Week off (Sunday): Charlton Horn Fair
The last time I visited the Horn Fair at Charlton House it was a lively, outdoor summertime event. Yesterday the venue was the same but everything was more sedate, indoors, with a much more middling demographic, and bearing little resemblance to the 18th century cuckolds' carnival once deemed the bawdiest in London. The Horn Fair has been resurrected by the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust to mark the Feast of St Luke, the event's traditional date, and they set about filling the building with activities with a historical slant. One target audience was children, with crafts, a treasure hunt and face painting scattered throughout, while adults were catered for with music and food and a roomful of talks spread across the day. In a cramped passageway by the toilets the Friends of Charlton House attempted to sell heritageworthy publications, upstairs in the Prince Henry Room a bewigged actor pretended to be a man of science, while out front a chirpy stonemason apprentice invited visitors to chisel their own reminder of the day.
It's not usually possible to explore this Jacobean mansion quite so widely, and for me the best part of the visit was finally getting the opportunity to roam within and admire its ceilings, fireplaces and panelled chambers. But I was also very taken by the postcard exhibition in the Long Gallery, lovingly curated by the lady standing alongside, opening up a snapshot of the era when stamped cardboard rectangles were the social media of their day. In one cabinet Annie's handwritten missives from Plumstead painted a verbal picture of Edwardian auntie/nephew chitchat, while another collection featured 'humorous' cartoons released as souvenirs of Woolwich Arsenal football club's weekly fixtures. The postcard exhibition is scheduled to remain open until Easter, whereas daily visitors don't generally get much further than the Mulberry Tearooms in the Minstrel Hall. A historic building with an oddly municipal feel, Charlton House isn't quite the draw it ought to be, but the Horn Fair (briefly) put that right.