Wimbledon Park Pageant and Fair

Pageant type

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Place: Wimbledon Park House (Wimbledon) (Wimbledon, Surrey, England)

Year: 1925

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


11-13 June 1925

11 and 12 June at 6.15pm; 13 June at 3pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Author and Hon. Principal of the Pageant [Pageant Master]: Kirwan, Patrick
  • Stage Director: Eric Ward
  • Director of Music: Willoughby Walmisley
  • Hon. Secretary of the Musical Section: T. Lidstone Found
  • Master of the Horse: Major Lethaby
  • Mistress of the Robe: Mrs. Eric Ward
  • Ground Secretary: W. Nelson Bridges
  • Costumiers: H. and M. Rayne

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee

  • Chairman: Sir William Wells
  • Hon. Secretary: Gerard E.H. Butterfield
  • Hon. Treasurer: A. Tucker


  • Chairman: Lady Wells


  • Chairman: Mrs Palmer

Side Shows

  • Chairman: W. Hancock


  • Chairman: A.P. Colman

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

Kirwan, Patrick

Names of composers

  • Elgar, Edward
  • Young, G. Coleman
  • Byrd, William
  • Henry VIII

Numbers of performers


Including 200 children

Financial information

The Pageant made a profit

Object of any funds raised

To raise funds for erection of a public Hall for Wimbledon Park

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 11000


The total audience was in the range of 10000 to 120000. This is an extrapolation based on reports that 4000 attended the first performance; the final Saturday matinee performance would almost certainly have attracted even greater numbers.1

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s 6d–1s 3d

Associated events

  • On the Village Green, olde times fayre with hundreds of stalls
  • Exhibition of Old Wimbledon

Pageant outline

Episode I. AD 1529. H.E. Cardinal Wolsey Receives the Royal Ring While Crossing Putney Heath

Episode II. 1597: Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth at the Manor House

Interlude I. 1638: Charles I and Henrietta Maria at Wimbledon Park House

Interlude II. 1659: General Lambert Resigns His Sword

Episode III. 1662: The Earl of Bristol and Mr John Evelyn at Wimble Park House

Episode IV. 1799: George III Reviews the Guard

Epilogue. The Worthies of Wimbledon

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530) royal minister, archbishop of York, and cardinal
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Gresham, Sir Thomas (c.1518–1579) mercer, merchant adventurer, and founder of the Royal Exchange and Gresham College
  • Knollys, Sir Francis (1511/12–1596) politician
  • Herbert, Philip, first earl of Montgomery and fourth earl of Pembroke (1584–1650) courtier and politician
  • Wriothesley, Henry, second earl of Southampton (bap. 1545, d. 1581) magnate Sidney, Sir Philip (1554–1586) author and courtier
  • Radcliffe, Henry, fourth earl of Sussex (1533–1593) soldier and administrator
  • Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554–1618) courtier, explorer, and author [also known as Raleigh, Sir Walter]
  • Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Alban (1561–1626) lord chancellor, politician, and philosopher
  • Seymour [née Grey], Katherine, countess of Hertford (1540?–1568) noblewoman and royal kinswoman
  • Grey [married name Dudley], Lady Jane (1537–1554) noblewoman and claimant to the English throne
  • Lambart, Charles, first earl of Cavan (c.1600–1660) army officer and landowner [also known as Lambert, Charles]
  • Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677) politician
  • Evelyn, John (1620–1706) diarist and writer
  • George III (1738–1820) king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and king of Hanover
  • Stigand (d. 1072) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Cranmer, Thomas (1489–1556) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Cromwell, Thomas, earl of Essex (b. in or before 1485, d. 1540), royal minister
  • Katherine [Kateryn, Catherine; née Katherine Parr] (1512–1548) queen of England and Ireland, sixth consort of Henry VIII
  • Pole, Reginald (1500–1558) cardinal and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Cecil, William, first Baron Burghley (1520/21–1598) royal minister [ Baron Burleigh]
  • James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
  • Anne (1665–1714) queen of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Churchill [née Jenyns], Sarah, duchess of Marlborough (1660–1744) politician and courtier
  • Cavendish [née Spencer], Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806) political hostess
  • Pitt, William [known as Pitt the younger] (1759–1806) prime minister
  • Wilberforce, William (1759–1833) politician, philanthropist, and slavery abolitionist
  • Fox, Charles James (1749–1806) politician
  • Hamilton [née Lyon], Emma, Lady Hamilton (bap. 1765, d. 1815) social celebrity and artist's model
  • Tooke, John Horne [formerly John Horne] (1736–1812) radical and philologistCaptain Marryat, Frederick (1792–1848) naval officer and novelist
  • Siddons [née Kemble], Sarah (1755–1831) actress

Musical production

Incidental Music arranged by G. Coleman Young and performed by the band of 5th East Surrey Regiment


  • Overture ‘Pageant March’, G. Coleman Young
  • Te Deum, Anon

Episode I

  • ‘Summer is y cumen in’, Anon
  • ‘Passetyme with good company’, Henry VIII
  • Psalm, ‘How long O Lord wilt thou forget me.’

Episode II

  • ‘Earl of Oxford’s March’, William Byrd
  • ‘In the merry month of May’, Anon
  • ‘Henry VIII’s Pavanne’, Henry VIII
  • Interlude One
  • ‘Lord Wimbledon’s Drum March’, Anon
  • ‘Our Sabres Shall Ring’, Anon
  • Interlude Two
  • ‘The old Hundredth’, Anon.

Episode III

  • ‘Ballet Music’, G. Coleman Young

Episode IV

  • ‘Comin’ through the rye’, Anon
  • ‘Barbara Allen’, 
  • ‘Sally in our Ally’, 
  • ‘The Inn of Richmond Hill’, 
  • Epilogue
  • ‘Processional’, G. Coleman Young
  • ‘Old Robin Gray’, Barnard
  • ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, Elgar

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Daily Telegraph
Daily Chronicle
Daily Graphic
The Times
Hartlepool Mail
Manchester Guardian
Western Morning News
Hull Daily Mail
Dundee Courier
London Evening Standard
Gloucester Citizen
Northern Advocate (New Zealand)

Book of words

Wimbledon Park Pageant and Fair: Book of Words, June 11th, 13th & 13th 1925. London, 1925.

Price of book of words was 6d

Other primary published materials


Wimbledon Park Pageant and Fair: Programme, June 11th, 13th & 13th 1925. London, 1925.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Surrey Local Studies Centre, Woking
  • Copy of Programme, Reference P598 WIM
  • Book of Words, Reference P822.WIM
  • Newspaper Cuttings, Reference 6304/Box10
  • A film of the pageant, ‘In Sylvan Surroundings’, British Pathe, 1925, accessed 20 July 2016, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/in-sylvan-surroundings/query/pageants%3B
  • A number of images of the pageant are available at Merton Memories Photographic Archive, accessed 20 July 2016, http://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/search?q=wimbledon+historical+pageant&action=search

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Pageants in the suburbs of London were popular during the 1920s and 1930s. If interwar London was to be defined by its suburbs, made famous as John Betjeman’s ‘Metroland’, pageants themselves were adept at tapping the growth of an audience. The Gloucester Citizen remarked that ‘This is the season of local pageants and one London suburb at least is holding one for the first time. This is Wimbledon’2 Patrick Kirwan was employed, fresh from his wildly successful Pageant at Arundel Castle in 1923.

The pageant was held ostensibly with the aim to raise money for a local village hall, but seemed more to do with aristocratic display and ancestor-worship. On the three nights of its performance, the pageant was introduced successively by the Right Hon. Lord Ashcombe, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey; the Hon. Earl Spencer, Lord of the Manor of Wimbledon; and (to top that), Prince Wiasemsky of Souzdal (whose wife owned the house at Wimbledon Park).3 The pageant made much of its aristocratic heritage, stressing that several of the thousand-odd pageant players were direct descendants of figures appearing in the Pageant. A ‘Mrs Holland’ as the Manchester Guardian noted is playing the part of Dame Lambert, the wife of the Parliamentary descendant.’ Mrs Holland had relics of her ancestor ‘including a watch worn by one of his sons in the battle of the Boyne.’ So too, one of Elizabeth’s pages ‘is to be represented by a boy who is not only a direct descendant of Sir Walter Raleigh, but bears his name—Master H. Curtis Raleigh.’4 The Western Morning News went further by interviewing the boy. They discovered that he ‘does not care for anything very much except his preparatory school sports’. As he told the interviewer, ‘“I don’t think ancestors matter very much. I think all that matters is what you are yourself, but it is nice to think that you have the blood of brave or clever men in your veins. And I am glad an Englishman found such a useful thing as potatoes.”’5 The New Zealand Northern Echo, stretching this theme a little thin, declared that Princess Tatiana Wiasemsky, who was playing Princess Marie, daughter of Charles I, shared with her character a direct lineage with King Alfred the Great, due to some interesting (or alternately not that interesting) eleventh-century marital arrangements.6

The correspondent of the Hull Daily Mail, possibly worn out by all the genealogy, told its readers:

Strictly between ourselves, Wimbledon’s actual historical associations are fairly thin, but that master of pageantry and stagecraft, Mr. Patrick Kirwan, in whose hands the display was wisely put, has made the most of them, even going to the length of appropriating the traditions of Wimbledon’s really historic neighbour, Merton. He is perfectly justified, for an historical pageant without a touch of imagination would be a very poor affair.7

This was an astute judgment, despite the Daily Telegraph’s claim that Kirwan had ‘a rich quarry of history at hand, and they certainly have not wasted their opportunities.’8 The Wimbledon Pageant suffered from being a parade of aristocrats and esteemed citizens (sumptuously dressed) who possessed the most tangential connection to the place. There was very little in the way of dramatic tension. Indeed, the Evening Standard reported that Kirwan sought to channel the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots (who had never even been to the house) to appear as ‘a skeleton clothed in a replica of the Queen’s shadowy garments, which stands in the passage inspiring awe into hundreds of children who visit her.’9 Kirwan was obviously a follower of Louis Napoleon Parker, whose pageants generally stopped several hundred years before the present, since the Wimbledon Pageant made no reference to the Victorian tennis tournament which has made the place world famous.

Boring and deferential or not, the pageant was clearly a success, visited by 4000 spectators at the opening performance.10 The Times lauded the pageant, criticizing sceptics such as the Hull Daily Mail correspondent:

The pageant ground is not only beautiful, being surrounded by lofty trees and having a lofty prospect, but also enters into history. Some of the actual incidents represented in the Pageant may well have taken place on the spot where their memory is now revived. It is pleasant, at any rate, to think so; and the historian or archaeologist who should throw cold water on the fancy would deserve to be denied even a peep at the performance.11

The reporter added, as if to head off accusations of the paucity of drama displayed that ‘Like all pageants, it is best when it talks least and does most.’12 Given how committed most pageants (certainly Edwardian ones) were to historical accuracy, this statement is telling. The Wimbledon Pageant made a great deal out of its aristocratic connections whilst the history itself was questionable to say the least. Clearly, the crowds who visited the pageant in great numbers were more interested in seeing exquisitely-dressed aristocrats parade around the grounds of a stately home than worry very much about history. Nonetheless, their patronage paid for the Wimbledon Park Hall which was re-opened after being closed for 11 years (during which time the local council tried their best to turn it into flats) in 2014.13 It seems that the Wimbledon pageant was the forerunner to the period costume dramas which clog up primetime television schedules.


  1. ^ Hartlepool Mail, 13 June 1925, 6
  2. ^ Gloucester Citizen, 29 May 1925, 4.
  3. ^ Hartlepool Mail, 13 June 1925, 6.
  4. ^ Manchester Guardian, 10 June 1925, 8.
  5. ^ Western Morning News, 10 June 1925, 2.
  6. ^ Northern Advocate, 30 July 1925, 6.
  7. ^ Hull Daily Mail, 13 June 1925, 2.
  8. ^ Daily Telegraph, 12 June 1925, unpaginated. Cutting in Surrey History Centre, 6304/Box10 Cuttings.
  9. ^ London Evening Standard, 11 June 1925, unpaginated. Cutting in Surrey History Centre, 6304/Box10 Cuttings.
  10. ^ Hartlepool Mail, 13 June 1925, 6.
  11. ^ Times, 12 June 1925, 19.
  12. ^ Ibid.
  13. ^ Louisa Clarence-Smith, ‘Wimbledon Park Hall in Arthur Road reopens 11 years after being sold off’, Your Local Guardian, accessed 20 July 2016, http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/11035051.Wimbledon_Park_Hall_reopens_11_years_after_being_sold_off/

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Wimbledon Park Pageant and Fair’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1331/