The Beeston Church Fete

It is unclear when Bunbury Church held their first Beeston Fete. The author has no reference to any Beeston Fete prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, and it is reasonable to assume that fete activities would have been abandoned during the war. The Bunbury Parish Magazine of September 1918 does, however, report on a Fete (presumably held in August) which was a huge success, with thousands attending until 9 pm.

"Lady Tollemache and her band of fellow-workers deserve great credit for their untiring efforts to carry things of well; and rumour has it there will be a balance for Red Cross Funds of more than £1,000."

This would have been for the benefit of Bunbury Hospital for wounded soldiers situated in the Public Hall -nowadays called the Village Hall -of which Lady Tollemache was Commandant.

With the setting up of Parochial Church Councils in late 1920 a new source of records is to be found in the Bunbury PCC and Standing Committee minute books. On the 3 May 1921 it is recorded that Lord Tollemache had granted permission to use Beeston Castle for the Fete on August Bank Holiday. There is no indication either from these Minutes or the corresponding Church Magazine that this event was the first. Indeed the Magazine stated that the Beeston Castle Fete had a balance of £302 19s 9d, indicating an on-going annual event) and in 1922 and 1923 the balances were £113 and £211 respectively. The Magazine of September 1923 thanks people for draw-prizes, Mr Ernest Fearnall and Mr Samuel Rutter for pigs and Mr H O Brown, Wardle Hall, for a cheese. In general, the PCC minutes tend to record only the dates, fete account balances, and the names of the Beeston Fete Sub-Committee members who were elected each year.

Reading between the lines it would appear that these fetes of the early 1920's were but a shadow of the former Beeston Festivals. In all probability they amounted to little more than admission to Beeston Castle grounds with few activities other than refreshments. This statement is made by allusion to a comment made in 1945 which will be discussed below.

In 1924, instead of a fete at the Castle a Garden Party was held in the Vicarage grounds on September 10 and the Church Magazine reported that the event included a pony show, a steer-riding competition, a baby show, bowling and lawn tennis tournaments, together with a brass band. Overall the Garden Party made £282 14s 8d.

Garden Parties were still in favour in 1926, when the Fete was held at Priestland on Saturday, 21 August, the home of Major Cotton, agent for the Peckforton Estate. The chute is mentioned in 1928 and Major Cotton kindly granted permission for the erection of the chute in the grounds of Beeston Castle prior to August Bank Holiday in readiness for the Church Fete provisionally fixed for that day.

Thereafter annual Church Fetes were held at Beeston Castle until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The receipts always exceeded the expenditure, but the net profits were lower than those obtained in the 1920's and mirror the recession of the 1930's. An interesting letter was sent in November 1933 from the Secretary of the Fete Committee, Arthur Shore, who was later to become Churchwarden from 1960 to 1975. The letter stated that:

".... the Fete Committee recommend to the Parochial Church Council that they devote so much as possible of the balance of the money from the Fete towards a proposed and much needed Fabric Fund for our Church. which would serve a very useful purpose in meeting any heavy expenditure for repairs and restoration work to the Fabric of the Church."

The PCC took up the recommendation of the Fete Committee and purchased a nominal £100 worth of 3 1/2 % War Loan, ".... such to be the nucleus of a Fabric Fund which is intended to bear the cost of important fabric restoration and which should not be used for minor repairs." This investment was added to sometime later with a further £50 of similar stock and, 63 years later, is still yielding £5.24 per annum. More importantly, however, was the precedent set for providing finance for Church Restoration from Beeston fete proceeds.

In the dark days of 1940 the PCC minutes record:

"The matter of the usual church Fete was discussed and it was decided that appeals for church funds should be made instead of holding the Fete. It was proposed to ask Mrs Parker, Mrs A Wood, Mrs Baker and Mrs Manley to act as Collectors, and the Vicar [Rev D I W Phillips], offered to get in touch with others from different parts of the parish."

In 1944, a total of £27 10s was collected which was supplemented by the Vicar who single-handedly took the entrance money from visitors to Beeston Castle on the August Bank Holiday Mondays.

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