Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences
IN the country there were no well-lighted streets and smooth pavements, and people, when they got home after their day's work, had no inclination to leave their comfortable houses and warm fires to face the dark, cold and, perhaps, the wet and windy night, as well as the muddy and rough or slippery and snowy roads to visit a friend. But occasionally, though very seldom, there was news that a ball or large party (with almost always a room for cards) was to be given. On one occasion the country was startled by the announcement that Mr. and Mrs. Elam, who had a grown-up family, intended to give a party. Mr. Elam occupied Erringham Farm, near Shoreham, a not very accessible locality. All Mr. Elam's agricultural friends were invited, and many others. To those living at a distance, with the roads in the rough and muddy condition of those times, how to get to Erringham at 9 p.m. was a problem. This, in the case of four or five groups living under the Downs at Poynings, Edburton and Horton, was solved in the following manner. A van with a hood and curtains at each end was procured; this was drawn by a cart-horse, and called for the most distant group (Poynings) first, I believe soon after 6 p.m., and afterwards took up the others in rotation, the last being at Horton, where a lady of a certain age, and at times rather "precise," got in carrying a lantern, as was expressed, "to light propriety." It was promptly blown out by a gentleman sitting near her. They arrived safe at the proper time and returned next morning.
Perhaps "Club Day" was in the country the most festive day of the year. The members of the Benefit Club, dressed in their best, with bright rosettes pinned on their breasts, assembled in the morning, generally in the month of May, and marched to Church preceded by a band. They returned in the same order to the village public-house at Edburton, the "Shepherd and Dog." They then dined and spent the rest of the day in dancing and other games and amusements. A little girl, when asked by a school inspector what were the chief festivals of the Church, replied, "Christmas, Easter and Albourne Club."