History Of the Harvest Home
The oldest surviving Harvest Home in Somerset is East Brent having been started by archdeacon George Denison in 1857. He was keen to have a recognised holiday for the workers and this appeared to be an opportunity.
One man describes the meal “How they poured in, one after another, an endless string. Huge joints of meat decked with flowers, large banners on the walls, and plum puddings by the dozen. How the meat went, and then the puddings. And so the dinner was over. Waistcoats strained, then sweat poured down, the cider was quaffed, and they were happy!”
The ladies had their meal the following day and it was very different. The next evening the school-room was again filled, but this time it was by the poor women to partake of tea, when bread and butter, cake, ham, tea, and other good things were soon made use of in a truly interesting manner.“
The first Harvest Home had 500 people in attendance but later there were around 6,000 people and it went on for days.
Over the years it has lost it’s purpose in thanking the workers during the harvest and has become more of a celebration to agriculture.
Well it doesn’t really. By having the event every 4 years it creates something to look forward to and something a bit special. The committee feel that if the Harvest Home was annually it would lose that special feeling. It would also put a lot onto the small committee to organise an annual event.
Once the event is finished the committee start work on the next event. There will be a review of the previous event and both positive and negative elements will be captured to build into the next event.
Around this time the order is placed for the marquees for the next event. By ordering early we guarantee the marquees and the prices, therefore keeping the costs down.
During the following few years the committee organise a few events, this provides funds for the Harvest Home and keeps their hand in with regards to event organising. Whist there are some tried and tested events like mouse racing the committee like to try new events and have recently organised both Halloween Fancy Dress and Bottle Racing events.
Around 18 months before the event the committee become more focused on the Harvest Home itself and agreements are made with regards to evening entertainment as these need to be booked well in advance .
By the time they are 1 year from the event they will be having monthly meetings to discuss the details of the events , these meetings are very sociable and are enjoyable evenings. Once they are around 8 weeks away the meetings are weekly and the tickets are on sale.
The marquee normally arrives the Wednesday before the event and at that time the committee along with the vital willing helpers are living in the field setting everything up. By the Friday night everything is ready and the security team baby sit the marquee ready for the day of the event.
That morning the committee and the willing helpers arrive and do the final set up along with the final preparations for the food.
The day after the event is a high workload day and the committee hugely appreciate all the people who come along to help tidy and clear away. It takes around a week after the event before everything is completed and the process can start again.
If you are interested in getting involved please contact one of the committee.
Harvest Home Finance
The purpose of the event is not fund raising it is purely to provide an enjoyable for the village, however all the recent event have provided a surplus.
Whist some money is kept for the future events most of the surplus money is given to groups in the village. This provides important funding in the village.
The cost of setting up the Harvest Home is substantial with the costs of the marquee and bands etc. The total costs of the event are in the region of £20,000 so there is a significant responsibility taken on by the committee.
What a difference a night makes
Whist the tickets are sold with the villages as a priority once some of the tables are cleared the capacity increases and therefore there are normally plenty of tickets available to the wider community and the supporters of the live bands.
There is normally some early evening entertainment which in 2012 was provided by the Polden Hills and Highbridge Young Farmers in the form of the Burtle Olympic It’s a Knock Out. Certainly the spectators had lots of fun watching the very athletic young farmers successfully completing a tricky course in some rather silly costumes.
The evening continued in this year with 2 live bands, a pig roast and of course the occasional glass of something you fancy.
No such thing as a free lunch
Everyone has to pay for their lunch at the Harvest Home with one exception, that being the guest speakers who entertain and educate us and they receive complementary tickets to the lunch.
Even the committee pay for their tickets to both the lunch and the evening event. Quite often the committee members grab their lunch in between running the event.
Whilst the Burtle Harvest Home is a one day event in takes time to pull together providing the funding and the event starts a week earlier with the Scarecrow Competition. This Scarecrows over recent years have provided the village will lost of fun and some amazingly creative ideas.
One year we had a police man with a speed camera close to the village hall and the amount of cars speeding noticeably dropped. We had the Stig, sat on a toilet watching the cars go by. Workers stuck up electricity poles for days and we caught a burglar trying to climb over the church gate.