‘The Highway’: A Pageant of the Roads

Pageant type

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Place: Old Basing House Ruins (Old Basing) (Old Basing, Hampshire, England)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


25 June 1931 at 2.45pm and 7.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Organizer: G.H. Jeudwine (Rector of Oakley)
  • Producer: Mr W. Maughfling
  • Orchestra and Choir Conducted by: Rev. Canon H.W. Boustead (Vicar of Basingstoke)
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs Judd
  • Written by: Miss Mary Debenham

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Debenham, Mary

Names of composers

  • Ketèlbey, Albert

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Coach Hire: £6. 15s. 9d.
Furnishings: £2. 10s. 1½d.
Shoes: £1. 7s. 6½d.
Hire of Stall for Rehearsal: 12s.
Costumes: £4. 3s. 2d.
Shoes: £1. 8s. 6½d.
Transport to Rehearsals and Performance: £2. 6s. 0d.
Hire of Hall for Practice: £0. 12s.

Donations from Performers: £2. 12s. 6d.
From Tickets: £3. 0s. 0d.
Donations (6 People): £2. 2s. 0d.

Total Deficit: £8. 9s. 7s. ½d. paid from the church fund.

The financial information is not complete and should be taken as a rough estimate of particular expenses.

Object of any funds raised

For the Old Basing Church Fund.

Linked occasion

Winchester Diocesan Missionary Festival.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Service at Old Basing Church at 6pm.

Winchester Diocesan Missionary Festival.

Pageant outline


St Julian Hospitator, patron of travellers, enters during the singing of the opening chorus. He crosses the stage thoughtfully, stands listening, then seats himself and speaks as the music ceases. A Roman centurion enters, and they discuss travelling and Rome’s road-building. Julian tells the centurion that roads last forever—even after his military glories fade. St Julian addresses a footsore pedlar. A pilgrim enters describing journeys to shrines at Canterbury and Walsingham, to St James of Compostela, and even to Jerusalem. St Julian muses that men have many uses for roads. They retire to watch the pageant unfold.

Episode I. The Consecration of a Christian Church at Silchester

British children enter with flowers and dance in a ring. The older people stand and watch their festivities. Faustus offers a garland to one child. She refuses the gift, saying it is for the church. Faustus remarks on the situation that has made Christianity a tolerated religion. Other Romans celebrate the consecration of the church. Victorinus, a Centurion, enters and they discuss the roads. St Julian and the centurion discuss how St Paul was brought to Rome and used the roads to spread the Christian message.

Episode II. Pamber Priory, Early 12th Century

Monks singing a hymn are directed to their work by the prior. Brother Giles is making Norman cider, but the monks miss their French homeland. They discuss whether they must renounce the world around them or come to terms with it, lightly mocking the English. A Saxon woman enters and is greeted. She complains about the poor harvest and is given bread. A group of peasants enter. A young boy wishes to become a monk, though a woman declares the boy’s father will oppose it, his own father having been killed at the Battle of Hastings. Brother Hugh attempts to reconcile the two people, giving bread with a blessing. Sir Henry de Port, founder of the priory, arrives and enquires after the ongoing work. Sir Henry talks about his growing attachment to England, and the prior blesses his and the King’s attempt to reconcile the English people, talking about the marriage of Lady Edith (or Matilda) to Henry I. Brother Hugh rejoices at the marrying together of Saxons and Normans.

Episode III. Whitsuntide at Bramley, 14th Century

Enter Gilbert the Seafarer with his grandfather. Gilbert is glad to be home again, blessing St Julian for the safe travels. The Saint appears to them, and they drop down in amazement. ‘Gibbie’ talks about his journey. Julian leaves them, and they return to Bramley to be reunited with their family at Whitsuntide. There are festivities, dancing and much drinking of ‘church ale’.

Episode IV. Master Warham Comes Home From School, About 1461

Goody Stokes and Annys gossip together about Mistress Warham. Mistress Warham enters and is apprehensive about her son’s return, fearing thieves, cut-purses and sturdy beggars. Master Warham returns safe, having gained distinction at Winchester School, and tells them about the conditions of the food, sports and discipline. They marvel at their son’s prowess and how he is growing into a young gentleman.

Episode V. Lord Sandys Returns From France, 1526

Meg enters, walking slowly along the road and shading her eyes. She picks up a daisy mournfully, while her friends follow behind silently mimicking and mocking her. A boy arrives and says that Lord Sandys and his company will arrive from France (where they have been at the field of the cloth of gold) by sundown. The party arrives followed by travelling dancers, minstrels and tumblers. The men tell of their exploits in France—of seeing the French King and Holy Roman Emperor and of the French ways. Lord Sandys enters and remarks on his joy to be home. However, a lady complains at the mistreatment of the Hampshire people under the aristocracy. Meg is reunited with her lover Ned and they dance.

Episode VI. Basing House Twenty-Five Years After the Siege, 1671

An old gardener enters and talks to Lord Winchester about the passing of time since the siege. They reflect on the suffering. As they do so, a crowd of cavaliers passes across the stage. Winchester laments that its favourable position on the road led to the siege and the slaughter, even of women. Children come and re-enact the siege. None of them want to be Cromwell. Lord Winchester humours them before leaving with his old comrade, Roger.

Final Scene

Characters of all nations and overseas dominions file past on the stage before St Julian and the centurion, telling of their various journeys. They include a pedlar, a pilgrim and aviator. The non-English characters proclaim the decency of the British Empire but reflect on the ambiguity of the gifts of modern life:

An Indian: A juster rule; aid in sickness and famine; a new nationality.

An African: Book learning and all that lies behind it; the end of tribal wars but at the same time the break-up of tribal life.

A Japanese: All the inventions of the West; railways, telegraph, telephone and the rush of modern life; the drift of country folk to crowded towns; the wholesale slaughter of modern warfare.

A Chinese: ‘The loss of old restraints and the shattering of old loyalties—a freedom that we know not how to use.’1

St Julian brings the pageant to a close.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • St Julian [known as the Hospitaler] (fl. 1st century ad) saint
  • Paulet, John, fifth marquess of Winchester (1598?–1675) royalist nobleman

Musical production

  • ‘Song of the Highway’, Church and School Hymnal 74.
  • Albert Ketèlbey. ‘In a Persian Market’.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Hants and Berkshire Gazette

Book of words

Debenham, Mary. ‘The Highway’ A Pageant of the Roads; To be Performed at Old Basing on the Occasion of the Winchester Diocesan Missionary Festival, Thursday, 25 June 1931. Basingstoke, 1931.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Hampshire Record Office: Copy of book of words, financial information and newspaper cutting. Files 50A07/E15 and 63M70PI10.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Old Basing lies in the north-east of Hampshire, a few miles east of the settlement which it spawned and is now eclipsed by—Basingstoke. Old Basing, which goes back to Domesday Book, lay on the Great West Road (now the A4) running from London to Bath and Bristol, making the settlement a staging post for travellers and pilgrims (including those travelling to Glastonbury and Wells Abbeys and similar holy places in the South West). The pageant was held in the ruins of Old Basing House—site of one of the most bloody sieges of the Civil War when a Royalist garrison held out for many months before finally falling to Oliver Cromwell, who killed most of the defenders.2

The Hants and Berkshire Gazette praised the pageant and its venue: ‘There was appropriateness in the choice of Old Basing House ruins for the performance of the pageant, the actual spot selected being on a high elevation, which exits on either side, and another at the back leading through the high grass banks into the ruins proper’. It noted that ‘each succeeding scene now became more brilliant and picturesque, the costumes being richer and more colourful’.3 The Finale included representatives of all nations, grouped around a large cross upheld by St Boniface, and the pageant concluded with the singing of the last psalm ‘O Praise God in His Holiness’.4

The pageant was not a financial success, with the deficit of £8. 9s. 7s. ½d. coming out of the Basing Church Fund. Indeed, the financial loss would actually have been greater were it not for the generosity of the performers, who themselves contributed funds to limit the damage. Basingstoke held a further pageant in 1951.

Today, Basing is a sleepy suburb of Basingstoke which remains important for travelling, although most travellers live in the village and travel west to east, taking the train to London. Basing House is administered by Hampshire Cultural Trust and open to visitors. The Battle of Basing has been re-enacted numerous times, most recently on Easter Sunday and Monday, 2015.5


  1. ^ ‘The Highway’ A Pageant of the Roads; To be performed at Old Basing on the Occasion of the Winchester Diocesan Missionary Festival, Thursday, 25 June 1931 (Basingstoke, 1931), 32.
  2. ^ 'Parishes: Basing or Old Basing', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page (London, 1911), 115–127, British History Online, accessed 4 May 2016, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hants/vol4/pp115-127.
  3. ^ Berks and Hants Gazette, 26 June 1931, 5.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Rebecca Pearson, ‘Sealed Knot Will Re-Enact English Civil War Battle at Basing House’, Basingstoke Gazette, 3 April 2015, accessed 4 May 2016, http://www.basingstokegazette.co.uk/news/12868215.Battle_for_Basing_House_to_be_re_enacted_this_weekend/.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘‘The Highway’: A Pageant of the Roads’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/984/