The Vicarage Tea Party 1923

November 9, 2004

During his time as Rector of Fontmell Magna the Rev. Charles

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's Church

Pigott Edmonds held annual tea parties for the villagers and their children in the rectory garden, but in August 1923 an additional celebratory party was held for the elders of the village who were 80 years of age or more, and he hired a professional photographer to record the event.

Fontmell Magna Rectory

The Rectory in Parsonage Street was built in 1871 and was used by the clergy until 1954 when it was sold and renamed Fontmell House. A new smaller Rectory was built in Mill Street and occupied by the rector until the parishes of Fontmell Magna, Iwerne Minster, Sutton Waldron and Shroton were merged when the Rectory moved to Iwerne Minster.
The picture shown here was taken in the garden adjacent to

Vicarage tea party

Vicarage tea party

the front door of the rectory in Parsonage Street. It commands a very special place in our Archive by providing one of the few pictorial sources we have of village people born before 1850. The identification of individual names was partly made possible by hand-written information added at some stage in the past on the original photograph, but in some cases there was only a surname. We have tried to make informed guesses about some members of the group by reference to various census returns and church burial records, but there still remain gaps in our knowledge of these illustrious characters.

Those pictured here are:
Back Row left to right
John Roberts died in 1927 aged 85. His wife Ellen Ann had died in February 1923 aged 66.
Thomas Starks aged 93 was the former Head Gamekeeper of the Glyn estate and originally from Scotland. He lived in the Keepers House (which may have been at Croft Farm) and later moved to Melbury Abbas where he died at the age of 96.
The Rector and host, Charles Pigott Edmonds, was also the Chairman of the School Governors from 1903 to 1954 and was Chairman of the Parish Council from 1903 to 1937.
Joe Ryall (born about 1823) had been a carter. His wife was Martha and their children included Elizabeth, William and Ellen.
Robert Curtis aged 80 was a farmer at Hurdles Farm and was born in Marnhull.
Alfred Palmer died in1926 at the age of 90. The Palmer family lived in the village in the 1851 census, but did not appear in either the 1891 or 1901 versions.
George Carlton Day 1844-1927 was the Glyn estate Land Agent (or Factor) who lived at Woodbridge House and was born in Brightwell, Oxfordshire.

Front Row left to right:
Mrs. Jane Tuffin aged 88, widow of Thomas who lived at Sands, (adjacent to Manor Farm).
Mrs. Palmer (assumed to be the wife of Alfred Palmer above).
Mrs. Emily Lawrence aged 84.

Pump Cottage

Pump Cottage

Mrs. Leah Still aged 100, former seamstress of Twyford and widow of George Still, she lived in a cottage in Lurmer Street which unfortunately caught fire and burned down, whereupon she moved into Pump Cottage in West Street until her death in February 1925 aged 102. There are records of the Still family living in Fontmell since 1525.
Mrs. Nottle.
Mrs. Bastable.
Mrs Andrews aged 86 lived at Pitts Cottage, widow of Charles, a mason originally from Stour Provost.
Mrs Moores.

The guests obviously regarded the party as a special occasion as their best headwear was brought out and worn. At the time of the party there were approximately 460 villagers in Fontmell Magna of whom the 14 pictured above were 80 years of age or more, whereas in 1891 out of a population of 637 only 12 were 80 years of age or more, and coincidentally one of those was a gamekeeper named John Lush, a testimony to the outdoor life perhaps.

Please also see our article on the Fontmell Magna Cottage Book 1883 for other references to some of these people.

Author: Maurice Bullen