Reading Mercury

Saturday, July 26th 1862


The annual fête in behalf of the fund for the relief of the Widows and Orphans of the officials of the Great Western Railway, took place on Tuesday, at Englefield, in the beautifnl park of R. Benyon, Esq.. M.P. A large number of shops in Reading, Newbury, and Hungerford, were closed during the day, in order to afford the assistants an opportunity of a day's recreation, Several thousands left Reading by road and rail, and proportionately large numbers came fr all parts in the neighbourhood; and, after the last train, the various omnibuses, and other vehicles, had arrived, and the last pedestrian had entered the gates, it was estimated that there were on the ground nearly 10,000 people. This number, though large, was not as great as we anticipated would be present, when we considered the fineness of the morning, the beauty of the place, and the excallent amusements in store; but, no doubt, the attractions of the Exhibition had an influence on this, as it has had on almost all other excursions and entertainments this season. Across the road leading from the Theale station, was erected a large arch of laurel and other evergreens, and on it were placed banners bearing the words “The Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund," “Great Western Railway Benevolent Institution.’’ A number of booths and gipsy establishments were also set up here, and in the morning the owners were making great preparations, evidently under the conviction that they should do a large amount of business before night. The road, from the station to the park, is a short and pleasant walk of about a mile, but the rapid succession of vehicles rendered it dusty and unpleasant to pedestrians. Mr, Benyon has lately had a very elegant entrance made to his park, and a great improvement has also been effected in the carriage-way. As soon as the crowd entered the gates, they began to express their admiration of the place. The beauty and attractions of Englefield Park are not, however, confined to the view of the visiter on the grounds. The traveller by rail can catch a passing glimpse, of its picturesqtie seenery, as he proceeds along the Newhury and Hungerford line, or, placed as it is, upon an elevated situation, it may be seen at many miles distanoe across the country. There are, perhaps, few in the neighbourhood who have not noticed the noble mansion as it stands on the declivity of the hill, sheltered by the wooded summit above from the north-easterly winds, with the handsome conservatory on the left. From some points it appears quite sequestered, and nestling amid the sylvan glades, close beside the little church, pictures a scene of delightful repose, which we fear the owner, the now busy member of Parliament, can seldom have leisure to enjoy. Approaching nearer, the fine proportions of the mansion grow larger, and it stands out in bold relief from surrounding objects. It is in the improved Elizabethan style of architecture, with handsome bay windows, battlements and towers, and commands an extensive view of the surrounding country. Many hundreds collected on the terrace to examine the building more closely, and peered throngh the windows to scrutinize the handsome furniture and flttings in the interior; but the attention of the majority was soon attracted by the natural beauties without. The lawn slopes down to a handsome sheet of water, usually the resort of numerous wild fowl, but which on Tuesday were scared away by the crowd. Boyond this, on the south, is a beautiful valley, bounded by undulating hills, adorned by elegant seats, woods, and cultivated grounds, While standing on such a spot, memory recalled the many historic associations of which Englefield has been the theatre. History records that the Danes were defeated here in the year 871, A.D.; in the meads in the vicinity, is a singular entrenchment, supposed to have been thrown up on that occasion. The origin of the name of the place is said to be derived from the Saxons who were encamped here, and were accustomed to kindle fires on the hills, to give notice of the enemy’s approach, ingle being the Saxon word for fire. Here also the Earl of Essex, when on his march to Reading with his Parliamentary army, was attacked by Prince Rupert, with a thousand musketeers, and some troops of cavalry, which attacking his rear guard, retarded his march, The darkness of the night, and the narrow lanes, were taken advantage of by the Prince, who falling upon them with his whole force, so increased the confusion that the officers lost all control over their men, who broke from their ranks, and each shifting for themselves, took diferent roads. The slanghter was so great that one of the lanes has retained the designation of ‘‘Dead Men's Lane,” from the number of dead bodies afterwards found in it.

The Manor belonged to the ancient family of Englefield at a very early period, but Sir J. Englefield was charged with aiding the plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots from the hands of her rival, and was convicted, and the Manor, in consequence, was forfeited to the Crown. lt was subsequently granted to Sir Francis Walsingham, from whom it passed by marriage to John, Marquis of Winchester, who so nobly defended Basing House against the attacks of the Parliamentary forces in the time of Charles the First. The mansion being destroyed, the brave royalist erected the present edifice, which has since been restored and beautified in a very chaste and judicious manner. Upon the death of the Marquis, Lord Francis Paulet. inherited the estate, and bequeathed it, at his death, to an only daughter, Anne, who married the Rev. Nathan Wrighte, a younger son of the Lord Keeper Wrighte. Upon the death of Nathan Wrighte, Esq., in 1789, Englefield devolved to Richard Ben yon, Esq., son of Governor Benyon, by the widow of Poulette Wrighte, Esq., and it has been retained by the Benyon family until handed over to the presant worthy owner. The church, which should first claim our attention, is also a building of considerable interest. It is in the early English style of architecture, but much modernised. It contains a small tower, and wooden steeple. On the north side of the chancel is a chapel built in 1514, and long appropriated as the burial place of the Englefield family, Against the north wall is a handsome monument in memory of Sir Francis Englefield, Bart. He is represented as a knight in armour, kneeling at a desk, with his lady, four sons, and one danghter; he died in October, 1631, aged 69. In the aisle, underneath two pointed arches formed in the thickness of the wall, are two recumbent figures, - that towards the east represents a man in quilted armour, his right hand grasping a sword, and his legs crossing each other, supported on the back of a dog. This figure is rudely carved in stone; on the left breast is an incision, probably meant to show the cause of his death. The figure is supposed to represent Alwin, a crusader, who, according to Domesday Book, was Lord of the Manor in the 11th century, and is not uulikely to have been the founder of the church. The female is carved in oak, with her hands clasped as in the act of prayer, and it is probable this represents Alwin's wife. Underneath a black marble slab is the following inscription: - “Here lyeth the body of the most noble and mighty Prince John Powlet, Marquesse of Winchester, Earl of Wiltshire, Baron St. John of Basing, First Marquesse of England: a man of exemplary piety towards God, and of inviolable fidelity to his Sovereigne, in whose cause he fortified his house of Basing, and defended it against the rebells to the last extremity.” He died in 1674, aged 76. On the wall, near it, are some eulogistic lines to his memory, by Dryden.

Sir Ed. Norris, a military character of some celebrity, who particularly distinguished himself in one or two engagements, had a seat at Englefiald in the reign of Elizabeth, and was honoured by receiving that Queen as a guest at dinner, during her stay at Reading in 1601; and here, too, Elias Ashmoll, the antiquary, whose collections for this county were published after hia death, retired in 1647, and pursued his researches, and amused his leisure hours with studying botany. After passing through the church, whose bells, we may observe, kept up a merry peal during the day, some passed into the kitchen garden, to inspect the fruit-laden trees and the numerous vegetable productions, while others proceeded to the conservatory on the left of the house: this is a very elegant building, and the varied and beautiful plants which it contained were a general theme of admiration.

To entertain 10,000 persons in a park for eight or nine hours, requires very extensive and well-ordered arrangements, and we are glad to be able to say that they were, on this occasion, of the most satisfactory character. Mr. Harper, of the “White Hart” Inn, Reading, provided the refreshments; he had erected three large tents at the bottom of the lawn, for first, second, and third class customers, and this plan tended very much to promote order and regularity. The first and largest tent was of an immense size, and was sufficient to cover the greater part of the whole company present. Dinner and tea were provided in this tent at moderate prices, but the principal business done during the day appeared to be in the sale of liquors, for which there was a large demand, Numerous pic-nic parties were scattered about the park, enjoying such provisions as they had broucht with them, and the bottle of ale or porter procured on the grounds. All appeared happy and full of glee in these little family circles, and the jokes went round, and the merry laugh resounded throngh the air, The Paddington Rifle and the Reading Rifle brass bands were present to contribute harmony to the proceadings, and they did their best to gratify the company. Mr, Matthews's quadrille band was aiso present, to the enlivening strains of which great numbers appeared to be
“Dancing away
“The livelong day.”
There was ample provision also made for the lovers of archery practice, by Mr. Dunton, and he was well patronised. But the chief feature in the day's amusements, were the artistes from London. A platform, with little reception rooms, was erected on the lawn, a short distance from the tents, Soon after one o'clock, the celebrated “Cure” (J. H .Stead) made his appearance, and sang one of his comic songs, accompanied with some of his peculiar pantomimic gestures, and created great merriment. He afterwards sang his new “Sensation” song, and performed “The Perfect Cure,” to the immense delight of the audience. Sam Collins was also present, and sang several of his Irish songs, in his own inimitable style, and was rapturously applauded. Miss Georgina Smith, a serio-comic vocalist, from the Canterbury Hall, London, was also well received, as she deserved. We might also make the same remark with reference to Mrs. Lawrence, of the Pavilion, Mr. Maclagan sang “The Grand," with great effect, also a marine song, in which he was loudly applauded. The brothers Elliott, the wonderful youthful posturers were rewarded with a perfect shower of coppers at the conclusion of each of their feats. Intervals of half an hour were allowed between each series of performances, and these intervals were fully occupied in dancing, “Kiss-in-the- ring,” both of which were kept ap with great spirit, till the time arrived for leaving the ground. During the afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Benyon mingled with the pleasure-seaking throng, after having made every arrangement in their power to afford their numerous visitors the fullest enjoyment. In the evening, when it became pretty generally known that Mr. and Mrs. Benyon, with Mr. Monck, and several ladies who were with Mrs. Benyon, were again on the grounds, large numbers surrounded them, and cheered most lustly; they then retired to the house, followed by a portion of the crowd, who continued to cheer, as an expression of gratitude to Mr. Benyon for allowing the use of his fine park for the fête. We are glad to learn that Mr. Benyon has not had the slightest reason to regret that act of liberality. Never was there a more orderly and well behaved 10.000 peaple assembled on any spot: not the slightest portion of the property was injured so far as could be then ascertained. Superintendent Crooke and a posse of policemen were on the ground, but, though their presence was desirable, their services were not required, The only case which called for their interference, occurred at Theale, when the people were returning home, and when, amid a crowd, a person was taken into custody for pocket- picking. The spectal trains were well managed, and not a single accident occurred to mar the pleasures of the day - a day which will be long remembered by all present. The train to Reading reached this town shortly after nine o'elock. The result to the fund in a pecuniary view, we have not yet been able to ascertain, but we shall state it in a future number, after the accounts are made up. We omitted before to mention that Mr. Bareham, of London, was master of the ceremonies. To Mr. Baker, of Paddington; Mr, Harper, the inspector at the Reading station; Mr. Bosisto, of Hungerford; and the railway officials generally, the thanks of the public are due for their valuable services in carrying out the extensive arrangements for this popular fête.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019