Pageant of Sport
Place: The Village Green (Abinger Common) (Abinger Common, Surrey, England)
Number of performances: 1
7 June 1952, afternoon
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Abbott, Charlton
- Chairman: Reverend Clifford Chapman, Rector of Abinger
- Secretary: Alan C. Abbott
- Producer: Nance Chapman; Alan C. Abbott
- Principal Helper: Miss A. King
- Mistress of Robes: Mrs N. Hamilton
- Assistant Wardrobe Mistresses: Mrs Abbott; Miss A. King
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Names of composers
Numbers of performers200
The pageant cost £100 and made a total of £500, making £400 profit.
Object of any funds raised
To rebuild the parish church which had been damaged by a flying bomb in 1944.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: 2500
The figure of 2500 is an estimate. Between 2000 and 3000 people saw the pageant.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Admission was free, though donations were taken.
Associated eventsDuring the evening there were displays by the Coldharbour stoolball team, Miss Gibson's School of Fencing (Godalming), and members of the Society of International Folk Dancing. There was square dancing as well as a Fete.
Delivered by the Spirit of Sport (David Holmes).
Episode I. Medieval
First came the mediaeval scene, with the ancient sport of falconry, presented by members of the Abinger Pony Club, followed by the romantic heroes of Sherwood Forest. The appearance of Robin Hood, who sent an arrow into space over the trees, was a signal for the rollicking entry of the Merry Men in Lincoln Green. This was the Stoughton Youth Club's contribution, and they demonstrated the sports of archery, wrestling and single-stick.
Episode II. Elizabethan
On to the Elizabethan era and the more serene bowls and skittles, country dancing and chess. The last-mentioned was outstanding in presentation. A chequered cloth was spread on the ground, and children of Abinger Hammer School, dressed to represent chess pieces, acted a game between Good Queen Bess and a nobleman. Others in the Elizabethan scene included members of the Abinger Bowling Club and children of Abinger Common School (trained by Miss Gore). There was stool-ball, displayed by Miss Brooker and friends, and a delicate minuet by Shirley Munro.
Episode III. 17th Century
A realistic-looking sword and dagger duel by members of Guildford Fencing Club was chosen to represent popular sports and pastimes of the 17th century.
Episode IV. 18th Century
Two men of Surrey Constabulary gave a bout of bare-fist boxing; men and women of Westcott were supporters and onlookers in this 18th century episode.
Episode V. Early 19th Century
The early 19th century was represented by a charming group of children at play. Children of Abinger followed into the arena a cleverly constructed shoe-house, drawn by a cart-horse. ‘The Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe’ and other nursery rhymes were sung by Patricia Faure, accompanied by Veronica and Heather Harrison, and mimed by the children.
Episode VI. Victorian Era
Lastly came the Victorian age, which the programme described as perhaps the heyday of British sport, with its traditions, class distinction and decorum. There were plenty of laughs at the gentle fun poked at our grandfathers and grandmothers. The scene was presented by men and women of Abinger and children of Abinger Common School.
Then dignified tennis (Lady Touche and friends) and croquet (1st Holmbury Girl Guides) were followed by a ‘slow-motion’ and a comical football match by Holmbury St Mary FC. The Victorian scene closed with the greatest of all English games—‘that manly sport’—cricket, played by the ‘whiskered’ men of Abinger.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
- Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
- Folklore 63, no. 4 (December, 1952). At 237-238. [Reprint of an article in the Times.]
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- A newspaper report from the Surrey Advertiser, 11 June 1952, np, is available at ‘Abinger's Pageant of Sport for The Coronation Fifty Years Ago’, St James’ Parish Church, Abinger, accessed 9 June 2016, http://www.stjameschurchabinger.org/pn-jun02.ashx.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
Abinger’s previous pageant had been held in 1934 and was famously written by E.M. Forster, a local resident, with music provided and conducted by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who had been born in the locality in 1872. The Abinger Pageant had been devised to raise funds for the restoration of the St James Parish Church. Unfortunately, on 3 August 1944 the church suffered an indirect hit from a flying bomb, which destroyed the belfry, the nave and parts of the walls and gutted the interior. After long delays due to a lack of building materials, restoration was finally begun in 1951.2 The building work had been completed by the time of the pageant, but funds were still required to pay off the debt.
The 1952 pageant was speedily organised over four months by Mr Charlton Abbot, a 47-year-old agricultural merchant in London, who had lived in the village since the mid-1930s. Abbott, who had organised only two pageants previously, began to devise and write the pageant in February.3 He was nonetheless given an outpouring of support from organisations and people in the district. In one of the scenes, where a seventeenth-century game of stool-ball was played, he received assistance in how the game had actually been played from readers of the Times, after an appeal to the newspaper for help.4
The pageant, which lasted for around ninety minutes and was performed on the picturesque village green, with the rebuilt church behind, was a great success, attended by an impressive audience of between 2000 and 3000 people. Despite its free admission, the pageant and fete raised around £500 towards the restoration. Unfortunately, the church was again struck with misfortune when it was hit by lightning and partially destroyed in 1964 during the annual two-day medieval fete, which quickly shifted its beneficiary and ultimately raised £1000 for its repair.5 Since then, fortunately, nothing serious has befallen St James’ Church, which remains at the heart of the small community of Abinger.
- The Surrey Advertiser, 11 June 1952, np, available at ‘Abinger's Pageant of Sport for The Coronation Fifty Years Ago’, St James’ Parish Church, Abinger, accessed 9 June 2016, http://www.stjameschurchabinger.org/pn-jun02.ashx.
- ‘Abinger and its Church’ and ‘Disaster’, St James’ Church, Abinger, accessed 9 June 2016, http://www.stjameschurchabinger.org/abinger-and-its-church.ashx and http://www.stjameschurchabinger.org/disaster.ashx.
- Surrey Advertiser, 11 June 1952, np.
- ‘English Sports of Bygone Years’, Times, 7 June 1952, 3. See also Times, 9 June 1952, 12.
- Tatler, August 1964, quoted in ‘So Much at the Fair’, St James’ Church, Abinger, accessed 9 June 2016, http://www.stjameschurchabinger.org/fair1964.ashx.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Sport’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/949/