Ramsgate Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: The Cliff Edge on Sportsman Hill (Ramsgate) (Ramsgate, Kent, England)

Year: 1949

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 1


29 July 1949 at 3.30pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff


  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Taylor, Richard
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Mrs Clamp
  • Stage Manager: W.W. Garwood
  • Script Writer and Assistant Producer: Mrs Sybil Burr

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Burr, Sybil 


The Pageant was drawn on Sybil Burr’s play ‘Hengest and Horsa’, which had featured in the 1934 Ramsgate Pageant.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers

120 - 120

Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

1500th anniversary of the arrival of the Vikings in Kent

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 10000

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

Admission was free

Associated events

  • The unveiling of a plaque by Prince Georg of Denmark
  • Civic Dinner at Sunray Restaurant
  • Viking Ball at the Coronation Ballroom
  • Floodlit display of the Viking ship Hugin

Pageant outline

Hengist and Horsa

There is open-air banqueting by the Saxons warriors whilst women do chores and warriors guard the coastline. The Peace is interrupted by a cry from the lookouts announcing the ships. Hengist and Horsa arrive and meet King Vortigern of Kent. After initial alarm, they parley and a feast is provided. Vortigern accepts Rowena’s hand in marriage in peaceable exchange for his kingdom.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hengist (d. 488?) ruler in Kent
  • Horsa (d. 455?) ruler in Kent
  • Vortigern [Gwrtheyrn] (fl. 5th cent.) ruler in Britain

Musical production

Chatham House School Choir, conducted by Mr W.V. Goodram and accompanied by G.C.L. Neville performed:

  • ‘Let us now praise famous men’
  • ‘Hail to the power of Woden strong’
  • ‘Here where the feet of Englishmen first trod the English soil’

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Thanet Advertiser

Book of words

None found.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • There is archival footage by British Pathe of the Viking ship ‘Hugin’ arriving at Broadstairs: ‘Viking Ship arrives’, British Pathe, accessed 3 January 2016, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/viking-ship-arrives
  • ‘Kent Greets Viking Invaders’, British Pathe, accessed 3 January 2016,  http://www.britishpathe.com/video/kent-greets-viking-invaders
  • ‘The Viking Ship “Hugin” at Ramsgate 1950 [1949]’, British Pathe, accessed 3 January 2016, http://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-viking-ship-hugin-at-ramsgate

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Surprisingly few people remember the Danish invasion of 1949. However, standing on the cliffs above Ramsgate on 29 July, a watching Saxon would have glimpsed a sight which had terrified his or her forebears a millennium previously—the sight of a Viking raiding ship coming down the coast, having raided Broadstairs the previous day. Fortunately for a coastline which had seen its fair share of war in recent years, these Vikings came in peace.

The crew of fifty which made up the replica Viking ship ‘Hugin’ had sailed across the North Sea. The Vikings came ashore at Ramsgate at mid-day to a crowd of fifty thousand: ‘Clad in his red mantle, the Chief Viking stood at the prow of his vessel as it lay outside Ramsgate Harbour at mid-day on Friday and watched the masses of people lining the town’s sea front’, and ‘While the stirring strains of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” were relayed through a battery of loudspeakers to the many thousands gathered… the crew of the Viking ship Hugin…paid homage to their ancestors who came 1,500 years before them to open the first chapter of English history.’1

The Danes then ascended the steep hill to perform a pageant re-enacting the mythical scenes of their earlier arrival in 449AD, accompanied by seventy locals. The script of the Pageant had been flown to Denmark by military plane the previous month, but the organisers at the Ramsgate Arts Society had heard nothing back until the Tuesday before their arrival when the Danish cast acknowledged by short-wave radio that they would be performing the Pageant.2 The Thanet Advertiser declared the pageant to be ‘impressive’ and a ‘spectacular in colour... carried out with sincerity and touches of real comedy’,3 adding that ‘no one could blame them for dialogue unheard when American Shooting Stars—symbols of 20th century warfare—zoomed over the field.’4 The newspaper also praised the site, which had been rapidly transformed by the corporation from a mess of barbed wire and rubble—the detritus of wartime defensive positions—into an open-air theatre with ample space for the ten thousand spectators.5 The Pageant itself was an expanded version of a scene in the Ramsgate Pageant of 1934, which had also been written by Sybil Burr. The local newspaper the Thanet Advertiser declared that ‘Although no one can vouch for the complete truth of the famous story as presented by local artistes and their Danish friends, it was the knowledge that, only a short distance away from this natural setting on the clifftops, Hengest and Horsa and their Saxon hordes did land 1,500 year ago, that made the whole scene so impressive and inspiring.’6 The peaceful nature of the encounter was quite unlike the presentation of Vikings in most other pageants, in which they were typically presented as invaders and barbarians. Such a portrayal suited the post-war context and its associated sense of renewed European co-operation; in this respect it makes a striking comparison to the events which surrounded the 900 Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings Pageant (1966).

There were two major guests of honour. The first, Hewlett Johnson, the so-called ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’, declared with pride that the English were ‘a mixture of Norman, Saxon, Celtic, Danish and other races, but of no blood were they more proud than the Danish.’7 The second was Prince Georg of Denmark, who unveiled a plaque commemorating the site where Anglo-Danish unity began and gave a moving speech on the co-operation of the two nations, particularly the British support for the Free Danish Government during the Second World War:

On this memorable day… may we send from the people of Great Britain greetings to the people of Denmark, and our most sincere admiration of the fortitude and courage… Briton and Danes were cousins, and as in all good families there had been quarrels from time to time, but on each occasion the nations had been drawn closer together… we in Denmark feel our freedom is mainly due to the courage of the British people.8

The next day, after a civic reception and Viking Ball, the ship sailed off northwards eventually heading up the Thames, with the Thanet Advertiser writing that ‘The pageant will soon be but a pleasant memory, but the proceedings which followed will perpetuate for all time the great event of 15 centuries ago.’9 In fact, the events of 1949 were well-remembered locally. In 2010, when Pathé newsreel footage of the Danes’ arrival and Pageant was put on a local history website, this prompted several locals to recall playing parts or attending the performance.10 The following year, the ship was presented to Ramsgate after an appeal by the Daily Mail and is on permanent display in Pegwell Bay.11


1. ^ Thanet Advertiser, 2 August 1949, 1.
2. ^ Thanet Advertiser, 29 July 1949, 4.
3. ^ Thanet Advertiser, 2 August 1949, 1.
4. ^ Ibid.
5. ^ Ibid.
6. ^ Ibid.
7. ^ Ibid.
8. ^ Ibid.
9. ^ Ibid.
10. ^ ‘Archive Footage of the Viking Ship “Hugin”, Adem Djemil, accessed 3 January 2016, http://ademdjemil.co.uk/2010/02/archive-footage-of-the-viking-ship-hugin/
11. ^ ‘Viking Ship Hugin’, Visit Kent, accessed 3 January 2016, http://www.visitkent.co.uk/attractions/viking-ship-hugin/11097

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Ramsgate Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1419/