Tonbridge Juvenile Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Tonbridge Castle Grounds (Tonbridge) (Tonbridge, Kent, England)

Year: 1909

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


7, 10, 28, 29 July 1909

[Performances were held in the afternoon. Two performances on 7 and 10 July had originally been envisaged, but the pageant was repeated later in the month due to its success.]

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Ash, J.F.
  • Assistant Stage Directors: Mrs. J.F. Ash, Mrs. A.E. Cornell, Mr. Handcock, Mr. R.L. Martin, Mr. J. Macfarlane, Mr. A.H. Neve, Mr. W.H. Cooper


Names of executive committee or equivalent

Central Committee

  • Chairman: J.F. Ash
  • Honorary Secretary: L.A. Dance
  • Other members: Mrs J.F. Ash, Miss Bunting, Mrs A.E. Cornell, Mr H.W. Cooper, Mr. E.W. Handcock, Mr. A.H. Neve

Costumes Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs Ash

Properties Committee

  • Chairman: Mr. W.H. Cooper 

Lighting Committee

  • Chairman: Mr F. Bowden


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

  • Ash, J.F.

Names of composers

  • Ash, J.F.
  • Evans, John
  • Church, L.

Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Connected to the Fire Brigades’ Tournament, held in Tonbridge in early July.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 1000
  • Total audience: 3500 - 4500


Newspaper coverage suggests that the Grandstand was nearly full for each performance.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Prologue: Father Time Sets back the Clock

Episode I. The Coming of the English

Episode II. The Dawn of Christianity, AD 597

Episode III. The Norman Conqueror, AD 1066

Episode IV. The First Lords of Tonbridge Castle, AD 1098

Episode V. The Founding of Tonbridge Priory, AD 1124

Episode VI. Henry III: The Storming of Tonbridge Castle, May 1st, 1264

Episode VII. The Visit of King Edward and Queen Eleanor, August 15th, 1274

Episode VIII. The Visit of Cardinal Wolsey, 1520.

Episode IX. Tonbridge School Receives the Charter, 1553.

Episode X. The Procession of the Ages

Key historical figures mentioned

  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Henry III (1207–1272) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241–1290) queen of England, consort of Edward I
  • Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530) royal minister, archbishop of York, and cardinal

Musical production

Ash and others locals composed and arranged music, performed by Scarlet Imperial Orchestra and Mr Price.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Kent and Sussex Courier

Book of words

None known.

Other primary published materials

  • Tonbridge Juvenile Pageant [Programme]. Tonbridge, 1909.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Programme in the British Library

Sources used in preparation of pageant



J.F. Ash, the librarian and registrar at the local school, wrote and organized the pageant over the course of just six weeks. As its title suggests, the cast of nearly seven hundred was largely made up of school children. Staged in the grounds of Tonbridge Castle, the pageant followed the model established by Louis Napoleon Parker, the founder of the modern pageantry movement, with its action beginning in the early medieval period and ending in the sixteenth century (in this case culminating with Tonbridge School’s receipt of its charter in 1553). The Kent and Sussex Courier remarked that‘“Pageantitis” is very well prevalent in Tonbridge just at present… It will be on the lines of the great pageants which have been produced under the direction of Mr Louis Parker and others’.1 The newspaper further noted that ‘seats are being well booked, and it is to be devoutly hoped that the weather will prove favourable on Wednesday and Saturday evenings in next week’.2 In the event, the Pageant, which was held to coincide with the Fire Brigades’ Tournament, seems to have been an enormous success. Indeed, so over-subscribed were the two scheduled performances (the grounds of the castle being relatively small), the pageant was staged again—with a reduced admission price—on 28 and 29 July. The pageant was just as successful on its second outing. As the Kent and Sussex Courier reported, ‘About 1,000 persons were present…and they greatly enjoyed the splendid performance of the children, who had attained to remarkable proficiency in their parts’.3 Tonbridge held further children’s pageants in 1923 and 1931.4


1. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, 2 July 1909, 2.
2. ^ Ibid.
3. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, 30 July 1909, 11.
4. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, 20 July 1923, 12; Kent and Sussex Courier, 17 July 1931, 14.

How to cite this entry

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