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Village Events

Newspaper articles show the village has always enthusiastically supported sports and social activities.

On the sports side, the earliest recorded cricket match, involving a team from the village, was in August 1856 when Marnhull were beaten by 39 runs. The match was played at Steepleton Park and it was not until 1950 when the playing fields were purchased that the team had a dedicated home pitch.

As for football, in 1898, the “Boys of the Parish” requested the parish council to obtain a recreation ground for them to play football. A field was rented although there is no record of the village forming its own team until the 1950’s when the team won the Shaftesbury and District League having been runners up the previous year. They also won the cup beating Durweston 2-1 in the final.

Research into the history of the playing fields and community centre is currently underway and the eventual booklet will be made available here to read and download.

On the social side, the earliest reference is from May 1844 when the Vale of Blackmoor troop of the Queens own Dorset Yeomanry marched through the village from Manstone House (where their Captain H.F.Yeatman lived) to Millbrook House where they were “heartily greeted by a large number of parishioners”.

The first record of a “village get together” is from November 1848 when “the children of the Day and Sunday schools, 150 in number, with their teachers were regaled at Hanford House by the owner, H.Ker Seymer, to celebrate his birthday. They were regaled by a sumptuous dinner of old English fare, roast beef and plum pudding”. On the lawn in front of the mansion they “entered, full of glee, into a variety of amusements which were provided for them. The scene was graced by the presence of many ladies and gentlemen of the neighbourhood, who appeared to be highly gratified with the sight”.

In those days, Hanford House featured regularly as the venue for most major outdoor activities as the Manor House was not built until 1901 and the village hall in 1909.

The archive contains many newspaper cuttings (potentially covered by copyright) together with posters, programmes and photographs from which the following selections are drawn. A separate booklet relating to celebrations of royal events is in course of production and will be available here to read and download after the platinum jubilee in June 2022.

  1919 Resume of Western Gazette article   The postponed Peace Day Sports were held on Bank Holiday and proved a complete success. Three prizes of 30s (£1.50), 20s and 10s kindly given by Lieutenant-Colonel Curme for the best decorated milk float which were won by 1st Mr B. Francis, 2nd Mrs M. Ross and third Mrs E.H. Woolfrey. Prizes were also offered for the best decorated bicycle, the gent’s prize being won by Mr A. Wareham and the lady’s prize by Miss B. Woolfrey and Miss Alner. The Child Okeford Brass Band was in attendance, playing various selections during the afternoon and assisted with dance music in the evening. The Committee of which the Rev. C.H.S. Bower was chairman and Mr A. Knight treasurer and Dr Richardson as starter did their utmost to make the affair a success. Mr Harry Clench was secretary and he worked extremely hard at a difficult task, much of the success of the event being due to his efforts. A dance in the village hall from 10.30 to 2.30 brought a good company together and was thoroughly enjoyed, music being provided by the Child Okeford Quadrille Band
1925   Resume Western Gazette article   A few years ago, a local representative committee met together to hold an annual sports meeting in the village. The first was ruined by drenching rain, another by a foot and mouth outbreak but this year’s function passed off successfully. There was a short thunder shower during the day but it caused no inconvenience. Mr Hall placed two of his fields at the disposal of the committee. The afternoon programme consisted of local and open events, athletics during the afternoon followed by several events for ponies and horses. There was also a musical chairs on bicycles competition, a race for members of the committee and an open tug of war competition. Various other attractions had been provided. A bowling competition for a live pig and a couple of cockerels was a popular source of amusement. A good number of the travelling fete attractions were stationed in the field and were largely patronized in the evening. The local brass band was in attendance and played for dancing in the evening.
1946  Resume Western Gazette article   The annual gymkhana and pony races in a field lent by Mr E. Chaffey produced the biggest entry on record and it was late in the evening before the programme was completed. Over 100 horses – many of them well known hurdlers from over a wide area – took part. The large number of spectators witnessed some keen jumping and riding events. While not attracting a very big entry the pony races produced some keen finishes. Mr T.W. Blanchard’s “Smoke” won the silver cup awarded for the horse or pony gaining the highest number of points in the gymkhana events.
   1949 Barnet’s Folly   Child Okeford Theatre Club The club started during the war by William (Bill) Young continued its popular productions after the war to raise money for troops returning home. Annual productions included “Painted Sparrows”, “Immortal Garden”, “Easy Money”, “If Four Walls Told” and “Barnet’s Folly”. “Barnet’s Folly” won a certificate of Merit at the Dorset Drama League Festival in 1949, where the adjudicator made special mention of several fine performances. When Bill Young left the village in the early fifties the club closed. The 1949 play was reviewed by the Western Gazette
“The reputation of this club has spread a long way beyond the village and when its members presented their latest production “Barnet’s Folly” large audiences filled the village hall to capacity. The club does not boast a large membership and the producer William Young had to find four new members for this production. The members include two farmers, a school mistress and a chauffeur. The verbal tussles, in broad Dorset, between 60 year old Harry Bee and Joe Watts, the “gawking” clumsiness of Reg Pride and Henry Tuffin were all little gems in which the audience and the players as well, thoroughly reveled.”

1970 Hambledon Heyday.   The first record we can find was in the parish magazine “The Hill” in 1969 which referred to Hambledon Hey-Day although in the previous year a fete was held by the Playgroup and PTA at Rivermead Farm, Child Okeford. Since 1969 the event has been called Hambledon Heyday, Child Okeford Hey-Day and finally just Hey Day. Prior to 1968 the only event we can find on record was in July 1947 when the Child Okeford Youth Club held a “Fete and Sports” event at Fontmell Parva. We can find no references to a “Hey Day”, or similar, in any local newspapers up to 1950 nor any reference in parish council records from 1950 to 1967. A “Hey Day” was held in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973 then became the “Rector’s Fete” in 1974 and 1975. In 1982, in order to raise funds toward the building of a new Community Centre, a “Grand Sponsor Mower and Barbecue Evening” was held and included stalls, steam engines, donkey and cart rides. This was a very successful and popular event and led to the resurrection of the “Hey Day” the following year which was then held annually until 1996. The event “rested” from 1997 to 2000 although village fetes were held in 1998 at the Recreation Ground and in 1969 at Cranborne Edge, before making a brief return in 2001 on the back of the highly successful “Millennium Celebrations” the previous year. We then had to wait until 2014 before a committee was formed to try again although in 2012 and 2013 celebrations were held to commemorate anniversaries of The Queen. Sadly, after much effort, the 2014 event had to be cancelled due to torrential rain. But, undeterred, the committee succeeded in putting on an excellent “Hey Day” in 2015 and each year since. Apart from giving the villagers a great day’s fun, from the 1960’s to the 1990’s the prime objective of the Hey Day was to raise funds for the village principally the Community Centre, the School and the Village Hall. From 2015 local charities were also supported such as Home Start, Julia’s House and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. In 2017 £3000 was raised toward the establishment of defibrillators in the two redundant telephone kiosks in the village.

In 1990 Villager Tony Ward took a video of the event which can be seen here.
1986 The Shillingstone – Blandford Raft Race.   The first raft race was run in 1981 when twenty eight rafts started the trip from Haywards Bridge. Five years later more than one hundred completed the course that ended at the weir at The Ham, Blandford. The race was split into two sections; those who thought they could beat the existing time of two hours and four minutes; and those who took part for fun and were unconcerned if the ten mile trip took eight hours. The event continued for fifteen years and was then stopped by the owners of the river banks because of concern about environmental damage.  

Villager Tony Ward took a video of the event in 1991. Our thanks go to him and it can be viewed on YouTube – here.
 Child Okeford Village Events (COVEs)   In 1997 Jim Acland stood down as chairman of the Hey Day committee after 14 years involvement as he was moving out of the area. A number of similarly long-standing members of the committee also took the opportunity to have a rest. Despite the best of intentions, a fete was not held that year. At a public meeting in October 1997 a new committee was formed styled “The Village Events Committee” which morphed into COVEs. Fetes were held in 1998 and 1999 but it wasn’t until 2001 that it was called “Hey Day”. Sadly, that was the last Hey Day until 2014 since when it has once again become a permanent feature of village life. COVEs also ran a series of small events to raise funds for village clubs and groups and was wound up late 2002. But the committee will be best remembered for organizing the Millennium celebrations. When a parish council survey in early 1998 revealed the village wanted a street party, COVEs stepped up and announced a party on 1st July 2000 with an afternoon tea and evening dance. All were asked to contribute – cake, sandwiches, sausage rolls or something similar. Entertainment would be provided and would be free. Permission was obtained to close the High Street and the Cross and the afternoon tea started at 2.30pm and after a break early evening recommenced at 7.30pm with a hog roast music and dancing to the Hambledon Hopsteps.
  Painting by Mary Straughan

Painting by Jane Wilkins
1999 The Millennium Book “Child Okeford: A Dorset Village”   Click here to read and/or download a copy of the book Aside from the Street Party and Dance the millennium provided another notable event – the production of a book covering the first 10,000 years of the village’s history. Following the survey by the parish council the idea of a “modern Doomsday Book with photos” was suggested. A small committee was formed in the spring of 1998 and sufficient progress made by November 1998 for a target publication date of 1st December 1999. By the summer of 1999 the content of a 220 page book had been collated from a variety of sources and especially from the villagers themselves, past and present, who were also able to provide many photographs. At the pre-production launch in July 1999 over 600 orders for a copy of the book were taken. The final print run comprised 1200 copies and within 12 months of publication all copies had been sold. Click here to see a copy of the various reviews and letters that were published after the book was published. The success of the sales resulted in a surplus of funds which enabled a wheelchair to be purchased for the surgery and a millennium bench commissioned from Okeford Crafts which can be seen, and indeed sat on, in the Cross, by the bus shelter. Sadly, all the project files which included negatives of all the photos and programmes, the draft versions of the book and the research papers were “mislaid” during a house move. However, the loss was a major driver toward the establishment of the current digitally focused archive.
 2003 Pre-school extension COCCLDuring the summer of 1967, a group of parents opened a “Playgroup” for 4 year old’s in the village hall. Numbers steadily increased and included children from Sturminster and Shillingstone. At some point the name was changed to “Pre-School” and around 1995 moved to a room at St Nicholas School. In 2002 the school required the use of the pre-school room as a reception classroom. A lottery application for funds to build an extension to accommodate the pre-school was turned down. At a public meeting in January 2003 it was agreed to continue the pursuit of a purpose built unit in the school, grounds and the premises to be styled “Early Years Centre”. A working party was set up and a series of fund raising events initiated such as a “Buy A Brick” campaign, raffles, dinners, dances, garden party at Millbrook House, competitions etc. In December 2003 planning permission was granted and preliminary costs estimated at £320,000. Despite many set backs the funds were raised from generous donations by The Salisbury Diocesan Trust, Dorset Rural Renaissance, Surestart, Liveability, Defra and the villagers. In order to obtain some of the grants it was necessary to expand the range of users of the premises to include adult and community use and the building which became known as “The Child Okeford Centre for Care and Learning (COCCL)” was officially opened by Sir John Tavener in March 2007
  St Nicholas Church The Parish Plan produced in 2004 recorded “St. Nicholas Church is the most significant building in the village, yet its use is limited.” Villagers were asked how they would like to see the church being used and a large majority were in favour of greater flexibility in its use. The PCC took this on board and so began an interesting and entertaining phase at the church. At the foremost was a trilogy of plays by the Rector Ewen Pinsent with a range of different cultural events: 2004: “Pious Pirates of Portland Bill” set in England in the summer of 1588 when the Spanish armada was deemed to have visited Poole. 2013: “Oh Nicholas”. St Nicholas in ancient Turkey to Nicholas Leeson (Barings Bank) in Hong Kong via Tzar Nicholas and Nicholas Breakspear (Pope Adrian IV). 2015: “Nicholas the Man from the Sea”. A play about the Church’s patron. Musical events included: 2006: “Rejoice and be Merry”. A traditional Christmas celebration – words, music and drama. 2008: “Celebration of English Music” 2009: “Last Night at the Proms” The latter two arranged by Kris Emmett. Children were catered for with: 2005: “Holiday Club” for children aged 5 – 11 2007: “No Room at The Inn”. A Christmas celebration performed by the pupils of St Nicholas School assisted by COMPACT. 2009: “Hambledon Story” by Peter Smith. The Romans in AD54; Civil War 1645; Thomas Hardy 1876; and Wartime August 1944

Royal Celebrations: Platinum Jubilee 2022
Since Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 the village has celebrated royal jubilees and anniversaries in a variety of ways culminating in the Platinum Jubilee in June 2022 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years reign.
Drawing on records collected by the Child Okeford Archive, the British Newspaper Archive, the village vestry and parish council meetings, previous village histories and back copies of “The Hill” an 80 page booklet has been produced looking back over the years and enhanced by copies pf posters and programmes, photographs of memorabilia and photographs, as available, of the day itself.
The book can be read and downloaded here .