Brooke Pageants 1923, 1924 and 1925

 The three village pageants of 1923, 1924 and 1925 perhaps marked the high point of the social life of Brook when it was still a farming and fishing village. They were produced by Miss Clarence, the headmistress of the school, and took place in Bush Rew, the field to the west of Brooke House.

The whole village must have taken part: the photograph of the 1923 cast shows at least 70 people, and many more must have been helpers. All three pageants included side shows, stalls, refreshments, competitions (villagers still competed for a live pig), maypole and folk dancing, and entertainment by the ‘Black and Whites’.  Only the band did not come from the village or the immediate neighbourhood.

BROOKE AND ITS SUCCESSFUL PAGEANT –  Isle of Wight County Press 1923

The parishioners of beautiful Brooke have frequently shown their enthusiasm and ability in organising sports, regattas and homely little social functions, but on Thursday they demonstrated their possession of no mean historic ability by the production of a pageant descriptive of the history of their village in a manner which, all things considered, may justly be described as brilliantly successful.  Miss Clarence, the popular and able headmistress of Hulverstone School was the leading spirit in the production.     

   Cave men, Ancient Britons, Jutes, Saxons, Romans, kings, queens, knights, soldiers, smugglers, and famous men of the various periods, who at some time or other have visited or had an interest in the village or the Island, were all brought forth in their ancient glory of dress, and each had something interesting and instructive to tell, and did it in a manner which showed very careful rehearsal by the author.  

Major-General and the Hon. Mrs J E B Seely, with their well-known geniality and helpfulness, enthusiastically supported the venture, and the committee responsible for the production, which was in aid of the County Hospital, was as follows: Messrs. W Heal, H Brown, J Hookey, J Morris, B Marshall, and A E Eccott (hon. Secretary), Mrs Brown and the Misses Clarence and Hollis.  

The event took place in the meadow west of Brooke House, which slopes upward to the wood, known as Bush Rew.  It was an ideal setting, the trees forming an admirable shield for the players awaiting their call and a perfect background for the scenes enacted.  

General Seely, supported by Miss Clarence and Mr W Heal, declared the pageant open.  The gallant General said he hoped that it would be the forerunner of many similar pleasing entertainments.  He paid a tribute to Miss Clarence, who, he remarked, not content with educating and adding to the happiness of the children, was also determined to entertain middle-aged people like Mrs Brown, of Dunsbury, and old people like himself (laughter).  

The pageant opened with the appearance from out the wood of Father Time, who recited the Prologue, accompanied by an exceedingly handsome Britannia. The latter then called out presentations of her daughter nations and colonies and a company of pretty sea-maidens, who grouped themselves around the dais on which Britannia stood.  

The sea maidens performed a delightful dance clad in green muslin and sea-weed, after which the procession of the past began, each telling his or her story... Space will not admit of the description of each episode, but one or two must be mentioned.  There was...the visit of Henry VII to Dame Bowerman, of Brook House... Sir John Cheke (tutor of the boy King, Edward VI) was impersonated by the smiling farmer of the same name, Mr Fred Cheke... Garibaldi, the last to appear, was also an interesting study, and spoke his lines with fine expressiveness.  

More fun was added to the piece by the entry of four bloodthirsty looking smugglers, in red and blue sailor dress.  They hauled a barrow-load of casks to the rollicking accompaniment of a song commencing “Ho! Ho! Let the wind blow,”...

Father Time, in his epilogue, concluded: ‘And so our brief story closes on our beloved Island... The Island in the past has borne many onslaughts by foreign foes. Now the foreigner comes, not to pillage or destroy, but rather as a fellow worshipper with all true lovers of the Isle of Wight – the fairest spot in all the land.’

Britannia recited a stirring poem, Men of Wight, and, after the players had marched in procession around the enclosure, they encircled her whilst, in a pure soprano voice, she impressively sang Land of Hope and Glory, all joining in the chorus.  This made a fitting finale to a most creditable, pleasing and instructive masque, and the company again vanished into the wood after General Seely had led cheers for the King, the company, and the authoress.  

 

Mrs F Osborne’s orchestra from Totland Bay played selections before the pageant and supplied music for dancing afterwards.  

Isle of Wight County Press, 9th June 1923