A Communal Christmas Tree in Stretton on Dunsmore

January celebrations!

Children around a Christmas Tree.
1877 Picture by H. J. Overbeek. Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, and released into the public domain.

Christmas tree in mid-January

Over a hundred years ago Christmas trees were a rarity in private homes, but sometimes a communal one was provided; families could be charged to view it (though this included a present for the children). The surprising thing is that it appears to have happened after Christmas in the early years. The Stretton on Dunsmore school logbook for January 15th 1867 reported that the tree was being decorated in the schoolroom and therefore the children were being taught in the adjacent headmaster’s house.

101 years ago

By 1913 the communal Christmas tree had moved back to a more conventional time in late December. Here is the Rev. Stanley Collier’s account from the parish magazine:

The Day School Christmas Tree, held as usual at the beginning of the holidays, was as beautiful and as welcome as ever, the Tree itself being without exception, the stateliest we have ever seen. It was again covered with the most fascinating presents for the little ones, no one of whom is ever forgotten, and whose excitement was almost pathetic. A large number of parents and friends inspected the lighted Tree beforehand, and we were glad to see several of the managers present. Then followed the Tea and the Crackers, and the oranges, and all the rest of the fun, and, altogether, it was an evening to be remembered. Mr Fell [the Headmaster] and his staff were then cheered, because they deserved it, others because they “wanted it”: and others for no reason at all except high spirits. So we think the School deserves to be congratulated on another success!

Stretton on Dunsmore school logbook: Warwickshire County Record Office CR 699/2.

Extract from Stretton on Dunsmore Parish Notes, Warwickshire County Record Office DR485/229, Jan. 1914, courtesy of the Draycote Benefice.