By the late Audrey Odell
who also supplied the recipe below for Bow Brickhill Steamed Pudding.
Fairs and mops abound in Great Britain, but lesser
events, the local feasts, have played a great part in village life. Such is the case with Bow
Originally a farming
area the hireling fair was one of great importance.The
event, a mini fair , was staged in the field known as Chapman’s Orchard
and conveniently placed near the old Wheatsheaf Inn. Its origins are lost in time but in November of every year
preparations for keeping of the feast would begin and the 13th
of the month was the great day itself.
At this period of time many of the villagers kept
a pig to produce meat for the coming months.
A man well versed in the art of “pig sticking” journeyed to Bow
Brickhill with is assistant, his rack and his scrappers, and knowledge of
where hot water would be available. His
task performed he adjourned to the local hostelry and the village folk set
about their business of preparing for the feast supper. After several days had elapsed fair ground
people, together with local Charlie and Liza Hawkes, set up their stall in
Chapman’s Orchard. A
merry-go-round, swing boats, and home made toffee (striped with a
flavouring of peppermint); toffee apples and the like were in evidence.
The great excitement of the day was the arrival of the Bletchley
Town Band, led, on occasions, by a rider on a white horse, one Joe
Hackles, a village celebrity, as horseman. Farmers from all over the district arrived with
one end in view, to hire farm workers for the coming year and to engage a
servant for the hard working wife. Smocks
and handkerchiefs, battered old caps and hats, boots and leggings
(polished especially for the occasion) were much in evidence and women
folk lined up in mobcaps and aprons with a curtsey at the ready.
The hiring contract followed, doubtless over
convivialities at the local pub. The
children, tired by happy after the excitement of the day returned to their
homes where their mothers began to prepare a large dish of pigs’
chitterlings as the main item.
On the following Sunday it was the custom to
continue with the festivities. After
church and chapel services the village folk returned to their homes for a
splendid roast pork with crackling and apple sauce, followed by a generous
helping of well boiled plum pudding; a restful after noon followed. All were pleased with the jollifications and so
ended Bow Brickhill feast for another year.
Bow Brickhill Steamed Pudding
1/2 a pound of mixed Fruit
3 ounces of fresh bread crumbs
3 ounces of suet
3 ounces of carrot
2 ounces of plain flour
1 ounce of cut peel
2 ounces of Demerara sugar
1/2 a sour apple
1/2 teaspoon of spice
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 pint of ale
Mix and leave overnight for bread to swell.
Serve after roast pork and trimmings!