A Typical Village Celebration

From The Northampton Independent  May 10 1935

If you had wanted a share of the yeomen’s joy in simple pleasures you should have gone over to a place like Ecton at the hour when the ‘gaffers’, at the end of a perfect day, were recounting its excitement.  Ecton, in fact, was rather more fortunate than most villages, thanks to the bounty of the squire and his lady, Lieut.- Colonel Herbert and Mrs. Sotheby, of Ecton Hall.  Many places made a point of entertaining the very young and the very old, leaving those in the intervening ages to make their own fun.

Not so at Ecton! There it was a case of come lassies and lads, youth and girl, man and wife, ‘granfer’ and grandmother - come one, come all.  And the destination of this omnibus invitation was the beautiful grounds of Ecton Hall.

Ecton Hall on Jubilee Day was virtually Liberty Hall for every one of the 400 and over souls in the parish.  It was the scene of the biggest tea party ever held in the village.  The villagers were able to wander through the lovely grounds at will, play tennis or croquet on the perfect greensward of the lawns, and take part in a big programme of field sports.

The tea party began at 4 pm. the children being served first, and the big garage of the estate was converted into a gaily be-decked tea room for them.  Adults had tea in relays, starting at 4.45 pm, in the old riding school, a commodious building over 100 feet long, which was made gay with a profusion of decorations.

Nature, too, was jubilant at Ecton Hall.  Bright as the flags and bunting in hall and grounds were, they paled beside the splendrous colour of the spring flowers in the gardens.

The whole parish gathered on the Hall lawns to hear the King broadcast, Colonel and Mrs Sotheby having had a special radio equipment installed for the purpose.  Then there was dancing on the lawns of Ecton Hall until 10 pm when the entire parish went to Broad Field, where Mrs Sotheby lighted an enormous bonfire and a firework display followed.

During the day every child in the parish received a Jubilee mug.

That’s how they did things in the villages, although few villages can have been so bountifully entertained as the fortunate residents of Ecton.’

Hot Air Balloon

Hot air balloons are a familiar sight over Ecton and not infrequently land in the fields around the village but the pilot-less balloon that came down at Ecton in 1815 must have been the main topic of conversation in the village for days.  This is how it was reported at the time.

‘On Tuesday, July 30, 1822, about four o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Green, accompanied by Mr. S. V. Griffith, proprietor of the Cheltenham Chronicle, ascended from Cheltenham; the balloon went up in a most beautiful style, to the admiration of an immense assemblage of persons; it was visible for 25 minutes, and took a south east direction. The balloon descended near North Leach, but on touching the ground the aeronauts could not immediately extricate themselves; the balloon reascended, and the netting, being partly cut, gave way, when about 30 feet from the earth, and Messrs. Green and Griffith were precipitated with great violence to the ground. Mr. Green received a serious contusion on the left side of the chest and Mr. Griffith a severe injury of the spine.

The balloon was secured about six o’clock the same evening, having fallen in a wheat field of Mr. Wright, at Ecton Lodge, apparently without the least injury’. 

So after depositing its occupants the balloon apparently changed direction and covered the 54 miles to Ecton in less than one and a half hours.  Although we are not told whether Mr. Griffith recovered, we do know that Mr. Green, the intrepid ‘aeronaut’, continued ballooning and made a descent at Milton, near Northampton, two years later.