Old Folk’s Day Celebrations in Parham Suffolk!!

Old Folk's Day Celebrations in Parham Suffolk!!

If you regularly read my blog you will know that I recently bought an intriguing old photograph of Parham in Suffolk on EBay, which when I bought it had the description:

An albumen photograph, probably dating to C.1880 / 1890 of a group of elderly citizens, captioned in pen to rear ‘Old people of Parham – possibly taken at the rectory’
I compared the photograph to a postcard of the Parham Vicarage that I have and it is definitely the same building, so I am now trying to date it and to see if there are any of my ancestors who originated from Parham shown in it.

The only clue is the Rector who is standing in the middle back row who I have yet been unable to identify, but after making contact with a gentleman in Parham I have discovered the following information:

He has looked up various notes that he has written by Rev. John Mather and has sent me the following:
John Mather was inducted on 28th March 1896 and he writes in 1904 that on 31st May (sadly no year is given):

Today is Old Folk’s Day, as a rule it comes about once in two years, but it is a movable feast. This is the way we keep it. We begin with two short, but very impressive services in church, the former a celebration of Holy Communion, the latter a special service with an address lasting only a very few minutes, for the Old Folks cannot keep their attention for long together.

We have the help of three pony carts and every effort is made to collect all the Old Folks possible from the two parishes. The first eight rows of seats under the pulpit are reserved for their use. Most touching it is to see these venerable rows of heads, white with the snows of upwards of seventy winters. Among them are ‘the blind, the halt, the withered’, though most of them have still the remains of their old magnificent physique. Hear some of them joining in singing ‘Rock of Ages’. There is joy in heaven over one old man or woman who can sing as some of them can with the peace of a good conscience and a pure heart.

For several of the Old Folks, today must be the first time they have been outside their cottage gates since our last gathering three years ago. After the second of these services, which practically all attend, we manage to get them up to the Vicarage, where my mother provides them with a substantial dinner; the last Old Folks Day, bye the bye, was in celebration of her own ‘coming of age’! Then comes the ‘picture-drawing’, as they call it – in other words we are photographed on the lawn, and the rest of the day is spent talking over in good old Suffolk what we had to do when we were lads and lasses and all the world was young.

If Rev. Mather was writing this in 1904, as we think likely, then the date of the picture is summer 1901 and hence they are in mourning for Queen Victoria.

He came to Parham from being Vicar of Groombridge in Sussex, just south of Tunbridge Wells and had been there long enough for the village to club together to build him a Vicarage.

If anyone can help with any more information which might actually date the photograph so that possibly people can be identified from the closest Parham and Hacheston census records to that date, then I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Many thanks

Simon

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