The Romsey Pageant

Other names

  • Romsey Millenary Celebration

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Broadlands Park (Romsey) (Romsey, Hampshire, England)

Year: 1907

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


25–27 June 1907 at 3 and 6pm

  • Venue of Broadlands Park owned by Evelyn Ashley, a former Liberal Unionist MP.
  • Special evening performance Wednesday 26 June
  • A dress rehearsal was also performed before an audience of +3000 people1

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Benson, F.R.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • Patron: HRH the Princess Louise (Duchess of Argyll)
  • President: Rt. Hon. Evelyn Ashley, P.C.
  • Chair: Rev. J.J. Cooke-Yarborough (Vicar of Romsey)
  • Hon. Secretaries: G.H. Catt and J.D. Allcroft
  • Hon. Treasurers: T.A. Flooks and L.S.C. Moss


Long list of Vice-Presidents, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, Rt. Hon. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Rt. Hon. Earl of Normanton, Rt. Hon. Earl of Erne, W.F. Lawrence MP; and the mayors of Romsey, Southampton, Winchester, Bournemouth, Andover, Portsmouth, Salisbury.

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

  • Cooke-Yarborough, W.H.
  • Skrine, J.H.
  • Moshead, Miss Anderson


W.H. Cooke-Yarborough wrote the bulk of the episodes (I, II, III, V, VI, VII); Rev. Canon Skrine wrote three (IV, VIII, IX) and Miss Anderson Moshead was responsible for one (X).

Names of composers

  • Tours, Louis
  • Cooke-Yarborough, W.
  • Richards, T.C.
  • Ambrose, S.

Numbers of performers


‘All classes’ apparently involved as performers, and the ‘great bulk’ of the performers were local people. Romsey had a population of 4000 at this time.

Financial information

£548. 13s. 10d. profit.

The pageant cost £5000 to produce.

Object of any funds raised

Romsey Abbey Restoration Fund


Parking for motor cars and carriages made available at ‘a moderate charge’.3

Linked occasion

1000th anniversary of founding of Romsey Abbey in 907, and tercentenary of incorporation of the borough.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 3300
  • Total audience: n/a


Nearly 4000 attended cheap evening performance on Wednesday 26 June 1907.4

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

£2. 2s.–1s.

Grandstand seats priced at 5s., 10s. 6d., £1. 1s., £2. 2s. for performances at 3pm; for evening performance on Wed 26 June tickets cheaper (owing to demand) and ranged from 1s. to 5s.

Associated events

Sermon by Bishop of Winchester in Romsey Abbey Church (Sunday 23 June).
Sermon by Rev. A.J. Grieve in Congregationalist Chapel, Romsey (Sunday 23 June).
Sermon by Bishop of Bristol in Romsey Abbey Church, on occasion of visit of Princess Louise (Tuesday 25 June).
Services in Abbey Church at Romsey at 11am on each day of the pageant, and special services of Holy Communion all week at 8am.
Exhibition in Town Hall, Romsey, each day of the pageant, of ‘Objects of Interest, Relics, Pictures, Curios, connected with the past history of Romsey and its Abbey, and the Scenes commemorated in the Episodes’) [These relics included Romsey Charter, but also a portion of the scalp and hair of a nun which had been found in a coffin under the Abbey’s Stone Floor.]
A ‘sale of interesting objects’ in the pageant grounds (open from 1pm each day of the pageant). [Objects fashioned by ‘skilled mechanics’ of Romsey, who had given up their ‘spare time’ to make crosses, picture frames and walking sticks out of the ancient oak timber removed from the Abbey roof in the course of its recent repairs. Also on sale were brass and other decorative metal ‘mementos of Romsey and its pageant’, also made by working men.]
Test Valley Photographic Studio: sale of photographs of Romsey and neighbourhood.

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Founding of Romsey Abbey by Edward the Elder, AD 907

The episode takes place in a woodland glade by the River Test. A Saxon hunting party enters, followed by King Edward and his son Athelstane, along with attendants. Edward solemnly charges his son, when he comes to the throne, to carry on war against the savage Danes until England is free. A party of Queen Ethelfleda, her six daughters, ladies and attendants enter, as the huntsmen return with a slain deer. Another company enters; Denewulf, the aged Bishop of Winchester, bearing a petition to the King to found an abbey to replace Nutcel, destroyed by the Danes some years earlier. While the King considers, his daughter Elfleda kneels at his feet and asks to be allowed to devote her life to God’s service in the Convent he is about to found. The King assents to both, leading the Bishop’s attendants to break into a Latin chant to the Psalm, Laetatus Sum. Denewulf, lifting his hands in thanksgiving, sees a vision of the glory and beauty which will belong to Romsey Abbey in days to come.

Episode II. The Murder of Ethelwold, AD 962

The context of this scene is Edgar the Peaceful, the King, sending his friend Ethelwold, a Hampshire nobleman, to visit the Ordgar the Eral of Devon to make proposals for the hand of Elfrida, the Earl’s daughter. Ethelwold makes the trip but falls for Elfrida, and determines to marry her himself. He deceives the King by saying she is unworthy of him, then slips away and marries him herself. The scene begins with a messenger visiting Ethelwold and Elfrida at their home to inform them of the visit of the King. Ethelwold is overwhelmed with fear and shame, and tells Elfrida to not let the King see how fair she is. A furious Elfrida causes Ethelwold to leave the scene. The King enters to find Elfrida, and is fascinated by her beauty. When he finds out she is Ordgar’s daughter and now his friend’s bride, he whispers to one of his thanes to murder Ethelwold. Elfrida flirts with the King. Suddenly a band of retainers rush on declaring Ethelwold slain and dragging the King’s thane. The King is horrified at the result of his deed, and Elfrida realises her husband is dead. The tension is broken by the entrance of Bishop Ethelwold of Winchester, who brings a last message from the dying Earl: his infant child is to be brought up in seclusion at Romsey so ‘no man’s heart break bounds for love of her’ while the King, in penitence, promises to rebuild Romsey Abbey.

Episode III. The Destruction of Romsey Abbey by the Danes, AD 994

A group of nuns of the Abbey are in front of the ancient Saxon gateway engaged in various works of charity and devotion to the poor, the sick and children. A procession moves towards the shrine of the late Abbess, Merwenna. The peace is broken by the rush of frightened villagers crying that the Danes are coming. The Nuns pray, and raise a Litany of Supplication at the Shrine; the figure of the Sainted Abbess Merwenna appears in the shrine and promises Divine Protection to the nuns. The Danes appear and a ruthless massacre begins, but the saint reappears and clad in unearthly light arrest the charge of the Danes. As she disappears the Danes rush forward to slay and plunder, but the townsfolk have had time to rally, and behind a line of devoted Saxons the nuns make their escape towards Winchester, while the smoke and flames rising from the Abbey proclaim the completion of the Dane’s work.

Episode IV. Prince Henry’s Wooing, AD 1100

The King, William Rufus (‘without doubt some bad purpose in his mind’), appears at Romsey Abbey and demands to see the Princess Eadgyth. The Abbess Christina helps Eadgyth change into nun’s dress, which deceives the King, who leaves in anger—not daring to incur the wrath of the Church. His brother, Henry, enters, seeking an interest in the princess. They are already friends. His wooing is interrupted by the King’s dead body being brought back in following a hunting accident. He sends the cart on to Winchester, and leaves to seize the crown, promising Eadgyth that he will return for her hand in marriage, and thus blend the Normans and Saxons into one English people.

Episode V. The Abduction of Abbess Mary, AD 1160

Mary, the only daughter of King Stephen and grand-daughter of Queen Maud’s sister Mary, is a nun and Abbess of Romsey. The scene takes place at the Convent gate. The King and Matthew of Alsace, the earl of Flanders, are talking—the King wants to marry off Matthew to Mary to form an alliance with France. Thomas Becket tries to intervene to save the Abbess. As he leaves the Abbess enters with her nuns. Angered by her evident horror at his proposals, Matthew threatens to let loose his soldiers on the Convent. A struggle ensues, in which some of the villagers are wounded, and the Abbess, seeing that resistance is hopeless, surrenders herself to avoid further bloodshed.

Episode VI. The Resignation and Re-Election of Abbess Elizabeth Broke, September 15, 1478

This scene was chosen to give a vivid picture of the declining years of the convent system and of the untiring efforts made by the Bishops to keep the religious houses up to the higher standards of the earlier centuries. Troubled by some previous ‘grievous fall’ that had occurred before she was a nun, Elizabeth Brooke decides to resign—which is accepted by the Bishop William of Waynflete. Soon after the sisters are assembled and Bishop Richard Beauchamp of Salisbury, at the request of the Bishop of Winchester, presides over the election of an Abbess to take her place. The nuns unanimously vote to reinstate Broke, Beauchamp obliged to respect their decision against his will. The unhappy Abbess accepts. Beauchamp, however, in re-instating her decides to keep her pastoral staff (i.e. the authority over the Convent) in his own hands for seven years, which leads to the Convent declining from her weakness and for want of discipline.

Episode VII. The Suppression of the Nunnery and the Purchase of the Abbey, A.D. 1540

The scene opens with the visit of Dr Layton, King Henry VIII’s Commissioner, who is attended by Sir Richard Lyster of Stanbridge and other gentlemen of the Court, all hungry for a share of the spoil of the sale of the Abbey Church to the Parishioners by the King. As the news spreads of the dissolving of the Convent, the nuns to be cast out, a crowd of indignant townsfolk gather and discuss the events. John Foster, the Convent Steward, enters, followed by the Abbess and chaplains, nuns, servants, and dependents of the Convent, while a crowd of Romsey people—including Master John Newman, the Vicar, gather before the Convent gates. The nuns are driven from the Convent buildings, then granted to the town—the estates being divided among a number of greedy claimants for the King’s ill-gotten favours. A spirited protest form the Abbess is not regarded, and the doors are barred and closed forever. The scene closes with the decision of the vicar and townsfolk to save the Church from being pulled down by raising a sum of money with which to purchase it from the King.

Episode VIII. King James I at Broadlands, August 5 1607

King James is invited, at Romsey, by his host, Henry St. Barbe, to leave a memorial of his visit by planting a mulberry tree. The planting is interrupted by the advent of a deputation of Romsey citizens, who approach with the request that the King will grant a Charter of Incorporation to the loyal borough. The King graciously consents, and subsequently confers the honour of knighthood on the man who speaks for the deputation. Some of the assembled company proceed to entertain the Royal visitors with a graceful country dance.

Episode IX. The Fight at Romsey Bridge, December 12 1643

A part of Cavaliers, some on foot and others mounted, ride to the Pageant ground. They are the advance guard of a Royalist force of about 400 men who are holding Romsey; the Parliamentarian Forces being at Southampton. The troopers begin to amuse themselves by playing cards and dice, and are so engaged in their revelry that the stealthy approach of a party of Puritan cavalry is unobserved until too late for effective resistance. One wild rush and the majority of the Cavaliers are either slain or taken, and the rest retreat towards Romsey, keeping up a running fight which continues far up into the town.

Episode X. The Passing of King Charles, December 11 1648

The scene opens with a waiting crowd, uncertain what to expect, and divided in allegiance. Among the townspeople are disbanded troops; a group of widows and orphans. The noisy crowd jeers and wrangles, while Sir William Petty and other gentlemen do their best to prevent an unseemly outbreak. The King, attended by mail-clad Horsemen, come into sight on their way to the scaffold at Whitehall. He is attended by his faithful chaplain, Mr Symmons, who carries the MS of the Eikon Basilike, Mr Thomas Hebert, and his page, Mr William Levett. A girl approaches the King and offers a basket of Christmas roses; the King selects and takes on, then passes on.

Final Tableau

All the actors reappear, grouped according to their respective centuries, and terminate the Pageant with a solemn act of Thanksgiving.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Edward [called Edward the Elder] (870s?–924) king of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Æthelstan [Athelstan] (893/4–939) king of England
  • Denewulf (d. 908) bishop of Winchester
  • Æthelflæd [Ethelfleda] (d. 918) ruler of the Mercians
  • Æthelwold [St Æthelwold, Ethelwold] (904x9–984) abbot of Abingdon and bishop of Winchester
  • Ælfthryth (d. 999x1001) queen of England, consort of King Edgar [also known as Elfrida]
  • Edgar [called Edgar Pacificus] (943/4–975) king of England
  • William II [known as William Rufus] (c.1060–1100) king of England
  • Henry I (1068/9–1135) king of England and lord of Normandy
  • Matilda [Edith, Mold, Matilda of Scotland] (1080–1118) queen of England, first consort of Henry I
  • Henry II (1133–1189) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Becket, Thomas [St Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London] (1120?–1170) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Beauchamp, Richard (d. 1481) bishop of Salisbury
  • Layton, Richard (c.1498–1544) dean of York and agent in the suppression of the monasteries
  • Lyster, Sir Richard (c.1480–1553) judge
  • Weston, Sir William (b. after 1469, d. 1540) prior of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England
  • James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland Click here to see image
  • Anne [Anna, Anne of Denmark] (1574–1619) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consort of James VI and I
  • Henry Frederick, prince of Wales (1594–1612)
  • Elizabeth, Princess [Elizabeth Stuart] (1596–1662) queen of Bohemia and electress palatine, consort of Frederick V
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Andrewes, Lancelot (1555–1626) bishop of Winchester [also known as Androwes, Androes, Launcelot]
  • Herbert, Sir Thomas, first baronet (1606–1682) traveller and government official
  • Cobbett, John (d. 1657) parliamentarian army officer and Leveller
  • Petty, Sir William (1623–1687) natural philosopher and administrator in Ireland
  • Symmons, Edward (c.1607–1649) Church of England clergyman and author

Musical production

Louis Tours (music) and W. Cooke-Yarborough (words). Choruses 1-10 and Hymnus. Incidental Music was collected and arranged by Mr T.C. Richards, organist of Romsey Abbey.
  • Louis Tours. Triumphal March.
  • Psalm CXXII (Episode I).
  • Psalm CXXX (Episode II).
  • ‘Jesu, Corona Virginum’. Hymn, attributed to S. Ambrose (Episode III).
  • Litany (Episode III).
  • ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ (Episode IV).
  • Psalm LXXIX (Episode VII).
  • Puritan Soldier’s Song.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Illustrated London News
Southampton Times and Hampshire Express
Hampshire Chronicle and General Advertiser
Hampshire Independent
The Times
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Hull Daily Mail
Hastings and St Leonards Observer
The Observer
The Manchester Guardian
Burnley Gazette

Book of words

Romsey Millenary Celebration: Words and Music. Romsey, 1907.

Priced at 2s. 6d.

‘Completely sold out on the second day, and the booksellers’ shops were besieged on Thursday by eager applicants for copies, which were not obtainable’ (Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 29 June 1907, 9).

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture c.1890-1914’. Past & Present, 186 (2005), 147-199.
  • ___. ‘Commemorating the past in Edwardian Hampshire: King Alfred, Pageantry and Empire’. In Southampton: Gateway to the Empire, edited by Miles Taylor. London, 2007, 95-113.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • F.R. Benson Papers, Shakespeare Memorial Library, Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • Hampshire Record Office, Winchester

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • [Extrapolated from the Book of Words, which only provided minor details]
  • Henry G. D. Liveing, Records of Romsey Abbey : An account of the Benedictine House of nuns, with notes on the parish church and town (A.D. 907-1558); compiled from manuscript and printed records. Winchester, 1906.
  • ‘The Legende of Engelonde’ (printed by Wynkyn de Worde).
  • Edward Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England its causes and its results. Oxford, 1870-1879, vol. 5.
  • Arthur Wollaston Hutton (ed/intro), The lives of the English saints. Written by various hands at the suggestion of John Henry Newman. London, 1900.
  • Dictionary of National Biography, ‘Thomas Becket’.
  • Letter from Sir Richard Lyster of Stanbridge to Richard Cromwell, September 15 1538 [unclear from what collection]
  • Letter from John Foster to Sir Thomas Seymour, December 28 1538. [unclear from what collection]
  • ‘Traditional Memoyres on the Reign of King James. 1658’ quoted in Frederick Andrew Inderwick, Side-Lights on the Stuarts. London, 1888.
  • Thomas Herbert, Memoirs of the two last years of the reign of King Charles I. By Sir Thomas Herbert, groom of the chambers to His Majesty. To which is added, a particular account of the funeral of the King, in a letter from Sir Thomas Herbert to Sir William Dugdale. London, 1813.
  • Eikon Basilike [presumably John Gauden, Eikōn basilikē. The pourtraiture of His Sacred Maiesty in his solitudes and sufferings. With the addition of His Majesties prayers; and his reasons against the jurisdiction of the high court of justice. London, 1649]


The Romsey Pageant was first mooted in June 1906, in the midst of widespread pageant fever, when local civic dignitaries met to suggest a suitable celebration of the millenary of the founding of Romsey Abbey. A historical pageant was the idea of the vicar, Rev. Cooke-Yarborough, who went on to write much of the pageant and act as chair for the general committee.7 At this point it was foreseen as a much smaller event than transpired, with only 300 performers suggested.8 The notable actor and theatrical producer Frank Benson, associated mainly with Shakesperean performance, was brought in to act as the Pageant-Master. While a professional, Benson greatly enjoyed his pageant work and did not actually profit much financially.9 He consequently went on to produce larger pageants like the Army Pageant of 1910 at Fulham, and the Winchester Pageant of 1908.

Vital to the aim of the Romsey Pageant was the connecting of the local to the national, a common theme in pageantry in this period. As the book of words made clear, ‘It is but a step from the story of each English town, to the wider scenes and the grander Drama of our National History.’10 This connection between locality and a larger story was further encouraged during an associated sermon by the Rev. A.J. Grieve, who argued that ‘[in] modern England… patriotism is a threefold cord, combining love of land, of country, and of town or village.’11 The inclusion of a scene where the town received its charter of municipal incorporation displayed the importance that the pageant-makers saw to the maintenance of civic autonomy within this national story.12 As Paul Readman has pointed out, these connections did not extend to visual or lyrical representations of Empire.13

As usual, the pageant was seen to be educational in nature; as the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser argued, also showing the wide interest that a relatively local pageant could have, viewers were ‘provided with a magnificent opportunity to brush up the history that they knew and have forgotten’ while youngsters could ‘absorb through the eye in one week as much as they would acquire in several terms of school training by means of books alone.’14 Grieve’s also drew attention to this aspect of education in his sermon, noting that a pageant could make the past appealing when, in general, English history was ‘not a favourite study with the mass of workers’.15 The Times agreed, seeing the object of a pageant such as Romsey’s as not being the spectacle itself, but ‘the fostering of patriotism and the intelligent occupation of spare time.’16

While the events portrayed in the episodes stopped long before the present day, it was made clear that the present-day inhabitants of Romsey were to take up this thousand year legacy and project it into the future. It was thus the ‘men and women of our kith and kin’ who were ‘the real builders of our England to-day.’ Yet the Pageant aimed to commemorate the actions of the past while also acting as a ‘Call to each of us to hand on our goodly Heritage, ever more beautiful and more noble, to the coming years.’17 Indeed, as the Hampshire Chronicle made clear, the ‘good old days’ were also times of oppression, ignorance, superstition, poverty, civil strife, violence, lawlessness, and coarseness; the present day, in contrast, now enjoyed better governance, better laws, more liberty, and universal education.18 History was not, therefore, a simple benchmark against which the present was judged, but a vehicle of moral instruction, providing lessons to modern-day Englishmen and women of how their ancestors had improved their own lot.19 The final tableau epitomised this forward thinking nature, when a figure representing ‘the genius of Romsey’ ‘called her children out of the buried past, to stand shoulder to shoulder and see the glorious promise of the future’.20

This narrative of the pageant was provided not just in the episodes or the associated sermons, but in the story told by the pageant handbook that also acted as a souvenir for the event. The overall sweep of history was Whiggish in style:

Our curtain rises on an England without a literature, without a Parliament, without scarcely anything of that social, political, and intellectual life which has made her what she is to-day, but as scene follows upon scene, we shall be called upon to mark how disorder and barbarism have given place to order and civilization, how clank of mail and stroke of sword have hammered out national unity and social law, and how, though it were through the jar and fret of contending factions, our land has swept into clearer knowledge and not less strenuous life.21

While the past provided lessons, therefore, it was in as much as how the episodes of the past had formed the nature and potential of the present and the future. A poem towards the end of the handbook again connected this past to the notion of responsibility, encouraging the reader to watch the pageant and then ‘Remember! Of these thousand ages past… We are the Heirs! To-day the task is ours, To trim the lamp, and guard great Zion’s towers”22

These ideals of civic responsibility were also realised in the organisation of the pageant, which was an exercise in co-operation, with most parts of the town helping in some way. Skilled local mechanics devoted their spare time to making crosses, picture frames, and walking sticks out of the ancient oak removes from the Abbey roof during reparation, while other working men made articles of brass and other metalwork as mementos of the town and its pageant. These items were subsequently sold during the pageant, the proceeds going to the Abby restoration fund.23 The dresses, as was common, were made by local women in their spare time, while the local men made the properties required for the episodes.24 Danish ships, for example, were constructed by mechanics of the Berthon Collapsible Boat Works in the Town, while armour and weapons were made by the Church Men’s Club. The better-off sorts in the town also contributed, by allowing their employees time off work to participate; gave ‘liberal help’ by subscription, guarantees, and gifts; and supplied materials for costumes at less than cost price.25 Even the vicar helped paint the Saxon gateway.26 As well as this work, around a third of the town actually performed in the pageant.

The pageant book also called attention to the fact that the work of the music composition and conducting was given ‘entirely as a voluntary offering, out of love for the Abbey and desire to present a worthy Thanksgiving on its Thousandth Birthday.’27 Indeed, overall, the ‘most striking thing’ about the pageant was apparently ‘the perfectly unanimous response which has come from every class and station in Romsey and its neighbourhood… Rich and poor, gentle and simple, Church and Non-conformist, have all worked heartily together to ensure its complete success.’28 Associations in the town drew attention to this devotion—the Conservative club’s decorations, for example, featured the motto ‘loyal for 1000 years’29

Attendances were high, despite the heavy rain, and the event was well patronised by important people; on the opening day, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Davidson, and Lord Rosebery were all present.30 These figures, along with Lady Maud Warrender, also joined a large exclusive house party at Broadlands, the residence of the Hon. Evelyn and Lady Alice Ashley, in celebration of the pageant.31 Almost 7000 people travelled by train to Romsey to see the pageant, while the tickets for cheaper seats sold out quickly—giving enough demand for an extra evening performance which subsequently attracted an audience of 4000.32 The pageant book was also extremely popular; completely sold out on the second day, local booksellers’ were besieged by members of the public looking for more copies.33

Press impressions of the Pageant were also mostly positive. A correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, while not liking ‘the descriptive music of the chorus’, nonetheless found the whole pageant ‘all very charming, very charming indeed.’34 Following the pageant the Southampton Times and Hampshire Express also declared ‘Never in the history of the old town has there been such general enthusiasm.’35 This enthusiasm was, of course, encouraged by the local council; the Mayor urged residents to decorate their houses for the visit of Princess Louise, with prizes of £2, £1 and 10s. for the best decorated.36

One amusing if lewd observation of the pageant came from Rudyard Kipling in a particularly graphic letter to an acquaintance. Conveying the misery of the prickly heat he was suffering, he relayed a story of a friend with eczema so severe, ‘in nameless and shameless parts of his body’, that when he walked it was ‘wide and stiffly—like the ladies of Romsey who took part in a pageant this year and rode—in the mediaeval scenes—straddle wise (But they will never do it again.)37

Overall the pageant was clearly a success—in terms of profit, attendance, and in engaging the inhabitants of Romsey in the organisation and performing of the pageant. Throughout the pageant the theme of connecting the past to the present was particularly strong, based on the idea of endurance and reliability; this was especially constructed around the idea of the Abbey, which, being a 1000 years old, had survived the great changes in history during that time. Commemorating this local stability was the point of the Romsey Pageant—but clearly for the reasons of ensuring the continuance of civic responsibility.

Interestingly, these themes have survived to a small extent. In 1997 Lord and Lady Brabourne unveiled a new wall-hanging at the King John’s House and Heritage Centre in Romsey, recalling life in the town over the past 400 years. Made by the Cutloose Needlewomen and local children, it depicts King James granting Romsey its royal charter. Alongside this tapestry was an exhibition, including a huge copy of the charter, and extracts and pictures from the Romsey Pageant of 1907.38


  1. ^ Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 22 June 1907, p. 3.
  2. ^ Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 22 June 1907, p. 3.
  3. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration: Words and Music. Romsey, 1907, 14
  4. ^ Hampshire Chronicle and General Advertiser, 29 June 1907, 10-11).
  5. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration: Words and Music (Romsey, 1907), p. 15; Hampshire Chronicle and General Adevrtiser, 29 June 1907, p 15.
  6. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration: Words and Music (Romsey, 1907), p. 15; Hampshire Chronicle and General Adevrtiser, 29 June 1907, pp. 10-11.
  7. ^ Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 22 June 1907, 3.
  8. ^ ‘A Romsey Pageant’, The Observer, 17 June 1906, 6.
  9. ^ J.C. Trewin, Benson and the Bensonians (London, 1960), 160-62.
  10. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration A.D. 907-A.D.1907: Words and Music (Romsey, 1907), 11.
  11. ^ Hampshire Independent, 29 June 1907, 12.
  12. ^ Paul Readman, ‘Commemorating the past in Edwardian Hampshire: King Alfred, Pageantry and Empire’ in Southampton: Gateway to the Empire, ed. Miles Taylor (London, 2007), 106.
  13. ^ Readman, ‘Commemorating the past in Edwardian Hampshire’, 108.
  14. ^ [Untitled], Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 25 June 1907, 6.
  15. ^ Hampshire Independent, 29 June 1907, 12.
  16. ^ The Times, 27 June 1907, 17.
  17. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration, 12.
  18. ^ Hampshire Chronicle, 29 June 1907, 10.
  19. ^ Readman, ‘Commemorating the past in Edwardian Hampshire’, 112.
  20. ^ Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 29 June 1907, 7.
  21. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration, 33.
  22. ^ Ibid., 85.
  23. ^ Ibid., 14
  24. ^ Ibid., 19.
  25. ^ Ibid., 20.
  26. ^ ‘Romsey Pageant: Scenes from the History of a Thousand Years’, The Manchester Guardian, 20 June 1907, 7.
  27. ^ Romsey Millenary Celebration, 19
  28. ^ Ibid., 19
  29. ^ Hampshire Independent, 29 June 1907, 12.
  30. ^ ‘Romsey Pageant’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 26 June 1907, 6.
  31. ^ ‘Local News’, Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 15 June 1907, 7.
  32. ^ Readman, ‘Commemorating the past in Edwardian Hampshire’, 100.
  33. ^ Ibid., 103.
  34. ^ ‘Romsey Pageant: Scenes from the History of a Thousand Years’, 7.
  35. ^ Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 29 June 1907, 9.
  36. ^ Hampshire Chronicle and General Advertiser, 8 June, 1907, 11.
  37. ^ Letter from Rudyard Kipling to Mrs Georgina Sington, 26 November 1907, printed in The Letters of Rudyard Kipling: Volume 3, 1900-1910, ed. Thomas Pinney (Basingstoke, 1996), 280.
  38. ^ ‘Past and Present Collide’, Romsey Advertiser, 29 March 2007.

How to cite this entry

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