by Shane Badham
Following my visit to Exeter to see the Exeter Flying Post, I visited Taunton to view the Western Flying Post.
I hoped to find out more about the Exeter and Bristol Railway and the retirement of James B. Badham, my G-G-Grandfather, on the 26th April 1845.
I was unlucky in this respect, but what I did find was a new article on the opening of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. I covered this in the Newsletter for November 2003, but this article has a magnificent description of the food provided for the luncheon.
WESTERN FLYING POST, SHERBORNE AND YEOVIL MERCURY, SATURDAY, MAY 4 
OPENING OF THE BRISTOL AND EXETER RAILWAY
This event, so interesting and important to the West of England, and especially the county of Devon, took place on Wednesday, the 1st of May. In compliance with a requisition addressed to him by nearly 200 of the principal citizens, the Mayor of Exeter had requested that the public shops might be closed, and, as far as possible, that business might be suspended. This was very generally attended to, and the beautiful weather adding to the enjoyment of the day, the city presented an appearance of gaiety and excitement which has not been witnessed for many years. The bells rung, the guns were fired, flags of every description were flying, and everything that could indicate a general holiday was to be seen.
The goods warehouse was appropriated for the grand banquet given on the occasion. During the past fortnight, the Committee have been unceasing in their exertions to render this part of the day's proceedings worthy the occasion. A déjeuner of the most elegant description had been provided. The number of persons who partook of this, amongst whom was a large proportion of the beauties of Devon, amounted to upwards of 900 persons, comprising great numbers from Bristol, Bath, and elsewhere.
For the accommodation of the vast Company five ranges of tables were laid longitudinally throughout the room. The Purveyors were Messrs. Joseph Cuthbertson and Son, of South-street; and Mr. Henry Mance, of High-street, in this city, confectioners; and the following was the
BILL OF FARE.
Rounds and Ribs of Roast and Boiled Beef, 30 Fore Quarters of Lamb, 140 Chicken, 30 Pigeon and Chicken Pies, 18 Raised Pies, 30 Tongues, 30 Hams, 90 Lobsters, 50 Dishes of Salad, 100 Moulds of Jelly, Blancmange and other Sweets, 120 Dishes of Ornamental Pastry, 60 Handsomely Ornamental Sponge Cakes, 120 Dishes Des-sert Fruits, 120 Dishes Dessert Biscuits, 30 Dishes Trifles, upwards of 20 Ornamental Stands and Baskets, Tea, Coffee, &c. The viands were of the choicest quality, nor should we omit especially to notice the beauty of the Ornamental Pastry, which for richness of decoration and elegance of design, is deserving the highest praise.
There were 45 dozen of Wines of the richest description, amongst which were 18 dozen of splendid sparkling Champagne.
The Worshipful the Mayor of Exeter, H. Hooper, Esq., presided over the vast assembly with his usual ability, and among the company we noticed—The Right Hon. Earl Fortescue, Lord Lieutenant of Devon; Henry Cartwright, Esq., High Sheriff of Devon; The Hon. Lord Courtnay, M. P., Sir W. W. Tonkin, Knt., E. Divett, Esq., M. P., F. N. Rogers, Esq., Recorder of Exeter; The Mayor of Bristol, The High Sheriff of Bristol, C. Russel, Esq., M. P., Lieut.-Col. Ellis, C. B., P. Miller, M. D., C. Sanders, C. B. Fripp, J. B. Badham, Esqrs., &c., &c, &c., together with nearly all the Gentry resident for many miles around the city.
The company having partaken of the good things so bountifully provided for them, the Mayor proceeded to give a few leading toasts, after which was read an address to the chairman and Directors of the Railway, congratulatory of the satisfactory issue of the undertaking, of its auspicious commencement, and expressive of the hope that it would prove the commencement of a long career of mutual prosperity.
The Engine which came down with the Director's Special Train was named "The City of Exeter," in compliment to the Metropolis of the West. It reached the terminus in the short space of less than 5 hours from Paddington. Several Members of the House of Commons, (part of the Committee of the South Devon Railway Bill), and Mr. Brunel, also accompanied them. The Exeter Post in its description of the Festival observes, "We congratulate then our fellow citizens and the county, and country generally, on the very satisfactory completion of this great undertaking, ridiculed as it was by some on being projected. It is another and most honourable proof of what may be effected when capital and skill are directed by extraordinary energy; nor can such an improvement in the means of inland transport prove otherwise than an important instrument in the production of national wealth and civilization. These must receive a proportionate impulse, since effects will now daily be witnessed, which had they been narrated a few years ago would have been treated as matters of fiction. Who could have credited the possibility of a ponderous engine, with numerous passengers in a train of carriages of corresponding magnitude, together with the necessary supply of coal and water, taking flight from Exeter and arriving at London, a distance of 193 miles, in the short space of 6 ½ hours!!! And yet such will henceforth be daily presented to all who will merely take the trouble to walk to the north-west side of this city. Nor is the speed of transport less wonderful than the weights this power is capable of transporting. These are astonishingly great, as has been evidenced to every one who has visited the Railway in the last fortnight."