Pageant of London (South of the Thames)

Other names

  • Pageant of London (South of the Thames)

Pageant type


Entry researched by Ellie Reid.

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Place: Crystal Palace (Sydenham) (Sydenham, London, England)

Year: 1924

Indoors/outdoors: Unknown

Number of performances: 3


29, 30, 31 May 1924 at 6.45pm. May 29th performance abandoned after 6 episodes due to a heavy thunderstorm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Kirwan, Patrick
  • Chairman of Pageant Council and of Executive Committee: The Viscount Hambleden
  • Musical Director: Dr G. Coleman Young
  • Sports Organizer: Mr A.E. Bickerton
  • Entertainments Organizer: Mr Hugh Quekett
  • Chairman of Sub-Committee: Mr W.J. Hopton
  • Pageant Secretary: Mr George Heyer

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • Episode  One: Camberwell, Peckham and Nunhead 
  • Episode Two: Kennington, Brixton, Stockwell and Clapham
  • Episode Three: Penge & Anerley, Beckenham
  • Episode Four: Southwark
  • Episode Five: (A.) Bromley, (B.) Chislehurst, Hayes and Keston
  • Episode Six: Sydenham, Forest Hill, and Honor Oak; Lewisham.
  • Episode Seven: Dulwich
  • Episode Eight: Norwood, Tulse Hill, and Herne Hill


The episodes were apportioned to 11 districts into which the hospital area had been divided.

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

Names of composers

  • Young, G. Coleman
  • Arcadelt, Jacob
  • Morley, Thomas
  • Byrd, William
  • Ford, Thomas
  • Henry VIII
  • Arne, Thomas
  • Eccles, John
  • Parry, Hubert
  • Elgar, Edward

Pageant March, 'Processional' and incidental music for episodes 1 ,2, 3, 5 and 8 by G. Coleman Young. All other music, well-known compositions.

Numbers of performers


Choir: 222 women, 99 men

Financial information


Object of any funds raised

In aid of King's College Hospital

Linked occasion


Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

1s 6d6d

Adults 1s 6d; children 6d

Associated events

  • Organ recital by Walter W. Hedgcock on May 29 at 3pm
  • Organ recital by S. W. Chuckerbutty on May 30 at 3pm
  • Organ recital by Dr. G. Coleman Young on May 31 at 3pm
  • Open athletic meeting on Thursday 29 May at 2.30pm
  • Open athletic meeting on Saturday 31 May at 2.30pm
  • Other attractions are listed in the programme

Pageant outline

Episode One: A.D. 62 Boudicca's Stand against the Romans

As London burns, Boudicca rallies support against the Romans. A fight ensues and the Brythons [Britons] are defeated and taken for slaves. Boudicca staggers forward, drinks poison from a phial and dies. A procession of Roman soldiers and captured Britons led by Suetonious find her body. The Soldiers carry Boudicca aloft on their shields and the Britons chant a lament as the procession leaves the scene.

Episode Two: A.D. 1042 The Marriage Feast of Tofig and Gytha

A feast for the marriage of Tofig the Proud to Gytha, the daughter of Clape is being prepared. Clape and Gytha go to meet Tofig and his followers after a messenger reports their approach. Tofig announces that King Hardicanute will attend the feast. The King and his retainers arrive and the feast begins. Archbishop Elfric gives his blessing and Scald the storyteller relates the valiant deeds of their forefathers. The feast proceeds merrily but the Archbishop doesn’t join in the revelry, so he becomes the target for bare bones being hurled by the revellers. During the disorder the King gets struck, falls in a fit, and dies. In dismay the feast breaks up and the body of the King is borne away accompanied by the Archbishop, Tofig and the King's Guard.

Episode Three: A.D. 1381 The Rebels meet the Fair Maid of kent

Two groups of peasantsone led by Wat Tyler, the other by Jack Strawdecide to take their grievances to King Richard. Princess Joan, the Queen mother, and her maidens arrive on the scene, returning from a pilgrimage. The crowd seek reassurance from the Princess and she proves her goodwill by giving the leaders the kiss of peace. With the crowd cheering 'The Fair Maid of Kent', the Princess is allowed to on pass on her way.

Episode Four: A.D. 1386 The Passing of the pilgrims at St. Thomas a-Watering

A group of men women and children celebrating the coming of spring meet Geoffrey Orlateile, who sings a round written by Chaucer. Chaucer’s pilgrims arrive and tales are told before they pass on their way.

Episode Five: A,d,1423 King Henry the Fifth returns from Agincourt through Southwark

Two soldiers returned from the wars tell of their exploits, but on being exposed as cowards their audience turns on them and they run for their lives. The Mayor and Corporation of London take part in a procession to meet the King, who arrives on horseback . The choir sings the song of Agincourt. The king addresses the crowd and a procession of clergy arrives to the ringing of church bells.

In a second scene, Queen Katherine takes sanctuary with nuns at Bermondsey Abbey following the discovery of her marriage to Owen Tudor.

Episode Six: A.D. 1570 Honor Oak receives the Virgin Queen with May Revels

At Honor Oak, Queen Elizabeth witnesses May Revels which include maypole dancing and the hobby horse. Robin Hood and his men delight the audience with  a play 'A merry geste of Robin Hoode, very pleasante and full of pastyme'.

Episode Seven: A.D. 1619 Alleyn gives aCollege to Dulwich

Following the ceremony that inaugurated the founding of Dulwich College, villagers prepare to make an address to Edward Alleyn at a celebration. The villager due to read the address gets stage fright and Richard Burbage suddenly appears to take his place. Singing and dancing follows.

Episode Eight: A.D. 1668 Mrs Pepys and the Gipsies at Norwood

A group of gypsies led by the Gipsy Queen are setting up camp; their music and dancing attracts visitors including Mrs Pepys.  Suddenly the encampment appears threatened by a procession of townsmen battering old pots like drums, and youths brandishing osier wands. It transpires they are just Beating the Bounds, and the misunderstanding ends amicably.

Episode Nine: A.D. 1770 "The Club" visits Vauxhall Gardens

Incidents in Vauxhall Gardens  as 'masked men and women of quality' enjoy the gardens and take supper. 'A scene of mirth, merriment and music'.


The finale is not listed in the programme but newspaper reports describe proposals that the pageant would welcome the coming of King's College Hospital and would dance 'Sir Roger de Cloverley'.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni
  • Suetonius Paullinus, Gaius (fl. c.AD 40–69) Roman governor of Britain
  • Harthacnut [Hardecanute] (c.1018–1042) king of England and of Denmark
  • Tyler, Walter [Wat] (d. 1381) leader of the peasants' revolt [also known as Tyler]
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Ball, John (d. 1381) chaplain and leader of the peasants' revolt
  • Joan, suo jure countess of Kent, and princess of Wales and of Aquitaine [called the Fair Maid of Kent] (c.1328–1385) [also known as Joan of Kent]
  • Henry V (1386–1422) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Catherine [Catherine of Valois] (1401–1437) queen of England, consort of Henry V
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Alleyn, Edward (1566–1626) actor, theatre entrepreneur, and founder of Dulwich College
  • Burbage [Burbadge], Richard (1568–1619) actor
  • Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Alban (1561–1626) lord chancellor, politician, and philosopher
  • Pepys [née de St Michel], Elizabeth (1640–1669) wife of Samuel Pepys

Musical production

  • Pageant Chorus c.260 performers, 160 women and 100 men
  • Orchestra with 130+ musicians.
  • Singers and musicians drawn from 24 choirs/orchestras from across South London.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Pageant of London (south of the Thames), Crystal Palace, May 29th, 30th ,31st 1924 : programme and guide. London, 1924.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



Staged in the grounds of the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, this pageant was a celebration of the history of London—but specifically that of south London. This perhaps reflected a feeling that the history of the south of the metropolis was sometimes neglected. But whatever the motivation behind the event, it was evidently a fairly large-scale pageant, involving at least five thousand performers—including a choir that was more than three hundred strong.

The pageant-master was Patrick Kirwan, who had also been responsible for earlier pageants at Harlech (1920) and Arundel (1923). He would go on to stage pageants at Wimbledon (1925 )and Bexhill (1927) a; but this one seems to have been his most significant venture—at least in terms of size. The pageant began in the distant past, and with a scene of considerable drama: Boudica’s rebellion against Rome, and her suicide by poison. The show continued in this vein, with scenes featuring Wat Tyler’s rebellion and Henry V’s return from his triumph at Agincourt. In common with many pageants, there was a heavy emphasis on the connection between events from the local (historically Kentish) past and the wider narrative of British history.

The finale, however, seems to have been more squarely local in its focus: the foundation of King’s College Hospital. This was appropriate enough, since proceeds from the pageant were to go to the hospital, an important south London institution (then as now). It was also the case that each of the eight episodes were assigned to one or more of the eleven localities served by the hospital: Dulwich, for example, was responsible for the episode featuring the foundation of the eponymous school.

Overall the pageant seems to have been a success, despite an inauspicious start to its run, the first performance having to be abandoned due to a thunderstorm.

By Ellie Reid


How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of London (South of the Thames)’, The Redress of the Past,