Benfleet Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Grounds of The Gables, Vicarage (South Benfleet) (South Benfleet, Essex, England)

Year: 1946

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 8


10-17 August 1946

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Compiled and Devised by [Pageant Master]: Harland, Philip
  • Narrator: G. Edwards Grant
  • Electricians: Stanley G. Worrow, Robert Redman, F.J. Riches
  • Publicity Manager: C. Edward Southcott
  • Secretary: Martin Summers
  • Wardrobe Mistress: Miss Georgette Pyle
  • Costumes: Norman, Westcliff-on-Sea


Staged by the Benfleet Amateur Dramatic Society.

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Bingham, Walter A.
  • Wright, Cyril E.
  • Lewis, Joan
  • Houghton, Rev. R.L.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline


The synopses are taken verbatim from the programme.


Episode 1. Why Benfleet, A.D. 550

How Beaumefleete, the wooded settlement by the river, got its name.

Episode 2. Defeat of the Danes, A.D. 984.

The happenings depicted in this episode, which is based on the authentic account in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, actually took place in London, in the courtyard of Earl Aetheldred’s House.

Episode 3. Preaching a Crusade, A.D. 1232

This Episode is purely imaginary. A hawking party from Hadleigh Castle emerges, led by Hubert de Burgh, when they encounter a wandering friar who inspires them to take up arms in a new crusade.

Interval of ten minutes

Episode 4. The Rose of Contention, A.D. 1399

John Chamberlain, vicar of Benfleet, and Robert Goodacre, the Master Mason of Westminster, meet to discuss the plans for the building of the Lady Chapel of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin and the means to be employed in raising funds. A counter plot is woven into the episode, showing the impending disturbances brought about by the wars of the Roses.

Episode 5. Tudor Hunting Ground, A.D. 1523.

Although not historically correct as to the location this Episode depicts Henry VIII’s meeting with Anne Boleyn whilst the King was hunting in Thundersley Chase, near the Boleyn’s estate at Rochford Hall.

Episode 6. Persecution of a Benfleet Vicar

Founded on fact, this episode deals with the proceedings at an Open-air Court, set up by a Parliamentary Commission, led by Sir Robert Harlow, to enquire into the charges against Rev. Thomas Lambe, accused of popish practices, and who was subsequently deprived of his living.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Alfred [Ælfred] (848/9–899) king of the West Saxons and of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Edward [called Edward the Elder] (870s?–924) king of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Æthelflæd [Ethelfleda] (d. 918) ruler of the Mercians
  • Æthelred I [Ethelred I] (d. 871) king of the West Saxons
  • Fitzgerald, Raymond fitz William [known as Raymond le Gros] (d. 1189x92) soldier
  • Marshal, William (II), fifth earl of Pembroke (c.1190–1231) magnate
  • Anne [Anne Boleyn] (c.1500–1536) queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII
  • Boleyn [née Parker], Jane, Viscountess Rochford (d. 1542) courtier
  • Boleyn, Thomas, earl of Wiltshire and earl of Ormond (1476/7–1539) courtier and nobleman
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Howard, Henry, earl of Surrey (1516/17–1547) poet and soldier
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII

Musical production

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials


Benfleet Pageant, Essex: Souvenir Programme. Np., 1946. [Price 6d.]

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Digitised copy of the Souvenir Programme, accessed 1 June 2016,

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Anglo Saxon Chronicles


This was the first of three pageants held in the small town of Benfleet, Essex, after the Second World War (the others took place in 1953 and 1994). Staged in 1946, the midst of post-war austerity, this pageant is notable for its adherence to a relatively traditional form. Indeed its content bears striking resemblance to the Parkerian model, with episodes featuring the Danish invasions, the time of the Crusades, and the Tudors. There were no episodes dealing with modern times (let alone the First or Second World Wars). Instead, the pageant organisers were content to tell the story of Benfleet from its origins in the sixth century CE to the early modern period, the action ending rather curiously with a scene depicting the prosecution of a local vicar for Popish practices. It’s hard to imagine what audiences made of this, but the pageant seems to have been performed eight times over the course of a week in August. At any rate it illustrates the survival of the traditional pageant form, at local level, into the post-war period.


How to cite this entry

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