The seventh legion enters and Caesar spares the tribe, promising them the full benefits of civilization before marching westward.
Episode Two. The Coming of Hengist and Horse and the Betrothal of Rowena to King Vortigern, AD 449.
The garrison at Thanet is commanded by Manlius, an ex-legionary, who sends word to Vortigern of the arrival of strangers. Saxon chieftains express to Vortigern their willingness to fight for him but ask for Kent to settle, to the dismay of the British princes. At a banquet, Rowena, daughter of Hengist, pledges to marry Vortigern, who is infatuated with her. Hengist gives her to be married, provided he is given Kent. The three Briton princes are deeply angered by this and desert the King to fight with the Picts and Scots.
Episode Three. King Ethelbert Meets Saint Augustine At Ebbsfleet, AD 597.
Ethelbert at Canterbury has received news of the arrival of St Augustine and his monks at Ebbsfleet. He resolves to come to Thanet to welcome them. A song is sung by the Saxons in praise of Woden and King Ethelbert. News of the King’s visit is sent to surrounding villagers, who hasten to show their loyalty to him. Augustine approaches and is welcomed by the King. The King promises them liberty to preach and invites the Monks to accompany him to Canterbury.
Episode Four. The Rising of Thanet in the Wat Tyler Rebellion, 1381.
A crowd of villagers enter. Younger men practice with the long bow and are entertained by jongleurs. Discussion turns to inequalities between villeins and gentlemen. Tyler, accompanied by John Ball and other rebels enters; he is hailed as a king. Tyler promises to relieve them of taxations and rouses the villagers to march on London. They are met by other rebels, who have taken prisoner William Medmenham, mayor of Manston and Receiver of the King’s Taxes. They intend to kill him but his life is saved by the pleading of his daughter Isabella. The rebels instead drag him on to London.
Episode Five. Queen Elizabeth at St. Laurence Fair, AD 1571.
Villagers assemble for the Fair. There is a discussion between worthies about the prevalence of smuggling. News arrives that Queen Elizabeth is coming to find and punish smugglers and those who help them. She receives a hearty welcome and is assured by the villagers of their loyalty and taxpaying. It is explained that the village doesn’t help the smugglers. The Queen accepts these assurances and partakes in the revelry of the Fair.
Episode Six. Ramsgate and the Napoleonic Wars. Visits of Pitt, George IV and Wellington.
Scene One. 1795
- Review of companies of volunteers by Pitt.
Scene Two. 1821.
- George IV returning from Hanover visits Ramsgate.
Scene Three. 1833.
- Visit of Wellington.
Episode Seven. Ramsgate Sands in the Victorian Season and the Tuggses’ Visit from Dickens, 1854.
The painters William Powell Frith and William Dyce sit down and begin to paint. Many notable personages from the Victorian epoch visit the sands. There are troupes of minstrels, a Punch and Judy Show, donkeys, bathing machines and so on. Finally the Tuggses are seen. The picture completed, the artists and Dickens retire.
Episode Eight. Ramsgate Receives its Borough Charter, 1884.
A small crowd is gathered together to see the Mayor and Councillors in procession. The Town Clerk receives the Charter. A telegraph boy arrives with a message from the Queen and mayors of neighbouring boroughs offer their congratulations.
Two townsmen congratulate themselves on the prosperity of the place and talk of improvements. An old woman stops them and bids them remember that the ground is holy, as it is the birthplace of a nation. The townsmen wonder who she is, but it transpires she is the young girl from the prologue, with her banner.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Cassivellaunus (fl. 54 BC) king in Britain
- Caesar [Gaius Julius Caesar] (100–44 BC) politician, author, and military commander
- Hengist (d. 488?) ruler in Kent
- Horsa (d. 455?) ruler in Kent
- Vortigern [Gwrtheyrn] (fl. 5th cent.) ruler in Britain
- Æthelberht I (d. 616?) king of Kent [also known as Ethelbert]
- Bertha (b. c.565, d. in or after 601) queen in Kent, consort of Æthelberht
- Augustine [St Augustine] (d. 604) missionary and archbishop of Canterbury
- Tyler, Walter [Wat] (d. 1381) leader of the peasants' revolt
- Ball, John (d. 1381) chaplain and leader of the peasants' revolt
- Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
- Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588) courtier and magnate
- Pitt, William [known as Pitt the younger] (1759–1806) prime minister
- Wellesley [formerly Wesley], Arthur, first duke of Wellington (1769–1852) army officer and prime minister
- George IV (1762–1830) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
- Jenkinson, Robert Banks, second earl of Liverpool (1770–1828) prime minister
- Dyce, William (1806–1864) painter and educationist
- Frith, William Powell (1819–1909) painter
- Dickens, Charles John Huffam (1812–1870) novelist
- Browning [née Moulton Barrett], Elizabeth Barrett (1806–1861) poet and writer
- Browning, Robert (1812–1889) poet
- Disraeli, Benjamin, earl of Beaconsfield (1804–1881) prime minister and novelist
- Gladstone, William Ewart (1809–1898) prime minister and author
- Tennyson, Alfred, first Baron Tennyson (1809–1892) poet
- Thackeray, William Makepeace (1811–1863) novelist
- Ruskin, John (1819–1900) art critic and social critic
- Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775–1851) landscape and history painter
British Legion Orchestra under Mr. Norman Botley and a choir of 100 singers
- A Daughter of King’s, Herbert Haworth
- Loud and Shrill, P.B. Tomblings
- Hail to the Power of Woden, Trad
- Summer is icumen in, John Fornsete
- April is in My Mistress’ Face, John Morley
- Hymn to St. Laurence
- Ramsgate Sands, Cecil F. Smyly
- Cedar of Lebanon, Charles D’Ace
- Let us Now Praise Famous Men, Vaughan Williams
- Pavanne, Earl of Salisbury, Bryd
- Country Dances and Sword Dance
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
Derby Daily Telegraph
East Kent News
Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald
Illustrated London News
Time and Tide
Book of words
- Souvenir and Book of Words. Ramsgate, 1934.
Priced at 1s
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
- Nicholson, Steve, The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968. Volume Two, 1933-1952. Exeter, 2005. At 150.
- Barker, Clive and Maggie B. Gale (eds.),.British Theatre Between the Wars, 1918–1939. At 200.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Copy of book of words in the Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone, Reference 942.23 RAMS
Sources used in preparation of pageant
A number of coastal resorts such as Torquay (1924) held pageants to commemorate their histories, as well as to draw tourists during the season. The Ramsgate Historical Pageant was certainly one of the grandest pageant put on by a seaside resort. involving 4000 performers and being staged over a week. It employed as its Pageant Master Edward Baring, who had produced a number of pageants with Nugent Monck (himself pageant master at the Northampton Pageant in 1930).
Due to Ramsgate being a relative newcomer in Kentish history, most of the pageant’s scenes (and all of the early ones) were located in other places or in some presupposed imaginary Ramsgate. Only the last three episodes were set in the town itself. As The Stage remarked, however, ‘Although these events did not actually occur in the town of Ramsgate, they took place so near to the confines and they reacted on its early history.’2 The Times quoted the Lord Mayor of London who suggested that the Pageant ‘was being held in a corner of Kent that not only gave birth to Britain’s Christianity and laid the foundation-stone of England’s future greatness, but where also was reborn the religion of an Empire.’3
Unfortunately, one part of the town’s history could not be performed, sparking national news coverage. Baring and Monck had wanted to feature the visit of Queen Victoria in the seventh episode, alongside the visits of many other famous Victorians, including William Frith who painted the famous Ramsgate Sands. However, owing to a little-known appeal to the Lord Chamberlain, whose office regulated all stage plays including pageants, Queen Victoria could not be depicted in any context ‘in deference to the wishes of His Majesty the King’, and the pageant was only licenced ‘on the understanding that the appearance of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort is omitted from Episode 7’.4 This caused some interest across the national press. Whilst the Mayor was gracious in the face of the Lord Chamberlain’s intervention, suggesting that ‘it has come as a great surprise to us’, Baring himself complained that ‘We are quite at a loss to understand on what he bases his objection’.5
Baring had a point: Victoria had appeared in a number of pageants previously, at Torquay (1924), Westcroft Park (1928) and Esher (1932) and no objection had been raised on these occasions. It was only in December 1936 that the Lord Chamberlain announced that King Edward VIII had allowed plays and pageants dealing with the life of Queen Victoria to be performed.6
The Pageant was opened by the Lord Mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury having cancelled.7 The Stage praised the Pageant in rapt terms: ‘The whole is so cleverly acted and presented as to hand down the Ramsgate pageant of 1934 as one of the best that have been seen in the country.’8 Nonetheless, this does not seem to have persuaded very large numbers of people to attend, and the celebrations as a whole lost £1099—which was paid for by raising the local rates by 1d for two years.9 The Dover Express sceptically remarked that ‘It is claimed that the enormous publicity which accrued from the week’s celebrations was well worth the cost.’10 The Ramsgate Pageant was put on at too-great a scale and attracted publicity for what it lacked rather than what it contained.
Ramsgate held a subsequent pageant which revived the Hengist and Horsa scene in 1949, featuring a long-ship sailed by Vikings from Denmark.
- Dover Express, 21 December 1934, 7.
- The Stage, 19 July 1934, 10.
- Times, 17 July 1934, 11.
- Gloucester Echo, 1 May 1934, 1.
- Scotsman, 24 April 1934, 11. See Tom Hulme, ‘A Queen who can't be seen: pageants and censorship in the 1930s’, Historical Pageants Blog, accessed 2 August 2016, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/blog/queen-who-cant-be-seen-pageants-and-censorship/
- Times, 19 May 1934, 19 and 17 July 1934, 11.
- The Stage, 19 July 1934, 10.
- Dover Express, 21 December 1934, 7.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Ramsgate Historical Pageant and Charter Jubilee Celebrations’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1309/