Tales from the Archive: Putting back the clock in 1966 for the Michaelmas festivities

This story was published on April 2 in the Chichester Observer. Read the original story at chichester.co.uk/news/local/putting-back-the-clock-in-1966-for-the-michaelmas-festivities-1-7352512

[All images: West Sussex Record Office archives]

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The Severn Bridge opens, England wins the World Cup, and the Beatles perform their last UK concert – there was plenty of history being made in Britain in 1966.

In October, however, hundreds went out to turn back the clocks and celebrate the festival of Michaelmas in 18th century fashion, with street vendors, skittles, a merry fiddle player, a performing ‘bear’ and a fortune teller.

To mark the celebration, the Baron’s Hall of Arundel Castle travelled back in time to circa 1780 for a Georgian Michaelmas Fair.

Those who attended bought balloons for their children from the balloon woman, allowed Madama Kathalino to see the future in their palms, cut cards in the hope of winning a bottle of cranberry sauce, had a ‘lightening portrait’ done by Mrs Helen Sealey, and jostled at the colourful booths.

Vistors could also try their luck with the skittles, test their skill in raffles, and ‘go bowling for a pig’.

Little girls were employed as sweet girls at the fair, and maintaining overall order, ringing his bell and bellowing the odd ‘Oyez!’ was Mr Ken Faggetter, the Town Crier.

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He was resplendent in his 18th century costume, which “someone had found somewhere”.

Then there was the performing bear who admitted through his fur that he was actually 10 year old Oliver Swarbrick, while the gentleman who had him on a lead was actually Mr Stan Sparshatt.

20 year old William Benham, a fiddle player and a section leader with the National Youth Orchestra, set the musical pace as he strolled up and down the crowds.

William played authentic 18th century music, while Caroline Friend sand melodies from the same period.

Alex Frengelli and Judith Stuart were ‘goose-girls’, who invited people to guess the weight of a goose.

The booths offered everything from ‘Country Provender’ to herbs and lavender, a flea market, a stitchcraft stall run by the wives of RAF Tangmere, and flowers.

Crumpets and muffins proved exceptionally popular and the stall was sold out very quickly.

This stall was run by Mr and Mrs Billy White, Mrs C Blackwell, and Mrs U Nettleton.

The person behind all the organisation of the fair was Nora Delap, the district organiser for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Mrs Delap recruited a large number of friends to help her run the stalls and the different features of the fair, andshe kitted them all out in period costumes.

She said: “I made most of them myself and borrowed others.

“I went to a jumble sale where they were selling jumble at 2d. an article.

“I bought 56 articles and that accounts for about half the dresses you can see here.”

The fair was held by permission of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and under the patronage of their daughter, Lady Sarah Fitzalan-Howard, in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Mrs Delap said: “Lady Sarah has helped me with garden parties at home before, but this time I thought it would be an idea to have a fair like this.

“I suggested the Baron’s Hall and Lady Sarah said ‘yes’ – she is my fairy godmother.”

The Georgians must have enjoyed all the fun of Michaelmas in the 18th century, and certainly the later Elizabethans did when they attended the Arundel Fair in October, 1966.

Did you attend the Michaelmastide festivities at the Baron’s Hall of Arundel Castle?

 

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