The 2019 Killerton Apple Festival

Killerton House Apple Festival 2019

Text by Michael Coleman: video by Mike Brett, photos by Cynthia Underdown,  Cyril Chudley and Mike Brett.

As has become customary, a group of tractor and engine owners participated at the Killerton Apple Festival,  which was held in an orchard and parkland at the National Trust’s Killerton estate on 12/13 October 2019. Although in the past the festival had been known as the Cider and Apple Festival, the name had been simplified in 2019 to reflect the family-focused nature of the event, with large numbers of children attending to do exciting things with apples!
For the first time, engines were lined-up on one side of the approach road to the orchard, with tractors on the opposite side, thereby creating an avenue through which those attending were able to walk en route from the car parks to and from the entrance to the orchard itself. The focus for the year was on demonstrating with the stationary engines how they would have been used as an integral part of everyday living in rural areas like the Killerton estate before the advent of electricity, which had arrived well within the lifetime of many of the older spectators. In those ‘pre-throw a switch for power’ days, water would have been pumped and electricity generated by engines, while in the agricultural sector, engines of all sizes were the means by which power was provided for various kinds of work. Accordingly, most of the stationary engines on display, when running, demonstrated different kinds of power take-off, be it pumping water, generating electricity, cooling milk or milling corn into flour. And other things besides. Beyond that, there were displays of historically relevant agricultural tools and equipment, while the tractors provided a static display, linked to farming that would have taken place on the estate in the not too distant past.
As a special feature, there was also a former Green Goddess fire engine. This had been converted into a flatbed truck on which is mounted a large Ruston Hornsby engine, as can be seen in the pictures. Also shown is a similar engine that is housed at Killerton, as it was formerly used to power the sawmill in the yard that has subsequently become the National Trust car park. The Trust kindly arranged for the shed to be opened for us to view the engine, though sadly it was not running.
A poor weather forecast for the weekend and the actual weather on the day (mainly dry, but cool and very wet underfoot) seemed to deter visitors on the Saturday, with only about 2,400 attending.  From the perspective of exhibitors, that still meant that there were probably about double that number of ‘footfalls’, as most people left by the same route and there was a lot of interest in the displays. On the other hand, as the weather on the Sunday after lunch became sunny and warm, about double that number of people turned-up to enjoy the event. Once inside the orchard itself, there were many apple-themed displays and stalls, with every opportunity for children (and adults) to join-in and participate. In the centre of it all, the large live-music marquee was as popular as ever!
A good and popular event, although the 2019 version will probably be best remembered for its mud!