Changing Times, 1930’s – 1950’s
“in these days, Reffley is but a name to a lot of people”
photo Kings Lynn Library
Although the popularity of Reffley Spring had declined with the general public, the Reffley Society, however, continued to meet at their Temple well into the twentieth century, with the exception of the First World War years, right up to the second World War. They last met in 1939 and then again in 1947.
In 1936, an article published in either the Eastern Daily Press or the Lynn News and Advertiser, is an excellent introductory article called “The Sons of Reffley” the gentleman’s society, that for three hundred years would meet annually at Reffley Spring.
Of the few English societies that, defying the march of time, have preserved through generations old-world customs, none can be more quaint than that of the Sons of Reffley at Kings Lynn. Seeking the quiet of a green walk just off the borough’s busy coast road many are the folk who have questioned the secrets of the Latin-inscribed obelisk and the mysterious locked and shuttered little building which unexpectedly comes into view. Here, in wooded seclusion, out of earshot of most things modern save those who chance to wander this little-frequented path, stands the Temple of Reffley. Once a year, at least, there enters its doors a group of jovial men, the privileged bretheren of this society. Each July, and sometimes again in the autumn, they come to this spot to breathe the old-world atmosphere of their temple, feast, and drink their punch of unknown recipe. Above all, if they would remain sons of this order they must contribute to the gatherings something of the conviviality of the banquets of medieval England, for only those who will laugh, and that right heartily, are welcome in this circle.
Typical meeting from the 1930’s photo Kings Lynn Library
Current of Good Humour
Nothing is new under the roof of Reffley Temple. Seated at old oaken tables in this house of good cheer, its sons do their anniversary business, as their feasting, in the only way the society has known. Visitors who enjoy hospitality may well wonder what manner of society is this whose officials are greeted by scathing attacks and as regularly as the gatherings themselves ingloriously removed from office. But it does not take long to detect the current of good humour that flows through everything at Reffley. With the mellowing influence of the punch-bowl come reinstatements as frequent as dismissals, and so a secretary of thirty years standing contentedly continues his work.
In this quaint meeting place, armed with knives of steel and three pronged forks, the Reffley diners take their old-english fare, from crockery as time- honoured as he jack on which the saddle of mutton has just been roasted. And in the haze of smoke from the churchwarden pipes come the punch bowls and the toasting in England’s traditional style.
Lynn link with the House of FFolkes
How far into antiquity this Norfolk society goes no one is able to tell; maybe it goes back to Cromwellian days. For long it has had an intimate association with the house of ffolkes, on part of whose estate the present temple built in 1789 stands. But for rare intervals it has been a member of the ffolkes family who has led the true friendly society spirit of Reffley from the presidential chair. Certain it is, none could more cheerfully maintain its traditions than the Rev. Sir Francis ffolkes, the present head of the society, over which he presided at it most recent gathering a few days ago. The number of “sons” is restricted to thirty and membership is a much-cherished honour.
Old-time Customs in Secluded Temple
Never must the temple be entered until a son has imbibed from the spring and drunk two glasses of punch made from the water of the spring, to a recipe known only to the honorary brewer, a position held by Mr D’Oyly-Watkins, and Secretary G. H. Cawston, who as the society’s senior member is also the “Father Reffley” and responsible for the observance of every traditional custom. Mr Cawston was accepted into Reffley in 1894 and 14 years later became the secretary, a position long held by Mr Robinson Cruso, a Lynn auctioneer, who provided, it is said, the inspiration for Defoe’s famous story.
An inscription on the column which rises twenty feet or more above the Reffley spring in front of the temple tells: “With the aid of liberality the column of Reffley rose from its ruins more beautiful than before and this famous spring was consecrated on 24th June 1756.” Translations of other Latin on the obelisk are not without interest. On one side is to be read: “We dedicate this fountain of happiness, these waters of joy to Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place.” On another: “Whoever upholds this column or gives order that it may be upheld may he live longer than anyone else in his generation.” And also: “If you wish to relinquish your load of care, go to whatever place is full of pleasure. Let this be your labour. Let this be your care. Let us all go, both little and big, if we wish that Venus and Bacchus shall love us.”
At the feasts a limited brew of punch goes its round of the tables in ancient china pots, and not until the presidential announcement that the willow-patterned punch-bowls- inscribed “Sir William ffolkes,” “Lady fflokes,” and “Success to the Sons of Reffley” respectively-are dry does the jollity of Reffley Temple conclude. “You fill what you will, but you drink what you fill” is a strictly observed rule. Boiled Yorkshire pudding, roast saddle of mutton, boiled beef, and bread and cheese constitute the principal menu, and the toast list includes “The House of Hillington,” “The Father Reffley,” “The Brewer,” and “The Town and Trade of Lynn.”
The visitors book includes the signature of King George V., who, before his accession, lunched at the temple during a shooting expedition at Reffley. Also among the society’s documents is a letter expressing the late King’s thanks for a bottle of Reffley punch. Not the least interesting of the society’s possessions is a “bet’s book,” in which are contained the particulars of many amusing speculations by members of past days, who wagered bottles of wine on matters varying from the weights of pet cats to ability to swim the Ouse.
A regular contributor to the Lynn News in the 1930’s was “Observer” writing under the heading of “Just Off The Beaten Track.” In his article for the 12th September 1933 edition, he wrote:
Although they lie so near Wootton-road, Reffley and the spring are seldom visited. Indeed there are no doubt many old residents who would be lost if taken there while blindfolded, the released. It is a delightful retreat and made more romantic by the presence of the Reffley Temple, which a stranger to the place comes upon with some feeling of surprise. The enclosure round the Temple with its air of cultivation, and the column at the foot of which trickles the spring of chalybeate water, are altogether unexpected, amid the surrounding wilderness of trees and blackberry brambles. Although the temple enclosure is fenced off, the spring, which has long been noted for its medicinal properties, is open to the public, and a seat surrounds the basin into which the spring flows. The rust deposit in the still water of the basin is ample evidence of the presence of the iron in the spring.
“Observer” further added, that:
Some interesting wild plants are to be found in the Reffley district. Here one may come upon the water plantain, the scarlet pimpernel and the lilly of the valley. There are a remarkable number of different types of trees, and from the seat round the spring one can count as many as twenty species. Scot’s pine, elm, oak, Norwegian spruce, wood oak and hawthorn. The bird life here is wonderful. In the early spring many bird’s nests are found, including those of the moorhen and pied wagtail. n.b. It is apparent from the above, that the extensive landscaping, and planting which had been carried out, at various times, a century or more, earlier in the creation of the secluded glade, was still discernible at this time.
The following week, the 19th September 1933, “J. E.” responded to “Observer’s article of the previous week. In the first part of his letter he wrote:
Sir- In his notes “Just off the Beaten track” in last week’s Lynn News, “Observer” refers to Reffley Spring being seldom visited. Until 30 or 40 years ago it was much frequented by old and young, and probably had been since its dedication 177 years ago; but times change and the old order gives way to the new. In these days Reffley is but a name to a lot of people, and it is doubtful if many of the young generation have ever seen it or know where it is.
With the exception of the temple and the obelisk, the place has not Nature’s surpassing beauty as it had many years ago. Many of the trees have been cut down and bushes removed.
Much has been heard of late about hikers, but at the time I am referring to, the majority of persons were compelled to be hikers if they wished to get from their old haunts (and they did not require “shorts” or a huge stick!).
Good Friday used to be the day when pilgrimages were made to the shrine, and if the weather was fine, hundreds of persons, young and old, would be seen walking from Lynn, Gaywood and other places, while others brought stalls filled with various comestibles: but there were no ice-cream carts—the cooling water from the spring sufficed.
It was perhaps with feelings akin to that of the injunction given on one of the inscriptions on the obelisk
“ If you would leave behind your load of care,
Whither Joy’s abode invites there-repair”
that so many resorted to the place. Games and amusements in rustic simplicity graced the scene, “lived in each look and brightened all the green.” The day used to finish up with a “frolic” at the local inns, dancing and songs being enjoyed, with Sir John Barleycorn playing a prominent part.
As the years rolled on, the attendance became gradually less and less and only a few children kept up the old custom, and Reffley’s charms became no more. Probably the only enjoyment obtained there now, is on the day when the Reffley Bretheren meet; and when the “churchwarden”(clay pipe) and the punch-bowl are brought out, and ancient games are played…….
….and what proved to be the Bretheren’s last meeting for eight years was held in July 1939. The EDP made brief mention to it:
REFFLEY SOCIETY’S MEETING
The Reffley Society met in Reffley Wood, Kings Lynn, yesterday for its annual gathering and observed ceremonies that have been handed down since the society was formed in the middle of the eighteenth century. Special fare was eaten, the society’s own mixture was smoked and punch from a secret recipe was drunk. The secret meeting was held in a temple that had been built in the woodlands. The president this year was the Hon. George Dawnay, who has succeeded the late Rev. Sir Francis ffolkes. From the EDP 20th July 1939.
The Lynn News, however, produced a major feature article on the meeting:
REFFLEY BRETHEREN’S 300-YEARS-OLD TRADITION
LYNN SOCIETY WHOSE AIM IS GOOD FELLOWSHIP
The Cheapest Ingredient of the Reffley Punch
Lynn News Photo
An 18th century obelisk and chalybeate spring, adjoining Reffley (pronounced Riffley) “temple,” are dedicated to “Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place.” The inscription (on the facing side of the obelisk) may be translated: “Whoever shall remove, or have removed, this monument, let him die the last of his line.” Those who wish to sample the waters should take their own cup.
INSULTS EARN APPLAUSE IN THEIR ‘TEMPLE’
Members of the Reffley Society, which started in Cromwellian days and whose sole objects are ‘conviviality and good fellowship’,’ will hold their annual gathering tomorrow (Wednesday). They will meet at their ‘temple’ built by the ‘Sons of Reffley’ 150 years ago, to eat traditional fare, to smoke the Society’s special mixture in churchwarden pipes, and to drink punch prepared from the society’s secret recipe and served in glasses handed down from their predecessors.
Sitting round an oak table in the candle-lit ‘temple’ will be a peer (Lord Fermoy), a viscount’s heir (Hon. George Dawnay), an M.P. (the Hon. Somerset Maxwell), an admiral (Admiral C.A. Fountaine), a solicitor, an auctioneer, an architect, a farmer, a horse breeder, a haulier, an ironmonger, a jeweller, a builder’s merchant, a mill manager, a cinema manager, a political agent, an insurance inspector, a photographer, two bank officials, several other businessmen and tradesmen, a marine store dealer, and two authors (Capt. J.L. Hardy and Mr. Ellis Middleton). All are intensely proud of the privilege of membership of this exclusive and extraordinary society.
Inside the temple – members’ clay pipes hang from the walls and the bowl they drank their punch from stands on a table to the left. Photo courtesy of Lynn Museum
Dedicated to Bacchus and Venus
An obelisk dedicated to “Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place,” was erected in 1756, when the column rose more beauteous than before from its ruins”- indicating that it replaced an earlier stone, probably indicating that it replaced an earlier stone, probably placed there by the first “Sons of Reffley” at about the time of the Restoration.
The Reffley Society is unusual in that it “has no policy to propagate, no funds to disburse, and no axe to grind.” Members subscriptions keep the temple in repair and the grounds in order, and provide the traditional fare which is served up at the annual gathering in July.
The food is cooked over a fire in a kitchen built behind the temple. The cook is a woman (Mrs.Oakes), who has served the bretheren in that capacity for many years – she and her assistant being the only women who are admitted to the Society’s headquarters during the annual gathering.
Brewers Secret Recipe
The ‘Temple’ has been visited by many distinguished men, including royalty, during the past 150 years, and all who have been privileged to sample the celebrated punch have paid tribute to its charm and potency. The recipe is entrusted to the society’s principal officials- the Brewer and the Honorary Secretary. Mr Basil Humphrey is the present Brewer, having succeeded the late Mr D’Oyley-Watkins two years ago. Mr Ellis Middleton, architect and author, is Hon. Secretary. In 1937 he succeeded Mr G. H. Cawston, who held office for about 30 years until he left the town (but not the Society).
This year the sons of Reffley have a new President, the hon. George Dawnay. He is a member (on his mother’s side) of the ffolkes family, which has provided the Reffley Society with its presidents for at least 150 years. The Hon. George Dawnay succeeded his uncle, the late Rev. Sir Francis ffolkes, of Hillington, as president on the latter’s death last year.
Members Smoke Churchwardens & Drink a Secret Punch
Mr Galliene Lemon Mr Basil Humphrey photos Lynn News
Mr Lemmon (a newly elected member of the Reffley “bretheren” puffs away at his churchwarden pipe with the air of an old hand. Note the society’s bell, which came from the “Wick Bay,” which ran aground in the Lynn channel fifty years ago.
Mr Humphrey (right) the Reffley Society’s brewer, samples a glass of this years punch, the secret recipe for which is in his keeping.
The Gentle Art of Paying Insults
An outstanding feature of the bretheren’s gathering is the speech-making, to which each has to contribute – and on a topic sprung on him at a few moments notice.
In such an atmosphere – a gathering of 30 men in a candle-lit ‘temple,’ all smoking churchwardens (elongated clay pipes) and with the punch bowl circulating, a freedom of speech is possible which is denied to other organisations. It is a tradition of the Society that no Son of Reffley is ever offended at anything another Son of Reffley chooses to say about him at annual gatherings. A verbatim report of some of the elaborately insulting speeches which have been made on these occasions would make a unique (but highly libellous) record.
The officials are always singled out for special opprobrium, members delighting in the contrast with the extravagant compliments usually paid at annual meetings.
The secretary’s duties include leading the singing of ‘who killed Cock Robin?’ a traditional ditty which is sung with gusto by succeeding generations of the Sons of Reffley.
The newest member is always ‘the Bellman,’ and the older ones delight in finding menial tasks for him to perform – tasks which they were called upon to perform in former years.
THE SPRING adjoining the ‘temple’ is open to the public by courtesy of the Society, but wanton damage inflicted on the society’s property in recent years has led the members to consider whether the privilege should not be withdrawn. Considerable expense has been incurred in repairs and renovations to railings, seats and obelisk as a result of the mischievous activities of local youths, some of whom attempted recently to break into the ‘temple,’ they damaged one of the shutters, but found that the building is burglar-proof – though there is little inside either to see or steal.
It is to be hoped that members of the public will discourage this sort of activity in order to preserve their present freedom to enjoy the amenities of Reffley Spring. R.P.
In ‘the bad old days’ the Reffley bretheren shared a general tendency towards indulgence, and there are stories about the homeward journey, in the wee sma’ hours, of members who had had more punch than was good for them. In recent times members have become more restrained and, in view of the fact that most of them have to drive their cars home afterwards, much less punch is prepared than in former years. From The Lynn News July 18th 1939.
Zipha Christopher, in an undated, (probably 1980’s), “Letter From Lynn,” describes more of the bets from the society’s “bets book” after first, describing the origins of the society:
King’s Lynn is the birthplace and centuries old home of what must be one of the most agreeable and unusual societies in the kingdom. Born in defence of the Englishman’s belief in his inalienable right to freedom of opinion, the Reffley Bretheren came into being in the middle of the seventeenth century as a result of a ban imposed by Cromwell’s parliament on assemblies of 30 people or more. Thirty staunch Lynn royalists considered such a ban to be an immediate invitation to form a society of precisely that number. Discretion being the better part of valour, complete secrecy was necessary, and the site of Reffley Spring, some small distance outside the town, was selected to be the meeting place of the new society. As the declared purpose of the company was simply to meet in defiance of the law, the mere fact of meeting accomplished that purpose, and thereafter all that remained to be done was enjoy an hour or two of friendship and conviviality! Thus it was, so tradition has it, that the society came into being, and for over three hundred years, even though its original raison d’etre has long since been removed, it has long been perpetuated by generations of The Sons of Reffley.
For obvious reasons there are no early records of the club, the need for secrecy being paramount, and the earliest manuscript in their possession is in the form of an exercise book dated 1789 and headed with a flourish ‘Bett Book.’ And what marvellously frivolous bets are therein recorded. It is pleasant to picture the sociable scene as the evening draws on, with the members relaxing around their bowl of punch, brewed from a secret recipe which includes a measure of the chalybeate water from the Reffly Spring, and puffing contentedly upon their churchwarden pipes.
Mr. Hemmington turns to Mr. T. Beame, and lays him a bottle of wine “…that Manny’s thigh is not so big as T. Beame’s by six inches”. Such is the first written record of this happy band. Many and varied are subsequent wagers. It is apparent that some of the members feel a certain concern regarding their embonpoint, for several of the bets turn on their relative weights, even to the extent of betting on the combined weights of one group against another. Age is another basis for a flutter, although it is tactfully put that “Mr. Hammond of Westacre is nearer 60 than 50 years of age.” The length, breadth and width of various rooms give rise to several wagers; hence “Mr. Cox bets Mr. Nainby that Mr. Jn. Curtis’s room is not wider than Mr. G. Hoggs in Chequer Street” and “Mr. Mugridge bets Mr. Curtis three bottles to one that Mr. G. Hoggs’ room is longer than Mr. Curtis’.” Personal and parochial matters, although very much in the majority, are not the only subjects for speculation. Far weighty matters of national interest are recorded. In 1793, will Lord Howe capture three or six ships of the French Fleet? And there is a bottle of wine to say that the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons is not the Norwich Member! Each bet is faithfully entered in the book, and the results recorded, with the stakes duly noted and receipted.
The faded sepia handwriting loops across the pages, conjuring up pictures of successive generations of friends and colleagues meeting together to shed for a few short hours the cares and hassles of everyday existence, and to enjoy each other’s company over a drink and a meal.
By 1830 the exercise books detailing “ye bettys” have ceased, and more substantial volumes relate the courses of the anniversary meetings of the society, listing the members present and recording the minutes of the proceedings. These are mainly concerned with keeping the pretty little Reffley Temple, built in 1789. in good order, and with the election of new members. An entry for 1926 tells of concern that the iron content of the chalybeate spring water was diminishing. One of the members suggested that a hundredweight of old horse shoes be placed at the spring head, as he felt certain that would increase the iron taste. To which account the hon. secretary of the day appended his own comment: “Oh the wrong of it, Bretheren!” On Saturday, January 19, 1895, beneath six signatures, the entry for that day reads: “HRH. The duke of York, K.G. and shooting party lunched in the Temple today and wished the Secretary to thank the members for the use of the same.” The signatures are those of the shooting party, headed by that of George, then Duke of York and later His Majesty King George V. Some years later a letter is inserted in the Minute Book from the equerry-in-waiting to the Prince of Wales, thanking the club for the bottle of Reffley Punch which they had sent for His Royal Highness’s delectation.
After over a century without any bets being recorded, there is a brief revival in 1912 to the effect that Mr. Humphrey bet Mr. Beloe two shillings and sixpence that he could not drink 12 glasses of punch straight off. Mr. Beloe was timed to do it in one minute. It is not recorded whether he succeeded in this feat, but there is a footnote to say that he managed to rid e his bicycle home that night!
The sons of Reffley still hold their anniversary meetings to this day, but mindless destruction by local vandals has destroyed the attractive little temple and its sylvan surroundings. Where it was once surrounded by woods and fields, it is now smothered by a housing estate, some of whose inhabitants seem to care nothing for three hundred years of comradeship and happiness and whose pleasures lie in despoilment. Fortunately the intangible qualities of amity and conviviality are harder to destroy, and as it is upon these foundations that the society stands, there is every possibility that it will continue to flourish for another three hundred years. Zipha Christopher.”Letter from Lynn,”
The Reffley Society, is unusual in that "it has no policy to propagate , no funds to disburse, and no axe to grind". Started shortly after the Civil War, it continued to meet annually, over the following one hundred years, even though no records of its activities, apparently exist. It was in the 18th century, that Clubs of all kinds, proliferated, and the Reffley Society, re-invented itself. The Society differs from most other Clubs, started at that time, in that it has kept its membership limited to thirty men, generally, meeting on only one day a year, in its Temple at Reffley Spring, until the site became no longer tenable. Most clubs originating in the 18th century, meet several times a year and also have female members. The fact that the Reffley Society, has continued to abide by its original founding principles speaks for it having originated in Cromwellian times just as its history suggests. See Appendix for an explanation of the Club phenomenon.
It was announced in THE LYNN NEWS 18th July 1939 that the:
Reffley Bretheren are presented with their (1789) temple.
Lynn News Photo
Reffley Temple, dating from 1789 to mark the secluded meeting place of the founders of the Reffley Society – Royalists who flouted Cromwell and his law, forbidding meetings of thirty or more men – has been presented to the society by Sir Patrick ffolkes. This follows the sale at the Globe Hotel on Tuesday of the 883 acres of the Reffley Estate, by instructions from the trustees of the late Sir W.E.B. ffolkes.
The sales, conducted by Mr. Landles (Messrs Miles, Son and Landles) realised £30,450, excluding the “temple” (part of the Reffley farm) and a semi-detached cottage which, with 3 1/2 acres of land, was sold before the auction.
Reffley estate has belonged to the ffolkes family for centuries. The present baronet Sir Edward John Patrick Boschetti ffolkes, who is in Britain at the moment, resides in South Africa.-----------
Mr H. Gallienne Lemmon, a member of the society, was surprised when told of the gift by the “Lynn News and Advertiser” reporter. “I did not know about it, but I can say that the society will be very grateful for the gift,” he added. “We thought we would have to buy it. Although we have not met since 1939, the society is not dead and has no intention of dying a natural death. Our meetings will be revived, but as yet we have no plans regarding our next gathering.”
Tenants Remain – Bidding at the sale was brisk and, while most of the tenants bought their holdings, it is understood that all of them will remain in the farms and cottages they occupy. Highest price of the day was £10,750 paid by Mr W. H. Tune for the 132 acres of Reffley Wood. ------- Mr. F. C. Skerry bought Reffley farm, of which he is tenant. Paying £8,200, he also acquired the 263 acres including Spring Wood and two cottages. In addition he purchased two modern dwelling houses for £1,575.-------from The Lynn News and Advertiser 26th August 1947.
Reffley Temple undated. photo Kings Lynn Library
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THEY KEEP A DATE – WITH A PUNCHBOWL
Thirty men will meet next month at their “temple” at Reffley Spring near King’s Lynn. Norfolk- for the first time for ten years. They are the “Sons of Reffley,” successors to the thirty Royalists who first met 300 years ago as a protest against Cromwell’s law forbidding meetings of thirty or more men.
By candle light, they will drink punch brewed from a secret recipe, and smoke their churchwarden pipes as – until the outbreak of the last war – the Reffley Society has done every year since its formation in 1650.
The secretary Mr. Ellis Middleton said yesterday “We are keeping alive a piece of old England.” From THE DAILY MIRROR Monday 27 June 1949
The “Sons of Reffley” successors to 30 Royalists who first met in 1650, defying Cromwell’s ban on gatherings of 30 or more men, met yesterday for the first time since 1939. Their meeting-place was their “Temple” in a glade at Reffley spring, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk. They began by drinking water from the famous spring, but later they had punch, brewed from a secret recipe, and smoked a special mixture.
“Our society has no avowed object save conviviality and good fellowship lasting through the years,” said Mr. Ellis Middleton, the secretary. The President is the Hon. George Dawnay, and sir Patrick ffolkes, descendant of a founder, is a member.From Daily Graphic Friday July 8th 1947.
Reffley Society Meets Again in South Wootton “Temple”
Daily Graphic Friday July 8th 1947
Meetings of the Reffley Society were suspended during WW11, and it was not until 1947, that they met again. A reporter for the Lynn News in July 1947 who was invited to attend the meeting:
Smoking churchwarden pipes and drinking punch, a group of men sat by the light of seven candles round an oak table in a tree-surrounded brick building just outside King’s Lynn last night. They were members of the Ancient Reffley Society, who were holding their first meeting since the war………
Initiation Ceremony – A reporter who had the privilege to be a guest at last night’s meeting writes: “I was welcomed at the outer entrance to the temple grounds by the Society’s Honorary Brewer Mr. F.B. Humphrey. From a chalybeate spring flowing from an 18th century obelisk Mr. Humphrey drew a pint of water and handed it to me in a stone mug. I drank a toast to ‘Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place,’ and also one to my own rejuvenation and passed on to the next part of the guest’s initiation ceremony.
“At the inner gates Mr. Ellis Middleton, the honorary secretary, was waiting to receive me with a glass of the Society’s famous punch brewed from a secret recipe. After I had drained the glass I was handed another with the intimation that I should drink ‘to the other eye’ which I did. My admission to the grounds complete, I was taken to the door of the temple where I was allowed to choose a churchwarden pipe, given a pinch of ‘Reffley mixture’ and joined the rest of the members, smoking their churchwardens and drinking punch as they waited for the meal to be served in the temple. In pre-war days, this included cuts from a saddle of mutton and lobster salad – served on the same plate – but last night it was on a slightly less ambitious scale. When the meal was over, preparations were made for the evening session, at which the president the Hon. George Dawnay, presided. From a giant china bowl, replenished from a pitcher, Mr Dawnay ladled supplies of punch into stone pots which were passed round at the end of each toast. A condition of the filling of the glasses was that members could fill to please themselves, but had to drain the glass at one gulp. The toasts were drunk on command of the proposer, with the words (accompanied by the motions, and taking time from the speaker): “Left shoulder, right shoulder, tops up, bottoms up, not a drop, one, two, three.” If the president or any member for that matter, ruled the glasses were not put down in unison on the last word, they were recharged and the toast drunk again.
No check on Heckling – there were no restrictions on what the members could say – they were at perfect liberty to be insulting if they so desired – and there was no check on heckling or interruptions. It was all part of the fun made for “conviviality and good fellowship,” which only ended “when the tide ran out.”
With last night’s meeting, the term of Mr. Dawnay’s presidency came to an end today, Sir Patrick ffoulkes, who was present last night, is the new president. The ffoulkes (sic) family have provided the Society’s president for about 150 years. When the land on which the temple stands was sold, Sir Patrick bought it, which, Mr Dawnay told the members, held the prospect of the Society always being able to hold its meetings there.
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Reffley Temple interior undated photo used by kind permission of Lynn Museum
Reffley spring, its Bretheren and their festive Temple
Chas. Webb R.N.R.’s reflections on the society, were published in the Lynn News in July 1949:
“If they would remain sons of this Order, they must contribute to the gatherings something of the conviviality of the banquets of medieval England, for only those who will laugh, and that right heartily, are welcome in this circle.” – a Reffley fundamental.
What A story of times past could be told of the Bretheren who have just resumed their annual gatherings at Reffley Temple. What happy and convivial gatherings they were! What tales were told, what uncomplimentary, but good tempered bandinage passed, what numbers of long clay pipes were smoked, and inadvertently broken!
As to the punch drink, brewed from brandy plus the invigorating chalybeate waters of Reffley, with certain other alcoholic ingredients as directed by the brewer of very long ago – there was always sufficient, and usually a margin.
The sons of Reffley did not confine their pleasures to their select “Thirty,” for records tell of the entertainment of visitors both at the festive board, and at the exemplary “drinkings” that followed.
Some guests – The Mayor and prominent townsmen, as well as county gentlemen and others from time to time, were guests.
It is told that a Royal duke and friends (together making up a shooting party) honoured the party by dining with them, sampling their punch, signing the visitors book; and afterwards accepting a bottle of the "brew.”
As to the lunch or dinner, it was substantial, and generally, but not always, consisted of Yorkshire pudding followed by saddle of mutton, boiled beef, and bread and cheese. Occasionally a salmon, game or some special delicacy was provided by a brother, or friend. Punch, but not punch only, followed, for there was a well-kept green where at one time quoits were popular, later to be replaced by a game of bowls played without regard to the rules and regulations.
Betts Book – Among the records in the possession of the secretary Mr. Ellis Middleton (by his courtesy the present writer has been allowed to inspect them) is a “Betts Book,” dating from 1789, which reveals one phase of the entertainment or amusements side of the Bretheren’s activities. Here are records of bets made on all sorts of things and matters – the weight of a cat, time taken to swim the Ouse, and - an outstanding one – “I bet 2/6 that I can drink 12 glasses of punch in one minute.” This was done; the bet won; and the winner apparently none the worse. Until the outbreak of the first World War, and possibly a bit later, Reffley Green and grounds were on occasion open to children and picnic parties. Once a year, in particular, the day being Good Friday, Lynn’s younger people skipped, or played a sort of hockey all the way from the town (particularly from North End) to the spring, where they had games, and perhaps saw “Punch and Judy.”
Picnicers, by arrangement with the caretaker,
could get hot water for their tea,
and assistance, if required.
From Lynn News and Advertiser 15th July 1949.
“The sons of Reffley” choosing their churchwarden pipes in which they smoked their own special mixture.
Commander Basil Humphrey, the Sons’ brewer, serves the punch. RIGHT: Mr Middleton, the secretary, lights up from an ancient lamp held by Mr. John Walton.
West Norfolk Hunt meets at Reffley Temple
Photo provided by Joan Taylor. This picture also featured in the Lynn News edition for the 11th September 1951
Reffley Temple provided an unusual backdrop for the West Norfolk Hunt’s meeting in September 1951. The social part of the Lynn program attracted a considerable number of visitors, including the Mayor of Lynn Mr Basil Humphrey and the Mayoress whose son is seated on a white pony. Joan Taylor thinks she was on the other pony and she recognised her uncle Fred Skerry in the picture.
The Annual meeting in 1952 was reported as:
Sons of Reffley make Merry
In their brick-built temple in a wooden [wooded] retreat half a mile from the main Lynn-Hunstanton road the Sons of Reffley – the “men of good repute from the county of Norfolk – met on Wednesday for their yearly meeting.
They met in the same spot where their predecessors met over 300 years ago and there – by flickering candle-light inside the temple and outside in the seclusion of the surrounding glade – they smoked churchwarden pipes and drank punch prepared from a secret 18th century recipe.
True to tradition they ate a meal cooked over a fire in the kitchen at the rear of the temple. They lustily sang old songs and played old English games.
And throughout the annual get-together complete freedom of speech was allowed as it is a firm rule of the Society that no member may take offence.
The Brewer – this year Sir Patrick Ffolkes president of the Society was unable to attend and his duties were assumed by the Hon. George Dawnay. The punch was brewed by the appointed Brewer, Mr Hubert Thomas………
After the last of the punch had been drunk on Wednesday, it fell on the hon. George Dawnay to end the society’s activities for another year with the solemn announcement, “Gentlemen, the tide has gone out.” From Lynn News 25th July 1952.
The Society met again in 1953, and according to the Lynn News:
Temple meeting in a secluded glade
During this year’s traditional July meeting of the Reffley Bretheren
Whose predecessors met over 300 years ago as a protest against Cromwell’s Law forbidding meetings of 30 or more men, a “Lynn News and Advertiser” reporter was entertained for a short period by the members in their wooded retreat at South Wootton and was able to secure these exclusive photographs.
THE BRETHEREN OF REFFLEY MEET
Above, outside their own temple in the secluded glade, the members chat and drink their punch brewed from a secret 16th century recipe before beginning their annual feast inside the
Left below, Mr E.C. Proctor of Grantham, the Society’s secretary, looks through the ancient visitors book in which the visits of Royalty are recorded. The Society possesses records dating back to 1789.
Above left, The Right Hon. George Dawnay, vice-president of the Society who presided at this years meeting, ladles punch from one of the elaborate punch-bowls. In the foreground is the ornate Wedgewood jug in which the punch has been brewed for many years. Above right, Mr Basil Humphrey.
Above, the chalybeate water, which is one of the Ingredients of the punch, bubbles from the foot of the obelisk at the ancient spring. The latin inscriptions reveal that the obelisk was dedicated to “Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place,” on June 24th 1756.
Below, three of the Bretheren all – “Norfolk men of good repute” – are caught by the camera behind the table on which stand the old bells used during the ceremonies. Also on the table is the lantern from which the churchwarden pipes, which are smoked every year, are lit. Photos Lynn News