A Pageant of Hampton

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: The Deanery (Southampton) (Southampton, Hampshire, England)

Year: 1929

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 15


5–15 June 1929

5–15 June, daily at 7pm.
Afternoon performances on Wednesday 5 June and Saturday 8 June, 2.30pm.
Extra performances at popular prices on 14 June, 7.30 pm and 15 June, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
First performance (scheduled for 5 June) postponed.
Dress rehearsal for schoolchildren.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Thursby, Charles
  • President: The Earl of Serlborne, KG
  • Mistress of the Robes: Miss Keswick
  • Deputy Mistress of the Robes: Mrs De La Lee Gill
  • Master of the Properties: Mr Herbert Bryant, FRIBA
  • Musical Director: Mr D. Cecil Williams, FRCO
  • Stage Manager: Mr Philip E. Graham
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Mr C.J. Phillips

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: The Rev. H.R. Bates, MA
  • Vice-Chairman: The Rev. J.L. Beaumont James, MA
  • G.A. Waller
  • F.E. Stevens
  • R.W. Knowlton
  • W.R. Thomas
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr Colin McCarraher
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr R.A. Matthews
  • Hon. Architect: Mr L.W. Jukes, FSI
  • Mistress of the Robes: Miss Keswick
  • Deputy Mistress of the Robes: Mrs De La Lee Gill
  • Master of the Properties: Mr Herbert Bryant, FRIBA
  • Musical Director: Mr D. Cecil Williams, FRCO
  • Stage Manager: Mr Philip E. Graham
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Mr C.J. Phillips
  • 13 men, 2 women

Publicity and Programmes:

  • Hon. Secretary: Mr P.C.A. Penney


  • Hon Secretary: Mr W.R. Thomas


  • Hon Secretary: Mr H.W. Baker


  • Hon Treasurer: Mr E.C. Willoughby

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

  • Stevens, F.E.
  • Shakespeare, William

Names of composers

  • Williams, D. Cecil
  • Sullivan, Arthur
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • Woods, Francis Cunningham
  • German, Edward
  • Dolmetsch, Arnold
  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Church funds of St. Mary’s Shirley, and Millbrook parishes.

Linked occasion


Audience information

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


‘Attendances this week have been large and enthusiastic.’1

First dress rehearsal was attended by a thousand children from the elementary schools.2

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Admission First Day: 10s., 7s. 6d., 5s., 2s. 6d. (reserved covered stand); 1s. (unreserved). Other Days: 7s. 6d., 5s., 3s., 2s. (reserved covered stand); 1s. (unreserved).

Dress rehearsal for students at 1s.

Associated events

‘The “Pageant of Hampton” will be opened at the Deanery, Southampton, to-morrow afternoon, by the Mayor and Mayoress, who will be accompanied by the Corporation “in State”. The Corporation members will be escorted from the Audit House by Pageant Heralds and by troopers of the time of Charles I, and the opening ceremony will be a definite part of the Pageant, and will take place from the stage after the Corporation members have been conducted to their places as guests of honour.’

Pageant outline

The Prologue

Two Heralds open the pageant by declaring its story as a mere outline of the past, since so much had happened that to show it all would take up all of their time. They declare that Hampton’s story is ‘knit into the very fabric of our Island’s tale Of War and Peace: of progress and of checks’. The Prologue ends with the Herald introducing ‘The Knight who lived upon the hill’—Sir Bevis of Hampton.

Episode I. Sir Bevis of Hampton

The legend of Sir Bevis throwing his father’s supplanter into a cauldron of boiling dogs’ meat is shown on the centre rostrum. A Herald then announces the raiders who came from across the sea.

Episode II. The Raiders

Foreigners, in the disguise of merchants, raid Southampton. The Herald announces how King Henry V gathered men at Southampton, where he also unmasked the plot against his Royal House.

Episode III. Henry V, c.1415

The Shakespearean scene of the discovery of the plot in the Court room of the ‘Red Lion’ Inn. A Herald announces the legend of Henry VIII staying at Tudor House with Anne Boleyn.

Episode IV. Henry VIII, c.1530

Cardinal Wolsey brings a Papal bull dealing with the divorce to Henry VIII, who is staying at Tudor House with Anne Boleyn. [This is presumably adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.]


Episode V. The Story of the Common, 1228

This episode details the passing of the Common from the Lord of the Manor, Nicholas de Shirley, to the town. It opens with de Shirley and his wife, arguing about the fair use of the common by the townspeople and others. Sir Thomas de Muleton arrives on behalf of King Henry, expressing his wish that peace should be attained. A townsman, John Chopin, and de Shirley argue, with the former claiming it is common land and all have equal rights, the latter stating that he and his forefathers have always held the land. De Shirley complains that cattle from the town stray over onto the common, and that he does not mind the common folk using the Common in general. Throughout the episode various comedic quips are made by Chopin’s mistress and De Shirley’s wife, often against each other, such as Mistress Chopin stating ‘The heifers stray at times, my lord’ to which the Dame replies ‘So do the wives, unless their lords are stern.’ In general the women of the scene are portrayed as nagging, unreasonable and stupid for comic effect—such as when de Muleton states ‘The land is his in primogeniture’ to which Mistress Chopin interrupts ‘In primo-geni-who?’. The scene ends with de Muleton declaring that the town burgesses must pay ten marks of silver for use of the common.

Episode VI. Queen Elizabeth at Southampton, 1591

The episode begins with the Mayor announcing that Queen Elizabeth is coming. There is a mixed response to this news; one townsman is very happy, and believes it a credit to the town, whereas others see it as an expense the town could do without. The first townsman declares most of the town is on his side, and banishes the second townsman away. The Queen arrives, ‘proud to come again to this your ancient and famous town’. A Huguenot Leader gives a speech, offering gratitude to the Queen for offering him and his kind mercy. The Queen thanks him, and in turn thanks the town for taking in the Huguenots. The Mayor invites the Queen to watch the local people play.

Episode VII. The Masque, 1591

The Queen asks the Earl of Essex what the Masque is about; when he tells her it is about Canute and the Unruly Waves, she worries about the danger of drowning. The Sea, a character in the Masque, reassures her. Canute appears and introduces his ‘unhappy wife’, Queen Emma, before commanding her ‘Smile, baggage, smile!’ Queen Elizabeth bids them to begin the Masque. The Masque takes place, in an intentionally farcical manner, derived from the legend of Canute’s pride being so strong that he believed he could hold back the tide. Emma plays in the sea, and is bitten by a crab—which the King then sends to the kitchen. The Masque ends with Canute being overwhelmed by The Sea, obviously incapable of holding it back.

Episode VIII. King Charles at Redbridge, 1648

This scene details King Charles I passing through Redbridge when being taken to Windsor. It opens with the King being escorted by Colonel Harrison, the former persuading the latter to stop at Redbridge as it pleased him to sit amongst his people. Villagers approach shouting ‘Long Live the King!’ as children present him with flowers and gifts, to the consternation of Harrison. A woman approaches, wanting the King’s touch to heal her ‘monstrous’ son. Harrison gloats that a dethroned King cannot help. The King prays for the boy. Harrison cruelly encourages the King to drink to the health of Cromwell, before telling the people ‘…look your last upon your godlike King, For you will never see him more.’

Episode IX. A Vision of Whitehall, presumed 1649

This scene features the executioner, the King and the Grief of England, the latter who implores God to save the King’s life.

Episode X. The Court of Pie Powder

The scene opens with Chief Halberdier declaring the ancient fair and court open. A stranger approaches and asks the Halberdier if the old tradition of giving sanctuary to those who are oppressed is still in practice; the Halberdier replies that he thinks so—if they can prove they have benefit to the fair. The stranger declares that he can tell stories. [Listed in the cast list for this episode is St George and the Dragon; presumably at this point a tale is told.] A captain enters and speaks rudely to the Bailiff; they argue. He has come seeking the story-telling fugitive, declaring him a traitor to the King. The Bailiff declares he cannot take the man because of the ancient custom of protecting visitors to the fair. The Captain is angered, but the stranger escapes nonetheless.

Episode XI. The Spa, c.1800

The first part of this episode concerns an attack on the Duchess of Gloucester by footpads outside of the walls of Southampton, ostensibly a mugging. The events of the following day begin with two Gallants talking about the attack, one jesting that it had brought a bit of excitement, much to the others consternation. The Mayor approaches with the Master of Ceremonies. Expressing his displeasure, the Mayor blames the people who come to use the Spa, who get drunk and fight, expressing his belief that the Spa will die out and Southampton’s great prosperity will be found in the Quays—Southampton, the Queen of Ports. The Duchess of Gloucester enters, with her Lady-in-Waiting, and expresses her displeasure at the night’s previous events. The Mayor and the Master of Ceremonies both pretend not to know of the attack. She asks what other attractions they have ‘beside these nasty waters’; the Master of Ceremonies declares that the people will dance. The Duchess takes his hand, and joins in.

Finale. Grand Assembly.

The Spirit of Hampton is hailed as ‘Queen of Ports’ and presented with models of the Mayflower and a Modern Liner.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Henry V (1386–1422) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Richard [Richard of Conisbrough], earl of Cambridge (1385–1415) magnate Lord Scrope, Henry, third Baron Scrope of Masham (c.1376–1415) soldier and administrator
  • Beaufort, Thomas, duke of Exeter (1377?–1426) magnate and soldier
  • Moulton [Muleton, Multon], Sir Thomas of (d. 1240) landowner and justice
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland Anne Boleyn
  • Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530), royal minister, archbishop of York, and cardinal
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Devereux, Robert, second earl of Essex (1565–1601) soldier and politician
  • Cnut [Canute] (d. 1035) king of England, of Denmark, and of Norway
  • Emma [Ælfgifu] (d. 1052) queen of England, second consort of Æthelred II, and second consort of King Cnut
  • George [St George] (d. c.303?), patron saint of England
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Harrison, Thomas (bap. 1616, d. 1660) parliamentarian army officer and regicide

Musical production

‘The orchestra consisted of a full complement of strings, two trumpets, two trombones, and drums.’ Performed pieces included:

  • D. Cecil Williams. ‘The Grief of England’ (Episode IX).
  • ‘The Song of Agincourt’ (Episode III).
  • Sir Arthur Sullivan. ‘The Stranger’s Song’ (Episode X).
  • Beethoven. Minuet in G.
  • Incidental music during the intervals: ‘Gressenhall suite by Cunningham Woods; Dances from Nell Gwynne and Henry VII, by Edward German; Dolmetsch Suite for strings; Serenade for strings and pianoforte from Elgar’s “Wand of Youth”.’

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Southern Daily Echo
Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times

Book of words

Stevens, F.E. A Pageant of Hampton. Southampton, 1929.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • F.E. Stevens, A Pageant of Hampton. Southampton, 1929. Southampton Archives Services. D/Z 156/14.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Shakespeare. Henry V.


A Pageant of Hampton was the second of three large pageants in Southampton in the interwar period, following the Mayflower Pageant of 1920. Unlike that event, and the Silver Jubilee Pageant that followed in 1935, it was not attached to a commemoration and was seemingly held as a standalone initiative—the funds raised to ensure the maintenance of churches in St. Mary’s, Shirley and Milbrook. It was also the largest of the interwar pageants, with twice and thrice as many performances as the Silver Jubilee Pageant and Mayflower Pageant respectively. In this respect the Southern Daily Echo was justified in describing it as ‘the most ambitious effort of its kind made locally.’6 It was produced and directed by Charles Thursby, a man with considerable stage experience who went on to produce the Winchester Pageant of 1928 and the Pageant of Remembrance in 1932, and written by F.E. Stevens, a local historian.7 These two men reprised their respective roles for the Silver Jubilee Pageant in 1935. The five hundred actors were drawn from various local dramatic societies, such as the Above Bar Dramatic Society, and a branch of the English Folk Dance Association was also involved—presumably in coordinating the final dance in the Georgian Spa scene.

In terms of its structure and production the pageant was experimental, with different scenes using specific techniques. Some, such as the Sir Bevis of Hampton episode, the Raiders episode, and possibly the Vision of Whitehall episode, were brief and without dialogue, instead depending on mime, colour, and ‘dramatic power’.8 Thursby also decided to use a stage within the playing arena, presumably in order to focus upon the key dramatic action—‘a novel note in pageantry’ according to the Southern Daily Echo.9 The pageant was a mixture of traditional large cast episodes as well as established plays—presumably influencing the decision to have a stage. The Henry V episode was directly taken from the Shakespeare, and the following Henry VIII scene, one could speculate, was also from this source as well. All other episodes were written by Stevens. Two episodes also used the device of a ‘play within a play’ to introduce legends and mythical events—the Masque of King Canute and the Unruly Waves, and the appearance of St. George and the Dragon at the Court of Pie Powder.

Throughout the story the pageant was played mostly for laughs. The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times described how the humour was ‘as unforced as the spontaneous laughter that accompanied it’.10 Female characters in particular were used as comedic devices. In the Story of the Common, for example, the wives of the key characters were portrayed alternatively as nagging, unreasonable, and stupid for laughs—such as when de Muleton states ‘The land is his in primogeniture’ to which Mistress Chopin interrupts ‘In primo-geni-who?’.11 The Masque, too, was a wholly humorous episode, in which the old legend of King Canute’s belief in his own power to control the waves ended with him being overwhelmed by ‘the Sea’—seemingly played by a human. Even royal figures were not out of bounds for satire; when Queen Elizabeth came to visit, for example, one townsman asked Why do they come?’ before answering his own question: they came for the free wine and food —though he was quickly rebuked by other townspeople.12

In general the pageant provided an opportunity for civic elites to celebrate the government of the town. The Mayor, Mayoress, and other Corporation members were escorted from the Audit House by pageant heralds and troopers of Charles I, before the opening ceremony took place on the stage—the Corporation members having been conducted to their places as guests of honour.13 Worth noting is the fact that the Council was in the initial stages of planning its new civic centre building, the foundation stone laid the following year—a grand expression of the town council’s continued importance and power. As Adrian Rance has argued, ‘big town status was not so much striven for but accepted as a natural state’ in the interwar period, with the development of civic amenities and the expansion of civic awareness.14

The pageant also employed several of the common themes of pageantry, as well as some newer devices, to contribute to a building up of the town’s pride and power. In the prologue, for example, the heralds declared the history of Hampton as being ‘knit into the very fabric of our Island’s tale of War and Peace: of progress and of checks.’15 Following scenes brought Royal figures directly into the town, making sure that they commented positively about the place and its people. Southampton in this period was at the height of its power economically, due to the continued development and importance of the liner trade and consequent expansion of the docks.16 The traditional historically backward looking nature of pageantry was thus parodied in the Georgian Spa scene, where the Mayor made clear his belief that the future prosperity of Southampton would come from its harbour and docks rather than as a town of highbrow leisure. In the following Grand Assembly scene the Spirit of Hampton was thus hailed as ‘Queen of Ports’ and presented with models of the Mayflower and a modern liner, connecting the towns maritime history to the present.17

Approval was seemingly universal. The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times had high praise for the pageant, describing how the scenes were ‘replete with life and movement, with action, with humour and with pathos’, and how it stood ‘in a class by itself. It is superb.’18 The Southern Daily Echo too declared it a ‘brilliant success’—describing how the ‘pageanteers were almost overwhelmed by the congratulations showered upon them after the first performance’.19 One guest of honour who also had glowing praise for the pageant was the Bishop of Portsmouth, Neville Lovett, former canon of St. Mary’s and the producer of the two largest pageants in Southampton—the Tudor Pageant in 1914 and the Mayflower Pageant in 1920. Such was his fame for creating ‘the Deanery tradition in pageantry’ that his request to address the audience following one performance was readily accepted. ‘It is’, he said, ‘the finest pageant I have seen in the whole of my life. I had no idea that it could be so good.’20 The Earl of Malmesbury, James Edward Harris, another guest of honour, also gave the pageant high praise. As a student of the Georgian period he was particularly interested in the Georgian episode, which the press paraphrased him as describing as ‘wonderfully exact and amusing.’21 It was, seemingly, a great success. Attendances were ‘large and enthusiastic’, and two more performances at popular prices took place.22

In many senses the Hampton Pageant of 1929 straddled the older traditions of Parker’s original vision, while also containing modern elements that became more prevalent in future Southampton events, and in pageantry more general. In common with the original pre-1914 pageants, it only dealt with English history, unlike Southampton’s Mayflower Pageant of 1920, and took a long spread of history, unlike the Southampton Tudor Pageant of 1914. Though it did not have scenes up to the present day, again like the older pageants in Britain, it did have references to the future; similarly while most episodes featured dialogue, some only had music and mine. The Silver Jubilee Pageant six years later built upon these changes and had much more recent history, and was completely in mime. In its use of theatre, too, A Pageant of Hampton was prescient; the Southampton Quintencenary was entirely a theatrical piece, taking place inside, while also again using the Henry V scene. It was, arguably, the biggest pageant to take place in the town, and probably the closest to the ‘generic’ historical pageant model in Britain.


  1. ^ ‘An Impression of the Town Pageant’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 15 June 1929, 5.
  2. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 4 June 1929, 5.
  3. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 4 June 1929, 5.
  4. ^ ‘The Pageant Music’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 22 June 1929, 5.
  5. ^ ‘The Pageant Music’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 22 June 1929, 5.
  6. ^ ‘The Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 6 June 1929, 1.
  7. ^ Grand Floodlit Pageant on the Southampton Common (Southampton, 1935), 12; F.E. Stevens, The Battle Story of the Hampshire Regiment (Southampton, 1919).
  8. ^ ‘Pageantry’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 8 June 1929, 9.
  9. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 4 June 1929, 5.
  10. ^ ‘An Impression of the Town Pageant’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 15 June 1929, 5.
  11. ^ F.E. Stevens, A Pageant of Hampton (Southampton, 1929), 17.
  12. ^ F.E. Stevens, A Pageant of Hampton (Southampton, 1929), 19.
  13. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 4 June 1929, 5.
  14. ^ Adrian Rance, Southampton: An Illustrated History (Southampton, 1986), 144.
  15. ^ Stevens, A Pageant of Hampton, 7.
  16. ^ Rance, Southampton: An Illustrated History, 144.
  17. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 6 June 1929, 5.
  18. ^ ‘Pageantry’, 9; ‘An Impression of the Town Pageant’, 5.
  19. ^ ‘Pageant of Hampton’, Southern Daily Echo, 6 June 1929, 5.
  20. ^ ‘An Impression of the Town Pageant’, 5.
  21. ^ ‘Historically Right’, The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 15 June 1929, 9.
  22. ^ ‘An Impression of the Town Pageant’, 5.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Pageant of Hampton’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1085/