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Nell Tolley - The Exwick Summer Fete

This month is the time of the Church Fete, this is a much more low key affair than in past years. This is mainly due to the fact that the Old Vicarage, now Mercer House, is no longer in the possession of the Church. This is a huge rambling building, where the Vicar once lived and I suppose today would be impossible to run without outside help. I remember when I was quite young going up on an errand to the back door which was answered by the housekeeper, and being fascinated by the row of bells by the door presumably to summon the housekeeper or other staff to various rooms in the house. During the war years there was a youth club which met at the back in what I presume would have been servants quarters once but was then Exwick's A.R.P. Station, and the Air Raid Siren was outside. There were no houses in the grounds as there are now and the Girl Guides used to practice their tracking skills in among the trees and bushes.

The front of the house opens onto a terrace and a large lawn, there is now a new smaller house to the side of Mercer House which is the Vicarage and the lawn has been divided by a wooden fence, so where at one time the whole area of the area was open on the day of the Church Fete there is now much less room.

Fete Day was always an exciting occasion with stalls competitions all set out on the lawn, there would be bunting all over the place, and round the back by what I believe were old stables there would be skittles and other such games. There was also a Fancy Dress Competition and Sports events.

Tables and chairs would be set up in the front room of the house, and also on the terrace where cream teas would be served in very grand manner compared with today with tables laid with pretty cloths and flowers and the ladies serving would all wear a fancy apron.

Of course, although there were less people living in Exwick then there seemed to be many more people willing to volunteer to help, whole families were involved in this and activities in the Parish Hall.

The Parish Hall played its part in the evening when there would be a dance and social, usually with a break at half time for refreshments, an excuse for those who wished to make a quick dash across to the Lamb Inn for a drink, bearing in mind that the entrance to the hall at that time was at the opposite end of the building.

We were a small community and it is strange to realise that the more people who live here the less community spirit there seems to be, without volunteers to help in local activities they are eventually going to die out and that would be a great pity.

© 2011 Nell Tolley

These memories of Nell Tolley were originally published in the Guinness Newsletter and is reproduced with the permission of the author.

Leslie Travender, the framer and his wife.The Old Exwick Vicarage.Leslie Travender, the framer and his wife.The Parish Hall is on the left.

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