Reading Mercury

Saturday, July 13th 1872


The 17th Annual Rural Fête in aid of the Great Western and Bristol and Exeter Railways Provident Society Widow and Orphan Fund, took place at Nuneham Park, on Tuesday. Fortunately, although rain fell in the morning and the sky was overclouded, during the time of the fête the weather was bright and beautiful. Of Nuneham Horace Walpole says:-" Nuneham is not superb, but so calm, riant, and comfortable, so live-at-able, one wakes in morning on such a whole picture of beauty." The park is about six miles from Oxford, three from Abingdon, and not a great distance from the Culham Station of the Great Western Railway. It is the seat of Colonel Harcourt, and is justly considered one of the most delightful spots in Oxfordshire. It is well wooded above the Isis, with grounds laid out by Brown. The park of 1,200 acres abounds in fine trees. The Thames flows the west side of the grounds. On an eminence within the park is the beautiful conduit of Otho Nicholson, which formerly stood opposite Carfax Church, Oxford, where it was erected in 1610. It was removed and reconstructed here by Simon, Lord Harcourt. The gardens, which were partly planned by Mason, the poet, are very extensive and picturesque. The house contains a collection of valuable paintings, amongst which are portraits of Louise XIV., Philip Duc de Vendome, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; Lord Harcourt, the Duchess of Gloucester, and a beautiful group of the three Ladies Waldegrave. There is also a pane of glass from Pope's study at Stanton Harcourt, with an inscription written by him in fair lines with a diamond, recording that he there completed the fifth book of Homer, 1718.

The following constituted the Fête Committee: - Messrs. Adkins, Bradley, Craig, Mason, Durdle, Gellion, and Powers. As on former occasions the trains were managed by Inspector Bath and Mr. Bosisto, of Reading. Every preparation was made to ensure the success of the fete, and considering the vast concourse of persons attracted to the park, the day passed most successfully. The Great Western Railway Directors, as in former years, generously granted a number of special trains from Paddington, Windsor, Henley, Reading, Basingstoke, Wycombe, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Swindon, Oxford, Wolverhampton, Warwick, Abingdon, and other towns. Several of the engines were gaily decorated with evergreens and flags, and front of one we noticed the words "Faith, Hope, and Charity." The journey to Culham by all the trains was admirably managed, and the railway officials manifested the utmost care and caution. In returning from Culham, however, a scene of the greatest confusion occurred the station. Towards noon on Tuesday the clouds dispersed, and the weather was most favourable. Arriving at Culham Station, the crowds of people proceeded to the Park. The distance is not great, and may be termed a "constitutional walk." Several of the Oxfordshire police were stationed at intervals along the route, and the greatest order prevailed. Printed notices were posted about the Park, warning the public to "Beware of pickpockets." Notwithstanding this caution pockets were picked, and at the Station a gentleman lost his gold watch and a lady her purse. The entertainment provided in the Park was very similar to that of former years. A large space of ground was roped off for dancing, Messrs. Gellion and Kibler being M.C.'s. In another part of the Park archery was provided by Mr. Dunton, of Cheltenham, Mr. Lee, of Gloucester, exhibited a number of skilfully manufactured working models of churches, locomotives, &c., each of which could be set at work by dropping a penny into a box attached to the model. The Magic Post was very largely patronised. A large Bazaar of useful and fancy articles was crowded with purchasers throughout the day. Two wheels of fortune attracted crowds of people. One penny was charged for a dip, and while some fortunate individuals drew shilling and sixpenny tickets many others drew blanks. Refreshments were supplied by Mr. G. Browning, of the Royal Refreshment Rooms, Paddington, and dinner and tea were provided by Mr. Browning in two large marquees. At some distance from the principal tents, a cricket match took place between Eleven of Paddington and Eleven of Newbury. As the latter Eleven arrived late in the Park there was only time for one innings. The players on both sides were nearly the same as last year. The Paddington Eleven went first to the wickets, and the innings was not over till nearly six o'clock, when the stumps were drawn. The score was as follows:-
Palmer, run out 42
Hardy, Taylor 0
Johnson, c Beauchamp, b Taylor 14
Gregory, run out 16
Sach, c Slater, b Beauchamp 14
Maker, b Beauchamp 17
Poad, c George, Beauchamp 19
Betts, c White, b Bullock 30
Angle, leg before wicket 6
Preston, run out 3
Lyne, not out 14
Byes, &c 15
Total 190
There was some good play on both sides, and it was a matter of regret that the match was not completed. The Newbury eleven included the following: -Messrs. Newton, Taylor, Gilkes, Salter, F. J. Marks, George, Beauchamp, Bullock, Higgs and White. The principal source of attraction was the entertainments on the stage, where Mr. Alfred Montgomery superintended the performances of the London Star artistes. Mr. C. R. Chalkley's celebrated orchestral band was in attendance. The artistes were -Miss Emilie Douglas, serio-comic singer; Mr. Harry Lyne, mimic; Paddy Warner, Irish comedian; Messrs. Holmes and Richards, instrumentalists and dancers; Giovanelli and Little Louis Ellis, duettists; Mr. W. J. Adams, comic vocalist; Messrs. Antoleon and Eugeneard, gymnasts; and Miss Jenny Elliott, seriocomic. The Band of the 36th (Middlesex) Regiment, by the kind permission of Lieut.-Col. Gordon Ives, was stationed on the Cricket Ground; Matthews' celebrated Quadrille Band, and the 3rd Gloucestershire Artillery Volunteer Band were also in attendance. Loud applause at intervals testified the satisfaction of the mass of people who crowded about the stage during the day, and in every part of the Park there was plenty of recreation and amusement. It is computed that there were as many as 20,000 persons present, and that £1,000 was realised by the Fête. One thing is certain - the people were bent on enjoyment, and to the time the trains left the Culham Station, the Bazaar, Refreshment Marquees, Magic Post-office, archery, and every place where money could be spent crowds of people were assembled, and there appeared to be no cessation in buying and selling. In the afternoon, tickets for tea were rapidly sold, and Mr. Browning and his assistants found it very difficult to keep the people from over-crowding the tents. Towards evening the people began to wend their way to the Culham-station, and, notwithstanding the exertions of Inspector Bath and the Railway officials, the platform and every available spot of ground adjacent was densely crowded. As the crowd increased the difficulty of despatching the trains increased in proportion, and the confusion was considerably augmented by a heavy shower of rain. If the people had been kept at some distance from the platform by strong barriers, much of the over-crowding and confusion would have been prevented. As it was, people were anxious to reach the trains, and as soon as the doors of the carriages were opened a rush was made to gain a seat. Fortunately, no accident occurred, and after some little delay, the trains proceeded on their journey. With this exception the Fête passed off most satisfactorily, and it is hoped that the funds of this valuable Society will be considerably augmented in consequence.

Transcribed by Colin and Daniel Taylor, 2019