The Last Public Celebration
at Reffley Spring.
The Eastern Daily Press for 23rd June 1978 reported on what would be the last traditional public celebration at Reffley Spring:
Guardian sphinxes watch
over anniversary binge
(Sitting around the Stone Table,) Arthur Yelton tugged at the ear of corn poking from the corner of his mouth and beamed: “King’s Lynn should rest easy now.”
All around him hordes of people were preparing for the biggest ever Bacchanalian binge in the history of Reffley Temple……..and the beauty of it all was that the rain-dampened binge, organised in the name of history, was helping Lynn to stave off a fatal curse.
Nestling in the leafy ring of beeches, a Latin inscription on a towering concrete obelisk told the strange story and explained Arthur Yelton’s bold declaration. Translated, it read: “ Whosoever shall remove this or bid its removal, let him die the last of his race.”
Not much chance of that happening, it might seem. But vandals, evidently without a grasp of Latin, seemed to be threatening just that.
The secluded temple with its guardian sphinxes and the obelisk-topped clearwater spring – used in the Bretheren’s secret brew – was rapidly being wrecked. And, said Mr Yelton: “ Nobody in Lynn was was lifting a finger to stop them.” Hence the fears that history’s chilling message could alter the timing of Lynn’s day of reckoning.
The Reffley estate resident’s association decided it was time for action. They agreed a peppercorn rent of 10p a year to the Bretheren to lease the site as guardians. The vandal-scarred temple was tidied up; the blocked spring cleared; and last night rain-soaked celebrations saw the local citizens making the most of their new land. The date of the giant picnic was no accident. For yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the gift of one of the temple’s oldest features – the stone picnic table. Inscribed on its time-worn face are the words: This stone table was presented to the Members of Reffley by a Friend.” Its date: June 22nd 1778.
The 1978-vintage picnickers drawn up around the old stone bore a remarkable resemblance to their 18th century counterparts. Kate, the serving wench, dished up a real helping of the past – traditional rabbit and gravy pie washed down with a tawny port. Enjoying a delicious taste of history, were Graham Shelton, the association’s chairman, his wife, Margo, and, of course, the Reffley’s local yokel, Arthur Yelton, who is vice-chairman. And below the spreading branches, the milling throng of people, including many youngsters, listened to a folk singer, watched a magician and entered into fancy dress competitions – all helping to boost funds for the association’s neighbouring recreation field.
The bricked up temple, with its history of long nights drinking and smoking churchwarden pipes dating back to the days of the French Revolution, was filled, aptly enough, with crates of alcohol. Mind you, it would have had those long departed Bretheren turning in their graves. For nowhere was there a mug of that notorious brew, mixed with iron-concentrated spring water, only beer and wine.
But the president of the surviving 22 Bretheren, the Hon George Dawnay, was not upset at all. “they have done a splendid job. They have saved us.” He said, as the merry-making continued into the night. S. S. from the Eastern Daily Press Friday June 23rd 1978.
A shorter report with photograph, also appeared in the Eastern Evening News on the same date, entitled:
In the picture (above) Kate Winton portrays a serving wench as she fills a tankard from Reffley Spring. From Eastern Evening News Friday 23rd Jun 1978.
Arthur Yelton tugged at the corn poking from the corner of his mouth and beamed “Kings Lynn should rest easy now.” All around him people were preparing for the biggest ever Bacchanalian binge in the history of the Reffley Temple.
(The) historic home of the Reffley Bretheren, a weird and most exclusive sect dating back to Cromwellian England and dedicated to swallowing a secret brew in the name of Bacchus. Reffley Temple was wallowing in its alcoholic past. And the beauty of it was that the rain-dampened binge, organised in the name of history, was helping Lynn stave off a fatal curse.
Nestling in the leafy ring of beeches, a Latin inscription on a towering concrete obelisk told the strange story and explained Arthur Yelton’s bold declaration. Translated it read, “Whosoever shall remove this or bid its removal let him die the last of his race.”
Yesterday’s giant picnic marked the 200th anniversary of the gift of one of the temple clearing’s oldest features – the stone picnic table.
The organisers of the festivities, really entered into the spirit of the times, with the ‘olde style’ Menu, they prepared for the event: