Chittlehampton Pageant

Other names

  • Pageant of St Hieritha

Pageant type

Jump to Summary


Place: Chittlehampton Village Square and Parish Church (Chittlehampton) (Chittlehampton, Devon, England)

Year: 1974

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


13 July 1974 at 3pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer (Pageant Master): Baylis, Richard
  • Historical Researcher: Mrs K. Abigail
  • Narrator: H.B. Andrews


  • Producer (Pageant Master): Baylis, Richard
  • Historical Researcher: Mrs K. Abigail
  • Narrator: H.B. Andrews

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Abigail, Mrs K.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Plus 25 in choir

Financial information

The pageant made £130 profit.

Object of any funds raised

Proceeds to Chittlehampton Playing Field Fund

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 500 - 600

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

The pageant was an integrated element of a full programme of festivities:

  • 2pm Church Bells ringing
  • 2.50pm Procession to the square
  • 3pm Pageant
  • Later singing of hymn and Pilgrimage to Shrine
  • South Molton Band plays at Townsend
  • 5.30pm Puppet Show
  • 8.30pm Barn Dance

Pageant outline

Episode 1.

Procession with Band from Townsend

Episode 2.

Hymn: The Saints of God

Episode 3.

The guide sets the scene:

See the village of Chittlehampton. Chittlehampton, the Farm of the Dwellers in the Hollow. There you see the Church, dedicated to St. Hieritha or as she was called in Saxon Times St. Urith. This is the only church dedicated to her. Here for centuries she has been remembered as the maid who was martyred because she was a Christian. Can you imagine the scene, nearly 1500 years ago?

[All quotations from North Devon Record Office, Typescript B472 add5/30/2]

Villagers move around and put goods on tables to prepare for a market. A young girl called Urith, who has come to the village to visit the monks who had converted her, enters with two companions. Her stepmother (who hates her) enters with her grandmother. Men are trying to harvest a crop during a time of drought.

Episode 4.

Formal entry of children in two groups, chanting to a drum beat. They meet and begin to play games.

Episode 5.

The Stepmother comes down the centre looking for Urith, enquiring of various groups. One group of children eventually identifies her and the stepmother pulls Urith harshly away from the monks. The stepmother argues with the grandmother, allowing Urith to slip away and pray with the monks. The children dance. The stepmother suggests the children’s dance won’t bring rain, and neither will Urith’s praying.

Episode 6.

Children begin a pagan dance and the monks go off sadly.

Episode 7.

Towards the end of the dance the harvesters enter sadly. The stepmother takes one of them aside and they discuss the best ways to bring rain, suggesting that there ought to be a sacrifice. The man is undecided, and the stepmother suggests Urith as a suitable victim. They debate with the elders. Eventually, the harvesters pick up their tools and form a semi-circle around Urith. Slowly, people realise what is about to happen. One sends for the monks. Urith appeals to her stepmother who turns away, and then sinks to her knees as she is surrounded by the group which obscures her from view, before killing her.

Episode 8.

There is silence. A woman takes a cloth and covers the body of Urith. The harvesters disperse. The Christians and the grandmother are sad, the children frightened, the stepmother triumphant. The Christians kneel and pray around the body, which is carried towards the church.

Episode 9.

A monk inquires as to what has happened. The children, also, are wondering what will happen next. Suddenly, flowers spring up around the children. A monks discovers water in the dried-out well. The stepmother remains isolated and alone. All realise that they are to blame in some way.

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production

South Molton Band performed the music

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Church Times
Western Morning News
New Venture

Book of words

None noted

Other primary published materials

  • Chittlehampton Pageant, Pageant of St Hieritha 1974 [Np. 1974]. [Price 5p].

References in secondary literature

  • Lane, John. In Praise of Devon: A Guide to Its People, Places and Character. Exeter, 1999. At 123.
  • ‘A Brief History of Chittlehampton Parish’, accessed 12 July 2016,

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • North Devon Record Office, Barnstaple, copy of typescript and newscuttings, reference B472 add5/30/1-20 and Barnstaple B472 add5/19/1-5

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The pageant consciously echoed a similar pageant which had taken place in 1936, which had likewise told the story of the gruesome martyrdom of Saint Hieritha. As had also been the case on that earlier occasion, the pageant marked a coming together of the church and community, and seems to have been a significant success. As the magazine New Venture reported, ‘“Only Chittlehampton could have done it,” was one comment, and an apt one. It is hard to think of another village so find and natural an arena. There are other churches with unique dedications, but none with quite this story.’1 Among the guests was the Bishop of Crediton. The Church Times, which covered the pageant, was warmed by the spectacle and the vitality of old ways of life, celebrated through pageants: ‘All this I am glad to hear; I like our English children to carry on as if they were deep in some Umbrian outpost on a day they might remember all their lives.’2 The pageant was the central element of a programme of celebratory events, including the ringing of bells, a pilgrimage to the saint’s shrine, a puppet show and a barn dance. Attended by around 500 or 600 people, it succeeded in raising £130.3 A further pageant was held in 2000.4


1. ^ New Venture, September 1974, 1.
2. ^ Church Times, nd., newscutting in North Devon Record Office, B472 add5/30/6.
3. ^ Unspecified cutting in North Devon Record Office, B472 add5/30/5.
4. ^ ‘A Brief History of Chittlehampton Parish’, accessed 12 July 2016,

How to cite this entry

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