When we think of picnics, we often think of languid afternoons with Regency ladies and gentlemen conversing over delicacies.


However, picnics have a delicious history that spans centuries. The concept of communal dining in outdoor settings dates back to ancient civilizations, where people gathered for feasts and celebrations in open spaces. The modern notion of picnics as we know them today began to emerge in the Middle Ages.

During the Renaissance period, outdoor dining gained popularity among the European aristocracy. Nobles would organise elaborate outdoor feasts in their gardens or countryside estates, showcasing their wealth and indulging in lavish meals amidst nature’s beauty. These gatherings often featured sumptuous spreads of meats, cheeses, fruits, and wine, accompanied by music and entertainment.


The term “picnic” itself is believed to have originated in France during the 17th century. The French word “pique-nique” referred to a potluck-style meal where guests each brought a dish to share. This communal dining practice soon spread across Europe, becoming a popular pastime among people from various social classes.

In the 19th century, picnics underwent a transformation, becoming more accessible to the general public. Industrialization and urbanization led to a growing middle class with increased leisure time. As transportation improved, city dwellers sought refuge from urban life by escaping to parks, beaches, and countryside for picnics with family and friends.

Fortnum's feast

A classic Fortnum & Mason picnic hamper

Picnic baskets

Picnics became especially popular during the Victorian era, celebrated as wholesome and genteel outdoor activities. Women’s magazines of the time offered advice on picnic etiquette, suggesting appropriate attire and menu ideas. The picnic basket, a convenient vessel for transporting food and utensils, became an essential accessory for outdoor dining.

Throughout the 20th century, picnics continued to evolve, adapting to changing social norms and cultural influences. Today, picnics remain a beloved tradition worldwide, offering people an opportunity to connect with nature, savor delicious food, and enjoy quality time with loved ones in the great outdoors.

Watching the Horse Trials at Blenheim Palace is a perfect time for a picnic, which is why we have teamed up with Fortnum & Mason to bring you some extra special picnic offerings.