The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The annual village fete and a precious Eltex memory

Photo: Vintage Eltex greenhouse heater

Photo: Vintage Eltex greenhouse heater

We were lucky with the church fete this year. It was a warm sunny day and attracted loads of people. Gradually over the years it has evolved from a quiet village fete to an efficiently run machine. As a fund raising enterprise, this has worked. The takings have shot up and the small village church reaps the dividends.

these days, we have Stewards’  badges and T-shirts for the core workers.  Danny and I help run the bar which now sells beer, lager and soft drinks alongside the St Clements Punch . The latter used to be optionally alcoholic (via a bottle of vodka for discreet requests) but now is a delicious teetotal drink that D and I make the evening before.

As you have to buy the T-shirts, we prefer to arrive in mufti. Despite this we actively compete with the food stand next door. They won this year (having sold out and packed up early) and taken wads of dosh. We finished the five hour stint feeling like marathon runners that completed after dark. But we took more money than last year and I’m sure that it was down to the efficiency of Archie, Russell, Paul and Owen who were instructed to help us.

It’s always fun running a busy bar. No one needs to be cajoled into buying a drink on a hot day.

And beyond the bar loads of tempting stalls beckon.

This year I bought lots of strawberry plants and a few choice tomato varieties that I hadn’t grown this year. I’d decided not to look at the books or the White Elephant stall but as I was tottering back to the bar behind a vast box of strawberry plants I spotted a real winner standing heroically beside the White Elephant stall.

A vintage Eltex greenhouse heater (brass and galvanised steel). This little beauty runs on paraffin and has four wicks – two per burner – and a humidifying tray. Perfect for frosty days and nights in our greenhouse – it can run on one burner or anthing up to four.  This heater just cost me just £5. Later that day I discovered that I had bought a bargain – one sold recently on Ebay for £58.

There was a lot of interest in the fact that we had bought the heater. Several people had spotted it but held back, hoping for a real bargain at the end of the day.

“Why did you buy it?” Raymond gently enquired.
“Because it’s beautiful and useful. I like vintage stuff.  Eltex is a good make.”
He examined the heater closely.
“These windows are made of mica. It’s dug out of the ground.”
I’ve got some mica in my crystal collection but would be loathe to use it to replace the window lights on the burners, which are a bit damaged.
“One of the local horse racing stud farms called us and I went to collect it. My grandfather had one.” He touched the heater gently.
“I remember filling up the tray at the top with water.”

For a second I could almost see Raymond the child, holding the heavy watering can and pouring carefully.

We will treasure our beautiful heater. It will enable us to grow salad leaves in the winter, start our seeds really early and protect our precious scented pelargonium for next year.

  Leave a reply


  1. Martyn Morgan

    i have just given the same heater as in the pictured to a friend, does anyone have a manual or any instructions on how to get it all set up and working

  2. alison beverley

    I have a 2 burner version that was m grandfather’s but I don’t kno how renew the wick . do you hve any advice please
    thank you

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Veronica

    Optionally alcholic punch was a good idea 🙂

    Hello GTM

    I totally agree. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Sylvie

    It was a good day. These village get togethers do help to build a sense of community and they are great fun too.

    Hello Amanda

    I’m delighted with the heater and with four adaptable burners it’s hugely versatile!

    Hi Casalba

    Love the idea of a win your own breakfast stand. Brilliant!

    I expect health and safety have put paid to that. I’m amazed that we are still allowed cake stands at the village fete – perhaps their days are numbered too?

    Hello The Chicken Lady

    It would have been perfect too for your wonderful potting shed. Unfortunately you were still on the plant stall when I spotted it!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    The plants at the fete are always great and fill a lot of gaps for me in the vegetable garden.

    However an early fete often means a freezing cold and/or wet fete. We’ve been lucky with the weather these past two years but often the weather is dire.

    The scented geraniums were my first thought when I spotted it. Also I want to branch out much more in the greenhouse this winter. Sowing salad leaves and getting my seeds set early.

  4. magic cochin

    What sensible time of year for a fete. Our Village Fete is at the end of June – a nightmare for the plant stall as most people have all the veg/bedding/new border plants they want for the year! Isn’t it amazing how everything comes together on the day and how competitive the stalls get with each other!

    What a find for your greenhouse – great for overwintering the scented geraniums 😉


  5. The Chicken Lady

    I did see said heater at Fete and wondered who would by it. I should have known.

    I too think it a thing of beauty, retro chic in the Greenhouse.

  6. casalba

    What a bargain! I love village fetes. My friend and I used to run the “win your breakfast” stand. Eggs half buried in sand – some hollow, some whole. If you picked the whole one, you could take it home with a free packet of bacon. (I’m wondering whether Health & Safety has put paid to all that now?)

  7. Amanda

    I love events like that too. It’s what living in a village is all about. Great bargain you got there.

  8. Sylvie

    Sounds like you had a really good day. I love events like that, especially if there are bargains to bag as well.

  9. Thats a lovely heater :o)
    I have yet to find an old object whose newer counterpart is better or nicer lookiing,I think older things have far more grace about them,they normally last longer & work better as well
    GTM :o)

  10. Veronica

    Love the idea of optionally alcoholic punch at a village fete! It sounds delicious even without the alcohol.

    And what a bargain! You must be so pleased with it. I remember those heaters too.

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