Church History Pageant, Great Bookham

Pageant type

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Place: St Nicholas Church (Great Bookham) (Great Bookham, Surrey, England)

Year: 1909

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


17–18 March 1909

Name of pageant master and other named staff


Presented by members and Candidates of the Girls’ Friendly Society and Members of the King’s Messengers

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Kipling, Rudyard


Kipling’s Recessional featured in the performance. The author/s of the overall pageant is not mentioned.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised

In aid of St Cuthbert’s Mission in South Africa and the Church of England’s Society for Waifs and Strays.

Linked occasion


Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Service in the church

Pageant outline

1. Litany of the Church

2. Story of S. Alban

3. S. Alban’s Martyrdom and S. Patrick’s Breastplate

4. Gregory and the Slave Children

5. S. Augustine’s Arrival in Britain

6. Baptism of King Ethelbert

7. Venerable Bede Translating the Bible

Recessional by Rudyard Kipling is read

8. Murder of Thomas a Becket

9. King John Signing the Magna Carta

10. Building of the Chancel, of St. Nicholas, Great Bookham

11. Outside the Convent Gates

12. Dispersion of the Nuns in Henry VIII’s Reign

13. Restoration of Charles II

14. Final Grouping, O God Our Help in Ages Past

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Alban [St Alban, Albanus] (d. c.303?) Christian martyr in Roman Britain
  • Augustine [St Augustine] (d. 604) missionary and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Æthelberht I (d. 616?) king of Kent [also known as Ethelbert]
  • Bede [St Bede, Bæda, known as the Venerable Bede] (673/4–735) monk, historian, and theologian
  • Becket, Thomas [St Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London] (1120?–1170) archbishop of Canterbury
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant


Book of words

None found.

Other primary published materials

  • Church History Pageant, Great Bookham, March 17-18, 1909. Leatherhead, 1909.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Programme and Order of Service in Surrey History Centre, Woking, Reference 8054/6/1-2

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Churches were involved in the pageant movement from the outset. For parish churches like St Nicolas, in Great Bookham, pageants offered a means of celebrating the long continuities of Christian worship in the local community. At a time when concern about the inroads of secularism was mounting, they were a good means of emphasizing the persisting importance of local churches to a historically-rooted sense of local identity. This pageant was held in March 1909; later the same year, the much larger (indeed vast) English Church Pageant was staged in Fulham Palace, London.

The early part of the pageant told the story of the coming of Christianity to Britain, with the latter parts focusing on key scenes from British history, with only the ninth to eleventh scenes referencing the village. The outline of the early scenes of the Pageant is strikingly similar to the Tatsfield Pageant (1938), suggesting a commonly-held interpretation of the history of the English church.


How to cite this entry

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