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Page: PN-Jun02

Village Turns Back the Pages of Sport


"A quiverful - the Victorian family in the Abinger pageant.

(In this 50 yr. old picture are some 2002 residents. Mrs Jean Ridgers and her late husband Maurice, Christopher Archer, Tony Woods and some others, unidentified).


The ambitious Pageant of Sport staged at Abinger Common on Saturday cost less than £100 to produce. Four months ago the idea had not even been put on paper. The Pageant was a great success, and with a fete and competitions, helped the fund for rebuilding and refurnishing the Parish Church, which was severely damaged by a flying bomb in 1944. Gross takings were nearly £500.

Man behind the pageant was Mr. Charlton Abbott, 47-year-old agricultural merchant in London, who has made his home in Abinger for 16 years. Mr. Abbott, who has seen only two pageants in his life, began to devise and write the pageant in February, and this was his first attempt of this kind. Men and women of Abinger and organisations from the district - a cast of 200 - took part. Some of the costumes had to be hired, but most were home-made, and beautifully done.

On the Village Green

The scene was the Village Green - focal point of village sport - in the natural beauty of this unspoilt corner of Surrey countryside. Nearby is the old Parish Church on the slopes of the highest hill in Surrey, and now showing no sign of its war-time damage.

For ninety minutes between two and three thousand people watched a picture of colour and movement on the Village Green as Elizabethans, Georgians and Victorians strode the turf as they had done years before. The organisers took great pains to make the whole Picture as authentic as possible, and it was this eye for detail that contributed a great deal to the pageant's undoubted success. Two heralds in white, with gleaming post-horns, preceded on to a central stage the Spirit of Sport (David Holmes) who delivered the prologue. Throughout the pageant he spoke the romantic narrative.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men

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 sport of archery, wrestling and single-stick.

Bowls, Skittles, Chess

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). Stool-ball, displayed by Miss Brooker and friends, a delicate minuet by Shirley Munro, and a realistic -looking sword and dagger duel by members of Guildford Fencing Club were chosen as popular sports and pastimes of the 17th century.

Two men of Surrey Constabulary gave a bout of bare-fist boxing, and men and women of Westcott were supporters and onlookers in this 18th century episode.

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.

Heyday of Sport

Lastly came the Victorian age, which the programme described as perhaps the heyday of British sport, and also with its tradition, 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 F.C. The Victorian scene closed with the greatest of all English games - "that manly sport" - cricket, played by the "whiskered" men of Abinger.

Appreciation

After the epilogue the whole company paraded and received well-deserved appreciation form the audience. The pageant was arranged by a committee under the chairmanship of the Rector (the Rev Clifford Chapman) and Mrs. Alan C. Abbott as secretary. Production was by Nance Chapman and Mr. Abbott, music by David Holmes, and mistress of the robes Mrs N Hamilton. Many of the costumes were designed by Mrs Abbott, and Miss A. King was also one of the principal pageant helpers. There were, of course, many others who contributed towards the success of the afternoon.

During 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 Square dancing.

Abinger & Coldharbour Parish News, June 2002. From The Surrey Advertiser June 11th 1952

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