Berkshire Chronicle

Saturday, August 7th 1858


A more thoroughly English scene than that witnessed Hamstead Park on Tuesday last, could not have been desired. The occasion was the fete got up the officials of the Great Western Railway, for the benefit of the Widows and Orphans' Fund. The directors, with their usual liberality, granted the use of their line and carriages gratuitously for the purpose, and when the object was stated to the Countess of Craven, with that kindness and urbanity which marks the true aristocracy of England, the use of the extensive parks and grounds at Hamstead was at once conceded. The preparations were of most extensive character, and reflect great credit on the managers and committee for their completeness and order. The trains took their heavy loads and deposited them at the Hamstead crossing, about a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the park, where a beautiful triumphal arch was erected, under the superintendence of Mr. Geo. Boyer, of Newbury. It was composed of central pediment, surmounted by a crown, and graced by the flags of all nations, which with their gaudy colours, floated in the soft summer breeze, and at once imparted the idea of festivity and happiness. The centre of the arch was supported on each side by bastions, bearing on one the flag of old England, and on the other that of our most intimate ally. Within the pediment in front, were the arms of the Earl of Craven, with the motto "Virtus in Actione Consistit," and on the obverse the mystic circle held by five hands, with the motto - "Bear ye one another's burdens," - emblematical of the bond of union and object of the Widows' and Orphans' Society. On the bastions the arms of the Great Western Railway Company were appropriately introduced. The whole was covered with laurels, evergreens, and flowers of various colours, harmoniously blended, producing a coup d'oeil of the most agreeable character, and reflecting the greatest credit on the taste of the artist, Mr. Boyer.

The principal scene of action was on that part of the park where the old mansion once stood. The scene was indeed of a most inviting character. About ten or twelve marquees were erected, each having little pendants waving, and were as thronged as a bee hive. A short way off was the old Saxon church, in all its simplicity, and where many of the ancestors of the Craven it family are interred. There were the fine massive gateways which were the approaches to the old mansion - the majestic and stately trees - the noble avenues - the richly ferned dell - and in the distance the high majestic hills surrounding the estates. Cast your eye in whatever direction you would, you were sure to see some snug little group bivouacking beneath the trees, looking as merry and as jovial as the antler'd deer that were quietly grazing at a short distance. Here might be seen the stalwart frame and swarthy visage of him who wields the steel into those stupendous and mighty iron horses, which have so facilitated and diffused the commerce of the world, enjoying the society of his wife and children, seeming to have no enjoyment save that which would contribute to the amusement of those that were so near and dear to him. Again might be seen a merry little group of children without thought or care for the future or regret for the past, swinging on the bough of one of the majestic trees, and making the welkin ring again when one of them was unfortunate enough to fall off. There were four bands of music in attendance, and the vast crowd appeared to prefer the promenade, and listen to the sweet and charming music that was discoursed particularly that by the Coldstream Guards. As the day advanced the strings of happiness appeared to be unloosened, and first one couple and then another overcame their timidity, and paid their devotions at the shrine of Terpsichore. At length numbers joined in the festive scene, and each quadrille party had a perfect crowd around them, watching their evolutions. Nor was one of the least interesting scenes of the day that of witnessing the Craven family and its members walk about and appear to enjoy themselves, and take as great an interest in what was passing as any of those who were present. It must also have been gratifying to this well beloved family to hear that hearty English cheer with which they were so cordially greeted.

The refreshments were supplied by Mr. Thomson, of the Pelican Hotel, Speenhamland, and certainly did that gentleman great credit. The charges were exceedingly moderate and the viands good and plentiful. We know not how many sat down to dinner and tea, but certainly several thousands. And to give idea of the quantity of things consumed, we may state that Mr. Thomson provided 1000lbs. weight of boiled beef, 5001bs. of roast beef, 500lbs. of veal, 7cwt. of hams, 1cwt. of salmon, 120 fowls, 120 ducks, 200 meat pies, 7000 rolls, 2500 dozens of ginger beer, 72 bottles of pickles, 220lbs. of tea, 600 dozen of lemonade and soda water, 4cwt. of sugar, &c.. In another marquee Mr. Staples, of Newbury, supplied confectionary and ices, &c., and received a full share of patronage, the booth being crowded the whole of the day.

It computed that there were rather more than 8000 persons present, of which 3000 paid the gates, an astonishingly large number. The people of Newbury made quite holiday of it, all the shops being closed. The charity for which it was intended will be benefitted nearly 400l. The greatest praise is due to the committee, and on behalf of the Reading division, we must tender their thanks for the kindness and courtesy of Mr. Smyth, the superintendent Reading, and Messrs. Harper and Banks for their indefatigable exertions in endeavouring to make every one happy and comfortable. Some of the applications and appeals that were made to the officials in coming home were most amusing. A carriage was filled, and in order to make a little more room, one young lady sat upon a gentleman's knee. This appeared to give offence to one of the gentlemen present, and he made several remarks thereon, not of a too complimentary character. At length human nature could bear more. The “gentleman nurse" put his head out of the window, and addressed Mr. Smyth personally, saying "Is there any bye-law or regulation in your Company to prevent a young person sitting on another person's knee." "I am not aware of any regulation" was the rejoinder." Oh, very well, because here's a gentleman thinks there is." Amongst those present we observed the Dowager Countess of Craven, Lady Louisa Oswald, the Hon. Mr. F. C.Craven, Lady Evelyn Craven, Lady Blanche Craven, Lady Beatrice Craven, Sir F. Johnson, Mr. G. Johnson, H. R. Lyre, Esq. (the High Sheriff), J. P. Jackson, Esq. (the Mayor of Newbury), Admiral Dnndas, W. Chatteris, Esq., Sandleford Priory, E. B. Bunny, Esq., Speen, H. P. Best, Esq., Donnington, E. Arbutbnot,Esq., Newtown, Captain Tarrent, Miss Pigot, Misses Shelley, Miss Wild, R. F. Graham, Esq., Greenham, F. V. Graham, Esq., Kingsclere, G. Lyons, Esq., Crowood, Mrs. Johnson, Woodhay, C. Slocock, Esq., and Captain Slocock, Donnington, J. Vines, Esq., Newbury, Wm. Fox, Esq., and party, Adbury Lodge, E. Currie, Esq., and party, Adbury House, J. Smith, Esq., Ramsbury, Captain Johnson, Enborne, Captain Lindsay, Woodhay, E. Alderman, Esq., Kintbury, - Vavasour, Esq., Woodhay, Revds. J. L. Randall, Norris, Oldfield, Cole, Newbury; Rev. C. Whittle, Greenham; Rev. - Nicholson, Wickham; Rev. C. Johnson, Enborne; Rev. - Hibbard, Donnington ; Rev. H. T. White, Donnington Square; Revds. - Witard, A.Joseph; Rev. - Sadler, Newton; Rev. G.Carter. Padworth; Rev. C. Alderman, Kintbury, &c., &c.

Note:- The press reports use the spelling Hamstead, whereas it is shown on maps and in other documents as Hampstead.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019