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Devon County

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Farringdon House today
Farringdon house today - the house is now divided into apartments


If, by chance, you were able to travel back in time and join your ancestors at home, three things would immediately hit you and make you feel very uncomfortable; primitive sanitation and the unending lack of variety in the food offered to you would however, have been totally eclipsed by the rigid social constrictions which applied. It's all very well today sitting comfortably on your sofa enjoying Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs but living in and experiencing that kind of stratification of society was quite another matter. Men lifted their caps and  women bobbed a curtsey as a matter of course when their "betters" passed by - sometimes repeating these actions when an empty but crested  carriage passed. Children were taught early on to do the same and punished if they forgot. It mattered not that the local farmers bought pianos for their daughters and had them taught to play - their girls would never be good enough for those who considered themselves as socially "above" the farming class.


Yet the lives lived by the "upper" classes were just as interesting to other people as they seem to be today. Newspapers of the past have corners in them that read very like the outpourings of Hello magazine - in the absence of photos, there are lengthy descriptions of clothing worn by the wives and daughters of Earls, Viscounts and Baronets, and list upon list of who was present at an event, printed, of course in descending social order. To have your name printed in the local paper, even if it was at the bottom of the list, as being present at this or that social event brought you social  glory which could change your status in the village for ever. The curious thing was, that not only did everyone "know their place" but they knew that of everyone else and woe betide anyone who seemed to be, what my great grandmother termed "uppity". Social climbing was a very risky business!


What follows here is an extract from our local paper which first appeared in 1888. As you read, note the obsequious language used - everything the Squire's family did was assumed to be perfect. But in an age when there were no radios, or TVs or i-players, self-made entertainment was all there was, so maybe people weren't as critical as we can be today.


"On Valentine's Day, an invitation from the worthy Squire and Mrs Johnson to the friends and neighbours in and around the village of Farringdon, the spacious hall of Farringdon House, which, under the superintendence of Captain Johnson, had been arranged to seat from 150 to 200 guests, was well filled by a delighted gathering. Previous to the concert, the worthy host and hostess entertained the whole of the company at tea, and amongst the ladies and gentlemen who assisted at the tables were the Rector of Farringdon, Captain and Mrs E. Johnson, Mrs and M iss Atherton, Mrs Peppin, the Misses Peppin, Miss Kerr. Mrs and Miss Bloomfield, Mr E. C. Atherton etc.


The programme was well-arranged and varied. Miss Atherton's impersonation of "Little Buttercup" from  HMS Pinafore would have delighted Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan, and her song "Caller Herrin" sung in character, was charmingly performed. Captain Johnson as an itinerant Ethiopian, created much laughter while his really beautiful performance on the "Bantaur" accompanied at the pianoforte by Mrs E. Johnson was a rich treat. 


The programme

A selection of Irish and Scotch Airs - Miss Kerr

Hearts of Oak - Mr Edward Thomas - song with violin

"Forget, Forgive", a duet by Miss Atherton and Miss Peppin

A humorous duet - "The Christening" - sung by Mr and Captain Johnson

"The Kerry Dances" - sung by Miss Kerr

A Reading by the Rev. Mr Atherton.

Banjo solo - "Pompy's Wedding" played by Captain Johnson

Part 2 began with a duet by Captain Johnson and Miss Peppin "Who is that calling?"

Song - "The Three Beggars" by Mr E. C. Atherton

Song by Miss Atherton - "Little Buttercup"

Recitation by Mr F. Thomas

(A violin solo with pianoforte accompaniment followed)

Song "Who deeply drinks of wine? " By Mr E. Johnson

"Caller Herrin" sung in character by Miss Atherton

A comic Song by Captain Johnson

Reading by Rev. Mr Atherton - "The hole in the carpet"

The concert concluded with the whole of the company singing God Save the Queen. A vote of thanks was passed to the performers and after  hearty cheers for Mr and Mrs Johnson, the company separated having spent an evening, the pleasure of which will not soon be forgotten. "



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