N21 Festival Edwardian Tea Party
The Old Bakery garden, Sunday 17th June 2012
Organisers: Paul Van Biene (event creation) and Nina Anstee (venue hosting)
This event went well and was much enjoyed by those who attended. There were two sittings, one at 2.30pm and the next at 4.30pm, each with seventeen guests.
As the venue host, my concern in the weeks running up to the Festival was that the garden should look its best; the unremitting rain had produced an abundance of greenery but not many blooms. Fortunately, in the week before the Festival the roses managed to start to flower and the clematis, although not at their most spectacular, were looking more cheerful.
To enhance the atmosphere, I booked a pianist, Becky, (she teaches piano locally) to play music of the appropriate era; Audrey Kirby’s son, Ben, (a professional sound engineer) put a microphone on my piano and speakers in the garden, so that the live piano music could be relayed from my living room to the guests.
Paul van Biene had taken on the main task, that of master-minding the catering and orchestrating the event; he provided elegant china, beautiful table linen and silver tea pots from his own collection to bring stylishness and period charm to the event.
The day before the event, chairs, tables, boxes of kitchen equipment, tea services etc. were delivered. Loud speakers were installed in the garden and covered in black bin bags against the rain.
At midday on Sunday, Paul and his three lady assistants arrived.
The ladies were Sara Sordillo (who also cooked cup cakes), Amy Chapman and Martha Ferguson (who cooked macaroons and fruit tarts). The ladies were dressed in neat, black dresses with crisp white aprons and looked every bit the part. Paul was even more elegantly turned out than usual; those who know him will wonder how this it possible!
The garden was swiftly set with tables, although there was some difficulty fitting in the final table, which was rather intimately embraced by a Japanese Maple tree.
My ancient tortoise (in residency since in 1978) decided it was time to go back to bed.
Rows of silver teapots, milk jugs, cake stands, cake forks etc. were set out in the Bakery kitchen, ready to go. Efficiency and order were imposed by the Master of Ceremonies, Paul. Silver, tiered cake stands were loaded with neat sandwiches and tempting cakes; champagne was put on ice.
The day had begun bright and dry, but by 1pm a black cloud was hovering over us and I rushed to set up the alternative, wet-weather venue in my dining room. Paul and I discussed tactics in the event of an emergency transfer of guests and their tea from garden to dining room being necessary. The rain held off.
At 2.30pm the guests arrived , Becky began to play and a theatrical performance of an Edwardian Tea began with the service of pink champagne. Beautifully cut sandwiches, cakes of many kinds, scones, cream and the very best jam – all were served with seamless efficiency and, above all, with charm and grace!
I had little to do but admire it all...until, that is, 4pm. In the half-hour turn-around between the first and second sitting, even the pianist was called upon to join in with the washing up and re-laying of tables.
Yet, when the second group of guests arrived promptly at 4.30pm, all appeared calm. At this point Henrietta Cresswell herself joined the party, taking up a prominent position from which she now hosted the event. No doubt, she approved the appropriately formal dress adopted by one table of four guests.
Feathered and flowery hats were worn by the ladies, and a splendid top hat and black frock coat by Hugh, perhaps reminding Henrietta of her father’s photo. All that was lacking was a Velocipede! Henrietta’s intimidating dog kept us in order.
During the event funds were raised for charity; we auctioned the first loaf of bread to be baked on the premises of The Old Bakery since 1945. (I hope it tasted good, as it was my first attempt!); a significant sum was paid by a wise guest (no doubt a keen gardener) to secured a bottle of clear, spring- water, drawn that very day from the Well of the Old Bakery. This Winchmore Hill Well Water is guaranteed to aid the growth of plants in time of drought, but strictly NOT for drinking. The raffle of two baskets of provisions, supplied by The Larder, raised more than £150.
At 6pm, the second group of guests seemed strangely reluctant leave; the kitchen staff took a break around the kitchen table and ate the few remaining cakes, wondering whether the guests had, indeed, settled in for the evening as it appeared.
Later, came a scurry of table clearly, washing up, re-packing of china and silverware into boxes; tables and chairs were folded and stacked; the covers returned to the speakers; the piano lid was put down and music put away. At around 9pm all was in order.
Paul and his team departed and Nina and Bruce retreated to the living room.
The Old Bakery
Before the event
Tickets have virtually sold out for this unique event.
There will be two sittings for an Edwardian Tea Party, hosted by Nina Anstee, owner of the Old Bakery, a 17th century former farmhouse and bake-house.
They will be held on Sunday 17th June in the garden of The Old Bakery.
‘The old gabled house between the village pond and Hoppers Road was the baker’s. It was very picturesque, built of weather-boarding and roofed with mossy tiles and had an extensive yard and huge barns and granaries. There was a bakehouse of the old sort with an oven heated by burning faggots within, and there were long kneading troughs under the window.’
Exerpt from Winchmore Hill - Memories of a Lost Village, by Henrietta Cresswell
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