Christmas in Wing

How did Wing celebrate Christmas in years gone by?

The Wing Children’s Christmas Party of 1939 took place in Wing Hall. That year’s gathering also included children and teachers who had been evacuated from London, and more than 300 children were in attendance. Each child received a tin of sweets and an orange from the Rothschild family.

Elsewhere in the newspaper displeasure was expressed at London County Council who was supposed to have provided funding for Christmas entertainment for evacuees – Wing Rural Council received less than sixpence per head.

Leighton Buzzard Observer, 23 Dec 1939

Christmas Menu

The following is the suggested Christmas Day menu circa 1660 from Robert May, the Wing-born author of The Accomplisht Cook, or, The Art & Mystery of Cookery. This is more of an aspirational menu than an achievable one!

1. A Collar of brawn
2. Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones
3. A grand Sallet
4. A pottage of caponets
5. A breast of veal in stoffado
6. A boil’d partridge
7. A chine of beef, or surloin roast
8. Minced pies
9. A Jegote of mutton with anchove sauce
10. A made dish of sweetbread
11. A swan roast
12. A pasty of venison
13. A kid with a pudding in his belly
14. A steak pie
15. A hanch of venison roasted
16. A turkey roast and stuck with cloves
17. A made dish of chickens in puff paste
18. Two bran geese roasted, one larded
19. Two large capons, one larded
20. A Custard

And for the second course…

Oranges and Lemons
1. A young lamb or kid
2. Two couple of rabbits, two larded
3. A pig souc’t with tongues
4. Three ducks, one larded
5. Three pheasants, 1 larded
6. A Swan Pye
7. Three brace of partridge, three larded
8. Made dish in puff paste
9. Bolonia sausages, and anchoves, mushrooms, and cavieate, and pickled oysters in a dish
10. Six teels, three larded
11. A Gommon of Westphalia Bacon
12. Ten plovers, five larded
13. A quince pye, or warden pie
14. Six woodcocks, 3 larded
15. A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins &c
16. A dish of Larks
17. Six dried neats tongues
18. Sturgeon
19. Powdered Geese

The meat and poulty could of course be sourced from local farms, or one might visit the Christmas Meat Show in neighbouring Leighton Buzzard every year, where “the fine display of meat, the tempting show of game and poultry, and the tastily-dressed windows of the grocers indicate most unmistakably that the welcome festive season of Christmas is again dawning upon us. The butchers have some remarkably fine joints of meat arrayed beneath their bowers of evergreens” and most years this included top specimens supplied by Wing farmers.

Christmas Trees

On Wednesday last [27 Dec 1865] a Christmas tree was exhibited in the school-room of the Wesleyan Chapel, at which place a tea meeting was also held. About two-hundred persons sat down. Besides the Christmas tree, which was hung with a great variety of fancy articles, there were two tables laden with a number of useful and ornamental goods which were for sale. The proceeds of the day amounted to £19 7s., and after all expenses have been paid there will be in the hands of the treasurer, Mr Ed. Biggs, treasurer of the trust fund, a balance of £16… Mr William Worcester, we believe, took an active part in getting up the tea party and Christmas tree.

Leighton Buzzard Observer, 2 Jan 1866

Christmas Presents

Once the Rothschild family started acquiring properties in Ascott they gave Christmas presents to the people of Wing each year.

The happiest Christmas ever spent in the parish of Wing was that of the present year. Most of the farmers and employers of labour have given their servants a present, either in meat or money ; but the noblest on record in this parish is that of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, who, in a princely manner, has given to nearly every family in the village three, four and five pounds of beef (according to the number in family), together with a quarter-pound of tea and one pound of sugar each. The gift was the more acceptable because it included small tradesmen and others who, from the nature of their calling, are always excluded from other charities ; and the Baron may have the pleasing satisfaction of knowing that every one in the parish partook of a hearty Christmas dinner and a good cup of tea.

Leighton Buzzard Observer, 29 Dec 1868
Letter to the editor and poem regarding Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild gift to the people of Wing Christmas 1869
Leighton Buzzard Observer, 4 Jan 1870

The following year one inhabitant of Wing was moved to write a wee ode in thanks for the Rothschild Christmas gift (see right) – one might speculate from the similarity of sentiments with the newspaper article from the previous year that the anonymous poet may be the regular source of Wing news in the Leighton Buzzard Observer.

It was not just edible presents that the Rothschilds gave over the years – this 1885 newspaper report explains how their annual Christmas treat had evolved:

On Saturday afternoon and evening last [19 Dec], in accordance with annual custom, the labourers on the estate of Mr Leopold de Rothschild, with their families, assembled at the Pavilion in Ascott Park, to enjoy the hospitality and participate in the Christmas bounties of their kind employer. Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, about two hundred men, women and children met together in the Pavilion, which was handsomely decorated and brilliantly illuminated, and sat down to a substantial and excellent meal of roast and boiled beef and tea. Mr Rothschild, with Mr Calcraft and Mr Warden, and members of the household, actively assisted in attending to the requirements and promoting the happiness of all. The Wing Brass Band was engaged for the occasion, and played selections of music outside the pavilion during dinner, and, having subsequently dined themselves, rendered good service inside during the remainder of the evening. Dinner over, a distribution took place of warm and beautifully-worked articles of clothing, each woman and every member of her family up to fourteen years of age receiving from Mr Rothschild a useful and warm garment. Bon-bons were given in profusion, and each of the men received a briar pipe and tin of tobacco. This interesting part of the proceedings being over, wholesome ale was supplied in abundance, and, while the men betook themselves to the “fragrant weed,” such refreshments and luxuries as tea, milk, cake, oranges, apples, and various other fruits were supplied to women and children. Songs were sung, the band played, and dancing and a variety of games were indulged in, young and old alike evidently enjoying themselves to the utmost. Mr Rothschild and the house party took their departure about seven o’clock amid lusty cheers, and very evident signs of gratitude on the part of the guests. The singing and dancing were then resumed, the festive proceedings being kept up until ten o’clock, and a thoroughly happy evening concluding with the band playing the National Anthem. Hearty cheers were given for Mrs Glanfield, the housekeeper at Ascott ; Miss King, the mistress of the Charlotte Cottage Hospital at Wing ; and other members of the Park establishment, in appreciation of the zeal they displayed in assisting the benevolent efforts and objects of Mr and Mrs Rothschild.

Bucks Herald, 26 Dec 1885

As well as these festivities for employees’ families, the Rothschilds continued to give a gift of meat to everyone in the village through the following decades (in 1914 the beef was acquired from the Pages of Burcott Lodge Farm so it was definitely local beef).

In 1885 Edward Hart of Moor Hills supplied tea, sugar, plums and currants to the 40-50 residents of Littleworth as a Christmas gift.

In 1889 Charles Cotes of Burcott “with characteristic generosity sent to ninety-three recipients in the hamlets of Littleworth and Burcott the necessary ingredients for a large and thoroughly good plum pudding.”  He was still doing this in subsequent years as well.

The parish magazines during the First World War record that collections were made in December of 1915, 1916 and 1917 in order to send Christmas presents to the Wing men serving at the front. While we don’t have the numbers for 1915, in 1916 £48 was raised and 92 parcels sent, and in 1917 £53 18s. 7d. was raised and 122 parcels sent. These went off to France, Salonika, Egypt, East Africa, Mesopotamia and the North Sea (the latter was to Jesse Lane, serving in the Royal Navy). The contents of the parcels, in 1917 at least, were comprised of cake, pudding, sausages, cigarettes, fruit and a handkerchief.

Christmas Music in the 1910s

The ringers, according to custom, have been heralding Christmas each morning since St. Thomas’ day by ringing lively peals of bells at five a.m. The schools held festivities on Wednesday, Dec 21, each child receiving at the breaking up various small gifts. Ascott motors have been perpetually busy bringing untold gifts to rejoice the heart. The distribution of English beef to all Wing took place at Ascott at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 23

Bucks Herald, 31 Dec 1910

The Wing Hall Dancing Committee arranged a Burcott Christmas Ball in 1912. “The number of dancers were 85, and the ten sets of Lancers were a very pretty sight”.

On Christmas Night 1917 several members of the church choir went around the village singing carols and collected £4 8s. for the Library Fund for Blinded Soldiers.

Christmas at All Saints Church

As usual services were held in the Parish Church on Christmas-day, conducted by the Vicar. That in the evening was fully choral, special hymns and carols being sung. In the absence of Mr Newberry, Mrs H. Tatham [Rev. Tatham’s wife] ably accompanied on the organ. The singing of the carols was very effective. The Magnificat and Nune Dimittis were sung to a setting by Bunnett in D, and were nicely rendered by the choir. The Vicar founded an eloquent and appropriate sermon on Phillipians iv., v. 4. In the course of his remarks he said our thoughts at this time should be governed by our Lord’s message “Rejoice always.” The season of rejoicing was just coming, and the eve of Christmas pointed us to the coming Messiah. There was a large congregation present.

Bucks Herald, 30 Dec 1893

Christmas Bells or Wedding Bells?

Let’s wish a very happy anniversary to these couples that married on Christmas Day! These are all taken from the parish registers at All Saints Church, 1546 to 1920, however there are no marriages recorded on 25 December at all in the period 1546 to 1808 (Boxing Day, 26 December, seems more popular in Wing).

  • 1809 – Isaac Cheshire & Jane Green
  • 1839 – George Headdey & Sarah Dimmock
  • 1840 – Charles Cook & Sophia Capp
  • 1843 – William Dimmock & Esther Bacchus
  • 1846 – Henry Foster & Mary Bandy
  • 1848 – Thomas Claridge & Ann Windmill
  • 1849 – Benjamin Lovell & Leah Honor
  • 1850 – Edmund Rose & Jane Duncombe
  • 1851 – Edmund Rogers & Jane Mooring
  • 1854 – Joseph Lathwell & Mary Jordan
  • 1857 – Theophilus Cook Thripp & Susannah Wadsworth Gibbs, and Levi Mason & Eliza Cook
  • 1863 – James Woodwards & Mary Jennings, and George Jordan & Sarah Mead
  • 1868 – John Bone & Mary Ann Denchfield, and Joseph Brand & Ann Rogers, and William Stevens & Dorcas Tabitha Lee
  • 1869 – Eli Brown & Sarah Green, and John Kent & Ann Gates
  • 1876 – George Page Bandy & Emma Mooring
  • 1877 – John Woolhead & Ann Fountain
  • 1883 – Joseph Dickens & Emily Woolhead
  • 1884 – Thomas Chappell & Jane Pratt
  • 1888 – Seba Cox & Jane Dickens
  • 1896 – Frederick Cornelius Coleman & Leah Rickard
  • 1900 – Zebedee Bandy & Rosalie Woolhead, and Joseph Woolhead & Hannah Woolhead (Rosalie & Joseph were siblings)
  • 1902 – Edwin John Bunyan & Cecilia Avery, and Samuel Woolhead & Annie Jane Holmes
  • 1908 – Albert Richard Fleet & Louisa Carter
  • 1911 – Fred Cheshire & Olive May Prime

Christmas Babies

There were a handful of babies born on Christmas Day too, although the exact number is difficult to gauge without accurate and comprehensive birth records (email me if you know of any others). Welcome to Wing and the world!

  • 1830 – Philip Pitchford, son of Jeremiah and Mary
  • 1845 – Medora Jane Lathwell, daughter of John and Sarah
  • 1850 – Charles Thomas Adams, son of Henry Charles and Charlotte
  • 1861 – Mary Duncombe, daughter of Maria
  • 1863 – Sarah Jane Woolhead, daughter of William & Eliza
  • 1874 – Frank Fleet Cleaver, daughter of George
  • 1876 – Lydia Gertrude Manning, daughter of William
  • 1877 – Sarah and Mary Ann Woodward, twin daughters of Thomas and Ann, born 9 a.m. and 9.10 a.m. respectively, also died 25 Dec 1877