Picnic at Highfields 26 June 1902
The plans had been in place for some time - the villagers of Blackham were invited to Highfields Park for a picnic to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. But as Wikipaedia tells us: ‘By the time of his accession, the 59-year-old Edward was overweight and fond of large meals and cigars. He launched himself into his new role, but his first busy months on the throne were bedevilled by a succession of illnesses and injuries. On 23 June, three days before the date set for the coronation, the King and Queen returned from Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace in preparation. Foreign journalists noted that he appeared "worn and pale" and was leaning heavily on his cane. That evening,
the King and Queen hosted a formal dinner for seventy British and overseas royal guests,
including their niece, the Empress of Russia. ‘On the following day at 12 noon, a telegram marked "OFFICIAL" was dispatched around the Empire, with the news that the coronation was postponed and that the King was undergoing an operation.’ But it was too late to cancel the picnic which went ahead as planned, including a photo (left) of all the guests with some staff peaking out of upstairs windows. It would be great to identify some of these villagers from just over 100 years ago, so if you recognise your great grandfather or some other relation, please let us know.
The photograph above is now on display in the village hall with the following caption Blackham Picnic Highfields Park 26 June 1902 This picture is dedicated to the memory of one Blackham’s longest residents, CECIL FLOYD 22-11-1924 to 22-03-2008 Cecil’s sister Betty with her daughters Susan and Jenny kindly donated this historic picture to the Village Hall. Cecil lived in Blackham all of his life, except with he was in the Royal Navy. The Floyd family had a long connection with Blackham Village. Ellen ‘Cissie’ (Cecil’s mother) was a noted gardener winning many prizes at local shows. She was the daughter of Fred Scales a landlord of the Sussex Oak Pub. Thomas (Cecil’s father) taught the piano and was organist at Blackham Church and then Hartfield Church. Cecil’s grandfather (also Thomas) was a gardener at Lodge Gate Highfields in 1871. He also farmed at Highfields Park Mansion in 1881 and Willetts Farm from 1885 to 1911. He had several cottages built in the village some bearing the name by which he was affectionately known, ‘Mayor’ House and Cottages. Below are sections of the photo in which we have tried to reveal some of the detail to make identification easier
From the upstairs windows
The king was finally crowned at Westminster Abbey on 9 August and not wishing to let the occasion pass without any fanfare, a second event was held at Highfields, as reported in the Kent & Sussex Courier. The report also contains details of the first picnic, explains why the men in the windows were working and gives a list of prize winners and the prizes they took home.
While London raised its voice in gratitude and hailed the fleeting of “the gladdest day of all the year” as becomes the greatest city in the world, villages and hamlets pursued their courses of humble homage in that atmosphere of simplicity which pervades rusticity and makes it for all time so fascinating to observe. The 272 persons populating Blackham, for instance, released from the common round, spent the morning hours in looking into mirrors and arranging the meet presentable toilets, for the weather was typical of the month beloved by Dickens – with clear skies, green fields and sweet-smelling flowers on every hand. In the afternoon they strolled up to Highfield Park and immersed themselves in the lengthy programme of sports which had been drawn up. Incidentally it may be mentioned that Captain Haig owns the extensive Park and that recently Mr and Mrs Montague Kirkwood have taken up their abode at Highfield, the terraced front of which overlooks the broad expanse of meadow-land. Mr and Mrs Kirkwood have already linked themselves with the interests of Blackham in a variety of material ways which cannot fail to have for their sequence the well-being of the hamlet. For example, Mr Kirkwood has attached some importance to the existence of the Blackham C.C. and it is his intention to assist the club in securing a playing pitch in Highfield Park. Renovation The house is under renovation, detail is being given to the conservation of its artistic precincts and it is fast becoming one of those stately homes of England of which Mrs Heasans has written inasmuch as it is beautifully situated. To revert to the Coronation celebrations held in the Park, of which Mr Ralph Haddon is the tenant, it must be admitted that they were of the mildest order. This, of course, is readily conceivable. The greater part of the programme
was gone through on the 26th of June and those participating in the events of that day will recollect that all the men partook of a substantial dinner, all the women and children of a nice tea, that, after the children’s sports, the wives were the recipients of souvenirs from Mrs Kirkwood, that the inhabitants were photographed by Mr E T Gyles of Loughton, Essex, and that no fewer than 76 gallons of ale and 46 gallons of ginger beer, the latter supplied by Mr A H Ellis, were consumed. Thus it was not an over-imaginative mind that would suggest the probability of the quiet passing of the national ceremonial celebrations in the hamlet at the second time of asking. Frolic Notwithstanding, everybody appeared to enjoy themselves and had it not been for the prevalence of measles, additional numbers would have been present to extract frolic from the proceeding and pleasantness from its harmonious nature. The sports were begin at two o’clock and did not finish until after seven, the decision of the various events proving a source of interest to the onlookers. Bearing in mind certain palpable circumstances, the selection of Mr A H Ellis as hon secretary of the whole affair was a happy choice. A man of apparently untiring energy in any sphere and possessing the rare attributes of courtesy and consideration, Mr Ellis was enabled to cope with the conflicting duties devolving from such a secretarial post with considerable aptitude; and to him the populace are indebted in great measure for the excellence marking the arrangements and the success resulting from them. The general work was ably undertaking by a hard-working committee composed of Messrs T Floyd (chairman), G Hutchins, F Hutchins, C Hutchins, George Bradford, J Heaysman, Ralph Haddon and C Booker; and it may be added, the Rev W Gilchrist, who in many ways helped the committee in
the discharge of their duties. As signifying the interest manifested in the even by Mr and Mrs Kirkwood, the lady herself witnessed the sports throughout while her brother Mr R Morris, officiate as starter and Mr R Paget acted as judge. At four o’clock tea was served underneath the trees and in the course of the day every man was regaled with four glasses of beer. The women and children were given sweets and bananas. The catering of the tea was done by Mrs Clarke. The prizes were distributed by Mrs Kirkwood after which votes of thanks were passed. Three hearty cheers were accorded Mrs Kirkwood, Mr Morris and Mr Paget for their kindness in helping to make the day pleasurable by assisting in official capacities. The tribute emanated from the Rev W Gilchrist, who made allusion to the work done by the other officials. At the instance of Mr A H Ellis, the company gave three lusty cheers for Mr and Mrs Kirkwood. Results 200 yards Flat Race for Senior Men – 1, brush rack, T Coomber; 2, flask, A H Ellis; 3, pencil, E Bashford 100 yards handicap for Married Women – 1, 1lb tea, Mrs Wickham; 2, 1/2lb tea, Mrs Scrace. Egg and Spoon Race for Single Women – 1, box of Tunbridge Ware, Miss Crowhurst; 2, box of Tunbridge Ware, Miss Cotton; 3, brush, Miss Coomber. 200 yards Race for Junior Men – 1, brush rack, F Brown; 2, flask, E Scrace; 3, pencil, A Harris. 400 yards Steeplechase for Married Men – 1, shaving set, T Coomber; 2, set of brushes T Coomber; 3, writing case Bashford. 100 yards Race for Single Women – 1, 1lb tea, Miss Coomber; 2, 1/2lb tea Miss Cotton. Sack Race for Junior Men – 1, cigar case, J Lock; 2, pipe in case, Crowhurst; 3, match- box, A Pearson. Needle-sewing Race for Married Women – 1, work box, Mrs Scrace; 2, clock, Mrs Ellis; 3, pencil case, Mrs Head. Egg and Spoon Race for Married Women – 1, box of Tunbrodge ware, Mrs Scrace; 2, box of Tunbridge ware, Miss Rinkhurst; 3, pie tray, Mrs Head.
200 yards Race for Lads under 18 – 1, alarum clock, Elliott; 2, pen and pencil set, Harris; 3, knife, B Coomber Obstacle Race for Senior Men – 1, “Don” shaving set, A H Ellis; 2, alarum clock, Bashford; 3, shaving pot, T Coomber. Three legged Race for Lads under 16 – 1, writing materials, Masters Ellis and Kemp; 2, pen and pencil set, Masters H Wood and Buckwell. Wheelbarrow Race (blindfold) for single men – 1, walking stick, J Lock; 2, walking stick, Sales; 3, walking stick, Elliott. 120 yards Race for Boys under 12 – 1, walking stick, Master Ellis; 2, writing requisites, Masters Roser and Head. 150 yards Race for Lads under 16 – 1, alarum clock, Master Kemp; 2, pen and pencil set, Master Ford; 3, knife, Master Buckwell. 100 yards Race for Girls under 17 – 1, pair of vases, Miss Cross; 2, Coronation pin trays, Miss Lucas; 3, pair scissors, Miss Head. Sack Race for Senior Men – 1, cigar case, Ford; 2, pipe in case, T Coomber; 3, match box, A H Ellis. Needle Threading and Sewing for Single Women – 1, workbox, Miss Crowhurst; 2, clock, Miss Kemp; 3, pencil case, Miss Lucas. 100 yards Race for Married Women – 1, 1lb tea, Mrs Wickham; 2, 1/2 lb tea, Mrs Head 400 yards Steeplechase for Junior Men – 1, writing case, R Scrace; 2, set of brushes, F Brown; 3, shaving pot, A Pearson. 120 yards Race for Boys under 14 – 1, writing case, Master Ellis; 2, box of pencils, Master Head; 3, knife, Master Roser. 120 yards Race for Girls under 15 – 1, writing requisites, Miss Roser; 2, pen and pencil set, Miss Bailey; 3, pair scissors, Miss Ethel Ford. Three-legged Race for boys under 12 – 1, box of compasses, Masters Ellis and Head; 2, working companion, Masters Bashford and Groombridge; 3, box of colour pencils, Masters B Kemp and G Pankhurst. Wheelbarrow Race (blindfold) for Senior Men – 1, walking stick, Ford; 2, walking stick, Doyle; 3, walking stick, A H Ellis. Race for Girls under 12 – 1, pen and pencil set, Miss Bailey; 2, pair of scissors, Miss Ethel Ford; 3, pair of scissors, Miss M Bird. Race for Boys under 12 – 1, pen and pencil set, G Roser; 2, knife, W Roser; 3, colour pencils, C Baldwin. Obstacle Race for Junior Men - 1, “Don” shaving set, R Scrace; 2, alarm clock, F Brown. No competitor was allowed to take more than one first prize, two second or three third prizes and not more than three prizes in all.
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