The Pageant of Essex

Pageant type


This was a county pageant, but took place within the modern borders of Greater London.

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Place: Valentine Park (Ilford) (Ilford, Essex, England)

Year: 1932

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 14


2–12 July 1932

  • Original run: 2–9 July 1932.
  • 8.30pm and 2.30pm on the first and last days.
  • Extended run: 11–12 July, 8.30pm.
  • One performance cancelled due to rain.
  • 10 performances in original run, plus 2 extra due to demand.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank
  • President: Brig.-Gen. R.B. Colvin, CB, TD, BA, JP
  • Chairman: J.S. Parker, Esq.
  • Deputy Chairman: Geo. W. Glenny, Esq., JP
  • Hon. Treasurer: Lt.-Col. Hugh Lloyd Howard, MC
  • Hon. Auditor: R. Barlow Tyler, Esq., FCA
  • Hon. Musical Director: G.F. Brockless, Esq., MusDoc, FRCO, LRAM, ARC
  • Chief Marshals: H.N. Crowe, Esq.; M.G. Luntz, Esq.; Captain W.J. Parker
  • Hon. Area Representatives:
  • Barking: Councillor A. Whiting, JP
  • Becontree: Captain H.W. Amies
  • Dagenham: H.N. Crowe, Esq.
  • Ilford: M.G. Luntz, Esq.
  • Secretary: Mr Geo. B Graham
  • Historians: E.P. Dicken, Esq., MD; Miss Dorothy M. Hobbs; Miss A.L. Westlake, BA; Fred J. Brand, Esq.; A.W. Rigden, Esq., MC, MA; Col. E.A. Loftus, OBE, TD, DL, MA, BSc; P.H. Reaney, Esq., MA, PhD

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: J.S. Parker, Esq.
  • Deputy Chairman: Geo. W. Glenny, Esq., JP
  • Hon. Treasurer: Lt.-Col. Hugh Lloyd Howard, MC
  • Hon. Auditor: R. Barlow Tyler, Esq., FCA
  • Master of the Pageant: Frank Lascelles, Esq.
  • Hon. Musical Director: G.F. Brockless, Esq., MusDoc, FRCO, LRAM, ARC
  • Major Alex Young, TD, (Mayor of Ilford)
  • Col. A.E. Martin, JP, (Mayor of Barking)
  • Mrs Rothwell (Chairman of Dagenham UDC)
  • A.J. Couzens, Esq.
  • H. Pritchard, Esq. MD
  • J. Snow Huddleston, Esq.
  • Councillor C.F. Jay
  • Captain F.A. Jenks
  • J.J. Taylor, Esq., JP
  • Captain W.J. Parker
  • A.W. Green, Esq.
  • Captain H.W. Amies (Chairman Ampitheatre Committee)
  • F.J. Brand, Esq. (Chairman Historical Committee)
  • Mrs Hatcher (Chairman of Designs and Costumes Committee)
  • J.J. Rogers, Esq. (Chairman Transport Committee)
  • E.J. Elstone, Esq. (Chairman Music Committee)
  • P.H. Reaney, Esq., MA, PhD (Chairman Publications Committee).
  • C.W. Cropper, Esq. (Chairman Publicity Committee)
  • E.W.M. Wittey, Esq., BA (Chairman Lectures Committee)
  • G. Austen Hepworth, Esq., (Secretary King George Hospital)

Episode Organisation:

Episode I. Boadicea:

  • Area Representative: Councillor A. Whiting, JP
  • Area Controller: Captain F.A. Jenks, MC
  • Area Property Master: Mr H. Martin
  • Area Costumes Committee: 0 men, 5 women = 5 total
  • Treasurer: Mr S.A. Jewers
  • Secretary: Mr R.H.W. Peck
Episode II. Legend of the Seven Kings:
  • Chairman: Rev. Hamish Gray, MA
  • Producer: Mr F.C. Pryor
  • Stage Manager: Mr J.A.V. Hodge
  • Wardrobe Mistresses: Mesdames Lloyd, Harding and Nicholls
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr A.H. Allen
  • Hon. Treasurer: Rev. A.R. Mead
  • Marshal: Mr Ganiford
  • Music Master: Mr Turner
Episode III. Late Summer, 1532:
  • Episode Organizer and Chairman of Episode Committee: Captain H.W. Amies
  • Vice-Chairman: The Reverend Father C.W. Nye, St Peter’s Becontree
  • Hon. Treasurers: E.H. Huber and G.W. Threader
  • Property Managers: W.W. Harrington and F.H. Stables
  • Secretaries: S.T. Merriman and Miss I.A. Thompson
  • Designer of Costumes: Mrs F.W. Ingram
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs .W. Amies
  • Assistant Wardrobe Mistresses: Mesdames Ansell, Awberry, Barker, Clark, Ellis, Gage, Gear, Huber, Leighton, Marshall, McBridge, Turner and Walter
  • Producer and Stage Manager: Hardy Amies
  • Assistant Stage Manager: F.O. Awbery
  • Marshal: A.E. Reeve, JP
Episode IV. Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury:
  • Stage Manager: Mr W.V. Bowell
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Allum
  • Secretary: Mr M.G. Luntz
  • Marshall: Mr M. Dodwell
  • Assistant Marshall: Mr R. Tutt
Episode V. The Siege of Colchester:
  • Producer: Lt.-Col. J.L. French
  • Stage Manager and Secretary: Major J.N. Coker, MC
  • Assistant Secretary and Wardrobe Master: Lt. (Quartermaster) L. Hardy
Episode VI. The Fairlop Fair:
  • Area Representative: Councillor A. Whiting, JP
  • Area Controller: Captain F.A. Jenks, MC
  • Area Property Master: Mr H. Martin
  • Area Costumes Committee: 0 men, 5 women = 5 total
  • Treasurer: Mr S.A. Jewers
  • Secretary: Mr R.H.W. Peck
Episode VII. Celebrations in Epping Forest on its Dedication to the Public by Queen Victoria:
  • Chairman of Committee: M.G. Luntz
  • Producer: W.A. Copperwheat
  • Assistant Producer: F.E. Sabin
  • Secretary and Treasurer: Miss G.E. Hall
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Luntz
  • Property Manager: W. Cook


King George V was the Royal Patron for the pageant, and there was a long list of other important people from nearby towns and cities—such as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; and various Earls, Lords, Bishops and MPs.

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

  • Westerlake, A.L.
  • Dickin, E.P.
  • Loftus, E.A.
  • Reaney, P.H.
  • Hobbs, D.M.
  • Rigden, A.W.


  • Episode I. Boadicea. Story by F. Brand, Esq.; Dialogue by Miss A.L. Westlake, BA.
  • Episode II. Legend of the Seven Kings. By Miss. A.L. Westlake, BA.
  • Episode III. Late Summer, 1532. Presented by Residents and Organizations of the Becontree Estate and District. Dialogue by E.P. Dickin, MD.
  • Episode IV. Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury. By Colonel E.A. Loftus, MA, BSc.
  • Episode V. The Siege of Colchester. By P.H. Reaney, MA, PhD.
  • Episode VI. The Fairlop Fair. Story by Miss D.M. Hobbs.
  • Episode VII. Celebrations in Epping Forest on its Dedication to the Public by Queen Victoria. By A.W. Rigden, Esq., MC, MA.

Names of composers

  • Farnaby, Giles
  • Brockless, G.F.
  • Hobbs, Dorothy M.

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Cost of organising: £4360. 15s. 7d.

Gate receipts: £3278. 5s. 3d.

Other receipts included

  • £663. 12s. 9d. donations
  • £331 proceeds of a draw
  • £300 raised by Rotary Club competitions
  • £121. 11s. 6d. collected at the Sunday service
  • £439. 13s. 4d. received as insurance for the night that rain prevented the pageant taking place.1

Profit: £880 0s 10d

Object of any funds raised

King George Hospital Fund


The total profit was donated to this cause.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 14000
  • Total audience: n/a


Covered grandstand with seating for 4000; uncovered stand to seat 4000; and an uncovered stand for 6000 standing.

8000 attended on opening night.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s. 6d.–1s. 2d.

  • Covered grandstand with seating for 4000: 3s., 5s., 7s. 6d., and 10s. 6d.
  • Uncovered stand to seat 4000: 2s. 6d.
  • Uncovered stand for 6000 standing: 1s. 2d. (half price for children under 12).
  • Matinee performance on the final Saturday with reduced prices.

Associated events

  • Official opening by the Lord Mayor of London, with Sheriffs, in state (Saturday 2 July, 2.30pm).
  • Massed Bands in Barking Park. Band of the 4th Battalion Essex Regiment and the Ilford Civic Band (Sunday 3 July, 3pm).
  • Opening by Lord Lieutenant Brig.-Gen. Colvin, CB, with Deputy Lieutenants (Saturday 9 July).
  • United Thanksgiving Service in Valentines Park, address by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford. Pageant Choir and Orchestra; Procession from the Town Hall, Ilford, to the Pageant Arena. Band music (Sunday 10 July 10).

Pageant outline

Episode I. Boadicea, c. 61 AD

Scene I

Courtyard of Temple of Claudius at Colchester. In the centre of the scene there is a Roman altar. A procession of twenty priests enters, followed by youths bearing emblems of Mithrus [Mithra], the Sun God. A ritual involving incense takes place, before the priests group around the altar. Ten Roman soldiers enter on horseback, followed by four Lictors on foot bearing fasces, followed by Catus Decianus, the newly appointed Procurator of the Colchester district, and his captains and soldiers. The High Priest bids Catus to make an offering to the Sun God, which he does. The High Priest now reads a scroll from Emperor Nero, which declares Catus Decianus Procurator of Camulodunum. Catus addresses the priest, Roman soldiers and citizens of Britain, thanking them and promising to attend to any petition they wish to present. Boadicea, the Iceni Queen, enters in semi-military costume with her two daughters, some British chieftains, and a crowd of followers. She presents the will of her father, the great chieftain Prasutagus, to Catus, and begs that he deals justly with it. Catus reads the scroll and laughs derisively, before asking the Romans whether the ‘unfriendly Iceni’ should be punished. The Romans reply ‘Down with the Iceni’. Catus is supposedly merciful in not taking their lives, but instructs his legions to sack the palace, give Boadicea’s daughters to his centurions, and beat the Iceni Queen with rods. They are captured, as the Romans cheer.

Scene II. Outside Colchester

Boadicea, who has escaped from Colchester, comes hurrying forward with armed chieftains and a crowd of fifty men, plus women and children. The leader of the Trinobantes approaches, and declares he will help her overthrow ‘these enemies of the British race’. Boadicea rouses the crowd with a bold and heartfelt speech, instructing them to resist. A horseman enters and tells Boadicea that a great gathering of the clans from east and south awaits in their thousands. She rides off with cries of ‘Down with Catus—Down with the Romans.’

Scene III. Camp outside Verulamium

Boadicea enters in a chariot, with her Chieftains and troops. Tasgetius enters and reads a scroll, written by Druids, that relates a former bloody victory of Boadicea. A party of Roman priests enter; Boadicea shows them no mercy, and instructs her soldiers to ‘see that these men are dealt with’. A soothsayer comes forward and warns the Queen not to be boastful and to remember to pray, as ‘the black storm clouds gather’. She ignores the soothsayer, as a messenger approaches and informs Boadicea that a large army of Romans under the leader Suetonius is only two days march away. She reacts boldly, and declares ‘Good news you bring, for it will mean our final victory.’ She leads the cavalcade away, as the captured priest declares: ‘Fear not, priests of Mithrus. The Sun God will triumph—the Roman legions have returned and the temple of Claudius shall be rebuilt more gloriously.’

Scene IV. Near the Camp at Loughton

Boadicea leads in a worn and torn battalion of British warriors; they are met by a party of Roman Horsemen led by Suetonius, all in full armour, and followed by more soldiers on foot. Suetonius instructs Boadicea to surrender and beg for mercy now that she is beaten. Boadicea declines, and declares ‘Rome may conquer our bodies with her mailed legions, but never our hearts!’ She takes a phial of poison from her dress, drinks it, and falls dead. The Romans take the British warriors prisoners and march away, as Boadicea’s body is surrounded by faithful followers, who then carry her off on a bier. A mournful chant is sung by gathered priests.

Episode II. The Legend of the Seven Kings, c. 664

The brothers Bishop Cedd and Bishop Chad enter with priests and set up a Council. They talk in praise of the countryside. They also describe their varying levels of success in converting the people to religion, and discuss the healing properties of a nearby pool—Chad’s Well. King Sigebert of the East Saxons enters on horseback with thegns, and is welcomed by the Bishops. The other Kings enter—Alchfrid, King of Deira; Sulfhere, King of Mercia; Ercobert, King of Kent; Ethelwold, King of South Saxons; and finally, looking weary, Cenwalh, King of Wessex, and Cuthred, Under-King of Wessex. Sigebert declares that the spot where they have met, where their horses have drunk from the pool, will be known as Seven Kings Watering. The Kings and ladies are seated, before a procession of Bishops and clergy approach singing a hymn. The Bishops sit, and Cedd tells the Kings of the progress made at the Synod held at Whitby Abbey. Wulfhere of Mercia interrupts and, laughing, declares that they will follow St Peter—lest they don’t get into heaven. James the Deacon announces several rules. The news that Sunday will be a day of rest brings shouts of joy from the serfs, but the news that penny dues must be paid to the Church brings less enthusiasm. Ercobert of Kent and Ethelwald of the South Saxons have a disagreement and have to be split apart by Chad. Chad declares that there is ‘one Church now for all’—one faith to unite the Kingdoms. The whole assembly catches his vision, and springing up shout: ‘Be all One, All One. Angle-land—England!’ The Kings leave for their hunting lodge, as the monks leave singing a Latin hymn.

Episode III. Late Summer, 1532

Scene I

On the open ground in the vicinity of the Priory of Little Dunmow there is revelry, village sport and dancing, graced by the presence of the Lord and Lady of the Manor. The noisy assembly is called to order by the Bailiff, who announces the arrival of the Prior, with the Canons to hold court. At the close of humorous, bawdy, and farcical legal proceedings, the awarding of the Dunmow Flitch is shown.

Scene II

The scene takes place in a clearance in Witham Forest with New Hall in the background. The scene opens with the entry of a group of Forest dwellers, who earn a scanty livelihood burning charcoal, singing as they go. The servants and retainers at the Hall have learned that the King is hunting in the Forest and are expectant of a visit; their excitement grows as they hear a hunting horn in the distance. Henry VIII enters to much fanfare. He talks kindly with the Burners. He is greeted by Lady Anne, with whom he indulges in amorous conversation—though also complaining about his current wife, Katherine. He declares that he loves Anne, and promises that the Pope will annul the marriage. The scene concludes in Henry’s acceptance to join Anne in her house; his popularity in the neighbourhood is cemented when he invites all present to also participate at Royal expense.

Episode IV. Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury, c. 1588

Troops enter, led by Sir Thomas Morgan, as villagers noisily arrange themselves in convenient positions to watch a review. A fanfare of trumpets sounds, as the Royal Party enters—trumpeters, sergeants, Lords, footmen, guards, maids of honour, and finally Queen Elizabeth on horseback, her bridle rein held by the Earl of Essex. Shouts of ‘Long Live the Queen’ and ‘Down with the Spaniards’ are heard. The Queen reviews the troops, before the Earl of Leicester approaches and welcomes her—promising the strength and loyalty of the assembled soldiers. Elizabeth delivers a long speech, including the famous lines ‘Although I have but woman’s feeble frame, my heart is of a King—of England too, and thinks foul scorn that any foreign prince should dare invade the borders of my realm.’ She resolves that they will beat the Spaniards. The Earl of Cumberland enters hastily, bringing news that King Philip’s fleet has fled. A Song of Victory is sung, before the Queen watches a host of dances. When the Queen leaves to the sound of a fanfare, a salute by cannon is given.

Episode V. The Siege of Colchester, 1648

Scene I. The Royalists Enter Colchester, 12 June 1648

Watchmen spot a Royalist trooper, and quickly give an alarm to the town. Armed citizens enter through the gate before, on the opposite side, Sir Charles Lucas enters with a guard of Royalist cavalry. He instructs one of his men to bring the rest of the army. The Mayor of Colchester enters with two citizens, and pleads with Lucas to spare his native town from blood-shedding. Lucas affirms that he has no wish for unnecessary bloodshed, but they must surrender. The Mayor confirms his treasonous support for Parliament, but says they will only resist if the terms of surrender are ‘harsh and severe’—meaning that the town is plundered or its people injured. Lucas assents, but also demands the surrender of the town’s horses and arms. The Mayor agrees. The Royalists enter through the gate.

Scene II. The Beginning of the Siege, 13 June 1648

A mounted Parliamentarian Officer and Trumpeter enter the arena, and ride up to the gate. The Officer announces that he brings a message from Lord General Fairfax, Commander of the forces of the Parliament, to Lord Goring, Commander of the rebel forces in Colchester. Lord Goring enters, attended by Lucas, Lord Capel, Sir George Isle, and others. The Officer tells of the message that if they surrender, the town will not be plundered and destroyed. Goring smiles derisively and mocks Fairfax. All exit, and prepare for action. The Royalist cavalry enter from the town and form flanks, as the Parliamentary army gather more quickly and attack. A confused engagement follows and the Royalist cavalry are driven off. Many Royalists are taken as prisoners, but some Royalists remain inside the town as the gate is still shut. Fairfax withdraws his army.

Scene III. The Surrender, 28 August 1648

The Parliamentary Army enters and forms a hollow square, with a table and chairs set in the middle. Fairfax enters with officers and sits. Col. Tuke, Sir William Compton, Sir Abraham Shipton, Col. Hammond and Col. Ayloffe enter. Tuke declares that the terms of surrender have been accepted by Lord Goring and Charles Lucas on behalf of the King’s forces. Col. Ireton reads the articles of surrender, before Fairfax asks if they accept these terms. Tuke inquires on several points, before both sides sign the Articles. The Parliamentarian Army celebrates as Tuke and his companions return to the town. Unarmed Royalists enter on foot, dejected, and taken as prisoner. Fairfax and his army enter into Colchester, triumphant.

Scene IV. The Loyal Sacrifice, Evening of 28 August 1648

A firing squad enters and assembles, as townsfolk watch on. Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Isle are brought in and placed ready for execution. Lucas is defiant and pulls open his breastplate, declaring ‘Now, rebels do your worst!’ He is shot and immediately falls. Lisle is brought to his friend’s side, where he emotionally declares him a true, loyal and brave friend. He stands, and distributes gold to the executioners, as well as handing over some more to be delivered to his old friends in London. Like Lucas, he remains defiantly loyal to the King. He prays, before rising. Declaring ‘Traitors, do your worst!’ he is shot dead.

Episode VI. The Fairlop Fair, c. 1780s

Scene I

The Fairlop Oak is at the centre, surrounded by ‘Gipsy Tents’, and a chaise. Archers set up targets, and practice, as gipsies watch on. An informal picnic takes place as a gipsy woman tells fortunes. Waltham Blacks steal singly from the trees and surround the chaise. The gipsies vanish, but a coachman and old gentlemen are seized, and ladies roughly ordered to alight. One lady faints. All of a sudden Dick Turpin rides in on Black Bess. He holds up the victims and criminals alike, though he returns the ladies’ trinkets and assists the fainting lady. Turpin rides away, as the gipsies return.

Scene II. The Fair

A Town Crier enters and announces the Fair. Barnaby Rudge is seen, frolicking with children and a raven. Stall holders erect booths as a table is placed for the Steward of the Lord of the Manor who presides over the Piepowder Court. The steward arrives, as do more country folk, and dressed ladies and gentlemen. A Maypole is set up. Colchester oysters can be seen for sale. Girls play games and sing songs. Boys persuade Barnaby to act as a bear in a game of Bear Leader, a kind of Blind Man’s Buff. Sir Bamber Gascoigne, a Justice of Peace, arrives with archers, and expresses displeasure at the conduct of the fair. He addresses the assembled folk, declaring his attention to end the drunken and brawling riotous fair. The crowd reacts badly, but are disturbed by the arrival of two boats. Sir Bamber and the archers ride to meet the boats, whose passengers disembark showing great courtesy. They amicably agree to keep the peace of the fair, before the boatmen sing traditional songs. The captains of the boats sit down to dinner with local dignitaries. A Punch show takes place, and a pickpocket is arrested and sent to the court. As dusk falls the boatmen leave, and the stallholders begin to pack up. Gradually everyone makes their way out.

Episode VII. Celebrations in Epping Forest on its Dedication to the Public by Queen Victoria, c. 1882

A crowd of people gradually enter, before the Corporation of the City of London enters the arena. The Lord Mayor of London addresses the people, and welcomes them to the ceremony to see the Queen open the forest (the celebration of it passing into public hands after an Act of Parliament). Three cheers are given, before the crowd breaks up into groups for games, dances, and song. Cries of ‘The Queen’ are heard, as an open carriage, with the Queen, her daughter and two ladies in waiting, accompanied by soldiers, is seen crossing in the far distance.


Among a crowd of representatives of the great profession of Nursing stands the Angel of Divine Compassion, delivering to mankind the healing properties of the four elements, Sunlight, Fresh Air, Pure Water, and the radium-containing Earth. The Spirits of Mercy and Truth answer the Divine Call and devote themselves to the service of the weak and the sick, and the search for light and truth until such time as mankind shall enjoy to the full his birth right of health and beauty. Pageant performers and spectators join the commemoration by singing the Hospital Hymn.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni [also known as Boudica]
  • Suetonius Paullinus, Gaius (fl. c.AD 40–69) Roman governor of Britain
  • Sigeberht I [called Sigeberht Parvus] (fl. 626) king of the East Saxons [also known as Sigebert]
  • Alchfrith [Ealhfrith] (fl. c.655–c.665) sub-king of Deira
  • Wulfhere (d. 675) king of the Mercians
  • Æthelwealh (d. c.685), king of the South Saxons
  • Cenwalh (d. 672) king of the Gewisse
  • Ceadda [St Ceadda, Chad] (d. 672?) abbot of Lastingham and bishop of Mercia and Lindsey
  • Cedd [St Cedd] (d. 664) bishop of the East Saxons
  • Agilbert (d. 679x90) bishop of the West Saxons
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Anne [Anne Boleyn] (c.1500–1536) queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Dudley, Robert, earl of Leicester (1532/3–1588) courtier and magnate
  • Clifford, George, third earl of Cumberland (1558–1605) courtier and privateer
  • Devereux, Robert, second earl of Essex (1565–1601) soldier and politician
  • Norris [Norreys], Sir John (c.1547x50–1597) military commander
  • Morgan, Sir Thomas (d. 1595) soldier
  • Lucas, Sir Charles (1612/13–1648) royalist army officer
  • Lisle, Sir George (d. 1648) royalist army officer
  • Tuke, Sir Samuel, first baronet (c.1615–1674) royalist army officer and playwright
  • Capel, Arthur, first Baron Capel of Hadham (1604–1649) royalist army officer and politician
  • Goring, George, Baron Goring (1608–1657) royalist army officer
  • Compton, Sir William (1625–1663) army officer
  • Ayloffe [Ayliffe], John (c.1645–1685) satirist and conspirator
  • Fairfax, Thomas, third Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612–1671) parliamentarian army officer
  • Ireton, Henry (bap. 1611, d. 1651) parliamentarian army officer and regicide
  • Rainborowe [Rainborow], Thomas (d. 1648) parliamentarian army officer and Leveller
  • Whalley, Edward, appointed Lord Whalley under the protectorate (d. 1674/5) regicide and major-general [also known as Whaley, Edward]
  • Honywood, Sir Thomas, appointed Lord Honywood under the protectorate (1587–1666) parliamentarian army officer and local politician
  • Turpin, Richard [Dick] (bap. 1705, d. 1739) highwayman
  • Victoria (1819–1901) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India

Musical production

Choir of 400. Orchestra of 150.

  • ‘The Ode to Chronis’. Translated by Mr H. Harris, MA, [found engraved on a memorial pillar at Tralles near Ephesus, c. 100 AD] (Episode I).
  • ‘The Hymn to Nemesis, Goddess of Retribution’ (Episode I).
  • Boadicea’s Funeral Chant [adaptation of the famous Latin hymn ‘Dies Irae’] (Episode I).
  • Old Latin Hymn (Episode II).
  • ‘Somer is Icumen In’ (Episode II). 
  • Giles Farnaby. Lady Souche’s March (Episode II).
  • G.F. Brockless .‘The Charcoal Burner’s Song’ (Episode III).
  • G.F. Brockless. ‘The Song of Victory’ (Episode IV).
  • ‘The Waterman’s Song’. Harmonised by Dr Ralph Dunstan [founded on an Air of 1750 AD, Lady McIntosh’s Reel] (Episode VI).
  • ‘The Pump Maker’s Song’ [such to the Star Spangled Banner, which in its original form was an English tune, ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’] (Episode VI).
  • G.F. Brockless and Dorothy M. Hobbs. ‘The Hospital Hymn’ (Epilogue).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Ilford Guardian
Chelmsford Chronicle
Essex Newsman
Lincolnshire Echo
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
The Observer

Book of words

The Book of the Pageant of Essex. Ilford, 1932.

Copy in British Library.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Caunt, George. Ilford’s Yesterdays: The Story of a Village that became a Town. Ilford, 1963. At 76.

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Camden, William. Britannia. 2nd edition. Revised by Gibson. London, 1871.
  • Dickens, Charles. Barnaby Rudge. 1841.
  • Royal Commission on Historic Monuments. Essex. Vol. III. 25. London, 1916-1923.
  • Strutt, Joseph. The Chronicle of England. London, 1779.


Following on from the Barking Pageant in 1931, the larger-in-scope Pageant of Essex was staged in summer 1932 to raise money for the newly opened King George Hospital in Ilford. Directed by Frank Lascelles, who had only finished the Leicester Pageant about a week earlier, it bore all the hallmarks of his style in this period. The pageant was somewhat novel in that it was produced on a county-wide basis, and was predominately organised by representatives of the hospital. In production terms, too, it was very modern—extensively using both floodlighting and microphones for the performers. A minor success financially, and lauded by the local press, the Pageant of Essex was yet another example of the enduring popularity historical pageants still had in Depression-era Britain.

The clear and stated aim of the pageant was to contribute to the King George Hospital Building Fund, which was looking to raise £20000. Serving the needs of both Essex and London, the hospital had been opened by the King himself in July 1931, following a fundraising campaign over several years that he had patronised. Already, however, its facilities were ‘barely sufficient to meet the ever growing demands of the district.’3 A foreword in the Book of Words written by Brigadier General R.B. Colvin, President of both the pageant and the hospital, reminded the spectators that they were there for pleasure, but also to support a noble cause.4 Other pages in the Book included pictures of patients to invoke sympathy and support, as well as explanations about how to subscribe, donate, or volunteer.5 This call for charity even passed into the actual pageant narrative when, in the final Epilogue, allegorical characters of Compassion, Mercy, and Truth sang of the necessity of servicing ‘the weak and the sick’, before the whole cast sang the Hospital Hymn.

If the purpose of the pageant was to raise money, it was still fastidiously researched and historically informed. Seemingly leading in this respect was Fred J. Brand, the elderly noted author and founder of the Barking and District Historical Society, supported by a team of other local historians. Brand was undeniably an expert in Essex history and had helped in the Barking Pageant the previous year.6 In the Book of Words he contributed a long and detailed history of the county, and his influence was clear in the long and detailed scenes portraying the English Civil War and also the Boadicea episode. Nonetheless, there were still fictional characters in the pageant, like Barnaby Rudge of Charles Dickens fame, and incidents that were likely not wholly true, such as the appearance of a gallant Dick Turpin on Black Bess. Moreover, reflecting the style of Frank Lascelles, the whole narrative was humorous, spectacular, and colourful. In terms of structure, a great deal of time and effort was given to Boadicea and the Romans, and the siege of Colchester. Vibrant and bawdy fairs, spectacular to the eye and relying on little dialogue, also featured in the third, sixth and seventh episodes—a common and popular ploy of Lascelles’s productions. Kings and Queens, of course, still featured heavily. Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth appeared to pay their compliments to Essex people and culture, while even Victoria made a fleeting appearance—despite their being a ban on depictions of Victoria by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in this period.7 Perhaps most important, however, were the Seven Kings of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms who gathered at Ilford; this second episode ended with the declaration ‘Be all One, All One. Angle-land—England!’, and thus placed the County firmly in the national story.

In terms of the civic ideal the pageant promoted, it was very much characteristic of the established priorities of pageant organisers. In the run up to the first performance, Colonel A.J. Meyers of the local Salvation Army, and choirmaster for the pageant, declared that the Anglican and Free Churches had ‘co-operated wonderfully’ well’ in the choir, because, he believed, ‘they are animated by the cause for which they are working.’8 Education was also important; as the Ilford Guardian pointed out, ‘It is not often that the public have the opportunity to be entertained and at the same time to be educated without their hardly realising it’.9 Civic ritual was also stimulated—especially on the Sunday, when there was ‘an event without parallel in the history of the Town’, when the whole of the cast gathered at the Town Hall with many local organisations and massed bands, before marching to the arena for the thanksgiving service.10 As in Louis Napoleon Parker’s original Edwardian vision, the volunteers were all local; made their own costumes; organised the committees; and wrote the episodes.11

In a small way the pageant organisation and publicity reflected certain contemporary concerns about the rapid suburbanisation of London, the rise in social housing, and the supposed effects such processes had on counties like Essex. The Ilford Guardian, somewhat patronisingly, complimented the part played by Becontree, the new municipal estate. Giving a literary ‘hearty slap on the back’, it pointed out that the residents of the estate, usually subject to an ‘inferiority complex’, had far outstripped volunteers from the older districts of Ilford, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, and Barking.12 More reflective was a letter to the press from the Ilford poet Dorothy M. Hobbs, who also contributed to the writing of some of episodes. In a sense, she displayed her own inferiority complex when she declared:

The rapid influx of population into Ilford has given rise to the idea that we are but a suburb of mushroom growth dependent for our very existence upon being a ‘dormitory of London.’ I am sure the sympathies of your journal will be with those who, having known Ilford long enough to have established a close relationship between our growth and the growth of the suburb, would be reluctant to see Ilford becoming satisfied with a bond of fellowship between its citizens no greater than that which might subsist between the guests at a huge hotel. We feel the need of a closer unity of spirit and purpose that may be best expressed in the term ‘A Borough Consciousness’.

Ilford, she argued, with its lack of ancient well-defined limits like towns of the medieval era, struggled to maintain a sense of its ‘own personality’. The pageant, which encouraged local people to sink their effort into the common purpose of helping the hospital, was one way to ‘feel this spirit of unity, that fellowship of purpose that gives personality to a town.’13 The Ilford Guardian agreed, declaring that ‘there is always a danger in these vast and rapidly growing suburbs that concurrently the public should lose much of its sense of local patriotism and historical regard’; the pageant, in contrast, had cemented camaraderie and helped all districts sink their whole into ‘one common cause’.14

The Ilford Guardian, predictably, was highly complimentary of the success, visually, of the pageant. Lascelles, it declared, ‘has succeeded in bringing back to this drab twentieth century the wisdom, art and culture of former ages, in scenes of immense beauty and colour, correct in every historical detail.’15 The pageant, the newspaper continued to gush, was ‘an exquisite poem in motion’ and ‘undoubtedly the greatest event which has taken place in the town for many and many a long year’.16 Press opinion from outside the county was also positive. The Times declared that Lascelles had ‘shown that a popular entertainment may be done with art’, and recognised that:

The toy replicas of history and the words were not the main show; they were the good excuse for Mr Lascelles to march and counter-march bodies of colour, to fling lines of inhabited dresses in soft tones across the grass, to draw and wind threads of other tones among them.17

The Observer picked up on the production especially, and neatly encapsulated the developments that pageantry had undergone by the 1930s, in stark contrast to the original Edwardian stagings:

A fear years ago such a magnificent spectacle as this… would not have been possible. Thanks to a series of loud-speakers, one was able to hear distinctly in every part of the vast amphitheatre… Thanks to the manipulation of the flood-lights, one was able to appreciate detail and gesture with the sharpness of a cinema ‘close-up.’ The result was that—unlike the old days of pageants—fun was never allowed to degenerate into clownishness or drama into a mere waving of arms.18

If the local press was happy with the citizenship and civic spirit apparently engendered by the pageant, they were less impressed with the £880 profit that was eventually donated to the Hospital Building Fund, having hoped that the pageant was going to raise ‘at least £5000’.19 Perhaps this was unsurprising—the audience for the opening performance, at 8000, was only just over half full.20 Indeed, without donations and insurance from a performance cancelled due to rain, the pageant would have made a loss.21 According to the Guardian, the chief pageant officials, from the Hospital, blamed the Town Council of Ilford—who, predictably, claimed that no-one had worked as hard as they on behalf of the pageant.22 Nonetheless, a profit was a profit, even if it did not ‘pack them in’, and the minor success of the Pageant of Essex, especially in keeping up with the times by using modern production methods, shows that the movement was arguably just as vibrant in the 1930s as it had been in the early 1900s.


  1. ^ ‘Pageant Proceeds’, Essex Newsman, 17 September 1932, 3.
  2. ^ ‘Pageant of Essex’, Chelmsford Chronicle, 8 July 1932, 2.
  3. ^ Brig.-Gen. R.B. Colvin, ‘Foreword: The Hospital and the Pageant’ in The Book of the Pageant of Essex (Ilford, 1932), 7.
  4. ^ Ibid. 7.
  5. ^ See, for example, ibid., 16–17.
  6. ^ Bill George, ‘Frederick Joseph Brand 1857–1939: Author, Artist, Musician, Archaeologist, Noted Authority on Essex History, Bibliophile and a Founder of the Barking and District Historical Society’, Barking and District Historical Society, accessed 8 October 2014,
  7. ^ ‘Pageant Ban’, Gloucestershire Echo, 23 April 1934, 6.
  8. ^ ‘Topical Town Talk’, Ilford Guardian, 25 June 1932, 4.
  9. ^ ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 1 July 1932, 4.
  10. ^ ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 8 July 1932, 4.
  11. ^ ‘Essex History in a Pageant’, The Observer, 3 July 1932, 19.
  12. ^ ‘Becontree’s Pageant Effort’, Ilford Guardian, 8 July 1932, 4.
  13. ^ ‘Ilford Poetess and Pageant Lesson’, Ilford Guardian, 22 July 1932, 1.
  14. ^ ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 22 July 1932, 4.
  15. ^ ‘All about the Pageant’, Ilford Guardian, 1 July 1932, 1.
  16. ^ ‘The Spectacle and the Performers’, Ilford Guardian, 8 July 1932, 1; ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 8 July 1932, 4.
  17. ^ ‘Pageant of Essex’, The Times, 4 July 1932, 10.
  18. ^ ‘Essex History in a Pageant’, The Observer, 3 July 1932, 19.
  19. ^ ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 22 July 1932, 4.
  20. ^ ‘Pageant of Essex’, Chelmsford Chronicle, 8 July 1932, 2.
  21. ^ ‘Pageant Proceeds’, Essex Newsman, 17 September 1932, 3.
  22. ^ ‘The Broadway: An Editorial Causerie’, Ilford Guardian, 22 July 1932, 4.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Pageant of Essex’, The Redress of the Past,