Reffley by Royal Appointment
and the Society’s fame
traverses the Globe
King Edward VII was a frequent visitor to Reffley, which was but a short distance from his residence at Sandringham. On one occasion the future King George V stopped off to join the Bretheren for lunch at their Temple, afterwards he signed their address book with the plain ‘George’.
On other occasions shooting parties visited Reffley Wood. Although the King owned the Sandringham estate, he was also a regular guest of Lord Farquar at Castle Rising.
In 1896, the then – Sir Horace Farquar, M.P. has acquired the tenancy of the Castle Rising Estate, situated between King’s Lynn and Sandringham, and recently held by the Duke of Fife. From The Huddersfield Chronicle Saturday 21st November 1896.
1902- KING EDWARD AT CASTLE RISING
King Edward had excellent sport among the pheasants in the Raffiy (Reffley) coverts at Castle Rising on Tuesday. The guns included Prince Charles of Denmark. Lord Mar and Kellie, Lord Farquhar, and General Kelly-Kenny. Lunch was served in a marquee on the shooting ground. From the Cornishman Thursday 4th December 1902.
From Eastern Daily Press November 26 1902.
ROYAL SPORTSMEN IN NORFOLK: KING EDWARD AT CASTLE RISING
King Edward and the other guests of Lord Farquar were early astir on Tuesday morning, in preparation for the day’s shooting, which had been arranged to take place in Reffley Woods. Rain had fallen heavily throughout the night, but by dawn an improvement in the meterological conditions was seen, and the sun for a short time gave hopes of speedily drying up the excess of moisture and rendering the slush-covered roads and sodden soil more agreeable under foot.
Reffley Woods lie about 2 miles from Castle Rising, between the seaport of ancient history, and the Royal, though less ancient. Borough of King’s Lynn. The woods are of not very extensive area, but are thickly planted at both ends, with practically an open field dotted here and there with stately oaks in the centre. To the south the little Gaywood river placidly winds its way towards Lynn, while near the woods may be seen traces of the disused railway, so that where formerly an engine asserted to the disturbance of the game, which found shelter among the thickly overhanging trees and the wealth of undergrowth, there is now nothing but sylvan repose, and ideal conditions prevail for the rearing of strong-winged pheasants, with which the woods mostly abound. To the north the Grimston and Lynn main road runs, and in the distance to the north-west opens out a pleasant vista of the shimmering waters of the Wash, with the Lynn fishing fleet thrown up in dim relief.
It was a short distance from this main road that the operations for the day were conducted. At ten o’clock when the sun was shining brightly out of a clear cerulean sky, the king, in his motor car, with others of the shooting party, left Castle Rising, and were briefly whirred down, through Wootton, to a private grass covered road which leads from the main road to an opening in the woods. In addition to the king, guns were carried by Prince Charles of Denmark, Lord Farquar, the earl of Mar and Kelly, General Kelly-Kenny, Colonel Davidson, Captain Sir Stanley Clarke, and the Hon J. Ward aide-de-camp to the King. Soon after a small army of beaters began working the coverts from the Reffley spring end. The sun disappeared beyond a heavy bank of murky clouds, threatening a downfall, but sport progressed without an accompaniment of rain, although typical dull November weather lasted throughout the day, and rendered the atmosphere somewhat depressing. The king however, looked comfortable in a Norfolk suit of a light grey tweed, with a brown alpine hat, and a bunch of bright violets in his buttonhole, and appeared to thoroughly enjoy the sport, although his actions were somewhat less active than other members of the party, noticeably General Kelly-Kenny, who handled his gun with considerable dexterity and unerring aim. To the gallant soldier’s gun a goodly a goodly average of the birds fell. For a couple of hours the noise of the beaters and the crack of the guns resounded through the woods, and at the end of the two drives the sportsmen kept up quite a fusillade, while birds fell thickly on the open grassland. Then a drive through the opposite end of the woods took place, and this yielded the best bag of the day, pheasants flying thickly over the guns, battue was very exciting.
Lunchtime had now arrived, and at a quarter-past one was served, in a small marquee in located in the field of sport, just inside the gate from the private road. The party had a few minutes previously been joined by Lady Farquar, the Countess of Mar and Kellen, and the Hon. Mrs Lowther, who drove down from Castle rising in an open brougham.
In the afternoon another drive took place through the Reffley spring end of the woods, whither a number of birds had returned, but sport was not so good. In past seasons Reffley woods have yielded very large bags, but this year the number of pheasants are smaller than usual owing to the bad rearing season.
Between 400 and 500 pheasants had been accounted for up to linchtime, and considering the circumstances of the day’s operations were very satisfactory. Shooting was continued until early dusk set in, and then the party returned to Castle Rising. A number of tenants on the estate witnessed the sport , but two or three inquisitive strangers were firmly warned off. Today’s shooting will take place in the Long wood at Castle Rising.
The next year, the King again visited Castle Rising-
THE KING AT CASTLE RISING
His Majesty King Edward was early astir yesterday morning at Castle Rising, and accompanied by his host, motored down to Reffley Woods for a day’s shooting. Sport commenced at ten o’clock, in brilliant weather, and was vigourously pursued until lunch, by which time nearly five hundred head of game had fallen. At noon the party were joined by Lord Farquhar’s lady guests, who drove down to the luncheon tent. From the Western Daily Press Wednesday 25th November 1903. The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette on the same day, published the same item under the heading of KING’S SHOOTING EXPEDITION.
King Edward and the other guests of Lord Farquhar at Castle Rising, Norfolk, had a good days duck shooting yesterday in spite of the rain, which fell almost continuously during the greater part of the time. His Majesty remains at Castle Rising until today. From the Western Daily Press Saturday 28th November 1903.
The following year, the King’s movements were reported in the Aberdeen Journal-
King Edward attended by an equerry, left Buckingham Palace yesterday afternoon, and drove to Liverpool Street Station, whence His Magesty departed by the 4.30 train for Wolferton on his way to Castle Rising as the guest of Lord and Lady Farquhar. Kings Lynn was reached shortly before a quarter to seven, and his Majesty drove in a motor car to Castle Rising, where Lord and Lady Farquhar were waiting to receive him. From the Aberdeen Journal Wednesday 7th December 1904.
KING GOES PHEASANT SHOOTING-
BRISK SPORT IN DULL WEATHER.
The King left Castle Rising shortly after ten this morning, and proceeded in a motor brougham to Reffley Woods for a day’s pheasant shooting. Seven other guns are with His Majesty. Operations commenced at half-past ten at the spring end of the woods in dull, damp, misty weather. Sport is brisk. From The Evening Post Wednesday 7th December 1904.
The Court Personal and Official section of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph for the following day, the 8th December 1904 reported:
THE KING AT CASTLE RISING
King Edward, who is on a visit to Lord Farquhar at Castle Rising, was shooting pheasants and partridge over the Reffley portion of the estate yesterday. In addition to his Majesty, the guns included the Earl of Mar and Kellie, Lord Stanley, Sir Stanley Clarke, Lord Herbert Vane Tempest, Captain Ponsonby, and Mr. Somerville Gurney. Lord Farquar accompanied the sportsmen but did not shoot. Lunch was partaken of in the woods. Lady Farquar, the Countess of Mar and Kellie, Mrs Keppel, and Lady Stanley joined the sportsmen at the repast, and returned to Castle Rising early in the afternoon. The gentlemen remained out until nearly dusk. Birds were plentiful and the bag large, but the weather was dull and damp. from the Aberdeen Journal and in the Western Daily Press headed A Day Among The Pheasants, Thursday 8th December 1904.
In 1905, the King again made his customary visit to Castle Rising in November:
KING OUT SHOOTING
The King did not go out with the shooting party at the Castle. Rising this morning the weather was cold and foggy at first, but later when the sun shone His Majesty motored to Reffley Woods, and joined the sportsmen in the last beat before lunch. The King shot from a small pony trap. From the Evening Telegraph Tuesday 21st November 1905.
Turning to the Dundee Courier, for 22nd November 1905:
KING SHOOTS FROM SMALL PHAETON
Lord Farquar and his guests enjoyed excellent sport at Riffley Woods yesterday. By lunch time nearly a thousand head of game, mostly pheasants, had been secured. The guns out were – Lord Farquar, the Duke of Marlborough, the Earl of Mar and Kellie, Lord Londonderry, Lord Lovat, Colonel Davidson, and Colonel Legge. The King joined the sportsmen at noon, but His Majesty limited his shooting to the last two beats before luncheon. Wearing a heavy overcoat, he shot from a small pony phaeton, the same which was formerly much used by Queen Victoria. Lunch was served in a marquee in the coverts. Immediately after lunch the king went for a drive in an open carriage before returning to Castle Rising. from the Dundee Courier Wednesday 22nd November 1905.
The same day the Aberdeen Journal also had an item in its section:
SOCIETY AND PERSONAL
The King and other guests of Lord Farquhar shot Reffley woods yesterday. His Majesty shooting from a carriage. The party was joined by several ladies and gentlemen at lunch time, and shooting was subsequently continued until dusk. The weather was cold and dull, but good sport was obtained. From the Aberdeen Journal Wednesday 22nd November 1905.
Travelling south, it was the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, which reported upon the following years Royal Shooting Party, in its edition for 28th November 1906:
The King; with Lord Farquar’s other guests, journeyed by motor car from Castle Rising to Reffley Wood early yesterday morning. The party were joined by King Haakon, who motored over from Appleton. Fine weather prevailed throughout the day, and excellent pheasant shooting was enjoyed. Lady Farquar and the ladies of the house party at Castle rising joined the sportsmen at luncheon, which was served in a marquee near the coverts. from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, and the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Wednesday 28th November 1906.
The following day:
THE ROYAL VISITORS AT CASTLE RISING
King Haakon again motored from Appleton to Castle Rising yesterday, and enjoyed a good day’s pheasant shooting in company with King Edward and Lord Farquhar, and other guests including Lord Rosebery and Mr Sassoon. Shooting commenced at 10.30 in the woods near the old castle ruins, and continued until dusk. The party at luncheon, served in a tent in a pleasant spot near the woods, included Queen Aleandra, Queen Maud, and Princess Victoria, who arrived by motor car from Sandringham. Attended by Sir Dighton Probyn. The weather was dull. From the Aberdeen Journal Thursday 29th November 1906.
The following year 1907, the Aberdeen Journal (27th and 30th November) reported under the heading: THE KING AT CASTLE RISING, when, King Edward again stayed with Lord and Lady Farquhar at Castle Rising for the shooting, where they were again joined by the King of Norway and other guests. It was reported that they shot through some woods on Sir William F. Folkes estate, though the Reffley portion was not specifically mentioned.
The Reffley Brethren were also holding their annual gatherings at this time:
THE REFFLEY BRETHEREN
AN ANCIENT LYNN SOCIETY
PUNCH AND BUMBLE PUPPY
Very few people in Lynn, and fewer people in the county, are aware that there is a society Lynn known as the Reffley Bretheren. Yet it is the oldest and most exclusive society in East Anglia. It has existed for upwards of two hundred years, and still flourishes in its small way. The functions of the organisation seem to be lost in the mist of antiquity, but they appear to be mainly social. Its operations are confined to one day a year, and Wednesday was the day for the revival of its customs. Such of the observances that survive are interesting. They are evidently intended to enable the members of the society to throw off for one day in the year the worries and anxieties of business in favour of a little innocent diversion. Reffley spring, which is situated about two miles out of town, was a famous resort for Lynn people in the old days. Perhaps the institution of the Reffley Bretheren was meant to perpetuate the excursions that were formerly indulged in. Issuing from the Spring is a good flow of chalybeate water, said to possess medicinal qualities but of the consistency of ink, and just as pleasing to the palate.
At the Spring there is a Temple, which is rented by the Bretheren at the nominal sum of £1 a year. It is on property belonging to the ffolkes family. Consequently at the present time this £1 per annum augments the income of the present head of the family, Sir William ffolkes, the squire of Hillington. The rites and ceremonies of the bretheren are performed in this Temple, and we believe the members of the society are known also as Knights of the Temple. The number of members is necessarily limited, and their election when a vacancy occurs, is conducted by ballot. A black ball is fatal. When a gentleman is once admitted to the charmed circle it is necessary that he should imbibe a mug full of the liquid from the Spring. This potation is served to him in a quaint vessel, several of which are in possession of the Bretheren. They are of considerable intrinsic value. A new member is also presented with a long pipe. On the stem his name is inscribed. He smokes this pipe while the Bretheren are on the visit to the Temple. At the end of the day the clay (pipe) is deposited in the building, to be used again at the subsequent yearly visits. The Temple is a small structure located amidst a wealth of woodland. Next in importance to its miniature assembly hall is the kitchen, wherein the annual banquet is prepared.
Of course the annual banquet is accompanied by a banquet. The menu is a recherché one. Various toasts are submitted. One of them is “The House of Hillington.” These toasts are drunk in a wonderful concoction of punch. The chalybeate water from the spring enters largely into its composition. This punch is the most mysterious symbol of the bretheren. It is prepared from an ancient recipe, the details of which are cherished as an inviolable secret within the bosoms of the successive presidents. Mr. A. G. Russell is the present president of the bretheren.
(On the day of their annual visit to their Temple.) In the morning, Mr. Russell proceeded to the Temple to manufacture a sufficient supply of punch for the day. The bretheren followed in the afternoon. They set out in style from the Globe Hotel, and arrived at the Temple in time for the banquet at three o’clock. It is a law among the bretheren that the proceedings shall continue until ten o’clock at night. What with feasting, toasting, punch drinking, and playing, the party of a score or so passed the time pleasantly away. Tea was also partaken of at the Temple.
The banqueting and the business having been concluded, the party ambled through the woods, smoking their long pipes, or participating in the delights of such ancient games as bumble-puppy, bowls and quoits. The bretheren are for the occasion permitted to invite a friend to the ceremonies, providing that they make themselves responsible for the proportionate cost incurred. Yesterday the Mayor of King’s Lynn was a guest, and Mr. G. B. ffolkes were present. Sir William ffolkes was unavoidably absent. In times gone by the bretheren would have been honoured by several distinguished visitors. About four years ago the Prince of Wales took lunch at the Temple, and inscribed his signature on the society’s records. The peculiar properties attached to the punch are said to be that by a proper mixing of b randy and the iron-infused water from the spring, gallons of it can be drunk without the drinker becoming intoxicated. Probably this is the chief characteristic in the constitution of the society, although the bretheren might not be prepared to admit the suggestion. From: THE NORFOLK NEWS –Second Sheet August 18, 1905
QUAINT CUSTOMS AT KING’S LYNN.
For upwards of 200 years the society of Reffley Bretheren has existed at King’s Lynn. The members met once a year, and yesterday they proceeded to their temple at Reffley, where there is a spring of chalybeate water. The bretheren have a banquet in their temple, and various toast as are submitted and drunk in a marvellous concoction, known as the Reffley punch. This is an admixture of brandy and water from the spring so combined that any quantity of it can be drunk without the drinker becoming intoxicated. After business and feasting the members ramble through the woods smoking long pipes, or they enjoy themselves by playing such ancient games as bumble-puppy, quoits, and bowls. From Sheffield Evening Telegraph Friday 17th August 1906 Nottingham Evening Post Friday 17th August 1906.
Secret Kept for over 100 Years -
Sir William ffolkes was yesterday elected president of the King’s Lynn Sons of Reffley, a most exclusive social society which has been in existence for nearly a century and a half. The members assembled in their temple in Reffley Woods to transact the business and to indulge in old English pastimes. Near the temple is a chalybeate spring. The water from which enters largely into the concoction of a wonderful punch which is served at the banquet, and of which the recipe has been kept an inviolable secret by each succeeding president for over 100 years. From Lancashire Evening Post Friday 9th July 1909.
FROM THE WORLD’S PRESS
By the early 1900’s the Reffley Society’s activities were being reported around the globe, the following item is taken from The Register Adelaide South Australia 1906.
A Quaint Society
The society of the Reffley Bretheren at King’s Lynn, which has been in existence for 200 years has held its annual meeting. The members proceeded to their Temple at Reffley, where there is a spring of chalybeate water, possessing medicinal qualities, but of the consistency of ink, and just as pleasing to the palate. The bretheren held a banquet in the temple, and various toasts were drunk in a wonderful concoction of punch. The recipe for this is an ancient one, and is cherished secretly by the successive Presidents of the society. Into its manufacture the water from the spring enters largely. When a new member is admitted he is compelled to drink a mug of water from the spring, and is then presented with a long clay pipe, upon which his name is inscribed. This pipe he then smokes on each visit to the temple. From The Register Adelaide South Australia Wednesday 26th September 1906.- this report also appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner Saturday 13th October 1906.
Three years later, ‘The Register’ of South Australia, again reported on the Society:
A Secret Recipe
Sir William Ffolkes (says the ‘St James Budget’) has been elected President of the King’s Lynn Sons of Reffley, a most exclusive social society, which has been in existence nearly a century and a half. The members assemble in their Temple in Reffley Woods, to transact business and indulge in old English pastimes. Near the temple is a chalybeate spring, the water from which enters largely into the concoction of a wonderful punch which is served at the banquet, and of which the recipe has been kept an inviolable secret by each succeeding president for over 100 years. From The Register South Australia 19th August 1909. This item also appeared in The Mercury. Hobart Tasmania Monday 30th August 1909, and on the 3rd September in the Northern Miner. The following day the Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, New South Wales published the item, as did the Aldbury Banner and Wodinga Express also of New South Wales on Friday October 8th 1909. It was also published in the Oakland Tribune 9th October 1909 and the Sheboygan Daily Press, Sheboygan Wisconsin 4th Dec 1909, in the USA.
The next year, 1910, the Sydney Evening News of South Australia reported;
Known as the Knights of the Temple, the members of the Reffley society, which has been established for over two centuries, met on June 29 at their temple, a small structure located amid a wealth of woodland about two miles from King’s Lynn, Norfolk (England). Close by is a spring of chalybeate water, and new members who were initiated had to drink a mugful of the liquid from the spring. At a subsequent banquet the various toasts were honoured in a mysterious punch which had been made by the president from an ancient and secret recipe. From Evening News Sydney NSW Wednesday 24th August 1910.
A TYPICAL MEETING
A typical meeting, of the Reffley Bretheren, around this time, 1910, would proceed as follows:
The day before the meeting, two sisters went to get the Temple ready, collecting keys from a Lynn jeweller, who was presumably a Brother.
On the day the Bretheren met at the Duke’s Head in Lynn and were conveyed out to Reffley by wagonette. There was a lobster salad tea in the afternoon, served on one of the blue and white bowls now in the museum. The lobsters came from a Lynn game and fish dealer, (still in business in the town) who was needless to say, also a member. The lobster teas continued until the second world war, and they played “bumble-puppy” which consisted in hitting a ball fastened to a post by a long string.
Meanwhile, dinner was on the go. The two sisters( one was Mrs Oakes) were roasting a saddle of mutton on a clockwork spit in a dutch oven (in a kitchen built behind the Temple), and boiling salt beet and carrots, and steaming Yorkshire puddings. Beef and mutton came from a Lynn butcher (who was a Brother of course).
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A meeting of the Reffley Bretheren, taken around 1910. The members are pictured with the clay pipes in which they used to smoke their special tabacco. The two ladies pictured, are the two sisters who would cook the Bretheren’s meals during the 1890’s and well into the 1900’s. Photo courtesy of Lynn Museum.
After dinner, round the table in the temple, they drank the punch from the bowls, with their ‘toast’s; one inscribed on each bowl, “Success to the sons of Reffley”, “Sir W. B. Folkes and the House of Hillington”, and “Lady Folkes”. Long churchwarden pipes were smoked and apparently each member had his own, named. Toasts were drunk, songs sung by candle light (and apparently still are) and out came all the freely expressed opinions as the punch got to work. At the end of the evening, the president rose – and apparently still rises – to his feet. The bowl is empty and he announces “Gentlemen, the tide has gone out”, and the meeting is closed. Two teapots were used to lift the punch from the bowl, with which they filled the glasses.
The meeting closed, the wagonette called to take the Bretheren back to Lynn. Next day the two sisters returned to the temple to clear away the leavings and wash up. The cutlery was washed and dried carefully and rubbed with mutton fat to prevent rust, wrapped in a cloth and put away in the large pot in which the beef was boiled, ready for next year. From the notes for Reffley Spring King’s Lynn 24th Festival Exhibition 2 July – 28 September 1974.
The Bretheren’s decorated Punch Bowls pictued in Lynn Museum