Ringing in the new year

Harold was a good judge of fashion. Courtesy Barry Davis
Harold was a good judge of fashion. Courtesy Barry Davis

The advent of a New Year is both a cause for celebration and a time for reflection. In 1923 both responses were in evidence.

Christmas at Banbury Post Office was under the capable direction of Mr R.J. Hadland.

His report compared achievements before and after the Great War of 1914-18.

The seasonal challenge in 1922 was to maintain a recovery which had been in evidence since a post war slump in business. Unlike today there were deliveries on Christmas Day.

The first town postmen had been dispatched by 7.30am and their mission completed by 11am.

They were supported by 18 casuals, all of whom were ex-servicemen. Interestingly rural postmen were given hired ponies and traps in order to get round their more dispersed residences.

The parcel service had a hectic spell between December 19 and Christmas Day with 11,923 deliveries compared with 11,489 in 1921.

Members of the public for whom St Mary’s Church led them into the New Year honoured an old custom of being in the churchyard at midnight where they were seen to be trying to turn over a new leaf if they could find one.

This happened while the bell ringers tolled the old year out with a muffled peal and then gleefully launched into a merry peal to welcome the New Year.

The building at the centre of much of the festive celebrations was the Town Hall where a succession of dances were held, each significantly different. In the case of the well-heeled of the Banbury area the event to attend was a presentation by Mrs Rush of Farthinghoe Park.

Parties were got up by the many country houses and the overall guest list was headed by Lord and Lady Saye and Sele of Broughton Castle.

This was an occasion when no expense was spared. Music for dancing was supplied by White’s Band from London.

The Army and Navy Supply Stores ensured that supper refreshments were in abundance. Local store Chapmans left their mark on the occasion with superb decorations.

On another occasion the Town Hall echoed to the musical sounds of the Harold Goodman popular dance orchestra.

This was billed as a Carnival dance with parties drawn from Buckingham and Bicester as well as nearby villages.

Fancy dress was the order of the day for some people who were quick to enter into the spirit of the occasion so that there were many encores and frequent twilight dances.

St John’s Church was determined not to miss out on the fun so they organised their own dance with money going towards church funds.

Mr Newman’s Band performed and local confectioner Mr Lay of Church Lane ensured that the buffet was ample.

Excursions were much in evidence on rail services operated by the Great Western Company. A 9.20am departure from Banbury to London was available as an express corridor day trip.

A return cost 8/5d (42p) but you could also book a period return for 11/3d (56p) which allowed cover for 4-8 days.

Football fans who set their sights on the Birmingham matches could board trains at Banbury, Cropredy and Fenny Compton stations.

The Great Western Traffic Department and Locomotive section recognised the New Year in another important way. For some time past there had been a tradition for raising money in order to support certain in patients at the Horton Infirmary.

Shop owners in the centre of the town and especially the High Street used the occasion to woo potential customers.

Especially prominent was J. Harold Judge whose fashion business was at 62/63 High Street. His words were carefully chosen and reflect an age when people respected a courteous response.

Harold wished everyone brightness and prosperity stressing that greetings did not end there but will be 
expressed in ‘every act of service and salesmanship all through 1923’.

He summed up every retailer’s dearest wish, ‘our present customers appreciate this and we should appreciate your custom’.

l A happy New Year to all my readers!