Christmas in the fifties

Mr AH Lovell with his champion Aberdeen Angus Steer at the 1957 Christmas Fat Stock Show.

Mr AH Lovell with his champion Aberdeen Angus Steer at the 1957 Christmas Fat Stock Show.

Late December issues of the Banbury Guardian in 1958 present a very different picture of seasonal sights and sounds from those of today.

In addition the newspaper contained some nostalgic references to the role of retailers in game and poultry sales.

Readers were reminded that in 1912 Colebrooks, on the corner of Church Lane and Parsons Street, had a towering display of chicken, ducks and turkeys. Significantly the shop had been in the ownership of well-known fishmonger Mr H Gibbs and they were continuing his established traditions.

Their concentration of poultry was so great that after dark tarpaulin was draped over the stock and a night watchman was employed to ensure that no thefts occurred.

By 1958 Banbury’s market town status was given a seasonal boost with the annual Christmas fatstock show.

The volume and quality of animals was the best for 66 years with nothing comparable to touch it south of the Scottish border except for Smithfield.

Pat McDougall, who in the 1920s had been the inspiration behind the Grimsbury market, went even further when he added ‘never in the Midlands has there been such a display of sheep and cattle.

I think it doubtful if Smithfield has ever produced anything like them’.

Positive support evidence included the fact that cattle from the Queen’s Sandringham and Windsor estates had added a touch of class and also excited local butchers with the prospects of ‘royal’ joints.

The occasion was also boosted by Bovril’s Aberdeen Angus beast that earned supreme champion title and was snapped up by Albert Armitage Ltd of Nottingham.

If its destination disappointed locals there was compensation for Harry Colegrave of Wykham Park Farm who won the Devon Championship. Show time was not the only excitement for the Stockyard of Europe. This was also generated by the Christmastime addition of a new building for pigs. The £25,000 ‘corrugated cathedral’ with room for 2,000 fat pigs or 3,000 store pigs was opened by Lord Waldgrave, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Away from the sale ring another seasonal tradition was being enacted.

Winners of the Alderman Partridge essay prizes were announced and made it a special time for Nigel Barber of Banbury Grammar School (senior prize) and Robert Daniels of St Leonard’s School (junior winner).

In years past the festive season had often been marked by Boxing Day meets of huntsmen and hounds.

Invariably the stirrup cup scene was Banbury Cross. In 1958 the Warwickshire Hunt chose Broughton instead.

However and remarkably their pursuit led them to stray into the gardens of some of the Bloxham Road residents. ‘Hounds swept through cabbage patches and beds of withered flowers’.

Public reaction was astonishingly varied.

Well-known head teacher Norman Scroxton called the occasion ‘a very exciting ten minutes’. Others were not so happy and called the police.

As for the huntsmen, one Clarence Webster maintained that their dogs were not out of control. ‘They always come when I blow my horn’ was his comment.

In 1958 factory-linked side Banbury Spencer FC carried the flag for soccer in the town. Between October 25 and December 20 that year Spencers (the Gay Puritans) lost eight consecutive games which resulted in their occupying bottom place in the Birmingham League First Division.

Remarkably, over Christmas the team did the double over West Bromwich Albion ‘A’ and this heralded a much better set of performances.

If you want to read more about the ups and downs of the club, they are recorded in The History of Banbury Spencer Football Club from the pens of David Shadbolt and myself.

Christmas 1958 was also a time for a book launch. William Potts’ History of Banbury was in the words of the paper ’A momentous Christmas gift – the first full history for over one hundred years.

Fifty years ago there may have been a paucity of seasonal street lights but it was an exciting time if you were in any way involved in livestock farming. Midlands Marts had indeed made Banbury.

l A Happy Christmas and new year to all my readers!




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