Croydon Millenary Pageant
Additional information drawn from 'Survey of Historical Pageants' undertaken by Mick Wallis; with thanks to Steve Roud of the Croydon Local Studies Library.
Place: Lloyd Park (Croydon) (Croydon, Surrey, England)
Number of performances: 20
15–25 June 1960
Afternoon and evening performances.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Devised and Directed by [Pageant Master]:
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Ede, Christopher
Names of composers
Numbers of performers
The Pageant was a financial failure.
Object of any funds raised
The millenary of the founding of Croydon (around 960AD).
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Fair, Exhibition at the Croydon Aerodrome and a Parade
Scene 1: Elfies and the Will, c.980
Scene 2: Domesday Survey, 1086
Scene 3: After the Battle of Lewes, 1264
Scene 4: Croydon Market, 1343
Scene 5: Pilgrums, 1375
Scene 6: The Wat Tyler Rebellion, 1381
Scene 7: The Croydon Colliers, 1582
Scene 8: Whitgift and the Armada, 1588
Scene 9: The Armada Ballet, 1588
Scene 10: Queen Elizabeth Visits Croydon, 1600
Scene 11: The Civil War, 1642
Scene 12: The Restoration, 1660
Scene 13: Pitt and the Turnpike, 1790
Scene 14a: The Surrey Iron Railway, 1803
Scene 14b: The Croydon Canal, 1809
Scene 14c: The Atmospheric Railway, 1846
Scene 14d: The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, 1846
Scene 15: The Parish Church Fire, 1867
Scene 16: The Croydon Races, 1891
Scene 17: The Aerodrome, 1916-1960
Scene 18: Finale, 1960
Key historical figures mentioned
- Tyler, Walter [Wat] (d. 1381) leader of the peasants' revolt
- Whitgift, John (1530/31?–1604) archbishop of Canterbury
- Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
- Pitt, William [known as Pitt the younger] (1759–1806) prime minister
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
- None known.
Other primary published materials
- Croydon Millenary Pageant: Souvenir Programme. London, 1960.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Film footage and description available, ‘Croydon Millenary Pageant’, London Screen Archives, accessed 8 August 2016, https://www.londonsscreenarchives.org.uk/public/details.php?id=1180
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The Pageant Master of the Croydon Pageant was Christopher Ede, who had distinguished himself at the Pageant of Boston (1951) and Pageant of Guildford (1957). Croydon had previously held a pageant at the Old Palace (now school) in 1931. In writing of the millenary celebrations, the Guardian remarked about the somewhat tenuous historical basis of the founding of the borough, which was the reason for the Pageant:
Croydon and District Chambers of Commerce, however unintentionally, have managed to combine a millenary, millinery, and the military most ingeniously. The millenary is Croydon’s. At least in 960 the priest, Elfsies of Croydon, witnesses the will of Beorhtric and Elswyth, which is as good excuse as any to celebrate this year.1
Croydon's was one of a number of late pageants held by London boroughs to distinguish themselves from the rest of the sprawling metropolis which threatened to obliterate their individual histories (see, for example Stanmore Centenary (1950) and Streatham (1951). The Finsbury Story Pageant (1960), held in Sadler’s Wells at the same time, was likewise an attempt to boost local borough identity against the increasing homogeneity and interconnectedness of the Greater London area, it was far more successful than the event in Croydon. Despite the grand scale of the Croydon pageant and its associated festivities (the Millenary Celebrations included a visit from the Queen), there seemed to be little local enthusiasm for it. Ede blamed this on the character of the borough itself, and did so publicly, declaring ‘Croydon is not a romantic centre.’ As the Times reported:
This damning verdict of a London pageant master, explaining the financial failure of the town’s recent millenary pageant, must have saddened the casual reader, but probably did not greatly surprise him. He was familiar with Croydon, perhaps, and knew the worst already. Or if not, he had pictured the town—if ever he had troubled to exercise his imagination in the matter—as one of jostling shopping crowds and gleaming supermarkets and bustling traffic, bright and cheerful and bang up to date, but no, not a romantic centre, not the sort of place that would draw him, sentimentally and irresistibly, at whatever cost or inconvenience, to see the pageant.2
The newspaper suggested that despite Ede’s remarks there was in fact a sense of civic pride, connected to the famous Croydon aerodrome, which the Pageant had manifestly failed to access. Whether or not this particular failure was sufficient to explain the overall failure of the event is a moot point, however; at any rate the Croydon Millenary Pageant made a significant financial loss. Perhaps serving as an indication of mid-to-late twentieth-century changes in the currents of popular historical culture, it was one of the last major pageants to be held in London (with the possible exception of the London Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2012).
The Guardian, 15 June 1960, 8.
The Times, 5 August 1960, 9.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Croydon Millenary Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1409/