Berkshire Chronicle

Saturday, July 3rd 1859


The fine old park at Basildon never before last Tuesday embraced within its peaceful boundaries such a host of heterogeneous visitants as those who came to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Society. The very name of the sociely, for whose benefit the fête was held, embraces a recommendation in itself sufficient to command the cooperation and assistance of a generous public, as also the friandly help of those whose parks and estates at this season of the year can be made available in adding materially to that society's means. That friend this year has been found in Mrs. Morrison, the respected owner of the above-named estate, and much does such an act of kindness say for her sympathy with this and kindred societies. Throughout the whole of the day the westher was beautifully fine, the heat happily being less intense than that experienced about a week previously, and soft breezes added freshness and elasticity to the atmosphere. The hilly situation of the park afforded a fine prospective view of the Goring hills, and especially at this season rustic scenery generally has the advantage of having all the varied colouring which nature gives to our earth when yielding her increase. In the valley below flows the still waters of the river Thames, possessing on its banks on either side verdant pasture. On the highest point of the park is seated the family mansion, although it is but a plain structure, yet its elevated position gives it a rather a noble appearance on entering the park from the road. During the earlier part of the day numbers of vehicles arrived from Reading and the surrounding districts laden heavily with visitors of both sexes. Fry's boat also brought a goodly number to the fête, so that during the whole of the morning great numbers were continually arriving. and thronged the roads to the park. Between twelve and one o'clock the excitement at the Pangbourne station was at its height, several long trains having by this time deposited some thousands of visitors from many a distant town and city, and it must indeed have been something exceedingiy novel to the rustic inhabitants of that quiet neighbourhood to have witnessed such a concourse of well-dressed pleasure seekers wending their way along like bees to the place of swarming, and above all, to have seen the London omnibuses, bearing the names of places upon them, which were so many enigmas to the home spun countryman, indicating their wonted destinations when at home, but which are far removed from the sylvan groves of Basildon – flying to and fro, laden to overflowing with those whose happy faces bespoke hearts full of zeal for some impending pleasure. Cheering and exciting as it must have been to gaze on so many, there were the still more exciting strains of the various bands to enliven and add double mirth to the scene, they having played from the station to the locality of the fête. By two o'clock the majority of the company had arrived at the park, and many a happy group were to be seen regaling themselves under the shades of its stately trees, or thronging Mr. Ford's spacious refreshment booths, near which was situated a steam engine to supply hot water. By half- past two numbers were tripping on the “light fantastic” to the strains of Matthews’ Oxford qundrille band, which, although rather deficient in lead, appeared to give satisfaction. Mr. Bareham. as master of the ceremonies, contributed greatly to the success and order of the dance. The lively cocknies had a fine opportunity of displaying their abilities, and all seemed to enter into this particular branch of the amusements of the day with unusual gusto. The Berks Militia band which played on the lawn in front of the mension, under the leadership of Mr. McCrohan, at intervals during the day, acquitted themselves in first-rate style, their performaaces being much admired. The Great Western Railways Paddington Brass Band (composed exclusively of employées at the station) displayed a degree of efficiency highly commendable to them; and the Slough Band also did good service. The melodies of Mr. and Mrs, Nash gave a variety to the whole. The great attraction, however, was Mr. Collins comic singing, which thoroughly delighted the people. A platform was erected in a dell, which afforded facilities for changing dress, and here the people sat round in great numbers, in quite an amphitheatrical stvle, it being estimated thet at one time there were full 3000 people listening - many of them at the expense of their sides - to the mirth-provoking songs of their entertainer. The number of persons present was about 6000, and among them we observed J. Morrison, Esq., who appeared to take considerable interest in the proceedings; Henry Simonds, Esq., and party; the Rev. Mr. Powys, Rev. G. Curtis, - King, Esq., - Walpole, Esq.. Mr. G. Palmer and party, &c. The company began to disperse at about half-past seven, apparently highly gratified with their amusement. The Militia Band remained on the ground until nine o'clock, to the satisfaction of the Reading visitors, whe were unable to return by rail. We should not omit to mention the triumphal arch erected at the entrance of the park by Mr. G. Boyer, of Newbury, which had a very pleasing effect - it consisted of an elegant device, composed of flags, evergreens, &c., with the inscription in the centre “Bear ye one another's burdens," and on either side the Company's arms and balances. In conclusion, we are pleesed to take this opportunity of bearing testimony to the excellent manner in which the details of the fête were carried out, and the general arrangement of the whole, reflecting the highest credit on the committee. Much praise is also due to the authorities at the Pangbourne station for the admirable arrangement of the trains. The visitors from Reading were less numerous than they would bave been had they had the advantage of travelling by the fête train. Every exertion, however, was made by Messrs. Harper and Banks to promote the success of the undertaking here, which reflected credit upon themselves, and was of essential service to the cause for which they were put forth. We are sorry to record an accident in the earlier part of the day to a lady from Wantage (whose name did not transpire}. Who was severely burnt in the side and arm from a burning fusee on the ground having fired her dress. She was removed to an hotel at Pangbourne, where every attention was paid to ber sufferings. With this single exception, the fête at Basildon passed off as successfully as any of its predecessors, and a considerable addition will no doubt accrue to the funds therefrom. We understand that Mrs. Morrison expressed to the committee her entire satisfaction at the manner in which everything had been carried ont, and at the fact of the grounds having afforded an opportunity of enjoyment to so large a number of people, at the same time most handsomely enclosing £10 as a contribution to the charity. Mrs. Morrison and the family were stationed at the windows of the mansion during the greater pert of the day, and appeared to take great interest in the proceedings. The success of the fête was in a great measure attributable to the exertions of Mr. Stanford, the steward of the estate, who did all he possibly could for the convenience and comfort of the visitors.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019