Jackson’s Oxford Journal Saturday, August 3rd 1861

Saturday, August 3rd 1861

Fete in aid of the Great Western Railway
Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund.

The sixth annual fête on behalf of the Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund, took place on Tuesday last at Beckett Park, near Shrivenham, the beautiful seat of Lord Barrington, Deputy-Chairman of the Great Western, Railway Company. A more delightful spot for holding a fête upon an extended scale could scarcely be imagined. The park, which is readily accessible from the Shrivenham Station, from which it is distant about a mile, possesses a high degree all those charming and picturesque features which are generally associated with the ancestral homes of our ancient nobility. The private gardens and pleasure grounds, the whole of which, with a generosity which cannot be too highly commended, were thrown open to the public, are arranged with exquisite skill, and displayed a gorgeous array of flowers clothed in all the various combinations of colour and effect which the garden is capable of producing. Tall and stately trees stud the grounds in all directions; a splendid lake extends nearly the entire length of the park; and winding pathways, leading to many a shady nook, entice the visitor to indulge to his heart’s content in the many fascinations which nature and art have vied with each other in providing.

The fête will long be remembered in the neighbourhood as the largest gathering of people bent on the pursuit of pleasure ever congregated. Business was suspended in all the adjacent towns and villages to enable persons to be present, but a large proportion of visitors came from long distances. The railway trains, which commenced arriving about eleven o’clock, brought thousands from South Wales, Hereford, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester, Swindon, London, Slough, Reading, Hungerford, Newbury, Wallingford, Oxford, Abingdon, Didcot, &c., &c..

Arrived at the park the excursionists dispersed, and the rounds were speedily covered with parties who had not neglected the important duty of providing refreshment for the inner man; and those who paid an early visit to the marquees of Mr. Reason, of Highworth, who undertook the duty of caterer on the occasion, had no reason to be dissatisfied with the quality or quantity of creature comforts dispensed by him.

Lord Barrington kindly gave instructions for throwing open every part of the grounds, which were in admirable order, and reflected great credit on the taste and skill of Mr. Young, his Lordship’s gardener. The spirt-stirring strains of the band of the Paddington Rifles, under the direction of Mr. Seaman, and that of the 5th Bucks Volunteer Band, lent additional charms to the gay scene. Rifle Volunteers mustered in strong force, there being representatives from several corps, and the performances of the Highworth and Uxbridge drum and fife bands were really excellent, while their bright plumes and uniforms gave a diversity to what was generally an exceedingly well-dressed assemblage.

Shortly after two the amusements commenced, and during the afternoon there was a constant succession of novelties exhibited on the stage, which was surrounded by thousands of admiring and wondering gazers. The celebrated Mr. Stead gave his comic songs of the ‘Statute Fair,” “Sensations,” and “The Cure,” the extraordinary dancing to which called forth the loudest applause. Sam Collins and Ine little boy were also well received, his Irish songs and jigs appearing to be keenly enjoyed; and last, though not least, of the vocalists, Miss Smithson, a comic songstress from the Alhambra, who sung, amidst great applause, “ The Ladies’ Rifle Corps,” ‘‘ Sarah Ridley,” and “Sally, come up.” Arr Hee, a veritable Chinese juggler, exhibited a variety of surprising feats, and the Acrobat Elliott and his sons were equally successful in amusing and securing the applause of the assemblage. Matthews’s Quadrille Band, supplied excellent dance music, and this department seemed largely patronised, Mr. Bareham, of London, acquitting himself most successfully as master of the ceremonies, in marshalling the hosts who engaged in all the popular dances of the day. There was also archery provided by Mr. Dunton, of Cheltenham, and “Aunt Sally;” this aristocratic game, however, had remarkably few patrons, while kissing in the ring and other similar amusements afforded much fun to the younger portion of the company.

The whole arrangements of the fête devolved upon a committee of management, consisting of Messrs, Hattersley, Bradley, Clements, Gayler, Harper, Hancock, and others, in which they were ably assisted by Mr. Baker, the energetic und intelligent secretary of the society, and their exertions deserved the highest praise. The public were also greatly indebted to Mr. Ferris, Lord Barrington’s steward, and Mr. Warren, the bailiff to the estate, both of whom were unremitting in their desires to afford the utmost facility and gratification to the visitors. The services of Mr. Inspector Bath, as well as the other railway officials, deserve especial mention. Mr. Bath’s assistance in filling the enormous trains, greatly contributed to the order and punctuality of their departure. A small body of the Berks County Police, assisted by a few of the force of the company, were on the ground, but we are happy to inform our readers that such was the orderly and respectable character of the company that their duties were exceedingly light.

Lord Barrington’s kindness in granting the use of his Park and pleasure grounds, will ever be appreciated by those who participated in the holiday, and to those who know the benefits which this admirable society confers upon the widow and orphan, it will be a source of great gratification to know that a considerable sum will be added to its funds.

It is worthy of remark that notwithstanding the large number of persons congregated at Shrivenham on the occasion of the fête, estimated at 20,000 persons, nothing occurred to mar the pleasures of the day.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019