Jackson’s Oxford Journal

Saturday, July 21st 1866

The Great Western Railway Fete.

This annual Fête, in aid of the Great Western Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund, took place on Tuesday last at Beckett Park, the seat of Lord Barrington, who for a second time most generously placed it at the service of the public. Beckett Park is admirably adapted for a gathering of this character, from its contiguity to the Shrivenham Station as well as from its being accessible from the neighbouring towns by excellent roads, and at this period of the year it presents a most charming appearance. Nature and art seem to have combined to produce as picturesque and varied a landscape as can well be imagined. Shortly after 11 the railway trains began to disgorge their freights, and, in a brief space of time, ninety-five carriages were emptied of visitors, who, led by the Paddington Brass Band, wended their way across the fields to the Park. The kindness of the occupiers of the fields who allowed this route over the grass deserves especial mention, as a long and dusty walk or ride along the road was thereby avoided, and added much to the comfort of visitors, The trains brought passengers from Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Cirencester, Swindon, London, Slough, Reading, Hungerford, Newbury, Wallingford, Oxford, Abingdon, Culham, &c., &c., while an immense number of the public travelled by road from the towns and villages in the neighbourhood.

It was computed that from 12,000 to 15,000 persons were present, and it speaks well for the excellence of the railway arrangements that no accident of any kind occurred to mar the pleasures of the day. Arrived at the Park the grassy slopes presented a very animated appearance, dotted over as they were by groups intent on stimulating themselves for the fatigue attendant on pleasure-taking. The refreshment booths were stationed on the high ground adjacent to the mansion, and the important department of catering was confided to Mr. Browning, of London. Nature’s energies having been recruited, visitors were bent on explormg the beauties of the estate, the long and shady walks being filled with promenaders who seemed evidently to appreciate the beauties of the spot and its surroundings, and who never seemed tired of giving utterance to the pleasure they experienced - a pleasure heightened by the charming weather, the heat of the sun being tempered by a refreshing breeze. The grounds reflect the greatest credit on Mr. May, the head gardener, and Lord Barrington kindly gave instructions that they should be open to the public in the fullest sense. In fact, every arrangement that was suggested by the Committee for the comfort or convenience of the visitors was most cheerfully acceded to, not only by his Lordship, but by Mr. Farris, his Lordship’s agent, and by Mr, Warren, the bailiff to the estate.

The arrangements for the amusement of the company were admirable, and were so timed as to give all the opportunity of engaging in them. The prettily fitted up stage for the vocal performers was erected near the refreshment booths and at half-past one the performance was commenced by Mr. Harper, who did duty as stage manger, introducing the well-known Stead, who gave in inimitable style his compound of comicalities, including “The Perfect Cure,” all of which were loudly applauded. Mr. Harry Macarthy very kindly placed his services at the disposal of the Committce, and illustrated a variety of characters, Dutch and Irish, with great success. Mrs, F. F. Brian, the serio-comic actress, is an especial favourite at these gatherings, and she gave with admirable effect, ‘‘The Dashing White Sergeant,” ‘‘Do, dear,” and “ The Cantineers,” or “ Trab, trab.” Mr. J. G. Forde, whose clever monologues are always appreciated, came in for a large share of applause. The other stage performers included Miss Nelly Power, a juvenile comedian, who not only sings well, but dances most gracefully. Messrs. White and Morley, two negro melodists, concluded each part of the performances with a display of eccentricities and songs. In the interval between the first and second parts dancing was carried on in the enclosure, to the excellent band, led by Mr. C, Matthews, of Oxford. Mr. Bareham officiated as Master of the Ceremonies with his usual success. The field amusements also composed cricket, a very spirited match being played with eleven of Shrivenham and the neighbourhood against eleven Great Western travellers, the latter winning.

There was archery, under the superintendance of Mr, Danton, of Cheltenham ; and the popular games of Aunt Sally, knock-em-downs, croquet, &c,, had a fair share of patronage. The magic post office, under the management of Mr. Ripley, afforded the usual amount of fun. At convenient points the Great Western Paddington Brass Band, under the honorary conductorship of Mr. Hattersley, an ardent lover of the art; and that of the Royal Berks Militia, took up their stations, and throughout the day played popular selections of music in excellent style. The whole of the arrangements were confided this year to a Committee, consisting of Messrs. Adkins, Bradley, Harper, Clements, Bath, Bosisto, Mason, Tinson, Grimes, Vigar, and Hawkins; but in justice we may mention that Mr. Adkins undertook the largest share of the work, and performed it admirably. The loss which the Society has experienced since last year in the death of the energetic and courteous Secretary, Mr. W. B. Baker, who was mainly instrumental in organising these fêtes, and who carried them out with so much efficieney, doubtless stimulated them to make greater exertions, and they were rewarded with a success which was generally acknowledged.

As early as seven o'clock the visitors turned their steps towards Shrivenham Station. The trains were despatched under the superintendance of Mr. Inspector Bath, with as much regularity and punctuality as at ordinary times, and in a couple of hours afterwards the immense assemblage had left the Park without accident or anything to mar the pleasure of the holiday. The Oxford train, which was under the direction of Mr. Inspector Vigar, reached home shortly after nine.

It only remains for us to add that Lord Barrington’s kindness in granting the use of his Park and grounds for this purpose was highly appreciated by all the visitors, and that the result of the fête will be a considerable addition to the funds of a most admirable institution.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019