St Wilfrid’s Centenary Fair and Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: St Wilfred’s Churchyard (Haywards Heath) (Haywards Heath, Sussex, England)

Year: 1965

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


26 June 1965 at 4.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Sinden, Joy
  • Associate Pageant Master: Rye, Alan
  • Narrators: Geoffrey Cumberlege; Michael Laing
  • Music: Derek Taylor; Donald Smith
  • Tape Recordings: J.L.C. Freestone
  • Choreography: Miss Vera Sutton; Miss Wilhelmina Brown
  • Stage Manager: John Drowley
  • Producer of Prologue: Miss J. Bennett
  • Producer of Scene I: Miss I. Tillman
  • Producer of Scene II: Mrs M. Buckingham
  • Producer of Scene III: E.C. Austin
  • Producer of Scene IV: Mrs V. Cumberledge
  • Producer of Scene V: Mrs S. Lock; Mrs C. Pickard
  • Producer of Scene VI: Miss W. Brown
  • Producer of Scene VII: Miss J. Traill
  • Producer of Scene VIII: D.B. Nye
  • Producer of Scene IX: C.N. Sarjeant
  • Producer of Scene X: Mrs S.A. Bishop

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr C.J. Witten
  • The Rev. R.A.R. Hicks
  • Treasurer: Mr C.A. Andrews
  • Secretary: Miss A. Clayton
  • Assistant Secretary: Mrs P. Hanna

Pageant Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Miss D. Nethery

Publicity Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr G. Hall; Mr G. Gage

Procession Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr D.G. Cochrane

Stalls and Slideshows Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr G.T. Riches: Mr R. Amor

Music Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr D. Smith

Catering Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs J. Fuller

Events Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr A.W.H. Shepherd

Park Lay-Out and Equipment Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr D. Glenn; Mr N Hancock; Mr J.W. Stevens

Church Events Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Miss E. McGuire; Miss B. Osborne

Flower Festival Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs L.N. King

Barbeque Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr J. Bishop

Programme Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr C.W. Burgess

Programme Distribution Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr P. Hughes; Miss S. Hallard

Prize Draw Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr L. Tolhurst; Mr L. Ghosley

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

  • Cumberledge, V.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

Financial information


Pageant Expenses: £32. 6s. 10d.
Insurance: £58. 10s. 0d.
Programmes: £58. 0s. 0d.
Overall Cost of the Fayre (including Pageant): £507. 5s. 1d.

From raffle: £287. 15s. 0d.
Donations: £67. 18s. 7d.
Misc: £3. 3s. 0d.
Programme adverts: £13. 13s. 0d.
Sale of programmes: £106. 7s. 2d.
Gate money: £92. 8s. 9d.
Chairs: £8. 10s. 2d.
Stalls: £660. 14s. 0d.
Total Expenditure: £1240. 10s. 8d. 

Total profit: £733. 5s. 7d.

Object of any funds raised

To raise money for a ‘daughter church’ and a new church hall.

Linked occasion

Centenary of the consecration of the church.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


The programme was the ticket and admitted one adult or two children for 1s. Reserved seats were 1s. extra.

Associated events

The pageant was part of a wider 'fayre', including a flower festival. Other events included a pushball competition, a fashion display, judo, children’s races, pony rides, model railway rides, an aerial runway, and a Scouts and Guides display.

Pageant outline

Prologue. From Times Pre-Historic to the Saxon Raiders

Scene I. St Wilfrid and the Saxons.

Scene II. King Alfred.

Scene III. The Coming of the Normans.

Scene IV. Sanctuary.

Scene V. A Church ‘Ale’.

Scene VI. Beating the Bounds.

Scene VII. The Railway—Cuckfield Refuses.

Scene VIII. The First Train.

Scene IX. Chapel School.

Scene X. St Wilfrid’s, 1865–1965.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Wilfrid [St Wilfrid] (c.634–709/10) bishop of Hexham
  • Alfred [Ælfred] (848/9–899) king of the West Saxons and of the Anglo-Saxons

Musical production

The music was coordinated by Derek Taylor and Donald Smith, and performed by the Nautical Training Corps Band.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

West Sussex Gazette

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • St Wilfrid’s Centenary Fair and Pageant. Haywards Heath, 1965.

This was the pageant programme.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • There is a film of the Pageant available on YouTube, accessed 8 February 2016,
  • West Sussex Archives, Chichester. Programme and Minutes of the Executive Committee. Par 370/7/8–9.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



As Bishop Roger Wilson of Chichester noted in his foreword to the pageant programme, the past century had seen profound changes in the church’s place in society: ‘During these 100 years there have been changes in all aspects of life which would have astonished those who first met to worship in this church. Yet through all these developments, political, social, cultural, your church, in company with others, has stood to witness to the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ.’1 This would be putting it mildly. Although there are wide disagreements among historians and sociologists of religion over the causes, nature, and speed of secularisation, it is generally agreed that its spread was extensive indeed by the early 1960s, and that Britain was no longer the deeply and uniformly Christian country that it once had been, and great religious pageants such as the Acts of St Richard held in Chichester and Hove in 1953 were no longer possible.

Thus, the 1965 St Wilfrid’s Centenary Pageant is somewhat surprising. Church Pageants, which ran from the 1909 English Church Pageant and became a fairly common sight during the inter-war period, had all but died out after the end of the Second World War. There were a few exceptions of course, such as large-scale 1965 Pageant of Bristol Cathedral which commemorated the 800th anniversary of the building. And some village parishes still occasionally put on performances, such as the 1976 pageant in tiny Pitminster, in Somerset (see entry for the 1976 Pitminster Pageant). That said, however, an historical pageant with the express purpose of founding a second daughter church in Hayward’s Heath – a fast-growing town – seems distinctly at odds with the established church’s diminishing presence in national life. A memo from the Reverend R.A.R. Hicks and C.J. Witten, which initiated the pageant planning, was defiant concerning the church’s continuing position within a growing rural community and St Wilfrid’s ability to rise to such challenges by embracing the future: 

Those in the 19th century who built St Wilfrid’s put their faith in the future. Now as we move ever nearer to the end of the 20th century a new and compelling challenge is rising before us. A population explosion has taken place in S.E. England, not least in our own County of Sussex. To take the Gospel to our own people a large increase in Churches and Halls in the right places has become imperative.2

In fact, Haywards Heath had grown from 2452 in 1891 to 9543 in 1951, putting pressure on the existing church.3

The pageant was billed in the programme as ‘a somewhat light hearted entertainment recording happenings in and around Haywards Heath from pre historic times (even pre homo-sapiens) till to-day, when we celebrate the centenary of St Wilfrid’s Church and look to the future.’4 The rather relaxed, forward-looking approach to religion and scriptural authority was spelled out with the first scene beginning with not one but two dinosaurs (an adult and a baby).5 This was not as incongruous as other portrayals of dinosaurs in pageants, as with the famous Egbert in the 1938 Pageant of Birmingham, whose connection to his adoptive city was tenuous at best. The dinosaurs which featured in the Pageant were in honour of the discovery of the first dinosaurs positively identified as such in the UK. Fossilized remains of which were found at Cuckfield during the 1820s.6 The presence of the dinosaurs in the pageant was an acknowledgment that the church’s position on such matters was flexible and can indeed be seen as a tacit rejection of creationism. This was in marked contrast to the 1931 Historical Pageant of Claverley, Shropshire, which featured a scene ridiculing Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection.

The pageant presented a continuous story of church and village marching in step, featuring the story of St Wilfrid’s conversion of the Saxons who inhabited Sussex and gave it its name (a major feature of the 1935 Pageant of Sussex Saints, held in nearby Chichester), as well as other scenes such as Cuckfield’s attempt between 1832 and 1837 to prevent the London and Brighton Railway running directly running through the village. (Instead, it was successfully proposed to site the railway on heathland between the villages of Cuckfield and Linfield, the site of Haywards Heath, which proved the catalyst for the swift growth of the parish, with the construction of the school in 1857 followed by the Parish Church of St Wilfred’s in 1865.)7

The pageant and accompanying fayre were a great success, making over £733 profit over the course of a single afternoon. The Church of the Good Shepherd was built between 1964 and 1965.8 Haywards Heath, which had had a previous pageant on the centenary of the school in 1957 later held a pageant to commemorate the 1977 Silver Jubilee, and films were made of all three events.9 St Wilfrid’s Church is listed and Grade II* and was restored in 1997-98 with a number of changes put in during the previous restoration of 1962 removed.10

The place of religion in West Sussex did not go unchallenged and did not escape national trends of secularisation. In the summer of 1965 over a dozen churches across West Sussex were desecrated by a vandal or vandals who ripped out and stole altar crosses, smashed and stole from money boxes, and desecrated bibles. At Lydminster, where a cross was bent, someone wrote that ‘you are all as bent as this cross’.11 The perpetrator was never caught, although the events may have been connected to the formation of the Wiccan Witchcraft Research Association in Sussex in 1964 which was responsible for acts of ritualised vandalism before its closure by the end of 1965.12 Across the country church attendances had been falling throughout the twentieth century, and many churches became unsustainable due to dwindling congregations. In 2003, 38 years after its consecration, the Church of the Good Shepherd was deconsecrated as a place of worship.13


  1. ^ Bishop Roger [Wilson], in St Wilfrid’s Centenary Fair and Pageant (Haywards Heath, 1965), 3.
  2. ^ Memo, no date (January 1965?), West Sussex Archives. Par 370/7/8–9.
  3. ^ GB Historical GIS, Haywards Heath CP Through Time, A Vision of Britain Through Time, accessed 8 February 2016,
  4. ^ St Wilfrid’s Centenary Fair and Pageant (Haywards Heath, 1965), 11.
  5. ^ Minutes of the Executive Committee, 26 June 1965 in West Sussex Archives. Par 370/7/8–9. The dinosaurs feature prominently in the film of the pageant, accessed 8 February 2016,
  6. ^ Accessed 25 April 2016, Cuckfield Museum, ‘Cuckfield Dinosaurs’,
  7. ^ Geoffrey Body, Railways of the Southern Region (Cambridge, 1984), 108 and 231; Wyn K. Ford and A.C. Gabe, The Metropolis of Mid Sussex: A History of Haywards Heath (Haywards Heath, 1981), 26, 33–39 and 61.
  8. ^ Sussex Parish Churches, accessed 25 April 2016, .
  9. ^ Accessed 8 February 2016, Screen Archive South East, ‘The St. Wilfrid’s Story’, and BFI Player, ‘Cuckfield Silver Jubilee 1977’,
  10. ^ Ray Smith, ‘St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath: A Short History’, accessed 8 February 2016,
  11. ^ West Sussex Gazette, 15 July 1965, 7.
  12. ^ Joanne Pearson, A Popular Dictionary of Paganism (London, 2002), 158.
  13. ^ Sussex Parish Churches, accessed 25 April 2016, .

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘St Wilfrid’s Centenary Fair and Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,