Christmas Past in Haslingfield
The build-up to Christmas in the village clearly wasn’t as great in Victorian times as it is today. Children at the local school only had Christmas Day off in 1875 and 1876, a week’s holiday only being introduced in 1877. Given that pupils had days off for Church outings, Chapel outings, Band of Hope outings, good attendance and inspections, perhaps the staff saw Christmas as just another incursion into the teaching year. There is no mention of a Christmas treat for pupils until 1923, when the staff went overboard. The Log Book reports:
“Dec 21st & 22nd Thursday: Infants treat: 30 of school + 22 others of Haslingfield parents
Friday: upper children 60 + 11 who have recently left.
Features: lighting by Christmas lanterns: Father Xmas: Yule log: Harlequin & Columbine: clown & side shows.”
The Cambridge Chronicle reports little happening at this time of year, except that the villagers were very fond of turkeys. In 1848, 389 were sold in Haslingfield, varying in weight between 20 and 27 lbs. – big birds! Those that couldn’t afford them were not averse to using other methods. In December 1848, Mr. Prime, whose cottage still stands at the south end of the High Street, was given a tip-off that his farm was to be raided. He and “his man” took up position, but it was a cold night and they had to go inside for sustenance. Sod’s Law applied then as now, and while they were inside the thieves arrived and put 8 prime turkeys (no pun intended) into two sacks, and ran off. Mr. Prime and his buddy reappeared just in time to chase after the thieves, who wisely dropped the sacks and disappeared.
Enjoy your turkey if you’re having one, and a Merry Christmas to all our readers.
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