Benfleet Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Richmond Playing Fields (South Benfleet) (South Benfleet, Essex, England)

Year: 1994

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


9 July 1994, afternoon

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Director and Narrator [Pageant Master]: Lightfoot, Sally
  • Pageant Co-ordinator [Pageant Master]: Rowe, Sue
  • Historic Advice: Norman Chisman, Wyn Phillips
  • Musical Director: Geoffrey Seaman
  • Technical Co-ordinator: Peter Restarick

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Rowe, Sue

Names of composers

  • Hilson, Paul

Numbers of performers


Named in the programme. This included groups of performers from St Mary’s Choir, Holy Family School, the Wednesday Players, Woodham Leigh School, 5th South Benfleet Scouts and Cubs, New Thundersley District Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Guiders, Castle Point Charity Players, South Benfleet School, Dalmar School of Dance of Drama, South Benfleet Primary School, 7th South Benfleet Brownies, 1st South Benfleet Brownies and the King John’s School Choir.

A large proportion of those performing were schoolchildren.

Financial information

Sponsorship from Calor Gas, Abbey Life Assurance, Castle Point District Castle, Rotary Clubs of Canvey Island and Leigh-on-Sea, Bose, Ikea, Thamesway.

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

1100th anniversary of the founding of the church and the Battle of Benfleet

Audience information

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


The video of the pageant shows a small audience, perhaps mostly comprising the performers themselves.1

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Scene 1. Benfleet in 653 in the Reign of Siegbert the Good.

Court of Siegbert – St Cedd brings Christianity to Benfleet

Scene 2. Village Life in 893

Battle of Benfleet, Burning of the Viking Ships

Scene 3. Construction of Benfleet’s First Church

The church grows, a Norman church is erected

Scene 4. The Plague comes to Benfleet

Scene 5. Peasants Revolt

Scene 6. Village Life in the 19th Century

Scene 7.

1845 – Founding of Benfleet School

1855 – Arrival of the Railway

Scene 8. First and Second World Wars

Scene 9. Finale

Church Bells rung.

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production

  • St. Mary’s Choir under the direction of Geoffrey Seaman.
  • Flautist: Lesley Parker
  • St Mary’s Bell Ringers
  • A special pageant song was written by Sue Rowe and composed by Paul Hilson.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials


Benfleet Pageant Souvenir Programme. N.P., 1994. [Price £2.50.]

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • A video of the Pageant is available on youtube, accessed 1 June 2016,
  • There is an extensive section on the pageant, including a digitised programme, on the Benfleet Community Archive, accessed 1 June 2016,

Sources used in preparation of pageant



This was at least the third historical pageant staged in the small Essex town of Benfleet: earlier occasions had been in the vicarage gardens in 1946 and 1953. On this occasion there were nine scenes from local history performed by members of local theatre groups, schoolchildren and youth groups such as Cubs and Brownies. Also involved were Regia Anglorum, a Viking re-enactment society with ‘an educational slant’, which at this time claimed a membership of more than 500.2 Music was provided by the choir of St Mary’s church. The ‘pageant field’ was the Richmond Playing Field. The pageant marked the 1100th anniversary of the Battle of Benfleet and the establishment of the church, and the scenes were mostly local history, such as the construction of the church, the plague at Benfleet and the nineteenth-century foundation of the school and the arrival of the railway. Some ‘national’ events were also depicted, ranging from the Peasants’ Revolt to the world wars.

A nine-minute video of the pageant, available online,3 shows adults and children processing in costume along the streets of the town to the playing field, and then some of the scenes. There was a large tent at the pageant, with spectators both seated and standing. The video shows scene 2 – the burning of a small Viking longboat. This was impressive, with large flames and black smoke making at least one child cry, and the remains were still burning when scene 4 was enacted. Here a crowd of children emerged, a bell rang, and the cry ‘bring out your dead!’ was heard, and the children danced in groups singing ‘Ring-a-Ring of Roses’ and ‘Oranges and Lemons’.

The Pageant co-ordinator, Sue Wise (formerly Rowe), remembered the Pageant thus:

The day itself, 9th July, dawned bright and sunny. The morning saw the playing fields behind the church filled with tents and stalls as the annual Church Summer Fete also took place that day, in a bigger way than usual. I remember setting up the Brownie’s Tombola stall, selling a few tickets, and then hotfooting it down to Benfleet School where the procession was to form up. Everybody looked glorious in costume and it was quite breath taking to see everyone assembled after all the waiting. Our May Queen, Pageant Queen and their court, in a suitable posh car, headed the procession, although I think I may have had to walk in front as part of the escort. In the parade we also had a donkey, the boys’ replica Viking ship, a church, a train and a lot of smiles. As we processed along the High Road people followed and joined in to support their families and friends.

Then the big moment came, the Pageant itself. I was kneeling nervously with the sound system, having been promoted to Deputy Musical Director, but I rather wish I had seen it from the front. The Danish Ambassador was the guest of honour and BBC Essex also gave a live commentary. It all went well, everyone acting, singing and dancing at their best. The highlight was of course the battle re-enactment and the burning of the ship – after all that work (but where would they have kept it?)! At the appropriate moment, after the Celebration song, right at the end, the Bell Ringers in the tower did their bit too. Magnificent.

It was a great event, where so many people in the town worked together and produced something to really be remembered. Afterwards someone said to me that we should do it every year. I think I fell over at that point!4

The pageant is remembered online through the Benfleet Community Archive webpages.5


  1. ^ (accessed 30 June 2016).
  2. ^ Benfleet Pageant Souvenir Programme (n.p., 1994), n.p.: (accessed 30 June 2016).
  3. ^ (accessed 30 June 2016).
  4. ^ Sue Wise, ‘1994 and all that! 1100th anniversary of the founding of St Mary's Church’, Benfleet Community Archive, accessed 1 June 2016,
  5. ^ Ibid.

How to cite this entry

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