Pageant of Surrey
Place: Pyrford Court (Woking) (Woking, Surrey, England)
Number of performances: 18
3–13 July 1937
3 July at 3pm and 7pm; 5–10 July at 3pm and 7pm; 12–13 July at 3pm and 7pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Writer, Producer, and Pageant Master:
- Organiser: Mrs. E.B. Shaw-Mackenzie
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Ede, Christopher
Names of composers
- Elgar, Edward
Numbers of performers
The Pageant made over £1000 profit [Surrey Advertiser, 7 September 1940, 2].
Object of any funds raised
In aid of local Hospital Charities
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
King John Signing the Magna Charta
Surrey’s Association with the Peasants’ Revolt, 1381
Chaucer watches the Characters of the ‘Canterbury Tales’ arrive at the Tabard Inn
The Wars of the Roses
Making Gunpowder in Surrey at the time of the Armada
The Departure of the English Fleet in 1588
James I entertained at Farnham Castle after a day’s hunting
Cavalier and Roundhead Fighting for the Castle
Samuel Pepys on a visit to Epsom
William Pitt fighting a duel
Smugglers in Surrey
Surrey in 1937
Key historical figures mentioned
- John (1167–1216) king of England, and
lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
- Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340–1400) poet
- James VI and I (1566–1625) king of
Scotland, England, and Ireland
- Pepys, Samuel (1633–1703) naval
official and diarist
- Pitt, William [known as Pitt the
younger] (1759–1806) prime minister
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Sunderland Daily Echo
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette
Yorkshire Evening Post
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
- Historical Pageantry for 100 Years, Get Surrey, 24 June 2005, accessed 23 May 2016, http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/local-news/historical-pageantry-for-100-years-4845540
Written by David Clarke
Archival holdings connected to pageant
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The Pageant of Surrey, one of a great number held in the county, is notable for being the first directed by Christopher Ede, who became one of the leading post-war Pageant masters. Ede had previously been involved in the Pageant of Parliament (1934), but in 1937 he was still only 23. Though young in terms of Pageant Masters, Ede was resolved to modernize the genre, introducing ballet, dancing, and comedic scenes to keep the audience engaged.1 Assisting him as Organizer was Mrs Shaw-Mackenzie, who had been an organizer and producer for the Pageants at Ashdown Forest (1929) and Battle (1932). The Pageant was narrated by a character called Adam the Woodman. Adam was played by C.H.P. Hay, who had played Henry VIII at the Knole Pageant of 1931 and had featured in the Pageant of Parliament.2
The Pageant, and its young Pageant Master, garnered significant press attention, with The Era quoting William Hickey of the Daily Express as saying the publicity for the Pageant ‘“makes one want to throw everything else up… and go there.”’3 The Stage likewise praised many aspects of the pageant, whilst noting that its outdoor location meant that often the music was too quiet and speaking voices were drowned out.4 Nonetheless, the reviewer was struck by the message of the final scene which depicted contemporary Surrey in 1937: ‘a quick-moving scene of noise and mechanism and political wrangling, through which stalk the ever-grasping builders converting the woodlands of Surrey into [a] forest of boards advertising houses’.5 The Times also warmed to this theme, and to Ede's blending of social history with stories of Kings and Queens and local celebrities, praising Ede and noting that it was clear that ‘in setting the historical and social past of Surrey beside its superficial modern development, the producers hope to awaken a belated conscience in those who are making much of the country a traffic-ridden suburb.’6
Both the woodman narrator and the general anti-modernism of the final scene relate the pageant to two others performed in the local area. Written by E.M. Forster, the Abinger Pageant (1934) and England’s Pleasant Land (1938) both struck the same note of antipathy towards the England of the motor car and the ribbon housing development, which threatened to blot out England’s history as much as its countryside. The latter, in particular, contained strikingly similar scenes. In tragic irony, one of the players—Chaffney Elizabeth Gallager—was killed by a motorcar whilst cycling to the last performance of the pageant.
Despite this tragedy, the Pageant of Surrey was a great success, raising over £1000 for local hospitals.8 It also helped to launch Ede as a Pageant Master, who went on to direct the Bradford Centenary Pageant (1947), the Pageant of Boston (1951), and the Pageant of Guildford (1957).
Surrey Mirror, 9 July 1937, 4.
Surrey Mirror, 18 June 1937, 10.
The Era, 8 July 1937, 2.
The Stage, 8 July 1937, 6.
The Times, 5 July 1937, 12.
Yorkshire Evening Post, 15 July 1937, 15.
Surrey Advertiser, 7 September 1940, 2.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Surrey’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1417/