Christmas History 34. The plan for this year’s Christmas History series of articles was to look exclusively at the Christmas of 150 years ago, the year 1868. Unfortunately it turns out that 1868 was a year for unseasonable weather, so most of the newspaper articles are devoted to complaining about that. Next time we will try our luck with a different year instead, but first let’s see how the poor were treated at Christmas, a century and a half ago. The following article is from the Birmingham Journal, 26th December 1868.
Christmas Day at the Workhouse.—The inmates of the Workhouse of our town were regaled yesterday with the usual Christmas fare of roast beef, plum pudding, and ale. The corridors and different apartments throughout the Workhouse, which were tastefully decorated with evergreens and artificial flowers, had a very pleasing appearance. The inmates seemed thoroughly to enjoy their fare and the amusements provided for them. In addition to the drum and fife band belonging to the house, a quadrille band was in attendance, and did good service during the afternoon and evening. Messrs. Baker, Biddle, Taylor, Thompson, Davis, Thomason, Wood, Boraston, Eagle, Lord, Bloor, Cox, Patching, Mitton, Jackson, Woodman, Benton, Price, Carter, Hemming, Hull, Pollock, Bridge, Southall, all members of the Board of Guardians, with their families, visited the Workhouse, as did Mr.Corder, Clerk to the Guardians, Mrs. Corder, and friends, and a large number of the general public. Mr. Southall distributed aquantity of grapes to the patients the infirmaries, and Mr. Woodmen gave oranges to the bedridden women. A large number of toys were given to the children the infant school by Messrs. Benton and Carter; the latter gentleman also gave large india-rubber balls to the girls’ and boys’ schools. On Christmas Eve, all the children of the Workhouse and Cape were delighted with a magic-lantern entertainment given by Mr. Shorthouse, who was introduced by Mr. Wilson Sturge. The Messrs. Baker also very generously gave to each child-over two years of age two bright new penny pieces direct from the Mint. The children to whom this present was made numbered about 700. It may interest some of our readers to know that close upon a ton weight beef was cooked for dinner.
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