Exploring Christmas In The Collections

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again…but it’s inescapable: Christmas will soon be upon us!  At the Record Office, it is a treat to be able to share items in the collections reflecting how people used to celebrate Christmas in years gone by.  For example, we are all fond of this lovely little postcard of a snow-covered Christchurch Park, complete with ‘little donkey’ pulling a snow-plough.

 Molly Brett Christmas Card (1918, ref BRO/GB554/A16/14/005)

Molly Brett Christmas Card (1918, ref BRO/GB554/A16/14/005)

There’s also this evocative description of Christmas at St Mary Le Tower Church from a local newspaper in 1872 (though I’m sure many other churches and chapels might take issue with the writer’s criticism of their lack of ‘seasonable effort’!):

“The tuneful bells of St Mary Tower summoned the people to evening prayer on Christmas Eve, and a very fair congregation responded. A considerable proportion of them were evidently visitors – some, possibly, were dissenting heretics – seeing that they did not practise the ritual of the church. There was a procession into church, the choir singing nicely. Evening prayer was intoned, and there being no sermon no demand was made upon the hearer’s credulity. At the close of the service a number of carols were sung by the choir who, singing, left the church by the way and from they came in.  A very profitable and pleasant hour and a quarter was spent.  It is rather odd that at other churches and chapels no attempt is made to infuse life, attraction, and warmth into the services with good singing and a little extra seasonable effort on such occasions as that of which we are speaking.  Later on in the night the fine peal of bells were heard to great advantage, and the stillness of early morn was broken by the ringers welcoming the day of days – Christmas.”

Below are some more Christmassy treats from the archives – why not have a go at making Lady Cullum’s Plum Pudding and tweet us the results (@KeyToThePast)? 

 Lady Cullum’s recipe for Plum Pudding! She was noted for her housekeeping skills and great dinner parties. She collected recipes from family and friends for over 50 years. Her recipe book covers c.1774 to 1823 (ref E2/29/5)

Lady Cullum’s recipe for Plum Pudding! She was noted for her housekeeping skills and great dinner parties. She collected recipes from family and friends for over 50 years. Her recipe book covers c.1774 to 1823 (ref E2/29/5)

Here’s the transcription:

“To make a Plum Pudding

Take one Pound of suet shred very small and sifted, the like quantity of raisins ston’d 

four spoonfulls of flour and the like of sugar

five eggs

three spoonfuls of cream

three (ditto) of brandy

half a nutmeg grated

mix them well together, tie the bag close and boil it four hours: boil it in the kettle with your ham, it will be the better for it

From all of us at Suffolk Record Office, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

HistoryAmy Rushton