Pageant of Thurlow

Pageant type

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Place: Lawn of Little Thurlow Hall (Little Thurlow) (Little Thurlow, Suffolk, England)

Year: 1939

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


23–24 June 1939

[23 June at 7.45pm and 24 June at 3pm and 7.45pm]

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Writer and Pageant Master: C.F. Ryder
  • Hon. Secretary, Treasurer and Property Master: Miss Mary Ryder
  • Producer: Mr. John W. Turner

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee

  • Chairman: Major K.K. Horn

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

  • Ryder, C.F.
  • Ryder, Mrs.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

250 - 300

Financial information


Object of any funds raised

The village hall; St Peter’s Church; the fabric fund of All Saints’ Church; the British War Fund to relive distress in China.

Linked occasion


Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

3s 6d–1s.

Associated events


Pageant outline

Scene I: 1614.

Stephen Soame’s seventieth birthday, and the year in which the almshouses and the school were completed. Sir Stephen with Lady Anne his wife, children and grandchildren enter, followed by the inmates of the almshouses (including current inmates). The Reader thanks Sir Stephen for his beneficence. Then the scholars and the Master thank Sir Stephen. Sir Stephen’s sons and daughters dance madrigals.

Scene II: 1669

Part i.

The Visit of King Charles II to Thurlow on his way to Newmarket. Villagers greet the King and witness the ceremony of touching for the King’s evil. The rector presents the sufferers who receive a gold coin. Charles spies a pretty daughter of the house and goes off with her, to the annoyance of her parents, the horror of two Puritans and the amusement of the crowd. Folk dances are put on to distract the Merry Monarch.

Part ii.

Charles rescues a woman accused of witchcraft and subsequently plays a game of bowls with William Soame. A messenger arrives with dispatches and Charles departs.

Scene III: 1770

Sir Godfrey Beverley attempts to persuade Miss Henrietta Soame to elope with him. The plot is overheard by a gardener. He tells Thomas Gainsborough, who is engaged in painting a portrait of her. This results in a duel between Sir Godfrey and John Harris, who was also in love with Henrietta. 

Scene IV: 1820.

A wedding feast is prepared. The Newmarket Hunt rides in to congratulate the happy couple. The wedding party departs.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Gainsborough, Thomas (1727–1788) painter and printmaker
  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • James II and VII (1633–1701) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

  • Cambridge Independent Press
  • Bury Free Press

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Ryder, Stephen, ‘Memories of Thurlow between the Wars’, in Little Thurlow 2000 Project, The Thurlows, accessed 6 July 2016,

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Pageant of Thurlow was a restaging of the 1938 pageant, back by popular demand: ‘It is being repeated largely because of the requests made by many of those, numbering approximately a thousand, who saw it last time. There are over 200 performers and the pageant has a great deal of local historical interest.’1 This outing of the pageant involved a new scene written by Mrs Ryder, which told of the attempted elopement of Henrietta Soame and Sir Godfrey Beverley. The couple’s plans comes to the attention of the renowned painted Thomas Gainsborough, then engaged in painting a portrait of Henrietta, and this results in a duel between Beverley and John Harris, a rival suitor. There is, however, no factual basis for this episode—and indeed there is no record of any such painting by Gainsborough ever existing.


1. ^ Cambridge Independent Press, 23 June 1939, 10.

How to cite this entry

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