Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Yattendon Fete, then and now.

Our new Queen-to-be, Kate Middleton,  comes from West Berkshire.  Well, my family lives there too, haha! Not next door to Kate, but .... well, y'know... in fact, not anywhere near Kate, let's be honest.       But we do drive not too far away from there sometimes, and today we went to the big annual fete at Yattendon, about 4 miles from where she lives.

The fete is quite well known locally, and seems to get bigger every year, with everything from vintage cars (including a truly ancient Bentley estate) to a coconut shy, plant stalls, funfair, vintage tractors, working steam-engine models, local produce, live music, stilt walker, Punch and Judy, Throwing Christmas Trees, morris men, etc. This year there was a brilliant steel band from the Prospect school.    As usual, many of the stalls (like the White Elephant and books and cakes) were under cover in an enormous and wonderful barn.

This barn dates from the mid 15th century and has a very grand wooden roof, two huge doors but no windows.    It's no longer used for storing grain, and so electricity has been installed and the floor has been cemented to a good surface, and it's used for various events, including, I believe music.

T. bought himself a fez on the clothes stall, I think he reckons he looks like Dr. Who in it.  At the bookstall,  I got a very interesting book by an excellent writer Kathleen Fidler, about stories of old English inns.

At the toy stall I continued the Dr. Who theme by buying a toy dalek.

As I did so, I wondered what the local people would have made of Dr. Who back in the 18th century.  Then, Yattendon Revel (as it was known in those days) had various stalls and sideshows and I expect Morris Men too, but all of a more rustic nature.   In 1786 I read that there were fierce wrestling and cudgelling matches, with good money paid for the number of heads broken (1 inch of running blood had to be seen).   There were running races for women, with a prize of a "holland smock" for the winner.   There was a prize of tobacco "to be grinn’d for, by old women, through a horse collar, as usual."   I think they probably meant "gurning"  - click the link to see a good example of this curious rural entertainment.

The stalls were set up, then as now, outside the Royal Oak.  This pub now has a very good local reputation for Sunday Lunch - a bit pricey for us (though not for the Middletons, I bet).   It would then have been an alehouse for the local farm workers.   Here's a picture of the Royal Oak, below. And if you are wondering why I haven't any photos of the rest of the fete, the answer is that my camera battery went completely flat.

Sad but true. Sorry.   But Amy Blundell went to the fete last year and has taken many good photos, (including the one of the barn interior, above) so hop over to her blog and take a look if you are still interested. .

And the picture on the right is a stock photo (thank you AA).   It shows the Royal Oak basking in better weather than we had today.  But Yattendon fete was extremely well attended and I hope they made lots of money for local charities, who always get the profits.


  1. Old, huge barn is magnificent! And merry festive mood is contagious. I feel as if it were spreading to me. I love the atmosphere of the fete. I am glad to have been your follower.
    Have a great week.

  2. Neighbour (or not) of the next Queen. how grand (or not) [g]

  3. The next queen you say
    hmmm I'll bite my tongue and be nice today...lol

    That is one big friggin barn
    Enjoyed your new post ummm yarn

  4. Looks like tons of fun to me!

  5. Sounds like the perfect English summers day - a bit quirky and bonkers, but great fun!

  6. I just like saying Yattendon, I've said it to myself several times now. "I'm going to Yattendon" has a nice ring to it. Looks like I would have had fun.



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