Among these many miles of archive items nestle a host of festive gems, glimpses of a bygone era and insights into Christmas past.
Inside our collections are assortments of Christmas cards dating back to the mid to late 19th century including some beautiful hand-painted examples depicting flowers, butterflies, and Christmas messages. Christmas cards have also been sent during more troubled times, such as the First World War. Many are home-made with illustrations depicting life at the Front. Letters and diaries were also written during the First World War which recorded Christmas spirit in action when soldiers on both sides stopped fighting and, in some cases, played football on 25 December 1914. A letter home from William Smith remarks:
“This Christmas has been the most extraordinary one I have ever experienced…. Everyone was a friend, our boys changed cigs for cigars and rum for wine. Our boys shook hands and talked together. The regiment on our left was having a football match with them. One Hun kicked an Englishman and he gave him a punch in the jaw, that finished that game. The Germans all said they wished to get home again, so do we.”
Furthermore, home-made films depict Christmas scenes from the past ranging from the delight on children’s faces when opening their presents to sledging down a snow covered hill.
There are also some more poignant Christmas records including three entries in the Steep parish register concerning the Christmas family. The family lived at Kettlesbrook Cottages during the late 19th century; however disaster struck when one of their children, Merry Christmas, who was only 14, died of diphtheria and was buried on 23 December 1885. Caroline Ethel Christmas, who was only 6, was buried 6 days later and on 13 January 1886 Ernest James Christmas, only 3, was buried, both children dying from diphtheria. Such records make you comprehend what we should all be grateful for during the festive season.
This December why not come along and join us in exploring some of the delights of our historic collection? On 1 December, 6.30-8.30pm, guests will be given the opportunity to explore some of our seasonally themed treasures in our search room exhibition followed by a film show of archive material.
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, there will be mulled wine and mince pies included in the entry price. To book call: 01962 846154 or book online
Photo: Alresford: men in the road at the corner of Broad Street and East Street after heavy snow.