Tales of Christmas past

Look Back with Little NNL-151223-100225001
Look Back with Little NNL-151223-100225001

Banbury historian Brian Little recalls another moment in the town’s past.

Somewhere between the two extremes must come a photograph taken by the late Martin Blinkhorn showing simple strings of white lights spanning the Cross end of the High Street.

Music has also featured in the list of early indicators. Older readers of my column will recall a small group of men with instruments that moved between street corners. They were known as the Waits. Their successors have been members of the Round Table and associates with their float. A wave from Santa has gladdened many a child’s heart.

It may come as a surprise to some of today’s Guardian readers that in the forties and fifties Christmas Day and Boxing Day were not complete shut downs of public services.

Postal arrangements included one general delivery of letters on Christmas Day and normal weekday activities on Boxing Day.

The Midland Red bus company garaged their vehicles on Christmas Day but the day before saw market services on all routes with a Monday service across the board to keep people moving on Boxing Day.

Another good reason to study your 1940s Banbury Guardian thoroughly was to absorb key information issued by the Government and national companies.

Most of the notices were about heating and lighting or ways of making the best use of food resources.

The Department of Mines was intent on embedding the message about care with coal.

This was presented in the form of a list.

It read: ‘use coal carefully, be glad of any coal and don’t worry about the kind and your merchant will supply the best he can.’

It continued with the following hints: ‘lay one fire only, light it late, let it last’.

In its advertisement the Ministry of Food included helpful guidelines for a War and Peace Christmas Pudding.

This had first been made in Canada during the First World War.

Tacked onto the end of the page display was a section entitled ‘On the kitchen front’.

If like me you watched a recent BBC2 programme about family Christmases and social activities through six decades you will have been intrigued at several 1940s’ inventive meal substitutes.

The high cost of turkeys and chicken and their scarcity was emphasised (the featured family dined on stuffed ox heart).

Interestingly a possible outcome of going to a pre-Christmas whist drive in St Hugh’s Church Hall Easington was the prospect of winning one of the star prizes which included a turkey.

How highly prized these must have been.

Fundraising for the war effort and support services at home was high on the festive list of targets.

The Horton Hospital opened an annexe of 56 beds at Farnborough Hall at Christmas 1940 and needed public backing.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Banbury took a prominent lead and organised a 
Hospital Ball.

Given that the music was provided by the full RAF Band this must have been a grand occasion.

Then there was the Banbury and District Spitfire Fund.

As an incentive to donate Banbury Rural District 
Council lent a German Messerschmitt, which was put on display at Castle Wharf and afterwards took a tour of the town.

Despite wartime restrictions local retailers in the early 1940s were determined to aim at the highest standard of service possible.

Browns of Parsons Street were high on the list.

With obvious pride they declared that ‘for upwards of 300 years Banbury Cakes and other varieties of cake have been made at this noted shop.

‘We endeavour to maintain the high quality for which we are famed and to make our cake in limited quantities this year’.