Harvest Festival

The Reverend Newbold is especially remembered for his introduction of a religious harvest festival. This was to counteract the tradition of the folk festival at harvest time when villagers enjoyed a drink. At this time the church had become concerned about drunkenness (in 1848 at Eaton Socon a pamphlet was produced urging men not to make themselves “more stupid and senseless than the dumb animals.”)

In 1859 The Reverend Newbold’s church celebration was so striking that the local papers reported about it. The arch over the church gateway had white lettering on red which said, “Let us give thanks!” and in the church  was a red and blue spiral scroll with the words, “Thou crownest the year”. ‘Neat and elegant laurels’ were placed around the windows and the nave was decorated with geraniums and asters. Purple and white asters were placed over the chancel arch and, behind the altar a cross of dark red dahlias, surrounded by purple asters and yellow marigolds, was arranged, described as ‘the work of tasteful young ladies’.

The procession assembled at 1.30pm, headed by a band from Bedford who carried a wheat-sheaf on a pole and a banner which read, “Souldrop harvest home”. All the local farmers were present, and  walked with their men, all of them wearing  ‘coloured favours’ with an ear or two of corn, while other villagers followed behind. After the service, which had been attended by very many, the procession left the church. With with band playing they all walked to Rectory Close. Here a tent had been erected, made with rick-cloths. Cold meat was served as well as twenty plum puddings and a limited quantity of beer. Later there were races, cricket and dancing. The evening ended as dusk fell, with fireworks and the finale was the singing of God Save The Queen. A special arrangement had been made with The Bedford Arms public house, that it closed at 8pm that day, thus preventing the drunkeness, which had caused so much disapproval! ref 4 .

Next: Enclosure and Presbyterians

© Ella Jo Street

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail