Reading Mercury

Saturday, July 8th 1871


On Wednesday the annual Fête in behalf of the Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund of the G, W. and B. and E. R. Provident Society was for the third time within the period of nine years held in Englefield Park, and attended with an amount of success equal, we should think, to the anticipations of the Committee, although the company did not appear to be quite so large as in some previous years. There were several circumstances of a local character which had at least. a tendency to mar the success of Tuesday's [sic] Festival - circumstances, too, over which the promoters of the Fête had not the slightest control, For some days a report - unhappily too well founded - was current throughout the district to the effect that small-pox in virulent form had broken out in Englefield, and we regret to say that although there have been but two or three cases, one has proved fatal, and Mr. and Mrs. Benyon and family will consequently prolong their absence from home by a visit to Germany. The committee did not anticipate any very serious result from such reports, but they entertained grave fears on account of the unsettled state of the weather, as a wet morning would very naturaly deter many from starting on a journey to a gathering, enjoyment at which would materially depend upon a favourable condition of the elements. Most fortunately, however, Wednesday morning proved bright and dry, and excepting a slight shower - not even sufficient to lay the dust that blew about in clouds - the weather was fine in the extreme, without being oppressive, the rays of the sun being tempered by a refreshing breeze. As in former years the Directors of the line generously granted the use of special trains which conveyed visitors from all stations within a reasonable distance of Theale. The train from Cheltenham, Gloucester, Swindon, &c., consisted of 21 carriages, all well filled; the Londoners oceupied the 22 “coaches” forming the “special” that started from Paddington at 8,40; a train made up of 11 carriages left Ealing at 8.15, and took up passengers at the intermediate stations between there and Reading, The Oxford train which called at stations between there and Pangbourne, was composed of 24 carriages; while the “specials” from Bastingstoke, Bristol, Reading, Hungerford, Newbury, and other places were also of good length and comfortably filled with old, middle-aged, and young - all bent upon a few hours recreation in one of the most pleasant of the many Parks that abound along the valley of the Kennet. The arrivals by road were also very numerous, and the stable accommodation in the village was scarecly equal to the occasion, The neighbourhood of the Railway Station presented the appearance of a fair, and the principal refreshment tent in this quarter was that of Mr. Belcher, confectioner, of Reading, who appeared to drive a brisk business, particularly in the evening, while the weary crowds, dusty and thirsty, were awaiting the departure of the trains which were to convey them to diferent parts of the Great Western district. Several Metropolitan omnibuses, besides waggonettes. flys, carts, and vehicles of almost every conceivable description, plied between the railway station and the Park Gates, and some of these were so heavily freighted that they appeared quite top-heavy, and swayed to and fro in a manner that must have alarmed individuals of a nervous temperament, The Church of St, Mark, which, as most of our readers are aware, ocoupies a pretty site in close proximity to Englefield House, was thrown open to the inspection of visitors, many of whom availed themselves of the opportunity, The newly erected spire, and also the main features of the interior, were much admired, and the inscriptions on the tablets fixed to the memory of the families of Englefield, Benyon, &c., were perused with evident interest. No sooner had the Park been reached than a large proportion of the pleasure seekers made their way to the terraces and conservatory - the latter a noble structure, containing several finely grown orange and lemon trees, bearing fruit; also some araucarias, dracaenas, and various other choice plants - all affording proof of the skill with which the Head Gardener (Mr. Robinson) had superintended their culture. The other beds were attractive-looking, but not so effective as they would have been with a more favourable season. The ground more particularly devoted to the purposes of the Fête was that which slopes from the terrace to the ornamental water, but all parts of the Park were visited, and little knots of people were to be seen pic-nicing far away from the spot where the amusements were going on. Mr. G. Browning, of the Royal Refreshment Rooms, Paddington, erected four or five spacious marquees, in two of each dinner and tea were provided in excellent style, the bill of fare being liberal, and the attendance, by a numerous staff of waiters, very satisfactory, A Bazaar was well patronised, and the counters were almost entirely cleared of the motley assortment of articles. Mrs. Browning rendered good service in this department, and was cheerfully and cheerfully assisted by a persevering body of ladies, including Mrs. Gillion, Mrs. Fox, and the Misses Blair, Jones, Keatley, Powell, Bailey, and Prosser. There was a good stock of toys, which Mr. Bosisto, of Reading, submitted for purchase to all who had little folks at home, and it might have beon concluded from the rapidity with which sales were effected, that Mr. Bosisto bad heen engaged in a fancy repository rather than as guard on the Basingstoke Branch, In which capacity he is known as a most obliging officer. There were in the Bazaar two wheels of fortune, one managed by Mr. Mason, and the other by Mr. Paddon. Altogether the Bazaar involved a considerable amount of anxiety and labour, and it seems questionable whether the pecuniary result is commensurate. Numerous calls were made at the Magic Post Office, at which notes of a purely amatory nature could he obtained in any quantity, on the payment of twopence each, The delivery of these amusing documents was entrusted to several young ladies, who discharged the duties of postmistresses with satisfaction to all who made inquiries at the pigeon hole, from which Cupid’s missiles were delivered. Mr. Lee, of Gloucester, exhibited a selection of his working models, around which a crowd af spectators might generally be seen, Some of the models were comic, some very ingenious, and all more or less entertaining, and inasmuch as the working of them depended upon a penny being dropped through an aperture in the case enclosing each model, the exhibition yielded a material addition to the general receipts. The stage was erected beneath the shelter of two wide-spreading trees, and here the great body of visitors congregated as long as the performances continued. Mr. Harper, of Slough, and Mr. Atkins, of Paddington, filled their old posts as stage managers, introducing the several artistes, who included Mr. Fred Albert, Mr. Marcus Wilkinson, Mr. Victor Liston, Miss Kate Elsworthy, John and Emma Warde, and the Matthews Family. The comic songs were well received, and the company took up the choruses with spirit; while the grotesque antics of the Wardes and others provoked much laughter. A large piece of ground was set apart for dancing, kept up with little intermission throughout the afternoon and evening, the excellent band of Mr. Matthews being again engaged. After the stage performances had ended, Mr. Danton, of Cheltenham, with several assistants, were busily employed catering for the lovers of archery, but the majority of these who hired the arrows at “4d. per dozen” were evidently not endowed with the skill possessed by Robin Hood and his notable band of archers. Manley and Brewer’s “Grand International Punch and Judy” kept the risible faculties of many in full play; and “Aunt Sally” and “Knock-em-Downs” were games by no means neglected as forming part of the day's entertainment. A goodly company watehed with interest a cricket match played between Eleven of Paddington and Eleven of Newbury, the latter selected by Mr. Thomas Newton. Both teams were strong, and we noticed some good batting and fielding, which ended in a victory for the Paddington cricketers, by a few runs only. There was an abundance of musio, the Bands of the 36th Middlesex, and 3rd Gloucester Artillery Volunteers being in attendance and performing at intervals, One band, which created no little interest among the strangers, was that composed of the Bradficld workhouse boys, headed by Mr. Hoare, the governor of that establishment, who paraded the grounds, playing thair drums and fifes. Towards seven o'clock the company began to disperse, and the return trains were started in good time, Mr. Holloway, the station master, assisted by other officials, conducting the extra traffic with energy and care. Some members of the “‘light-fingered” fraternity visited the Park, and effected a few robberies, and one of the thieves - a young fellow of “shabby genteel” appearance - stole a purse from a lady at the Railway station, a few minutes before the Newbury train left, and was captured by a gentleman. The thief declared that he was innocent, and said it was “most important” that he should reach “Town” that evening. He was, however, handed over to the custody of a constable, of whom. there were a large number on duty, under the direction of Supt. Crook, of Reading, The arrangements generally were highly satisfactory, and reflected much credit on the Secretary, Mr. Elve, of Paddington, and the committee - Messrs. Atkins, Harper, Bosisto, Gillion, Bradley, Mason, Craig, Durdle, Kibler, and Power.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019