Weeton’s of Harrogate is launching an historical hunt for the original carving implements used at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Ox Roasting on the Stray – an event that the award-winning farm shop is painstakingly re-creating for the Diamond Jubilee weekend in June.
Weeton’s – and the Jubilee Committee – are calling for help to find 10 of the original 13 missing carving sets for a Jubilee roasting re-enactment, which first took place on the Stray in 1887.
The spectacular ox roasting and carving, which celebrated Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year, was originally performed with the 13 carving cutlery sets, and although two of the sets now reside in the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate – and a set is owned by local historian and Freeman of the Borough, Malcolm Neesam – the location of 10 of the sets still remains a mystery.
“We want our Jubilee ox roasting to have all the pomp and ceremony of the original occasion and finding the specially commissioned knives and forks that were used at the Victorian event will ensure we can rise – and roast – to the occasion!” says Weeton’s operations director Jo Loftus.
While the blades of the carving knives are made from steel, the handles are fashioned from carved bone, with Neesam’s set inscribed with the words: “Specially made to carve the Jubilee ox, roasted on Harrogate Stray, June 21st 1887”.
In honour of this summer’s Diamond Jubilee event, Weeton’s will be donating an ox from its own herd of Red Polls, which has its own ‘royal connections’, as one of the herd is the offspring of Appleton Fourpence, who came from the Sandringham estate – the country retreat of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
The Queen has already given permission for a fire pit to be dug in the Stray – land that remains in the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster – and plans are afoot for Jeremy Ravenshaw Fowler, top BBQ chef and grill master to mastermind all the cooking.
And while inventor, philanthropist and former Harrogate Mayor, Samson Fox, who donated the original ox and commissioned the 13 carving sets at his factory, The Leeds Forge, was master of ceremonies at the first roasting, in June, his mantle will be taken on by a Cabinet Member of Harrogate Borough Council.
The main spectacular will take place on Sunday 3 June, when the Mayor of Harrogate Borough lights the pit and a symbolic papier-mâché ox is set on fire. Revellers will then be able to tuck into delicious beef rolls from the real roasting, which Weeton’s will be selling directly on the Stray. All proceeds from the event will be going to St Michaels Hospice.
Tickets to the event, and for the food, will be on sale at Weeton’s and Harrogate Tourist Information Centre from early May. For more information call 01423 507 100.
So can you carve your place in history by discovering Harrogate’s hidden treasures?