Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Victorian Christmas

Met up with a large group of HE families at Peterborough Museum yesterday for a whole day Victorian Christmas educational session. We needed a full house to afford the event, so the day was opened up to families outside our HE group. It was lovely meeting others from Norfolk, St. Noets and Cambridge. A lot of us travelled a fair distance, but the day was really interesting and good fun so it was certainly worth it.

We started at 10 a.m. and met "Dr. Walker". A wealthy gentleman from Peterborough's past who politely showed us his decorated Victorian parlour. The children learnt about life in a wealthy household, the foods that would have adorned the table at Christmas, and the general goings on - how the household employed servants to care for them and their children and how Mrs. Walker was exhausted with all the Christmas preparations, buying new winter clothes for the children as well as entertaining and purchasing gifts. He was very sad to hear the kinds of presents some of our children were expecting; obviously not as rich as himself! Soup and fruit - not that exciting! After the discussion, the children set to making mini Christmas crackers or decorating and writing inside a copy of the first Christmas card.

Moving from wealthy onto poor, we met Mrs. Kilburn who lived in a tiny terrace house owned by the railways in Peterborough. Her husband had badly hurt his leg and she talked to the children with concern about him possibly losing not only leg, but his job and the house too. She needed to find 6 pennies to pay Dr. Walker for treating him - eventually, having gone through all her household chores the children thought she could do laundry for the wealthy families to raise the money. Being able to have a go at using the different kitchen bits and bobs was brilliant. Striking flint (which would have been used to spark light the range or parlour fire), sitting in the old tin bath, using the mangle (I remember my grandma having one of those), trying out the irons and beating the carpets all kept the children, and the adults, busy.
"Mrs Kilburn's" kitchen

Making sparks by striking flint


After a short lunch time break with some of us having Christmas crackers to get into the festive mood, we moved on to the afternoon session beginning with a Magic Lantern show (see also this link). We saw some of the museum's collection of hand painted glass slides, some of which had a lever to change the picture, used with a projector to make up a short film. Victorian children thought this idea was magic, which is how it got it's name. As the old projector no longer worked, we watched a few lantern shows from a Powerpoint presentation - traditional nursery rhymes and pictures of pampered cats, dogs and frogs (all with rather posh names).
Hand painted Victorian slides

The group set about either making a cornucopia to hold sweets or chocolates, or start a Christmas tree cross stitch before taking part in some traditional parlour games. The classic drawing game, known today as "consequences" was popular during this time. Other games which the children all enjoyed included throwing playing cards into an upturned hat (and trying to get them in), a thinking game named "earth, air and water" and "find the ring"

Finally, we all sang "O Christmas Tree" around the museum decorated tree.

Some of the children went to a lot of effort to dress in traditional Victorian wear - even down to one chap smearing boot polish on his face!

It was a full day and I must admit I was gasping for a cuppa by the time we came out. I'd intended on doing some Christmas shopping for a couple of hours, but there was no way my tired brain could concentrate on that.

This Victorian Christmas link tells you lots about the traditions and Christmas inventions of the time.


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At 12:15 am, Blogger stefndawniy said...

wow that looked great fun :)


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