Reading Mercury

Saturday, August 5th 1865


The tenth annual rural fête in aid of the Great Western Railway Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund took place at Wokefield Park, near Mortimer, on Tuesday last. The object of the fête was so commendable that success could hardly be for a moment doubted; but “Tis not in mortals to command success,” although every effort may be exerted to attain it. The success of all al fresco entertainments and rural fêtes mainly depend upon the weather, and on Monday last we were not singular in our apprehensions of the failure of this annual fête, solely on the ground of unfavourable weather. The rain poured down in torrents on Monday afternoon and evening, and this of itself would deter many persons from patronising the fête, even thongh the sun shone on the appointed day. Fortunately the weather, although cloudy on Tuesday morning was not so bad as was generally expected, and, considering the threatening appearance of the sky, the attendance was very large. It was computed that there were upwards of five thousand persons on the grounds, and possibly this was below the actual number. Widows and orphans of any class of society naturally excite the sympathy of all who possess magnanimity of heart and nobleness of soul, Happy is the man of whom it may be said -
“Not for himself, but for the world he lives!"
and who “visits the fatherless and the widow" in their wretchedness, and who ministers to their wants with a free and bountiful hand. No qualities are more entitled to the general good will and approbation of mankind than beneficence and humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public spirit, or whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others and a generous concern for our kind and species, and if the holy halo of sympathy and benevolence were more widely diffused than it is, much of the existing misery and wretchedness of society would be mitigated if not entirely removed. Perhaps no classes of the community have greater claim on our benevolence than widows and orphans, and every society established for the amelioration of the condition of the bereaved is well worthy of wide and liberal support. We regret, therefore, that owing to the weather the fête of Tuesday last was not so successful as it would otherwise have been. This year, Wokefield Park, the seat of Robert Allfrey, Esq., was placed at the disposal of the committee, and we think they acted wisely in accepting the offer. The grounds are open and spacious and the district well wooded. The house is approached from the Bloomfield Lodge Gates, by a beautiful avenue of trees, and the woods and fences are in excellent order. The house itself is a somewhat plain but extensive building, and has been in the occupation of its present owner for upwards of twenty-two years. Originally it was of plain brick, but now and for some years past the exterior of the mansion presents a more at tractive appearance, having been stuccoed. Adjoining the house are extensive pleasure grounds and gardens, which on Tuesday laat were kindly thrown open to the visitors to the Park, hundreds of whom thronged the walks and admired as much of the costly and elegant furniture of the apartments on the ground floor as could be seen from the windows facing the lawn. Amongst the visitors at Wokefield House, on Tuesday, were the Right Hon. J. R. Mowbray, M.P., Sir Paul Hunter, Bart., Captain Allfrey, Mr, Glenie, Mrs. Glenie, Mr. G. Montagu, &c. It was not at first intended to open the gardens to the public, but sensing the excursionists were exceedingly orderly in their behaviour, the favour was granted; and we may safely say was justly appreciated. The gardens were in excellent condition, and reflected the highest credit on the gardener, Mr. Whiteman, who displays great taste in the management of the grounds.

Before we proceed to notice the amusements provided, we append the names of the committee of management, which were as follows - Messrs. Atkins, Bradley, Attesley, Harper, Bosisto, and Baker (secretary.) The special trains were intrusted to Mr, Bosisto, the guard on the Basingstoke line, assisted by Inspector Grimes. The trains ran from Paddington, Cheltenham, Reading, Oxford, Abingdon, Swindon, Basingstoke, Hungerford, and intermediate stations, and in the Paddington train a truck was fitted up with flags and evergreens, for the Paddington Rifle Band. We are gratified to state that, owing to the able management of Mr, Bosisto, the whole of the trains were despatched within five minutes of the time specified; and, although the station at Mortimer was densely crowded for some hours not the slightest accident occurred. Just as the entrance to the park was reached a shower of rain fell, and for a time every available place of shelter was crowded. The rain had scarcely abated, before another heavy shower fell, but although the sky looked very threatening, the weather was favourable during the remainder of the day. The tents were pitched opposite to the entrance to the house, and the largest and most conspicuous was the refreshment tent, in which dinner and tea were provided at a moderate charge, by Mr. G. Harper, of the White Hart Inn, Reading, Water was supplied by a steam engine, as on former occasions. In another part of the ground a smaller refreshment tent was placed, and opposite to this was the Bazaar, which was presided over by the Misses Baker, by whose industry most of the articles exhibited were produced. Over the entrance to the tent were the words “In aid of the G.W.R. Widows and Orphans Fund,” worked in coloured paper. Several passages of Scripture, printed on large cards, were suspended in different places, and, amongst others, were the following: - " We are orphans and fatherless, and our mothers are widows,“ - Lamentations, 4 c, 3 v. “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it unto me,” - Matt. 25. We were rather disappointed with this portion of the fête, for the articles exhibited were not only rather scanty, but there was not that variety which is generally to be found in bazaars of this class. This is much to be regretted, for it is evident that if a bazaar on a larger scale had been promoted, a much larger sum might have been realized, and we hope to see on a future oceasion that considerable improvement has been made in this direction. Adjoining the Bazaar was the Magic Post Office, the letters trom which caused much amusement to those who patronised this ingenious, and we believe, successful method of increasing the funds. The next tent was of larger dimensions, and on it was anspended a card, which informed the public that “The Great Pio Whautkins (whoever he may be), the wonderful magician,” perfurmed every ten minutes, and the price of admission was three-pence. From what we observea, we fear that Pio Whautkins did not add much to his exchequer, and that the performance did not take place “every ten minutes” us specitied at the entrance to the tent. In another part of the ground, the not very exciting but fashionable pastime of archery, was indulged in by a very select number of individuals; and here we feel confident that “a roaring trade'’ was not done. The most attractive sport was decidedly that occupied by the London artistes. A stage, with theatrical paraphernalia, was erected in a very suitable spot, and showing the whole of the performances thousands of spectators wore stationed before it. Brian and Conley, the French clowns, excited roars of laughter by their absurdities, especially their burlesque on the opera. The song and duet, “Sandy and the Mill,” although extremely ridiculous, was very cleverly introduced by these comic celebrities, Mrs. F. F. Brian, “the best serio-comic actress in London,” contributed largely to the amusement of the company; while the D’Aubins, “the great grotesques,” and the Stormettes in their extraordinary acrobatic performances, appeared to give unusual satisfaction. The latter went through a number of really astonishing feats, and were justly applauded. Mr. J. G. Forde attempted to amuse the people with his tales of dining out with his wife and adventures at sea, but his remarks were very common-place, and did not produce much amusement. Mr. J, H, Stead, as usual, was excessively happy in his mimicry and singing, and the great “Cure,” always a favourite, was on this occasion enthusiastically received, His humoor is original, and his jokes are fresh and new, and few comic artistes are more welcome to the general public than Mr. Stead. The corps of performers was completed by Mr, C. Woodman, “The Novelty;" his performance was not calculated to excite general admiration: it lacked the spirit and energy which are so indispensable to the success of a comic actor, Each performance was announced by Mr. Baker, the indefatigable secretary, and taken as a whole, this portion of the day's proceedings was perhaps the most successful. A large space of ground opposite the residence of R. Allfrey, Esq., was enclosed for dancing, and a great number of the votaries of Terpsichore thronged the ground. The duties of master of the ceremonies were ably discharged by Mr. Bareham, of London, and the excellent bands of the Paddington Rifles and the Reading Great Western, were in attendance. In other parts of the ground n variety of games were kept up with unflagging spirit, and “Aunt Sally" attracted a host of gentlemen, who endeavoured to the best of their ability to strike the pipe from her mouth. During the day Mr. Horsburgh, steward to R. Allfrey, Esq., rode abont the grounds, and did all in his power to promote the success of the fête and the comfort of the visitors. At five o'clock tea was provided in a large marquee, and great numbers applied for tickets of admission. After tea, dancing was resumed, and towards eight o'clock the approaches to the railway station were lined with people, who were anxious to be in time for their respective trains. We believe that all who attended the tenth annual rural fête in aid of the G.W.R. Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund, were highly gratified with the proceedings, and we trust that the funds of the society have been largely augmented.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019