A Historical Celebration
Club Day was the highlight of the village calendar during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The ‘Club’ was a Friendly Benefit Society formed, so we are told by the Rev Stevens in his diary, in the same year as the Church was built, 1840. Members paid a small but regular quarterly amount of money to the Club Secretary and the resulting funds were used to help villagers and their family in times of illness and need. Once the doctor had provided a sickness certificate monies could be paid out to the member and this often made all the difference enabling the family to stay together and provide meals for their children when the breadwinner was unable to work.
Once a year on the first Monday in June the Club held a day of celebration for the male members of the Society, who were later joined in the afternoon by their families, all dressed in their Sunday best clothes. The day started with a meeting of the Society in the Village school and this was followed by the first refreshment of the day – local ale! The Sibford Brass Band joined the members and they all gathered with the Vicar, Church Choir and Village dignitaries, by the Village pond outside the Rectory. They processed, led by the band following the Friendly Society banner, which had been painted by Frank Lascelles. A service was held in Church and they returned to the school for a hot lunch, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and vegetables with plenty of beer to wash it down. During the afternoon the ladies and children were invited to join in all the fun of the fair – skittles, squibs, bowling for the pig, swing boats and roundabouts on the field opposite the church where the village hall is now. A cricket match between the Gower and Ferris was also played during the afternoon.
By 8 o’clock the men returned to the school for a supper of cold meats, ham, cheese and more beer! The children were put to bed and by 10.30pm everyone adjourned to the Old Village Hall (behind the Wykham Arms Pub) until 2am! They certainly had stamina in those days but if Club Day was your only day’s holiday other than Christmas Day I guess they made the most of the whole day.
1000 years of Oxfordshire is being celebrated during 2007 and to mark the significance of the villages in the life of rural Oxfordshire Cherwell District Council have awarded grants to fund celebrations in the villages. The Sibfords Society has been successful in an application to carry out a modern day re-enactment of Sibford Club Day. A marching band has been booked and we plan to process from the pond – after a short service of thanksgiving for village life led by our Rector, Canon Timothy Wimbush on Saturday 23 June.
We hope that everyone will join in, not just the men folk, although we might get them to go first! We hope that everyone will also try to dress in old-fashioned clothes – from Victorian times. The last Club Day was held in 1938 so there is quite a lot of scope for costume. Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed family, best ladies hat etc and there will be separate classes for children.
The band and procession will form the start of the 50th Anniversary Village Hall Fete to be held on the same day so look out your long skirts and bowler hats and join in the fun. More details next month so book the date now – we plan to start at 12 noon.