The Barking Historical Pageant

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Place: Barking Park (Barking) (Barking, Essex, England)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 12


5–10 October 1931

5 October: 5pm and 7.45pm
6 October: 3pm and 7.45pm
7 October: 3pm and 7.45pm
8 October: 3pm and 7.45pm
9 October: 3pm and 7.45pm
10 October: 3pm and 7.45pm
2 dress rehearsals on 1 and 2 October.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Lascelles, Frank
  • Publicity Agent: Capt C.F. Meehan (of Messrs Meehan and Smart)
  • Chief Marshal: F.A. Jenks, Esq.
  • Mistress of Robes: Mrs F.A. Jenks
  • Exhibition Agent: Mr F. Wilkins

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Scene Committees:

Scene I:

  • Chairman: Mr A. Hedges
  • Secretary: Mr J. Ward
  • Stage Manager: Sergt Major Brettingham
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr R. Lay
  • Marshal: Mr T. Wade
  • Deputy Marshal: Mr C.W. Dutton

Scene II:

  • Chairman: Mr W.A. Howe
  • Secretary: Mr Wm. S. Dailey
  • Stage Manager: Mr J. Lyon
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr J. Westfield
  • Marshal: Mr J.J. Currie
  • Property Master: Mr T. Griffiths

Scene III:

  • Chairman: Mr L. Webb
  • Secretary: Mr D.E. Patmore
  • Treasurer: Mr L. Vernon
  • Stage Manager: Mr E. Hill
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Miss I. Walker
  • Marshal: Mr G. Alpine
  • Deputy Marshal: Mr L. Vernon
  • Property Master: Mr E. Marsh
  • Costumes Mistress: Mrs C. Walker

Scene IV:

  • Chairman: Col E.A. Loftus
  • Secretary: Mr A.W. Rigden
  • Stage Manager: Miss J.F. Rose
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr H.E. Quinn
  • Marshal: Mr C.W. Richardson
  • Deputy Marshal: Miss J. Oddie
  • Property Master: Miss V.A. Dunning

Scene V:

  • Chairman: Mr Albon
  • Secretary: Mr Jimby
  • Treasurer: Miss Sawyer
  • Stage Manager: Mr Wilding
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr A.J. Bagnall
  • Marshal: Mr Steele
  • Deputy Marshal: Mr C.A. Jimby
  • Costume Mistress: Mrs Sawkins

Scene VI:

  • Chairman: The Vicar of Barking
  • Deputy Chairman: The Rev E.F. Holtby
  • Secretary Stage Manager: H. Grinder
  • Assistant Secretaries: A.W. Burrows; E.S. Tulton
  • Treasurer: Mr C.E. Boulton
  • Marshal: A.W. Burrows
  • Property Master: F. Braithwaite
  • Asst. Stage Manager: C. Cherry

Scene VII:

  • Chairman: Col E.A. Loftus
  • Secretary: Mr A.W. Rigden
  • Stage Manager: Miss J.F. Rose
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr H.E. Quinn
  • Marshal: Mr C.W. Richardson
  • Deputy Marshal: Miss J. Oddie
  • Property Master: Miss M.V.A. Dunning

Scene VIII:

  • Chairman: Mr W.A. Howe
  • Secretary: Mr Wm. S. Dailey
  • Stage Manager: Mr J. Lyon
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr J. Westfield
  • Marshal: Mr J.J. Currie
  • Property Master: Mr T. Griffiths

Scene IX:

  • Chairman: Mr W. Easterby
  • Secretary: Mr R.H.W. Peck
  • Stage Manager: Miss M. Coles
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr A.P. Nield
  • Marshal: Mr F. Houlding
  • Deputy Marshals: Mr L. Reeder; Mr W. Chapman; Mr H. Houlding
  • Property Managers: Mr E. Ager; Mr N. Rowe; Mr E. Leonard; Mr A. Cox; Mr K. Bullen

Scene X:

  • Chairman: Councillor J.W. Garland
  • Secretary and Stage Manager: Mr W. Anderson
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr R. Aiken
  • Property Master: L. Riley
  • Asst. Secretary: Mr J.R. Whittenbury
  • Treasurer: Miss L. Anderson

Scene XI:

  • Chairman: Mr Kenneth Glenny
  • Secretary: Mr E.E. Gower
  • Stage Manager: Mr J. Compton
  • Deputy Stage Manager: Mr J.A. Jenks
  • Marshal: Mr K. Glenny
  • Deputy Marshals: Mr D.H. Logan; Mr E.E. Gower; Mr J.P. Pratt
  • Property Master: Mr H. Simons

Designs and Costumes Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor Mrs B.E. Jackson
  • Secretary: Mrs R. Graham
  • plus 53 women, 11 men

Historical Committee:

  • Chairman: Mrs B.G. Sheffield
  • Secretary: A. Wand
  • Plus 9 men, 1 woman

Publicity Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor Sanders
  • Joint Secretaries: H.E. Gingell and J. Smallbone
  • Plus 17 men, 0 women

Reception Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor A. Graham
  • Secretary: S.A. Jewers
  • Plus 8 men, 0 women

Performers’ Committee:

  • Chairman: W.A. Howe
  • Secretary: J. Compton
  • Plus 40 men, 12 women

Properties Committee:

  • Chairman: F.A. Jenks
  • Secretary: H.H. Dawson
  • Plus 20 men, 7 women

Amphitheatre Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor A. Edwards
  • Deputy Chairman: Councillor W.J. James
  • Secretary: D. Wisemen
  • Plus 23 men, 3 women

Music and Dancing Committee:

  • Chairman: J. Compton
  • Secretary: Miss M.J. Coles
  • Plus 8 men, 2 women

Transport Committee:

  • Chairman: C. Harper
  • Secretary: A.B. Catling
  • Plus 11 men

Arrangements Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor A. Whiting
  • Secretary: S.A. Jewers
  • Plus 9 men, 2 women

Finance (Incorporation) Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor A. Graham
  • Plus 16 men, 1 woman

Illuminations and Street Decorations Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor B. Palmer
  • Secretary: W.E. Kidner
  • Plus 12 men, 0 women

Ticket Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor J.W. Garland
  • Plus 8 men, 0 women

Concessions Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor J.T. Sanders
  • Plus 8 men, 1 woman

Exhibition Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor J.T. Sanders
  • Secretary: W.T. Cockle
  • Assistant Secretary: R.L. Young
  • Plus 17 men

Street Processions Committee:

  • Chairman: A. Blake
  • Secretary: Mr W.H. Moss
  • Plus 8 men, 0 women

Shop Displays Committee:

  • Chairman: Councillor D.P. Bloomfield
  • Deputy Chairman: Mr F.D. Peak
  • Secretary: H.W. Harris
  • Plus 54 men, 4 women

Cinematograph Committee:

  • Chairman: F. Delamare
  • Secretary: Douglas Hewett
  • Plus 5 men

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

  • Anderson, W.
  • Coles, Miss M.
  • Compton, J.
  • Harris, H.
  • Jenks, F.A.
  • Loftus, E.A.


  • Scene I: story by E.A. Loftus, BSc, and H. Harris, BA, BLitt; dialogue by H. Harris, BA, BLitt.
  • Scene II: story and dialogue by Loftus.
  • Scene III: story by Loftus.
  • Scene IV: story by Loftus.
  • Scene V: story by Loftus.
  • Scene VI: story and dialogue Loftus.
  • Scene VII. story by Loftus.
  • Scene VIII: story and dialogue by Loftus.
  • Scene IX: story by Miss M Coles.
  • Scene X. story by W. Anderson.
  • Scene XI. story and dialogue by J. Compton, MA and F.A. Jenks.

Names of composers

  • Blow, John
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Carey, Henry

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

10s. 6d.–1s. 2d.

Admission: 1s. 2d. (inclusive).

Reserved seats: 2s. 6d., 3s. 6d., 5s., and 10s. 6d.

Associated events

  • Thursday 1 October. 11am to 10pm: Industrial Exhibition; Amusement Park; Street Procession of Decorated Cars, Vehicles etc.
  • Friday 2 October. 11am to 10pm: Industrial Exhibition; Amusement Park; Historical Pageant Dress Rehearsal.
  • Saturday 3 October. 11am to 10pm: Industrial Exhibition; Amusement Park; Historical Pageant Dress Rehearsal.
  • Sunday 4 October. Special Charter Services in all Churches and Chapels. The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford at St Margaret’s Church.
  • Monday 5 October—CHARTER DAY. 11am to 10pm: Industrial Exhibition; Amusement Park. 12 noon: HRH Prince George presented the Charter at Town Hall. 2.30pm: HRH Prince George planted Tree in the Park. 2.40pm: HRH Prince George opened Industrial Exhibition. 2.50pm: HRH opened the Historical Pageant. 5pm–7pm: Doggett’s Coat and Badge Exhibition Race; Band of Royal Horse Guards. 7.45pm: Historical Pageant. 10pm: Firework Display.
  • Tuesday 6 October. 11am to 10pm: Industrial Exhibition; Amusement Park; Visit in State of Lord Mayor of London, Sheriffs and Mayors and Town Clerks of neighbouring Boroughs. 2.45pm: Opening of Industrial Exhibition by the Lord Mayor of London. 3pm: Opening of Historical Pageant by Lord Mayor of London. 7.45pm: Historical Pageant.
  • Wednesday 7 October. Industrial Day. 2.45pm: Sir Bernard Greenwell, Bart, MBE, opened Industrial Exhibition. 3pm: Sir Bernard Greenwell, Bart. Opened the Historical Pageant 7.45pm: Historical Pageant.
  • Thursday 8 October. Industrial Day. 2.15pm: Beckton Band. 2.45pm: Sir David Milne-Watson, LLD, opened Industrial Exhibition. 3pm: Sir David Milne-Watson opened the Historical Pageant by 5.30–7pm: L. Callender’s Prize Band. 7.45pm: Historical Pageant.
  • Friday 9 October. 2.15pm and 6pm: The ‘K’ Division Police Band. 2.45pm: J. Gibson Jarvie, Esquire opened the Industrial Exhibition by 3pm: J. Gibson Jarvie, Esquire opened the Historical Pageant. 7.45pm: Historical Pageant.
  • Saturday 10 October. Ladies’ Day. 2.45pm: Countess of Warwick opened the Industrial Exhibition. 3pm: Countess of Warwick opened the Historical Pageant 7.45pm: Historical Pageant.
  • Sunday 11 October. 10:30am: Civic Procession to Parish Church of St Margaret. 3pm: Grand Civic Procession by the Performers, Combined Town Bands and others through the Town to the Park for United Thanksgiving Service. Preacher: The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

Pageant outline


All scene synopses are taken verbatim from the programme synopsis in the Book of Barking.

Scene I. The Romans at Uphill Camp, AD 43

Presented by members of the Territorial Units, Ex-Service Men’s Association, and the Old Contemptibles.

The Emperor Claudius has sent Aulus Plautius to conquer Britain. Despite the valour of the general, Vespasian, and all the troops, they are held up by the marsh lands round Uphall Camp. Hither comes the Emperor himself to review his legions. Their military prowess fills with awe the onlooking British peasants, and the Emperor is encouraged to advance upon Camulodunum (Colchester), the capital of King Caractacus.

Scene II. The Foundation of Barking Abbey, AD 666

Presented by the Roman Catholic Community of Barking.

Erkenwald, a priest of the royal house of East Anglia, having previously been granted leave to found a monastery for himself at Chertsey, now seeks permission from Sebbi, King of the East Saxons, to build another house for his sister, Ethelburga, at Barking. Sebbi was joint-King with Sighere over the East Saxons, but they were subject to Wulfhere, King of the Mercians. Sebbi was a devout and faithful follower of Christianity which had recently been preached in Essex by the missionary Cedd. Erkenwald and Ethelburga, followed by monks and nuns, enter singing. As they reach the chosen site, King Sebbi and his retinue appear in view, having just landed from a boat. The Abbot respectfully greets the monarch who prepares to hear his petition. A number of rude and unconverted peasants stand around displaying by signs their astonishment and wonder at the appearance of their distinguished visitors. Members of the King’s suite have to keep them back. Erkenwald and Ethelburga advance a few paces and drop on one knee while the former makes his supplication. He tells the King that he craves to build a Holy House in the name of the Blessed Virgin. The King assents, and gives a charter, [placing] Ethelburga as the saintly sister to rule over the house. Erkenwald in turn blesses the King, before the monks exit chanting.

Scene III. The Obsequies of Bishop Erkenwald, AD 693

Presented by the members of the Barking Branch of Toc H.

The saintly Erkenwald, Abbot of Chertsey, became Bishop of London in 675 and died at Barking Abbey whilst on a visit to his sister in 693. A dispute arose as to the disposal of his body. The monks and nuns of Barking naturally desired to bury his remains in their church. The monks of Chertsey and those of St Pauls also claimed the right of interment. The London fraternity was successful, and this episode depicts the departure of the cortege from Barking Abbey. The procession emerges from the Great Gate of the Abbey, led by four mounted soldiers and the monks. Then comes the body, dressed in full canonicals, on a canopied bier, immediately preceded by a monk carrying the late Bishop’s crosier. The nuns follow, headed by the aged Ethelburga, carried on a litter. Some of the Abbey servants follow the nuns and the rear of the procession is brought up by mounted soldiers. The great bell of the Abbey, known as ‘le grand Beneyt,’ tolls its sad notes, whilst the monks and nuns sing a dirge. Peasants prostrate themselves in deep veneration as the bier passes them.

Scene IV. The Destruction of the Abbey by the Danes

Presented by the staff and scholars of Barking Abbey School.

From the great gate emerge the nuns in procession, led by the Abbess. They sing as they march and in the foreground monastic servants and others pursue their ordinary avocations. All is peaceful until suddenly terror-stricken menials begin to rush across the arena. They speak to those already in the scene and these join them in flight. Some enter the monastery as the last of the nuns emerge therefrom, apparently to warn any inmates, and to obtain their belongings. Some of them approach the Abbess and fling themselves on their knees before her. Those left in the Abbey now come tumbling out, armed with weapons and implements which might be useful as such, whilst some carry bundles with effects hastily gathered together. Boats laden with warriors now come into sight. The nuns stop singing and halt. The Abbess’s servants inform her that the Northmen are upon them. The Abbess is defiant. Chaos reigns as people flee. The Abbess calms the nuns, and tells them to sing and proceed to the Church. The nuns re-form their ranks and are led by the Abbess towards the gate, mostly calmed by the dignity of the Abbess, though one or two break down in fear. They make it into the Abbey just as the Danes arrive; the defenders of the gate are quickly beaten by the Danes. The gate is smashed down and they enter; screams are heard. The Abbey is set on fire and the Danes emerge from its precincts carrying booty to their boats.

Scene V. King Edgar Founds the Second Abbey, c. 959–975

Presented by members of the Free Churches.

In this scene the King, Archbishop and Wulfildis are seen approaching the ruins. They and some of their retainers are mounted; the rest are on foot. The King rides between, and slightly in front of, the cleric and the nun. Saxon peasants are attracted to the scene; some walk along with the procession, and others follow behind. They are kept at a respectful distance from the royal party by the King’s guard. On arrival at the desired spot, the King and his suite dismount and kneel, grooms taking charge of the horses. The Archbishop is seen offering up a short prayer. They remount and pass on.

Scene VI. William the Conqueror at the Abbey, AD 1066

Presented by members of the Church of England.

For tactical and other reasons William and his court took up residence in Barking. William and his retainers enter and the King takes his seat on the great chair usually occupied by the Abbess. He motions Odo to take the seat on his right; the seat on the left is kept vacant. Warriors and nobles group themselves on either side and behind their monarch. The Abbess, in procession with her nuns, approaches, and they arrange themselves before the King. The King bids her good day and announces that he is giving grants to create a house for holy women at the Abbey. He instructs her that she will pay dues to both the King and the Pope. She replies that she is content to do so and swears allegiance. She takes her seat. A party of Saxons enter, and, after being de-armed, are allowed to approach the King. The Saxon Earls, Edwin and Morkere, have come to submit to the King and ask for mercy; the King gives it, and resolves to hold a feast for the Saxon Earls and the Abbess.

Scene VII. The Abbey at the Height of Its Glory, c.1136

Presented by a company of ladies and gentlemen under the direction of F.A. Jenks.

At this time the great and ‘royal’ forest of Essex extended as far as Seven Kings and Faircross and was therefore of convenient access from the Abbey. This part of the forest was known as Hainault. In it the Abbess had certain privileges, including that of hunting. Early in the reign of King Stephen, he and his court were entertained for some days by the Abbess Adeliza. Queen Maud had held the office of Abbess at some time previously, probably earlier in the same year. After a flourish of trumpets enter King Stephen and his Queen and Court, returning from hunting in the forest of Hainault. Included in the party is the Abbess Adeliza and two nuns. The Abbess and Queen Maud ride on either side of and slightly behind the King who appears to be engaged in gay converse with them. A jester also engages their attention with his queer antics and causes much amusement. Servants follow on foot behind, some of them carrying the spoils of the chase. Others emerge from the Abbey Gate to receive the Abbess and her royal guests. On arrival at the gate all dismount. The grooms lead away the horses and the party enters the monastery.

Scene VIII. The Dissolution of the Abbey, AD 1539

Presented by the Roman Catholic Community.

Enter the Abbess in full canonicals, chanting in procession. The Abbess assents to the King’s commissioners entering the Abbey. Dr Peter enters with his assistants and some soldiers. They greet each other formally. Peter reads out a proclamation from Henry VIII instructing the surrender of the Abbey and all its contents. She assents and asks for the indulgence of the King for her sisters now turned out into the world. The Commissioner advances and receives the deeds and keys, bows, and steps out. The Abbess and nuns rise, and they begin to file out. The Abbess gives a speech, instructing the nuns to bear the tragedy with strength and grace, predicting that the house will lie desolate and remembering the eight hundred years it has been the place of peace and prayer. The Abbess leads the procession and they retire singing.

Scene IX. Elizabethan Barking

Presented by the teachers of Barking and the Women’s Citizens League.

Booths with brightly coloured awnings are brought in by apprentices under the direction of the merchants and placed in their position. The wares are displayed and the apprentices utter their cries. The townspeople enter from all directions and congregate about the stalls chaffering and gossiping. The music of ‘Staines Morris’ is heard and Morris Dancers enter and form sets, and the crowd arrange themselves in groups to watch. The Morris handkerchief dance, ‘The Blue-Eyed Stranger’, is performed. As the dance ends the chief officials of the town appear, headed by Henry Fanshawe and Clement Sisley with their wives, in dignified procession. Then the attention of everybody is arrested by the sight of a highly decorated barge coming down the river, carrying the Earl of Essex. They alight and in splendid Elizabethan pageantry proceed around the arena. Meeting the town officials the Earl of Essex hands over the Charter, which is read to the crowd and received with applause. Then follows a ‘Masque of Prosperity’ in which the Goddess is seen surrounded by dancing nymphs. Figures representing Trade, Seafaring, Drama and Poetry enter and pay homage to Prosperity, before forming a procession and moving off to the strains of a madrigal.

Scene X. King Charles I Plays a Game of Bowls at Barking

Presented by the Barking Bowling Clubs.

The scene is a grass park immediately in front of a Tudor mansion, which is set among trees with a grass expanse in front. There is a bowling green in the centre, some way from the house. Gardeners bring brooms and sweep the bowling green, while groundsmen bring bowls… and serving-men place chairs and tables. Groups and couples enter talking and laughing. Some saunter forward towards the bowling green; then a party of eight gentlemen leave the house and go to the green, draw lots, and begin a game. The King arrives with a party of thirty or forty courtiers and is greeted by Mr Shute and Dame Shute, the Lord and Lady of the House. The King takes a seat with them and drinks. He watches the game of bowls and after a little while he joins the game, watched by the crowd. Afterwards the King, Shute, and the royal party stroll off by the house to the singing of a song.

Scene XI. The Great Barking Fair, 1746

Presented by members of the Conservative Association, the Barking Hospital Committee, the Hospital Women’s Linen Guild, and the Barking Rowing and Athletic Club.

The entry of the Town Crier is heralded by the shouting of excited boys and girls, who impede him as he makes his way to the centre of the scene. Townspeople begin to appear, and the crowd grows. He rings his bell and declares the fair open. Stallholders set up, and there is a mild riot as they jostle for the best spots. They shout out their wares. A tramp is placed in the stock; a Fat Lady is exhibited; a village band plays to greet the appearance of Sir Crisp Gascoyne, Lord Mayor of London with other nobles; a display of Maypole dancing; and many songs. Gascoyne gives a speech, declaring himself a Barking man. Barking fishermen and privateers come up the lake in their boat and sing the Mariner’s Song. More fun follows with comic manoeuvres of donkeys, before the wedding procession of Captain Cook. The procession disappears and the crowd disperses, leaving a few courting couples, some with linked arms and others waving fond farewells. As the scene closes, the Night Watchman reappears, lights [a] lantern and passes out as the distant striking of a clock is heard.


After the passing of the scenes of Ancient Barking, there is silence. From the Abbey Gatehouse comes the sound of trumpet calls which brings together a vast assembly in great and solemn array of the People of the Past. First comes the congregation of Benedictine nuns to mark the way. Then in triumphal march our forefathers gather, British, Roman, Saxon, Norman, Medieval, Tudor, Stuart and Georgian. They stand facing the People of To-Day, and again, after their acclamations, there is silence. From the Abbey comes the sound of chanting and above it peals a fanfare of trumpets. Now the famous worthies of Barking whose names have come down to us appear. Following them, led by the Saints and followed by the Social Services, comes a Youth bearing in his hand the Charter of Incorporation of the new Borough of Barking. The People of All the Ages turn to him with their right hands upraised to welcome him with a great shout, while the famous men and women of the past kneel at his feet. As he reaches the centre he is welcomed by the Charter Mayor, Town Clerk and Councillors, who pay homage to the new Borough. The ‘Song of Barking’ is sung by the People of the Past and Present, chanting their paean of praise to the Future. When the ‘Song of Barking’ is over, the People of All the Ages kneel and with hands raised aloft sing ‘Oh God our Help in Ages Past’. At the words ‘Time like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away’, they rise and fade from sight. Then, carried on the shoulders of the men of Past Ages with the Saints still leading and the Social Services following, the new Borough of Barking, hailed by the Charter Mayor, Town Clerk and Councillors, who follow the Spirit of Progress, passes triumphantly on his way amid the acclamations of Past and Present who raise the great cry of ‘Long Live Barking’, and the ‘Song of Barking’ is sung by the assembly.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Claudius [Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus] (10 BC–AD 54) Roman emperor
  • Plautius, Aulus (fl. AD 29–57) Roman governor of Britain
  • Vespasian [Titus Flavius Vespasianus] (AD 9–79)
  • Sæbbi (d. 693/4) the son of King Seaxred
  • Earconwald [St Earconwald, Erkenwald] (d. 693) abbot of Chertsey and bishop of the East Saxons
  • Æthelburh [St Æthelburh, Ethelburga] (fl. 664) abbess of Barking
  • Edgar [called Edgar Pacificus] (943/4–975) king of England
  • Dunstan [St Dunstan] (d. 988) archbishop of Canterbury
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Odo, earl of Kent (d. 1097) bishop of Bayeux and magnate
  • Eadwine [Edwin] earl of Mercia (d. 1071)
  • Morcar, earl of Northumbria (fl. 1065–1087) magnate
  • Stephen (c.1092–1154), king of England
  • Matilda [Matilda of Boulogne] (c.1103–1152) queen of England, consort of King Stephen
  • Petre, Sir William (1505/6–1572) administrator
  • Devereux, Robert, second earl of Essex (1565–1601) soldier and politician
  • Blount, Charles, eighth Baron Mountjoy and earl of Devonshire (1563–1606) soldier and administrator
  • Blount, Sir Christopher (1555/6–1601) soldier and conspirator
  • Bacon, Anthony (1558–1601) spy
  • Cuffe [Cuff], Henry (1562/3–1601) classical scholar and secretary to the earl of Essex
  • Wotton, Sir Henry (1568–1639) diplomat and writer
  • Rich [née Devereux], Penelope, Lady Rich (1563–1607) noblewoman
  • Fanshawe, Sir Henry (1569–1616) exchequer official
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Shute, Richard (d. 1660) merchant and local politician
  • Gascoyne, Sir Crisp (bap. 1700, d. 1761) local politician
  • Cook, James (1728–1779) explorer
  • Earconwald [St Earconwald, Erkenwald] (d. 693) abbot of Chertsey and bishop of the East Saxons
  • Edith [St Edith, Eadgyth] (961x4–984x7) nun
  • Hildelith [St Hildelith, Hildilid] (fl. c.700) abbess of Barking
  • Matilda [Edith, Mold, Matilda of Scotland] (1080–1118) queen of England, first consort of Henry I
  • Matilda, duchess of Saxony (1156–1189) princess
  • Tudor, Edmund [Edmund of Hadham], first earl of Richmond (c.1430–1456) magnate
  • Tudor, Jasper [Jasper of Hatfield], duke of Bedford (c.1431–1495) magnate
  • Elizabeth [née Elizabeth de Burgh] (d. 1327) queen of Scots, consort of Robert I
  • Eleanor [née Eleanor Cobham], duchess of Gloucester (c.1400–1452) alleged sorcerer
  • Clinton, Edward Fiennes de, first earl of Lincoln (1512–1585) military commander
  • Hewett, Sir William (c.1508–1567) mayor of London
  • Vyner [Viner], Sir Thomas, first baronet (1588–1665) goldsmith and banker
  • Cambell, Sir James (c.1570–1642) merchant
  • White, Sir Thomas (1495?–1567) founder of St John's College, Oxford
  • Gresham, Sir Richard (c.1485–1549) mercer, merchant adventurer, and mayor of London
  • Hatton, Sir Christopher (c.1540–1591) courtier and politician
  • Fanshawe, Sir Thomas (1580–1631) government official
  • Hatton, Christopher, first Baron Hatton (bap. 1605, d. 1670) politician
  • Parker, William, thirteenth Baron Morley and fifth or first Baron Monteagle (1574/5–1622) &&&discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot
  • Audley, Thomas, Baron Audley of Walden (1487/8–1544) lord chancellor
  • Henry Wriothesley, Thomas, first earl of Southampton (1505–1550) administrator
  • Gascoyne, Bamber (bap. 1725, d. 1791) politician
  • Fry [née Gurney], Elizabeth (1780–1845) penal reformer and philanthropist

Musical production

The orchestra was composed of the British Women’s Symphony Orchestra, with other amateur women and men.

Deputy conductor: Miss Grace Borrows
Musical director: Frederick Woodhouse

The following pieces were performed:

  • Scene II. Veni Creator; O Gloriosa Virginum.
  • Scene III. Dies Irae.
  • Scene IX. Prelude based on Agincourt Song. Music for the ‘Masque of Prosperity’ arranged by Frederick Woodhouse.
  • Scene X. Incidental music from Dr Blow’s ‘Venus and Adonis’. 
  • Scene XI. Prelude based on Essex May Day Carol; Song from ‘Fairy Queen’, Purcell; Choral Interlude ‘Fairest Isle’, Purcell.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
The Observer
South Essex Mail, East Ham Echo and Barking Chronicle
Hartlepool Mail
Western Morning News
Portsmouth Evening News
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Essex Newsman
Chelmsford Chronicle
Edinburgh Evening News
Surrey Mirror
Gloucester Citizen

Book of words

The Book of Barking: Being a Souvenir of the Charter Celebrations, Historical Pageant, and Industrial Exhibition. London, 1931.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Wallis, Mick. ‘Delving the Levels of Memory and Dressing up the Past’. In British Theatre between the Wars, 1918–1939, edited by Clive Barker and Maggie B. Gale. Cambridge, 2000, 190-214.

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Barking Historical Pageant in October 1931 was a hastily organised event, designed to commemorate the granting of a municipal borough charter of incorporation that year. Barking had been trying to incorporate as a borough since 1897, but it was only successful when the Lords of the Privy Council, following the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in 1929, intimated that they were prepared to consider petitions for a Charter from the Urban District Council supported by signatures of members of the Council.2 It had only been decided to celebrate the Charter comprehensively at the end of July, when the Incorporation Committee met to prepare plans after finding out that HRH Prince George had consented to visit Barking on 5 October 5.3 The pageant was prepared in just eight weeks and directed by the most popular and successful master of the period, Frank Lascelles.4 The Mayor, Col A.E. Martin, along with Councillor A. Whiting, had visited the Bradford Pageant earlier in 1931 and seen Lascelles in action. Recognising how enthusiastically that city had entered into the spirit of the venture—industrial depression notwithstanding—the Mayor was inspired.5

Unsurprisingly, considering where the Borough Council had found its inspiration and pageant-master, and the year in which the pageant took place, the Barking celebrations had a distinctly economic boosterist aim. But the pageant and its associated rituals and events also carved out a municipal identity by calling on the legitimacy of history. Planned in such a short space of time, it involved a much smaller cast than Lascelles usually employed, with around 2000 amateurs taking performing roles. The pageant was performed 12 times, reported widely, and dubbed a success by the local press.

As Mick Wallis has pointed out, the pageant souvenir acted as a sort of trade directory, with its numerous adverts for local firms.6 It also featured an article that described and explained the advantages of Barking for industries: these included low power costs, waterfront sites, direct road and rail communication with London, labour in abundance, and lax building regulations.7 An industrial exhibition that took place at the same time as the pageant supported this advertising aim. The building that housed the industrial exhibition was put up in two weeks, and only planned a few weeks previous to that.8 There were over one hundred exhibits.9 One purpose of the exhibition, of course, was to show what was being done in the locality in terms of industrial activity while also advertising the potential for further development. In this vein, for example, the exhibition included a model of the town’s transport facilities, which had helped the population grow so rapidly.10 As the Edinburgh Evening News commented (in doing so showing just how far the news of a local pageant could travel), Barking was just another town of many in recent years ‘singing their own praises’ through publicity and boosterism.11 The Hartlepool Mail, paraphrasing the column writer ‘Quiz’ from the Daily Herald, was right when it said: ‘Soon there will be scarcely an important city in England that has not had a pageant or is going to have one.’12

Barking had certainly undergone rapid change and urbanisation in the previous fifty years, growing from a population of 14031 in 1895 to 51277 in 1931—and projected to grow to 80000 soon after with the completion of the Becontree estate.13 Many of the press reports during the celebrations made reference to the town having been a mere fishing village on the Thames.14 With the bestowal of the charter, then, it seemed an apt moment to reflect on both the history and the future of the town. As the Town Clerk, S.A. Jewers, explained in the pageant souvenir:

A Charter is a symbol of a procedure which has its roots in antiquity and is associated with ceremonials and traditions which are not merely superficial survivals of the past, but have a real value in marking the continuity of local government and fostering the ambitions of local authorities [as to] develop their administration [so] they may attain the status of a Chartered Borough.15

Jewers then gave a history of the governance of the town, from the Abbey, founded in AD c.666, to the first meeting of the Urban District Council in 1895. He ended by drawing attention to the recent work of the municipality, such as the provision of nine new schools at a cost of £400000; the appointment of 300 teachers; two new libraries; three clinics; an ambulance station; electricity sub-stations; and new street lighting. The souvenir programme was also full of the photographs of civic figures who had overseen such municipal growth. In addition, it had a descriptive article about the Corporation Regalia and Gifts to the Town, and many articles about the long and prestigious history of the town, such as its Abbey and origins as a fishing port.16

The pageant was thus just as much about carving out a sense of municipal pride and the role of local government in the creation of modern communities as it was about encouraging industrial enterprise. After the pageant had finished, the borough continued to use history to shape its new identity, by staging a history exhibition at the Public Library telling the story of the borough through documents, pictures and models.17 Because Barking was a relatively new place, the charter celebrations, and the associated ritual of processions and pageantry, were an attempt to link an established history (most notably that of the famous Abbey) with the modern borough. Such an exercise gave a sense of legitimacy. This also came through in the narrative of the pageant episodes. Unsurprisingly, considering how quickly the pageant was organised, the scenes concentrated on spectacle and colour rather than dialogue, and several featured no spoken parts at all. The narrative began, as was common in many pageants and Frank Lascelles’ productions in this period, with the Roman invasion in AD 43. There was little dialogue, and most of the episode was taken up with a grand military review of the Roman legions.

Scenes II to VIII concentrated on the history of the Abbey in Barking, reflecting the input of the main author of the pageant, E.A. Loftus, a local historian. The story comprised its foundation in AD 666, its destruction in AD 870, its rebuilding/second founding by King Edgar, c. AD 959–975, a visit from William the Conqueror in 1066, ‘the Height of its Glory’ in 1136, and its final dissolution in 1539. In contrast with those of Edwardian pageants, such scenes had little to no moral instruction, and were more of a feast for the senses, with music, colour, singing, and amusement. The ninth scene, which showed Elizabethan Barking, continued in this vein, with Morris dancing and folk singing. It also showed the Earl of Essex bringing a charter which was read to the crowd to great applause. At this point the pageant also began its boosterist role, with a ‘masque of prosperity’ that showed figures representing Trade, Seafaring, Drama and Poetry enter and pay homage to Prosperity, before forming a procession and moving off to the strains of a madrigal. The tenth scene returned to simple fun, with King Charles I playing bowls at Barking; humour and joviality were also much in evidence in the final scene of the Great Barking Fair in 1746, which featured a tramp in the stocks, a freak show, a village band, maypole dancing, and the wedding of Captain Cook.

The epilogue was probably the most important scene in terms of the ethos of the celebrations. All the characters already portrayed in the pageant marched in, accompanied by other Barking worthies. Led by the saints, a youth bearing the new charter in his hand entered. He was welcomed by the Charter Mayor, the Town Clerk and Councillors, who paid homage to the new Borough. The ‘Song of Barking’ was sung by the People of the Past and Present, as they chanted their paean of praise to the Future. Then, carried on the shoulders of the Men of Past Ages with the saints still leading, a personification of the new Borough of Barking, hailed by the Mayor, Clerk and Councillors, followed the Spirit of Progress and passed triumphantly on his way amid the acclamations of Past and Present who raised the great cry of ‘Long Live Barking’.

Local participation seemed to have been strong. Costumes were all made locally and, except for the more expensive costumes worn by Royal characters, cost between 4s. and 10s. each.18 The civic service was conducted by the Bishop of Chelmsford and attended by approximately 2000 people.19 The press reported that about ten per cent of the population were actively involved in preparing for the celebrations and that the cast of the pageant ranged from the most prosperous to the poor and unemployed.20 As with other historical pageants across the twentieth century, the memories of performing stayed strong for some of the amateur cast. A couple of months after the pageant, for example, the bride at a wedding at the Barking Parish Church wore her pageant costume, and after the service she drove away with the groom in an old stage coach that had been used in the pageant.21

The crowning feature of the celebrations was the visit of HRH Prince George on 5 October. Members of the public packed themselves into the streets around the Town Hall to watch the prince’s speech. He told the crowd that he appreciated his reception in the ‘ancient town’ and also declared himself ‘very interested in the efforts that are being made to solve the difficulties’ of the ‘rapidly growing district’. When he opened the exhibition, he went on to say that ‘In times of difficulty like the present, it is encouraging to find that Barking is alive to the great part which the high standard of British goods and workmanship can play in the industrial progress of the Empire.’ Similarly, when opening the pageant, he further hoped ‘that the lesson of the pageant may be learnt, and may be an inducement to preserve the good feeling which has marked the activities of the last two months, and which will continue to mark the efforts of the inhabitants of Barking towards obtaining nothing short of the best for their people and for their country.’22

In a letter to the local press, H.C. Robins, the Vicar of Barking, also explained how the pageant held lessons for the people of the town. He declared that the charter and the pageant both had spiritual significance. Not just a ‘mere show’, the pageant would inspire the present and the future, by showing the role that religion had played in Barking’s past. He constructed religion in this sense as being the ‘soul of the community’, bidding men to see the importance of eternal values such as truth, beauty and goodness, and to work them out in the future of the borough. Similarly, the charter was a spur to challenge every citizen to ‘live for the whole, for the community.’ It would bind the town into a family, where all cared for each other as well as the whole.23 The Vicar practiced what he preached—taking the role of William the Conqueror in the pageant. The Bishop of Chelmsford also took to the press to explain what he thought was the point of the pageant. He recognised that the entertainment and educational value of pageantry was a sufficient explanation for its popularity, but he saw the highest purpose of Barking’s pageant as being a corrective to modern arrogance that newness was always progressiveness. At the same time, pageantry fostered ‘local patriotism’: a ‘spirit of unity and a healthy pride’ that would awaken people to the fact that they were ‘citizens of no mean city’. As the country faced a time of transition and upheaval, he argued, pageantry was the ballast that preserved the heritage of the past and passed it on to succeeding generations.24 It is likely that he also transmitted this ethos in the civic Sunday ceremony he spoke at the day after the final performance.

Frank Lascelles, in a characteristically airy address to the audience in the souvenir Book of Words, made much the same point. He instructed them to let their minds

drift back to the early days when this new Borough was still a little village… dream of those days and the great characters who lived in them, of the Kings and Queens who came to this place, of the Saints whose home it was, of the famous men who once were boys roaming in these fields. Then think ahead a hundred years or more, and remember that each one of you, however humble, can in your own short life make your mark upon your generation, and so upon the countless generations of Barking yet to come.25

The Observer reported that the pageant was a ‘triumph, not only for its spectacular appeal, but for the sentiment and enthusiasm of the Barking townspeople’.26 The South Essex Mail went overboard in its praise for the pageant, gushing how it had been a ‘complete success’ and ‘excellently presented’, the performers and detail being ‘most admirable’.27 As the newspaper went on, the pageant had been ‘wonderfully aided by the most modern of inventions in sound and illumination’, a defining characteristic of Lascelles’ style of pageantry.28 Detailed information on the attendance and financial results of the pageant has not yet been ascertained. But, at the least, it stands as proof of the continued usefulness of historical pageantry to municipal culture in the inter-war period and also to its increasing role as an economic stimulus.


  1. ^ The Book of Barking: Being a Souvenir of the Charter Celebrations, Historical Pageant, and Industrial Exhibition. London, 1931.
  2. ^ S.A. Jewers, ‘The Charter’, in The Book of Barking: Being a Souvenir of the Charter Celebrations, Historical Pageant, and Industrial Exhibition (London, 1931), 15.
  3. ^ Ibid., 15.
  4. ^ ‘Barking’s History in Pageant’, The Observer, 4 October 1931, 21.
  5. ^ ‘Fishing Village to Borough’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 3 September 1931, 5.
  6. ^ Mick Wallis, ‘Delving the Levels of Memory and Dressing up the Past’, in British Theatre between the Wars, 1918–19, ed. Clive Barker and Maggie B. Gale, (Cambridge, 2000), 39.
  7. ^ Boyle Lawrence, ‘Industries’, in The Book of Barking, 18.
  8. ^ ‘Busy Barking’, Edinburgh Evening News, 1 October 1931, 6.
  9. ^ ‘Barking Charter’, Chelmsford Chronicle, 2 October 1931, 1.
  10. ^ ‘The Incorporation of Barking’, The Times, 20 August 1931, 8.
  11. ^ ‘Busy Barking’, Edinburgh Evening News, 1 October 1931, 6.
  12. ^ ‘Lure of the Pageant’, Hartlepool Mail, 4 September 1931, 7.
  13. ^ Jewers, ‘The Charter’, in The Book of Barking, 14.
  14. ^ ‘Fishing Village to Borough’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 3 September 1931, 5.
  15. ^ Jewers, ‘The Charter’, in The Book of Barking, 8.
  16. ^ E.A. Loftus, ‘Barking Abbey’ and Robert Hewett, ‘Barking a Fishing Port’, in The Book of Barking.
  17. ^ Portsmouth Evening News, 23 October 1931, 9.
  18. ^ ‘Barking Pageant’, Western Morning News, 5 October 1931, 4.
  19. ^ Hartlepool Mail, 12 October 1931, 2.
  20. ^ ‘Barking Rejoices’, Gloucester Citizen, 25 September 1931, 4.
  21. ^ Hartlepool Mail, 28 December 1931, 7.
  22. ^ ‘Prince George in Barking’, The Times, 6 October 1931, 9.
  23. ^ ‘Now on the Map’, South Essex Mail, East Ham Echo and Barking Chronicle,2 October 1931, 3.
  24. ^ ‘The Fostering of Local Patriotism’, South Essex Mail, East Ham Echo and Barking Chronicle, 2 October 1931, 7 and 2.
  25. ^ Frank Lascelles, ‘To the Audience’, in The Book of Barking, 53.
  26. ^ ‘Barking’s History in Pageant’, The Observer, 4 October 1931, 21.
  27. ^ ‘Rejoicings at Barking’, South Essex Mail, East Ham Echo and Barking Chronicle, 9 October 1931, 7.
  28. ^ Ibid., 7.

How to cite this entry

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