A week ago the weather forecast for this past weekend looked rather dicey but we are in England so things change. In fact on Saturday morning the sun shone and, for the first time in three years, we walked down through the Park to the Highclere Church Fete. The fete is a huge local community effort led by one couple in the village, Sally and Phil, to create a fun family day out.
A fete is a French word from medieval times meaning celebration but being British it is about feasting outside whatever the weather. So much of our language is shared with our neighbours and just adjusted. Just like the fete in Downton Abbey there were some traditional games as well as new entertainments. For example, the first stall where everyone stopped was one where you could throw something at a display of old China plates. There is clearly something very satisfying about throwing blocks of wood to see how much crockery you can smash and it was doing a brisk trade. We then pottered on to browse through some books, bought raffle tickets and of course the plant stall was a great success.
The church was full of the most delicious cakes to buy and everyone was helping cook burgers in the garden behind the church. Phil and Sally had organised a dog class – everyone loves an opportunity to see if their dogs will behave on cue ….or not as well as some clever football demonstrations or hawk displays.
The event was organised to raise money for the church. Although it is not particularly old being built as a replacement church in the 19th century, St. Michael’s and All Angels Church (Highclere Church) is a graceful flint and stone building.
The perpendiculars and arched roof lead the eye and the spirit from the earth (stone and carpeted floor) towards the sky. It is a beautiful harmonious space, peaceful, offering shafts of lights through rose coloured windows and creating an atmosphere in which to reflect. The wall plaques and decorations recall those who lived and died here in centuries past, families giving thanks as they try to absorb their loss.
Nevertheless, the structure of the church and its buildings are constantly under “consultation”. Many of the congregation are not perhaps frequent visitors and therefore today such buildings need to be multi purpose and to find varied roles. They are however great places for music such as the Vox pop choir during the fete or the excellent jazz band.
Churches are good meeting places which is where Christianity began: meeting together to talk. Equally the social ceremonies of hospitality and of gathering are still needed, especially in moments of crisis or for the rites of passage in all of our lives. Highclere’s parish church is part of our local history, a mixture of a place of ceremony, a museum for village memories and a space for large gatherings.
Walking back towards the Castle through all the vivid greens of the park heaped one on another, we completed our 10,000 steps before lunch which was also immensely gratifying.
The good weather continued and Sunday was also spent outside playing that most traditional of games: cricket. I am the Match Manager in charge of finding eleven men to make up the team beginning of course with my husband.
Like the fete, it was our first cricket match at Highclere for nearly three years and therefore in some ways it warranted a bit of ceremony. In typical Highclere fashion we began a little bumpily as we had a bit of a search for the keys to the cricket pavilion.
It was our team against the Rifles with the players’ children playing their own game near the Pavilion and rugs spread in the shade on which to doze and idly chat. The much admired centre piece of the event is the cricket lunch followed later on by the cricket tea.
Notwithstanding the bucolic scene however, the game is played competitively and I am delighted to say that we won.
Thank you to Team Highclere for all the hard work and delicious food and help throughout. It was a wonderful weekend. Put the same Saturday for the Fete in your diary for next year!
It sounds lovely and very much fun. I am glad it was a success for the church looks like a jewel.
We have only recently returned from Europe, and I am happy I can read your blogs more easily now.
Having visited Highclere on my recent trip to celebrate the Jubilee, I can clearly envision the fete atmosphere and the joy of being able to celebrate again as community. Thank you for sharing your home, and for the delightful weekly notes to enhance all that Highclere truly is.
The Fete was Highclere community coming together!
What a lovely weekend! What a fantastic selection of “traditional games” and new entertainment. Wish I could have attended. Is the date for Highclere Church Fete the 1st or 2nd weekend of 2023?
Fabulous fete – I believe it is the 2nd week of June
Lady Carnarvon, it must have been one of those weekends to remember. Fun, laughter and being together. That’s what it is all about. The photograph of the inside of the church is beautiful. With Kind Regards, Cheryl
Thank you Cheryl
Lady Carnarvon lovely of pictures of starting up did you and lord Carnarvon have a lovely weekend and enjoy the hot weather when it come and lovely to visit highcelere castle and thank you for the email you send me and l am a fan of Downton abbey
It looks like everyone at Highclere had alot of fun. Wish I could have been there. Thank you for another wonderful blog. You keep people like me hopeful that someday I will be at Highclere.
Greetings again Lady Carnarvon,
So thrilled the weather was lovely enough that the Village couple you noted was finally able to host once again a fun and wonderful Pre-Covid annual event to help support Highclere Church and that you and Lord Carnarvon were able to get out and about to once again enjoy a community social event, participate in, play cricket and have your team win! Congratulations to you all!
Getting back to pre-Covid normal is such a welcome gift for all. Hope all remain well post event and your weather remains spring like then switches to summer as expected.
I have finished reading your Spring section of Seasons of Highclere, attempting a few recipes now and will begin the Summer chapter June 21. Lovely to read during seasons.
Thank you again for another entertaining and educational Monday morning read.
First match win was glorious!
Sounds wonderful and a blessed time ⏲️ ❤️
It was glorious!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
There is something very special about village life, and it I am so happy to see it preserved at Highclere, an inspiration to us all.
Lovely photos! Thank you for always sharing your beautiful events!
Oh what fun! Congratulations on the Highclere victory! How much joy it must bring to everyone involved, especially the organizers, to engage with each other on a beautiful day, have fun, and raise money for such a worthy cause. Eating, drinking and making merry in such a beautiful and special setting…. always a good time and I know they appreciated your generosity!
The best of wishes for many more fetes in the future.
Thank you Patsy 🙂
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You have shared a glorious weekend with us, which was wonderful on so many levels. Friends and neighbors coming together to celebrate after three long & challenging years, funds raised for a most worthy member of the community, and also you having fun! Your descriptions bring it all to life for us who are across the sea. Lovely photos as always, and the Fete looked fantastic. I laughed out loud at the smashing china stall…a way to let out the tensions of recent times!!
Please continue to stay well-
Charlotte Merriam Cole
It has been 3 long challenging years!
We were so delighted to visit Highclere on a beautiful sunny day
last month. The lush grounds absolutely stunned us as did the castle, of course! You were so gracious to allow my husband to take your photo, providing us a wonderful memory of our long anticipated visit. Many thanks!
Jim and Barbara Long
Highclere Gardens are beautiful at this time of year
Another lovely view of Highclere’s present-day ability to bring the past to the present! Those visitors were actually able to go back in time and appreciate a Fete designed to benefit the precious church and keep it in shape to honor its congregants as well as a holy place to worship. The beautiful sanctuaries remind many of the holiness of saints gone before.
Lastly, another look at Downton Abbey characters always brings a smile!
Thank you so much for these lovely view of this very neat Fete!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I so enjoyed reading about the fete. Your beautiful writing makes the reader feel they are right there enjoying the day with you. I have a question. Does the church hold regular Sunday services? Thank you for your wonderful blog. I never miss it!
It does – I think it is a place for no phones just singing and thoughtfulness
Reading about the fete and cricket weekend sounds so “normal” after what the world has been through. I am thankful that we can begin to participate fully in life once again. Did you and your husband break the plates? I would love to do that!
It is fun – my husband did rather well!!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon!
Oh, you must have had a wonderful weekend. I enjoyed so much to read about it and see The beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing!
Swedish greetings from Lena
Dear Lady Carnarvon, how I would have loved to be there and join the Fête ! Thanks for your patient and accurate description (and especially for Mr Molesley’s Photo, a ” real ” player …). I would have a little curiosity about your enchanting church: is there also an organ? Do you also organize musical events? Since I am a musician I like to ask for musical information to learn about and know better local traditions. Congratulations on your fantastic party! Now have a relaxing week!
We do offer some musical events –
Good to see things/events getting back to normal. I know you’re delighted!
It is good!
Greetings from South Florida! How spectacular and heart lifting to have a Fete after 3 years. The past two years have certainly shown us how to appreciate everything around us….much of which we took for granted. To be able to wander around the village with others, and to top it off with a cricket match! Bravo! We are planning a Highclere day in September 2023 (yes, I’m a planner) when we are in the UK. Enjoy your summer
September is always a good month
I so anticipate your Monday blog from rainy Idaho.Thanks again for a great beginning for the week.
We have sun !!!
I really loved seeing how much was going on at your fete. Really a lovely day, jam packed with this to see, do and marvel at. Just lovely!
I just watched the new Downton Abbey film. It started at a lovely church with Tom & Lucy marrying, so your blog today reminded me.
I did enjoy the film in general but there seemed to be less of the castle than has been previously, and much of it being clogged with film equipment.
I found that amusing – film equipment filming film equipment, if you get what I mean 😉
Anyway, enjoyed the newest glimpse at your amazing home as I always enjoy your blogs. Best to you and yours
Thank you – there was a lot of kit!!!
What a traditional village weekend! I know it feels wonderful to return to normal activities at Highclere and in the community!
“Fête”… even the word is festive! We have a lot of fêtes in Québec and we get together and play games. They take place through out the year and they are enjoyed by many people. With the sunny days that came back it will be just lovely to get together after the sad pandemic months and a rough winter!
It is odd – I could not sleep night thinking about this time last year… all the lockdowns …very gruelling
I have never seen a cricket match. But it sounds like fun and probably more difficult than I am imagining it to be. Next time we’re in London visiting our son , I’ll try to see one so I can satisfy my curiosity.
It is very relaxing – idle chatter with friends whilst watching …a glass of pimms… (no phones screens just people and a traditional sport)
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am so glad the weather cooperated and you could enjoy the sunshine. It made for a perfect day.
More sunny days to come,
It is a treat to see the sun!!!
Fabulous photos, a fabulous read which captures a traditional village weekend. Thank you for always capturing life and giving such an insight into your world. I always enjoy what you write and hope you had a fabulous day, and fingers crossed some ‘normality’ returns to our lives this year.
Lovely to read about another “church event”-my last trip (and only trip) to Highclere was for the “Church Talk” that you gave in 2019. My friend Cyndy was not able to make that trip so we planned for the 75th VE Day celebrations the following May (and then again in October)-alas, they were not to be.
Very excited to think we will both see you in a about a weeks time in Newport RI when you will be giving your talk for the Preservation Society of Newport County. Can’t wait, hope your trip over “the pond” is uneventful.
Looking for to seeing you again
I look forward to seeing you in Newport next week
I always love my visits to your blog, it shows me timeless beauty, and the hard work and courage you exhibit to keep it all humming. The fete looks so charming, I would like to attend, but live a good distance away in California. Bless your heart for all you do.
It was a pleasure to see you in person at Kappy’s Liquor I would have talked longer and had kept moving to the end of the line trying to let other people move in front. My father was a wildlife biologist and agronomist from the United States who moved to St. Croix in the Caribbean. Among the results of his agronomy work is the Katahdin sheep breed. his Among his friends who I knew growing up was Col. Henry A. C. Howard of Penrith former Governor of the British Virgin Islands a close relative of the Herberts. I like the way your family has found ways to earn money from the estate. A family who have been friends of ours since the Gilded Age owns an estate on the Hudson with a manor built by their ancestor William Backhouse Astor Sr. “The Gilded Age” mentioned the branch in two episodes. The current growing consumption of sheep is interesting and I have been suggesting they look at using herbs from their estate in copacked gourmet sheep dairy products. There is an article in Antiques Magazine about the family and estate “The Past is Present”. There were articles about London a friend and for a time employee of my grandfather’s which appeared in the Smithsonian and National Geographic Magazines in 2019 which mentioned him Marshall Bond.
Lovely to meet you and Kappy’s are doing a great job selling our gin!
Lovely description of the church. I am glad that the weather was perfect for your event. God was smiling on all of you!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for this Monday’s blog with great pictures and for sharing about your weekend adventures.
I would have replied sooner, but I just discovered this e-mail in my Junk box.
Even though I am late in responding, it appears that everyone had a great time.
Until next time, continue to enjoy the sunshine.
It is so wonderful to see & read about people gathering for a weekend of fun, sport & community. Here, in the NW US, it seems we’ve lost the art of planning for such events. Family reunion picnics are rarely seen in the parks anymore. More often than not, you’ll see a small family with each preoccupied by a cell phone rather than a volleyball.
I do hope, one year, to be able to visit your lovely area during a time of an activity such as the fete. I’d be a dream come true.
buona sera Contessa la serie televisiva si e’ avvalsa di un consulente storico, mi piacerrebbe che insieme scriveste un libro tradotto in piu lingue sull’etichetta modi usi e costumi dell’epoca edoardiana fino al 1930 , sono molto attratta e incantata dalla gestualita’, modi etichetta dell’epoca grazie
The Tv series was a costume drama not a historical reflection