Old Feasts

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Old Feasts' page
Photo:An article taken from the Herts Express 7 July 1906 describing the Ashwell Feast

An article taken from the Herts Express 7 July 1906 describing the Ashwell Feast

Jackie Embury

Document typed by Jackie Embury from Miss Hislop's handwritten green book owned by Janet Chennells


Forester’s Club Feast

Forester’s Club Feast was always held on the Thursday in Whit week, at the Bushel and Strike.  The men met at 11 am and went round the village with the Banner in front and a Brass Band.  When they returned dinner was served.  Then the men went into the meadow opposite and played the old game of Quoits. They came back to the Club Room for tea.

After that, the tables were removed and they had singing and dancing until supper time.  After supper they went home to bed.



Harvest Okeys

When harvest was over the men from the villages around Newnham, Hinxworth and the Mordens used to come in carts, gaily decorated, to Ashwell.

The horses would have ribbons on their heads and tails.  The men sang as they came and were very merry when they got to the Brewery they were given bread and cheese and ale and danced until bed-time.  It was a very old custom.



Ashwell Feast

There was a time when the village had four fairs in the course of the year, by ancient right of bygone kings.

These four fairs were held upon the feast days of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, of St Peter, of St James and of St Ethelbert.  Today only two survive, less in the form of fairs than in days of general jollity.

St Mary to whom the Church is dedicated retains her Feast, not now on the Annunciation but on the two days in July nearest to the Visitation.  The Feast is held on the Recreation Ground;  swing boats, merry-go-rounds and side shows still hold say.  The sweet stall crammed with peppermint rock, bull’s eyes, toffee and other delights of that kind used to distinguish the occasion but sweet rationing has put an end to that, though the Feast is otherwise as popular as ever.

The second Festival day which has survived is that of St James.  St James with his pilgrim staff and scallop-shell has been wholly forgotten, but the old Feast Day still survives, now merged in the more prosaic but universal celebration of August Bank Holiday - Ashwell Fete, which has taken many forms, flower show, gymkhana and sale of work.

“In the midst of one such day, a thunderstorm that terrible bane of all open-air festivities descends upon the scene.  Down comes the rain in torrents, while the thunder peals and the lightning flashes.

The crowds watching the gymkhana rush – no, not rush, English villagers do not rush even for thunder;  they move with dignified celerity towards the tents.

A small baby lies back in its pram and crows with delight at the round of the raindrops on the tent above and the sight of the varied company sheltering within.

The rain lessens, the clouds lift.  The people emerge and stroll over the soaked grass as though it were the finest walking in the world.  An so the fun goes on until at last the long day ends the crowds disperse, and the Village Fete with its thunderstorm, its prize carnations, its jaunty cockerels and its good natured laughter goes to join the beckoning ghosts of endless such Fetes, stretching back into medieval days, before the recording hand of history.

This page was added on 06/10/2011.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.