Things have changed a lot. In the first decades of the 19th century the modem customs of Christmas trees and mass-produced greetings cards were unknown. People produced their own entertainment's and did so throughout the century. Here is a printed programme of a 'Christmas Entertainment' for l874. It is three days after Christmas Day: not something which occurs much nowadays, when concerts and carol singing are all out of the way long before Christmas Day.
The small notice gives no time for the concert but 'S. Nicholas' does tell us that it emanated from the parish church of Alcester. Lack of an entrance fee suggests that the plate was passed round. The venue of the Com Exchange is no surprise, for by 1874 it had lost much of its commercial importance but had developed as Alcester's primary site for public entertainment.
The programme's items were totally supplied by local talent, including the parish church choir, who sang two traditional carols. The recitations and songs were apparently all given by Alcester residents: a glance at these provide some interesting comments.
Edward Wright had run a fancy repository, public reading room and circulating library for many years until in l864 he inaugurated 'The Alcester Chronicle'. He it was who printed the notice. The 'pianiste' was Edward's daughter. H. Malins was a member of Alcester's voluntary fire service. Mrs. Sheaf was probably the wife of Richard Sheaf, a maltster of High Street. William Holland was a High Street draper.
The Coopers around this time had several branches of the family active in various trades. T. Colling was 17 and a pupil teacher. Joseph Lea, aged 65, was very well-known
He had been town crier and parish clerk for many years as well running a grocery and fancy repository. John Phillip was a teacher, while Emily Wyman, 19, was the daughter of Doctor Wyman. The Rev. A. H. Williams, rector of Alcester, came to the parish in 1869, while the Misses Williams were probably his daughters. B. Yates may have been 'Bob' (Robert) Yates, a watchmaker of Evesham Street. Caroline Brooks was only 14, daughter of Jon, plumber of Priory Road.
Most of the artistes, apart from those with professional backgrounds, came from families in trade and self-employed. There is a cross-section here of what may call the Anglican establishment of the town and all living in the town centre or near to it. These are the folk one would expect to be involved in a good many of Alcester's social occasions.
Winter 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991