Pageant of Thurlow

Pageant type

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Place: Lawn of Little Thurlow Hall (Little Thurlow) (Little Thurlow, Suffolk, England)

Year: 1938

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


9 and 11 July 1938

  • 9 July at 3.30pm and 7pm
  • 11 July at 3.30pm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Writer and Pageant Master: Ryder, C.F.
  • Hon. Secretary, Treasurer and Property Master: Miss Mary Ryder
  • Producer: Mr. John W. Turner

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee

  • Chairman: Major K.K. Horn

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

Ryder, C.F.


Ryder was the owner of Thurlow Hall

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised

Funds raised towards a village hall.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 1000


The figure of 1000 is an estimate.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

Each day included Dancing and Sports as well as a Vegetable Show. The pageant on 9 July was opened by Sir Malcolm Campbell, MBE, the world land-speed record holder, who brought along his car Bluebird.

Pageant outline

Scene I: 1614.

Stephen Soame’s seventieth birthday, and the year in which the building of almshouses and the school were completed. Sir Stephen with Lady Anne his wife, children and grandchildren enter, followed by the inmates of the almshouses (including current inmates). The Reader thanks Sir Stephen for his beneficence. Then scholars and the Master thank Sir Stephen. Sir Stephen’s sons and daughters dance madrigals.

Scene II: 1669

Part I.

The Visit of King Charles to Thurlow on his way to Newmarket. Villagers greet the King and witness the ceremony of touching for the King’s evil. The rector presents the sufferers who receive a gold coin. Charles spies a pretty daughter of the house and goes off with her, to the annoyance of her parents, the horror of two Puritans and the amusement of the crowd. Folk dances are put on to distract the Merry Monarch.

Part II.

Charles rescues a woman accused of witchcraft and subsequently plays a game of bowls with the William Soame. A messenger arrives with dispatches and Charles departs.

Scene III: 1820.

A wedding feast is prepared. The Newmarket Hunt rides in to congratulate the happy couple. The wedding party departs.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • James II and VII (1633–1701) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer

Musical production

Band from RAF Mildenhall

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Bury Free Press and Post

Book of words


Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Ryder, Stephen, ‘Memories of Thurlow between the Wars’, in Little Thurlow 2000 Project, The Thurlows, accessed 6 July 2016,

Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Thurlow Pageant of 1938 was an oddity for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the product of a landed family, the Ryders, celebrating the history of another landed family, the Soame’s, due to their occupation of a house, Thurlow Hall, built on the site once occupied by the previous house that had burned down in 1809, after the line of Soame had become extinct.1 Secondly, by far the greatest attraction of the pageant, attracting many spectators and eclipsing the pageant itself, was the visit of Sir Malcolm Campbell, the famous racing driver, who arrived in the car—the Bluebird—in which he had broken the World Land Speed Record.2 Campbell was an old friend of the Chairman of the Pageant Committee, Major Horn, having served with him in the RAF during the First World War and subsequently raced together at the Brooklands Circuit.3 After this, the Pageant itself—described by the Bury Free Press as ‘colourful and spectacular’4—was likely to have been a bit of a let-down.

The Pageant told three episodes in the life of the Soame family. The first scene depicted Stephen Soame’s endowment of an almshouse. The second scene depicted the ‘Merry Monarch’ Charles II’s visit to Thurlow Hall in which he touches sufferers of Scrofula (the King’s Evil). As the Bury Free Press noted ‘At least 90,000 people are known to have been “Touched” by Charles II.’5 In the scene, Charles indulged in ‘touching’ of another sort with one of Soame’s daughters with whom he goes off. The Merry Monarch is coaxed back with the promise of dancing. The Pageant was evidently successful, and was repeated the following year. A recollection of the pageant, by Stephen Ryder, son of Charles, is available at the Thurlows Local History website.6 The estate was sold on Charles Ryder’s death in 1942.7


  1. ^ ‘The Soame Family’, The Thurlows, accessed 6 July 2016,
  2. ^ Scott A.G.M. Crawford, ‘Campbell, Sir Malcolm (1885–1948)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 6 July 2016,
  3. ^ Bury Free Press and Post, 16 July 1938, 3.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ Stephen Ryder, ‘Memories of Thurlow between the Wars’, in Little Thurlow 2000 Project, The Thurlows, accessed 6 July 2016,
  7. ^ Ibid.

How to cite this entry

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