About 200 years ago the people of Colebrooke would be getting ready for their annual festivities. However, The Colebrooke Revel seems to have been taking place long before this and originally began with a church service on the morning of the Sunday nearest the 7th of July followed by a day of sporting activities.
In 1896 a paper read to the Devonshire Association regarding the revels of Devon over the previous 100 years mentioned Colebrooke and said it had become noteworthy for its “Revel Buns”
The following was copied verbatim from the 1824 recipe book of Samuel Hook whose bakery would have been adjacent to the square at Colebrooke, roughly where Belgarden House now stands and was lost in a large fire in 1866.
(Modern conversions have been added where necessary).
“Receipt to make the best sugar cakes for Colebrooke Revel.
To one bushel of flour (26kg) add much butter say 16lb(7kg),
Cream 7 quarts and 1 pint(8.5ltr), Brown Sugar 3 quarters(36kg)
Milk 3 pints, Eggs 36, Currants 1 pound (0.6kg),1 Nutmeg,
Yeast 1 quart(1.14ltr), Cath (Castor) Sugar to spread over them.”
No details were given as to how it was mixed or cooked, but one can see why they were known as “sugar cakes.”
Over the years the format of the revel seems to have varied, and the sports began to take place on either the Saturday or Monday. In the early 19thC, for a time, it was known as Coleford fair and races and usually took place in the field on the Copplestone road, near Coleford, opposite the back entrance to Bolts Farm. It would begin with races for horses and ponies followed by foot races and sometimes wrestling. In 1839 the programme stated, “All dogs on the field may be shot by members of the committee!”
After the coming of the railway which reduced the size of the field, festivities took place in the fields either side of the track leading to Butsford opposite Dickleg cottages. (Poachers) and later in Oxenpark, the field further up the track which now has the bridle path. During the 1860s/1870s the revel fell out of favour, but during the 1880s the formation of The Colebrooke Sports Committee saw it return and become a regular event again. It reached its peak in the years after WW1 with a crowd of over a thousand estimated to have attended the 1921 revel. However, this was followed by a steep decline, and in 1927, it was decided to abandon the revel through lack of interest. It was never revived although the sports committee continued to operate and organised sports for various celebration days until about 1960.