Category Archives: Christmas

A Christmas Carrol(l) and Other Festive Names

This is my last post before Christmas, and I thought I better make it seasonal. After writing about my Christmas family name last year, Herod, today I had a quick look for any names with more pleasant connotations. A quick scan of General Register Office (GRO) birth indexes reveal the following selection: 

  • Christopher Tingle – mainly modern occurrences. But one dates from Q2 1847 Islington 
  • There are a handful of babies named Ivy Holly (surname). They include one from Q2 1891 Eastbourne; 
  • Christmas Holly Bell Jeffreys is registered in Q1 1910 Easthampstead. Only the initial “B” appears in the index. The 1911 census confirms this stood for “Bell”; 
  • Mistletoe Spencer was registered in Q1 1910 in Doncaster. Mistletoe has gained slightly in popularity in recent years; 
  • Holly Berry, Berry being the surname, is again more popular in the modern era. The earliest civil registration occurence is in Q1 1880 Barnstaple; 
  • Holly Lavinia S Bush was registered in Q2 1899 Southampton; 
  • Christmas Rose appears once, registered in Q1 1873 Maldon; 
  • Bethlehem Shepherd features in Q1 1865 Chesterfield. There was also a Harry Bethlehem Shepherd in Q4 1878 Sheffield; 
  • An unusual name, but Virgin Mary appears occasionally, including baby Cotton who was registered in Q4 1875 Stow; 
  • There are a host of babies named Harold Angel, including one registered in Q1 1903 Burton; 
  • There are a couple of Christmas Angels. Robert Christmas Angel’s birth was registered in Q1 1870 Yarmouth whilst William Christmas Angel features in Q1 1890 Flegg; 
  • Christmas Carroll is there once, registered in the St Saviour District, Q1 1892; 
  • Lillian Ruth Christmas Tree was registered in the Canterbury District in Q1 1903. The letter “C” appears in the index. Her baptism in January 1903 at St Stephen’s, Hackington confirms “C” stood for “Christmas”; 
  • There are a few babies named Xmas, including Nellie Xmas Pulleyn whose birth was registered in Q1 1869 in the Croydon District. A Xmas Hollingworth was registered in Q4 1871 Barton upon Irwell; 
  • Yule is there too, including Yule Mary Bedford registered in Q1 1909 Worcester; 
  • Weather-related ones also crop up. I particularly like Amelia Snow Manning, registered in the Spalding District in Q1 1883; 
  • On a weather theme, there are two Winter Frost babies. One in Q1 1859 Kidderminster. The other in Q1 1873 Aston; 
  • Finally no Christmas list would be complete without Santa Claus. In this case Santa Claus Losack whose birth was registered in Q1 1891 in the Holborn District of London. 

Many of our Christmas traditions originate from Victorian times, and this is when it really took off as the festival we recognise today. So it seems clear, with the dates in which the majority of birth registrations occured, that many of these babies were named with the time of year in mind.  

Photo by Jane Roberts

Anyway there’s only one thing I can end with saying to everyone: Mary Christmas, and there are many of them in the birth indexes. 

Sources:

  • GRO Indexes of Births
  • 1911 England Census 
  • Baptisms at Stephen’s, Hackington at Canterbury Cathedral Archives, reference  U3/39/1/5 (FMP

For my post about war-related babies names see Shrapnel and Shelletta

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My Bizarre Christmas-Associated Family Name: AKA There’s more to Family History than DNA

In “Shrapnel and Shelletta[1] I wrote about war-associated baby names. This is a more seasonal post about a particular Christmas-associated family name.

When naming a baby at Christmas-time, which names conjure up this magical time of year? Which can be considered as festive and beautiful as this special period? Holly, Ivy, Joy, Noel/le, Merry, Nick or Rudolph might spring to mind. Perhaps Caspar, Gabriel, Emmanuel, Balthasar and Gloria? Or maybe the Holy Family names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

In contrast, which name would make you recoil with shock and horror? Which name would you think “No way! How inappropriate! What on earth are they thinking of?”

Probably near the top of the list would be the one associated with my family tree.  For on 24 December 1826 at Kirkheaton’s St John the Baptist Parish Church (oh, the irony of date and church name)[2] the baptism of Herod Jennings took place.

Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières_vitrail1_837 Herod

Magi before Herod the Great, Wikimedia Creative Commons License, G Freihalter

Herod was born on 3 November 1826, one of five children of coal miner George Jennings and his wife Sarah Ellis. They married in October 1818 at St Mary’s, Mirfield and by the time of Herod’s baptism had settled in Hopton, a hamlet in that township, midway between Mirfield and Kirkheaton.

Herod’s siblings included the equally wonderfully named Israel (baptised 20 June 1824) and Lot (born 8 March 1830), so some fabulous biblical associations there too. The other family names of James (baptised 24 September 1820) and Ann (baptised 20 October 1822, buried 7 July 1823) seem disappointingly ordinary in comparison.

Sarah died in 1832, age 36 leaving George to bring up his four surviving children. James married Sarah Pickles on 25 December 1839, another example of Christmastime events in this branch of the Jennings family![3]So, by the time of the 1841 census, it was just George and his two sons, Israel and Herod, along with a female servant Jemima Gibson living in the Upper Moor, Hopton household. Youngest child Lot was along the road at Jack Royd, with the Peace family. This may have been a permanent arrangement given the family situation.

By the time of this census young Herod already worked down the mine, a job which ultimately would possibly contribute to his death.

On 7 October 1850 he married Ann Hallas at St Mary’s, Mirfield. Both Herod and Ann lived at Woods Row, Hopton. Ann was slightly older than Herod, being born in 1824. By the time of their wedding, she was already the unmarried mother of two. Her son, Henry, was born in 1843; and my 2x great grandmother Elizabeth’s birth occurred in November 1850, 11 months prior to Ann’s marriage to Herod.

This then is my family connection to Herod: His marriage to my 3x great grandmother. And it is one of the mysteries I still hope the DNA testing of mum and me will solve. Was Herod the father of Elizabeth? She was certainly brought up to think so, with all the censuses prior to her marriage recording her surname as Jennings, whereas her brother Henry went under his correct Hallas surname. And when registering the birth of her son Jonathan, there is a slip when Elizabeth starts entering her maiden name as “Jen”. This is subsequently scored through and correctly written as “Hallas”.

It appears Henry too was minded to look upon Herod as his father-figure. At his baptism at St Peter’s, Hartshead in June 1857 he appears in the register as Henry Jennings, not Hallas. When he married Hannah Hainsworth at Leeds All Saints on 24 December 1866, his marriage certificate records his father’s name as “Herod Hallas”. And in 1870 he named his eldest son Herod. Although by no means a common name, a glance at the GRO indexes shows it did appear occasionally, along with its alternative forms of Herodius and the feminine Herodia. The fact Henry gave his son this unusual name seems to indicate a measure of affection for the man who brought him up. Finally, at the time of the 1871 census Herod, son William and nephew Charles were boarding in the Leeds home of Henry.

So, whether or not there is a DNA link, he is still a major figure in my family tree. And for me this brings home the fact that there is more to family, and family history research, than DNA links alone!

Herod and Ann had nine other children: Ellen (born April 1851), Louisa (born January 1853), Harriet (born November 1854), Mary (born May 1858), William (born 1860), Eliza (born April 1862), Rose (born 1864), Violet (born 1866) and James (born 1871).

The family moved frequently, presumably due to Herod’s work as a coal miner. They are recorded at various locations in the area, many within walking distance of where I live. These included Mirfield, Battyeford, Hopton, Hartshead, Roberttown, White Lee and Batley.

Outside of work Herod had a keen interest in quoits, arranging and taking part in park challenge games especially around local Feast times. This game was particularly popular with miners and mining communities in Victorian times, with the metal rings being made of waste metal from mine forges. Challenge matches were also a way to raise funds, for example for sick and injured miners.

Herod died age 52, at Cross Bank, Batley as a result of asthma and bronchitis, which presumably owed something to his mining occupation. Working in cramped, filthy, air-polluted, damp, sometimes wet conditions from an early age, this was a hazardous and unhealthy occupation. The conditions and physical exertion led to chronic muscular-skeletal problems and back pain as well as rheumatism and joint inflammation. Most colliers had lung associated problems, with many becoming asthmatic whilst still relatively young. So Herod’s cause of death, from a lung-related illness, is unsurprising.

Ironically Herod’s date of death occurred on 5 January 1878, a day we associate with the Christmas period, falling before 12th night. And in the Western Christian tradition the 6 January is the Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. This brings us once more to the King Herod connection, at Herod Jennings’ death as well as his baptism.

This is what Matthew’s gospel says about those events at the first Christmas:

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Go find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’  Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way. 

After they had left, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod……Herod was furious when he realised he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men”.[4]

Herod was buried in Batley Cemetery on 7 January 1878.

I have a great deal of affection for Herod, whether or not there is a direct family blood-tie. The fact he took on one, possibly two children when he married Ann; and they in turn acknowledged him as a father, which speaks volumes for him. I can relate to the location links. And I can totally sympathise with his asthma suffering.

This is my final family history blog post of 2015, and an apt one given the time of year. Thanks ever so much for reading them. As someone new to blogging your support, encouragement and feedback has meant so much over the past eight months.

Merry Christmas everyone – wishing you all peace, health and happiness for 2016!

Sources:

[1] Shrapnel and Shelletta: Baby Names and their Links to War, Remembrance and Commemoration | PastToPresentGenealogy https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/shrapnel-and-shelletta-baby-names-and-their-links-to-war-remembrance-and-commemoration/
[2] Herod the Great was responsible for trying to elicit the three wise men to reveal the  whereabouts of Jesus and, when this failed, subsequently ordering the killing of all infant boys under the age two and under, the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents”. His son, Herod Antipas, had John the Baptist killed.
[3] It was not uncommon for working-class people to have wedding ceremonies on Christmas Day. It was, after all, a holiday so they had time off work.
[4] The Jerusalem Bible, Popular Edition 1974 – Matthew 2: 7-17

Christmas Party Tips and Etiquette: 1915

In late November 1915 a local newspaper helpfully provided a “humorous” series of 1915 Christmas “don’ts” to help its readers avoid any seasonal social faux-pas.

Christmas Donts 1

These were as follows:

  • Don’t arrive half an hour too soon and jocularly explain that you’ve come to avoid the crush;
  • Don’t entertain the company with a humorous description of the old gentleman you saw coming up the street. He may arrive later;
  • Don’t always catch the same girl when playing blind man’s buff. People may suspect that you can see;
  • Don’t attempt to do conjuring tricks unless you have tried them before;
  • Don’t say “I thought so” when you are informed the mince pies are homemade – it’s ambiguous;
  • Don’t say that the plum pudding is “just like mothers”. It might be considered a poor compliment;
  • Don’t say “That yarn of yours always makes me laugh” when your host introduces his annual joke. It sounds like another way of saying “Chestnuts”;
  • Don’t sing more than half-a-dozen songs in succession because – well, it’s bad for the voice;
  • Don’t, when asked to take a glass of port wine, sip it, and then inquire whether it’s port or sherry. You may be misunderstood; and
  • Don’t, when conversing harp on the “ripping time” you had at Brown’s the other night. It savours of odious comparisons.

Christmas Donts 2

I’m not sure how many of these handy hints would apply to the party season a century on – perhaps they still should! Although an idealistic and possibly tongue in cheek portrayal of life, they do evoke some of the gentility, values and manners of a Christmas 100 years ago. They also provide a contrast to the War raging on the continent. 

For me these contemporaneous snippets, with their wonderful phraseology and language, help make family history more than just finding a trail of names and dates. They give a flavour of the times in which my ancestors lived. And you never know, the tips might prove handy this year!

Christmas Donts 3

Source:

  • “Batley News” – 27 November 1915

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 3: Food for Man and Beast

In the final part of my seasonal shopping blog I look at Batley’s food and drink shops, as featured in the local press during the weeks leading to Christmas 1915. These shops catered for festive meals in households across Batley. But many also provided a taste of home for those serving overseas.

Mr Geo. Brown, a popular Branch Avenue caterer and confectioner was one such business. He supplied amazing quantities of chocolates, biscuits, fancy cakes and larger currant cakes to men in khaki and navy blue.  Of his cakes, going to soldiers, the Batley News eulogised “and won’t they welcome the toothsome and nourishing comestibles that they are so fond of in peace times”! He also sold boxes, crackers, stockings and a variety of decorative tins and jars filled with sweets, chocolates and toys. And what would Christmas be without its Christmas cake? I find Brown’s 8 December Xmas show opening date a notable difference to Christmas shopping today, when festive goods start appearing on the shelves months earlier.

Brown confectioner 18 Dec 1915

Meat shops were plentiful. Mr John Fox’s establishment at 39, Wellington Street had an array of Norfolk turkeys, Yorkshire geese, pheasants, game, rabbit and poultry. His products included oysters, fish, potted meats, even apples and oranges. His shop was described as “like a picture of Christmas as it should be”.

Fox

Jesse Roberts’ pork butchers was located almost at the Hick Lane corner of Commercial Street. His polony, a tasty delicacy, was relished both at home and abroad with hundredweights of it sent to those serving King and Country. The newspaper said patriotically “it has come as a real reminder of the tea-table at home, for many of the local KOYLIs on war service”.  The demand for that Christmas staple, the stand pie, from those serving overseas caused a shortage at Mr Roberts’ depot in mid-December. His shop also sold bacon, mincemeat and even tomato sauce!

Roberts

Another pork butcher was Mr John Batty. His spotlessly clean shop was located at 52, Wellington Street. He too sold bacon, cooked hams and those stand pies so sought after by soldiers and sailors and those keeping the home fires burning. Potted meats, sausages, polonies, tongue and mincemeat also helped “give the Christmas bill of fare a most acceptable variety”.

Batty

Alfred Milnes owned butchers shops at Town Street, Batley Carr and Mill Lane, Hanging Heaton. He also had a Saturday Dewsbury market stall. A veteran judge of beef and one of the district’s most popular butchers, he was the beef go-to man.  Prime mutton was another of his fortes and his beef sausages were noted as “amongst the most reliable commodities of their kind”.

Milnes

Mr J C Ridsdale, provision dealer, wine and spirit merchant, dispatched large quantities of figs, raisins, plum puddings and biscuits from his Market Place store to soldiers and sailors.  Whilst admitting that the price of some products, such as raisins, were dearer than in previous years their superb quality repaid the price. Prize cheese and smoked Wiltshire bacon also featured amongst his wares. As did table delicacies ranging from jellies and biscuits to bottled fruits and sweets; from muscatel, almonds and mincemeat to champagne and cigars. And his shop was the only local agency for Gilbey’s wines and spirits.

Ridsdale's 18 Dec 1915

On the subject of drinks and cigars, Mrs Chadwick’s Crown Hotel on Commercial Street boasted a fine stock with sherry cask matured spirits and whiskies including brands from some of the world’s most famous distilleries. Buyers though we’re reminded of the curtailed hours due to the new Liquor Control Order.

Crown Hotel

Sam Wilson’s establishments, one at the Market Place corner of Upper Commercial Street and the other near the Tram Terminus at the Bradford and Station Road junction, provided another sign of the times. A popular local tobacconist, “every local worshipper of the Lady Nicotine” knew his shops. He stocked a wide price range and flavour of cigarettes, boxes of cigars and blends of tobacco. He also had a wonderful array of pipes, “a rare stock of beauties, just right for using or giving when the Christmas spirit is greatly developed in men”.

Wilson cigars 18 Dec 1915

And finally not to be forgotten at Christmas was the horse. This was still a society heavily reliant on horse power, both on the land and in terms of transporting goods locally. Henry Rhodes, corn merchant, located at Station Road was “excellently situated for supplying the quadrupeds with as good a Christmas dinner as anyone could wish”.

Henry Rhodes

I hope this series of posts has given a flavour of a 1915 Christmas. Although a century ago it is still recognisable as the Christmas we celebrate today. And although these shops have long since disappeared, forced out by supermarkets such as Tesco’s,  I can relate the locations to my ancestors lives and picture them doing their Christmas shopping in the multiplicity of individual retailers lining the thriving town’s teeming streets.

My two earlier post can be found at:

Part 1: https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/festive-adverts-and-shopping-in-batley-a-1915-christmas-part-1-the-home-beautiful

Part 2: https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/festive-adverts-and-shopping-in-batley-a-1915-christmas-part-2-gifts-galore-for-man-woman-and-child

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 2: Gifts Galore for Man, Woman and Child

In Part 2 of my blog about Christmas shopping in Batley in 1915 I focus on gift-giving. Although the shadow of war cast a cloud it could not, as the papers put it, “eclipse the public’s desire to remember the season of goodwill”.

The war had made a mark though, in terms of presents given. Children’s toys took on a distinctive, militaristic theme. And the postal system and Army Transport were inundated with food and presents for soldiers, sailors and nurses serving overseas or training on home shores: Cakes and plum puddings to revive memories of home; grocers reporting a run on goods men in the trenches could relish; butchers supplying hundredweights of comestibles; clothing retailers, ironmongers, tin-ware merchants and jewellers selling practical goods aimed at those serving King and Country. Batley folk had a wealth of local shops to satisfy these needs.

The town centre had a good selection of jewellers.  The universally popular product stocked by all, aimed especially at those serving in the Armed Forces, were Radiolite wrist watches with luminous dials, readable in the dark. These were also promoted as useful in the dark for people at home.

Joe Fox, whose clock was a much-loved time-teller for shoppers on Commercial Street, was one retailer of these wrist-watchers. He also had a good number of other clocks which, the paper remarked, were not easy to obtain nowadays.

Joe T Fox Batley 11 Dec 1915

Commercial Street’s Messrs Gerald Brooke, Ltd also retailed these “luminous levers”. Diamond and gem rings glittered in the window of this shop, described as “ranking high amongst jewellers and silversmiths in the West Riding”, making a display worthy of their big reputation. Upholding its good name, Brooke’s sold clocks, alberts, signet rings, canteens of cutlery, silver and plated goods such as cake-stands, and dessert dishes and other goods “at prices that cannot be repeated”.

Brooke

Mr F E Morton was a third Commercial Street jeweller who boasted the sale of luminous watches, a number which had already been sent to soldiers. Silverware marked the other outstanding feature of his shop, with a beautiful home-enhancing collection of vases, bon-bon dishes, cruets, cake, fruit and jam stands. If that wasn’t enough to entice the discerning Christmas shopper, there was also, of course, the alluring range of mantelpiece and wall clocks, watches, rings, bangles and pendants.

Morton

The town’s choice in shoe and clothing shops was equally impressive.  Salter and Salter’s heavily stocked Commercial Street shop’s advertising ploy was “The best is cheapest” when buying winter boots, shoes and slippers. Leather was becoming more difficult to purchase so the public were urged to spend their money to the best advantage and see Salter and Salter’s plainly-marked goods.

Messrs George Jessop and Son, clothiers, hosiers, boot and shoe dealers was one of those stores making a virtue of selling stock bought in at old prices without wartime additions. The famous firm used this tactic to encourage people to buy quickly as “much of the stuff cannot be replaced” at these current quoted prices. They stocked fashionable dark grey overcoats with silk velvet collars. They also held a good supply of blue nap and real indigo blue serge which some tailors could not buy for “love nor money”. They had a display of Scouts outfits in one window. Seasonable presents for those at home included ties, hats, hosiery, snow-shoes and galoshes. Cardigan jackets were suggested for soldiers and sailors.

Jessops

Mr M Watssman of Town Street, Batley Carr also held a stock of cloth bought at old prices. Supplying a choice of new materials and up-to-date patterns cut to a perfect fit, his motto was “no fit, no pay”. He also had a special ladies department with sealskins and raincoats.

Watssman

Well-known in Dewsbury and Wakefield, Messrs J Pickles and Son, hosiers and outfitters, opened their Batley branch in time for Christmas 1915. Located at 18-20 Commercial Street this was an establishment where “gentlemen can have their every wish gratified in the latest design of ties, shirts and socks”. Soliciting trade from those with military loved ones, they claimed one local officer made repeat sock orders, proof of his satisfaction with them during active service.  They stocked fashionable soft hats and the latest ties with open ends. Raincoats were made to order, so the customer could have his particular ideas catered for. And their vast quantities of underwear, gloves and scarves made the purchase of a sensible Christmas gift easy.

Pickles 2.JPG

Mr Thos. Hull, old-established Batley outfitter and draper, located in Exchange Buildings, Commercial Street, had been remodelled and boasted new fitting rooms. One wonders if this was a response to new local competition in the form of the Pickles’ shop. Managed for more than 20 years by Mr W Bainbridge, the shop sold hats, suits and “superb” raincoats. The latest fashion in knitted silk ties in bright, mixed colours featured here. Scarves were touted as a suitable Christmas gift. But the real big selling point was khaki mittens of a quality far superior to anything Mr Bainbridge had handled.  With over 240 pairs sold for soldiers, these mittens were popular with warriors who found them so useful. Khaki colours also appeared in the shop’s handkerchiefs, socks and shirts.

Hull's clothes 18 Dec 1915

But the ladies of Batley did not miss out. Miss Kendall’s store at 11, Commercial Street was described as “a revelation and a joy for ladies” and “a shopful of ladies’ delights”.  It stocked exquisite, beautifully made Maltese lace, embroidered frocks and handkerchiefs, perfume, pinafores and dainty blouses in the latest fashion, as well as  a supply of gloves noted as one of the best and biggest in the district. They also stocked “a delightful array of cushions, table centres, and other articles that go to make home life truly bright and agreeable”.

Kendall 27 Nov 1915

Miss Hazzlewood was Batley’s blouse specialist. The “Batley News” enthused that “some of the dainty creations now on view will make charming gifts for the fair sex at Christmas”. The on-site staff, in this domain for ladies, also manufactured large quantities of underclothing. But men were not overlooked by Miss Hazzlewood who, in conjunction with Batley Ladies’ Sewing Guild, cut over 1,000 shirts for soldiers and other garments “for the fighting boys”. 

Hazzlewood

Toy shops abounded too. Mr Lionel Leach had taken over the 68 Commercial Street business previously known as C T Mellor’s, selling handbags, cards and books. His leather goods included wallets, purses, writing and jewel cases.  Fountain pens, photo frames and antimony ware made ideal gifts too. Books catering for children and adults and toys and games were in particularly brisk demand. Christmas cards featured khaki, Union Jacks and other patriotic war-themed embellishments.

Leach Christmas Cards 4 Dec 1915

Leach's 18 Dec 1915

Military toys, electrical goods, cycles and motors were found in the shops of Mr Herbert Hainsworth, on Branch Avenue and Well Lane in Batley and 42, Northgate, Dewsbury. Air-guns, some firing 1,000 shots without the need to re-charge, trained the eye to accuracy. A toy machine gun with wooden “shells”, emitting sounds mimicking the “bark” and “crack” of the weapon, was described as “wonderfully reminiscent of its big brother at the Front”. Then there was the new Sandy Handy, a mechanical toy which filled and emptied buckets of sand.

Hainsworths

Hainsworth’s shop also catered for adults. For fighting men they recommended their pocket lamps, leather vests and motorcycle clothing. Their motor and cycle departments held countless accessories which made useful presents, such as capes, gloves, tools and lamps. They sold bicycles. And motor cycles by Triumph, P and M, BSA, Sunbeam, Lloyds and Wolf were available, including new lightweight models for 1916.  They also served the business customer through their light delivery van and commercial motor trade arm.

Mr Thos Wood (late Mr E H Tate’s) was one of the Heavy Woollen District’s foremost ironmongers. The toy shop element of the business was located in Well Lane, with its forts, guns, cannons and building sets. His Commercial Street shop window proved a seasonal delight, reflective of the times. One window portrayed in detail a Red Cross Hospital. They also had a miniature Charlie Chaplin! Christmas novelties for the soldier in the family included a bullet-proof shield which doubled as a mirror and periscope. Cigarette lighters made a nice Christmas gift. And the visitor was urged not to miss the trench stores containing “wonderfully simple little things that Tommy Atkins values immensely”.

Wood

But the shop which delighted the children of Batley, Santa’s very own Toyland, was Misses Western’s Commercial Street shop. The “Batley News” proclaimed “it may be aptly called the Batley Home of Santa Claus. He fills his pack and reindeer sledge there”. This year the toys had a largely military theme with soldiers, forts, guns, battleships, miniature tents, cooking stoves, aeroplanes and Scouts outfits. In addition to boys mechanical toys manufactured in England or France, girls could choose from dolls made in Britain, France or Japan. Meccano sets were aimed at both sexes. Adults too were catered for with brushes, combs, oak trays and basket-ware.

Westerns

So in this selection there are many gifts familiar to today’s Christmas shoppers; and many which typify the war-torn times of 1915.

In Part 3 I will look at Christmas food and drink vendors.

Part 1 can be found at https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/festive-adverts-and-shopping-in-batley-a-1915-christmas-part-1-the-home-beautiful

Sources:

“Batley News” – various November-December editions.

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 1: “The Home Beautiful”

In the run up to Christmas I’m writing a series of seasonal blog posts with a family and local history theme. In the opening three posts I look at shopping in Batley in 1915, as described in the local press.

Adverts and shopping articles were a feature in all local newspapers up and down the country in the weeks leading to Christmas. 

These kinds of newspaper pieces and adverts – giving shop descriptions, detailed location information, and the wares on sale – provide a picture of the area in which ancestors lived, add colour to research and complement the information from other sources such as Directories and maps. They also provide a unique insight into the period for a family historian. And it is all the more useful if your ancestor worked in one of the featured shops!

Although the shops I describe are based in my home-town, the type of retail outlet and products sold would be seen in most towns in the country in this period.

By way of context, Batley and the surrounding Heavy Woollen District had prospered in the early part of the war. Its fabrics were much in demand by the military and business boomed. So, even if prices in shops were higher, the employment opportunities, wages and bonuses paid to mill workers went some way to offset this. Also, notably in these early war years, many shops made a virtue of not including wartime additions to the cost of stock bought in at old prices. So the implication given by the press was Batley residents were still relatively well-placed to put on a good show at Christmas.

Batley folk were exhorted to celebrate Christmas 1915 with cheerfulness and a generous spirit. It was claimed this would contribute to national optimism.  So, as families suffered the anxiety of separation and news of dead and injured servicemen reached home, shops were decked out in patriotic emblems, usually centred on the Union Jack or flags of Allies, and these Christmas adverts began to fill the newspapers.

The first ones appeared in the “Batley News” towards the end of November 1915, and by the beginning of December they increased to a steady flow. So a much later start than today’s Christmas retail push.

As for items designed to make a 1915 Christmas celebration, unsurprisingly alongside those traditional food and household goods, many products had a military theme or were directly aimed at our “gallant lads” and “plucky nurses”.

Like today, updating the house for Christmas played a part in preparations, the season being described as an ideal time to adorn the home with new goods.  Mr Preston Jenkinson’s shop, located by the Batley Tram Terminus, was hailed as probably the largest vendor or linoleum and flooring products for miles around. Products included linoleum, oil-cloth, rugs, fringe, mackintoshes and bedsteads. Its plain pricing, courteous staff, range of stock and the fact that “the huge store is one of those rare places where the stranger may have a really good look round before being pressed to buy” were virtues for those “bent on buying well for Christmas”.

Jenkinson 2

Hanover Street’s Messrs W North and Sons was another store for those with an eye for “The Home Beautiful” to frequent. This shop also sold oil-cloth, linoleum, dainty rugs and the “latest creations of carpet factories”. Beyond this they stocked enamelled curbs and hearths and inlaid furniture, “the choicest products of the cabinet-maker”.

Messrs Brett and North’s furnishing emporium on Bradford Road had “everything calculated to make home life bright and beautiful”. Its products ranged from pictures, mirrors, ornaments, cutlery and electro-ware to rugs, suites, desks, cabinets and easy chairs. “The metal artwork, vases, dinner and tea-set’s, exquisite designs in chairs, bedroom suites etc afford a pretty display”.

Flowers also played a part in the festivities. Messrs J Hick and Sons at Wheatcroft was described as “a joy to the eye and a refresher to the soul” whose flowers could “be bought and transferred to the home, to give radiance and fragrance throughout the holidays”. Besides flowers, seasonal evergreens such as mistletoe and holly decorated homes. And, as a time to remember departed loved ones, shops promoted wreaths and crosses to lay at last resting places. Ironic given the number of families who would never know final resting places as the war progressed.

Hick advert

Mr Arthur Kemp’s greenhouses and gardens in Wellington Street, facing the baths, was a Batley institution. Residents were urged to walk around the greenhouses to select tea-table and school party blooms; Christmas decorations for home, church and grave; bridal wreaths and buttonholes for the winter wedding; and the central piece at Christmas – the tree.

Kemps trees  11 Dec 1915

Music was important in Christmas celebrations and family gatherings. Mr W S Beaumont’s Henrietta Street music store stocked gramophones and thousands of records so “no home need to be without mirth and music at the festive season” with “such seasonable strains as ‘The Hallelujah Chorus,’ and good old carols like ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ followed by sprightly jigs and reels, or by patriotic spirit-raisers like ‘Britannia’ and the ‘Marseillaise”.

Beaumont Batley advert

Player-pianos and rolls were available, promoted as a way to play music without undertaking years of study. And for those already proficient pianos, violins and wind instruments were on sale. The shop had repair facilities and Mr Beaumont would consider weekly payment in approved cases. Santa Claus could supply children’s bugles and drums from the shop too!

Beaumont Batley 27 Nov 1915

In my next post I will cover Christmas toys and gifts, including those aimed at soldiers and sailors on active service abroad or in training at home. It can be found at: https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/festive-adverts-and-shopping-in-batley-a-1915-christmas-part-2-gifts-galore-for-man-woman-and-child
Sources:
“Batley News” – various November-December editions.