Consett’s Christmas Countdown Day 11

So many of the familiar features of our current Christmas date back to the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert introduced German Christmas traditions to the country. These include Christmas trees, cards and crackers as well as the classic depiction of St Nicholas as a toy-laden and white-bearded old man. It would take the Coca-Cola Company in the 1920s to dress him only in red.

Hard winters in 1836, 1851 and 1878 saw rivers and ponds freeze and people take to the ice, an activity that was resonant of the earlier tradition of the frost fair.

Victorian Christmas traditions were present in Consett. In Leaves from Consett Iron Company Letter Books 1887 – 1883, William Jenkins, the General Manager, is very concerned in 1889 that some Christmas greenery is brought into the infirmary to cheer the workers who were in-patients over the Christmas period (as well as asking for some for his own home):

To Mr W Brown, Traffic, 16 December 1889

The Matron and patients at the Infirmary ask for a little holly for brightening the premises on Christmas Day. Could you get a little of this for them, and while you are at it could you send me a little to my own house?

As well as the greenery, he is equally concerned that the patients’ festive lunch is arranged:

To Nurse Keenan, Infirmary, 16 December 1889

Mr Brown will provide a little holly etc for you for brightening up for Christmas time the wards etc. It has been usual to provide some little extra for Christmas time for the Infirmary. I will send you a goose or a turkey and a little fruit, and if you will get for Christmas day a suitable joint of good roast beef and plum pudding this will probably cheer the hearts of the patients who will be able to be regaled in this way.

Thank you to Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Stephen Bridgewater @stephenbridgewa on Instagram and Durham Weather for the images.