At the beginning of the 20th century there was great interest in the history of Romsey Abbey. These included the publication of Liveing’s Pages from the History of Romsey Abbey and a pageant of the history of Romsey staged in the grounds of Broadlands.

It was thought that the abbey had been founded in 907, so the Pageant took place 1000 years later in 1907. It was a magnificent affair in which many local people took part. It was staged on three days, although extra performances were added due to the heavy demand for seats.

Each morning saw a special dedication service in Romsey Abbey with the performance being later in the day. Many people came to Romsey by train where they were met by unemployed men, dressed as Saxon peasants who guided them to the Abbey or Broadlands. This provided them with activity and kept them out of the pubs.

The Pageant consisted of a number of scenes from the highlights of the town’s history. The raid by the Vikings was depicted in a Berthon boat, crewed by men from Berthon’s boatyard. Their rounding up and stealing of cattle entailed their driving a herd of cows southwards from Broadlands Park area towards Morecourt.

A playbook was produced complete with the scores of the music that were composed specially for the event. Professionals were engaged to produce the Pageant. The costumes were designed by Miss Dorothy Carleton Smythe and advice taken from the Royal Society of Antiquaries amongst others.

Apart from residents of Romsey a number of clergy from neighbouring parishes took part, including Rev Vere Awdrey of Ampfield, the father of the creator of Thomas the tank-engine. George Purkiss played the part of his ancestor who had taken the body of William II from the New Forest to Winchester after the king had been killed by an arrow.

The scenes, or episodes, included the founding and refounding of the abbey, the vision of St Merwenna and the raid by the Danes, several royal events including the courtship of Princess Matilda, and the forcible marriage of her granddaughter the abbess Princess Mary of Blois. There followed two more scenes relating to the abbey and then three depicting the 17th century, including King James presenting the town with its charter of incorporation as a borough, in which the whole corporation took part as their Jacobean forebears.

The town spent many years trying to capture the success of this event in later dramatic productions, but never achieved the spectacular success of the Millenary Pageant.