Past Christmases in Winchcombe
We will not be allowed to go carol singing this Christmas, and we certainly will not be having a Museum Christmas concert as we did in 2017. How many of you remember it?
Bill Pullen, who is sadly missed, sang his own composition entitled “Christmas-time”.
Carol and Gwilym Davies, Cressida Pryor and Geoff Ramshaw sang “The Cherry Tree Carol” as sung by Mary Roberts, aged 81, in Winchcombe Workhouse, collected by Cecil Sharp in 1908/9. It would be too boring to list all the acts; suffice it to say that 14 friends of Winchcombe Museum gave their time and their talent freely to support us. However,
I will pick out a few of the stories to remind us of what Christmas used to be like!
In the past, Christmas was the time when the mummers presented their play. A cast of amateur actors would enact their own version of a play in which St George would fight the Turkish Knight, and the story would end happily when a doctor would revive the vanquished knight. The script was in verse and had no pretensions to literary excellence! Other characters always appear, but their identities change in different parts of the country. Our own Happenstance Border Morris has revived the tradition in recent years, but sadly they will not be performing this year.
Barbara Doyle read a funny story from Bert Butler’s “A Cotswold Rag-Bag”. He remembered two young boys walking from Winchcombe up to Postlip Hall to sing carols. They must have sung well because they were thrown a pound note from an upper window by Captain Muir. They took it home and gave it to their grandmother who took it to the butcher in Hailes Street to be changed into coins. Dubious about the boys’ story, the butcher telephoned the Hall to check the boys’ story, so Gran snatched back the note and told him, in no uncertain terms, that she would never set foot in his shop again!
Another of Bert Butler’s stories concerns his four older brothers who were serving in the Great War. It took many weeks for his mother to save items for their Xmas parcels, which always included a tablet of carbolic soap wrapped in a home-made face flannel, a small Xmas pudding, boiled sweets, bars of chocolate and “any other goodies available in those grim times.” All over England there were mothers and wives struggling to bring a little Xmas cheer to their loved ones at the Front.
Back in Winchcombe, there were wounded soldiers in the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital wards in the old Methodist Chapel (now Royle Mews), Cowl Lane, and the Working Men’s Club (left) where the volunteer doctors and nurses did their best to make it a happy Christmas for the wounded heroes.
Perhaps lockdown because of a pandemic is not the worst that could happen at Christmas.