Historian Roger Bingham surveys the final festive season before the outbreak of the First World War


The 1913 Christmas was coming and the goose was getting fat.

But, at a shilling a pound, even a medium-sized bird, would be beyond the means of a farm servant’s wage of £15 a half year.

Thus, poverty might have induced a Levens farm labourer, Natham Newby, to steal four hens from W. Wilson of Kidside.

But, when arrested at the Duke of Cumberland Inn, Farleton, with the purloined poultry in a sack beside him, he claimed ‘he had only borrowed them — and was really going to take them back’.

Dismissing his plea, the magistrates sent poor (in every sense) Natham to Lancaster Castle Gaol.

Here he was treated to a roast beef Christmas dinner as were, also, the Kendal Workhouse paupers who, ‘in a short address, were wished a prosperous New Year by Alderman Monkhouse’.

For those ‘experiencing difficulty in chewing’, Park & Co of Kendal advertised ‘artificial teeth best quality £3.10s, second quality £2.2s; singles 1/-to 4/-‘.

Other ‘seasonal’ adverts included Sherries from 1/6 to 14/- a bottle from Atkinson’s Old Wine Stores of Kendal; 5/- hampers — containing 3lbs of apples, 12 oranges, box of dates — from Kent Horticultural Stores; and, ladies motor scarves 1/- to 10/6 and gentlemen’s overcoats 18/11 to £3 from Blacow Bros.

Along with ‘Kendal Mint Cake, at one shilling, post free throughout the United Kingdom’, The Modern Sweet Stores offered children’s ‘Parisian’ crackers at 7/6- for 12.

Though young people had enjoyed ‘a pre-Christmas fall of snow’, an outbreak of diphtheria led to many parties being cancelled.

Nevertheless, at Burton ‘Mr Bradshaw continued his custom of regaling the school children with oranges and ginger snaps’.

But, according to Reed’s of Finkle Street the ‘best of all Christmas presents’ was an ‘His Master’s Voice Gramophone, prices £4 to £50 which reproduces with wonderful exactness the voices of the world’s greatest artistes’.

Alternatively, live entertainment included Burneside Players’ presentation of ‘Eager Heart’ at Kendal Parish Church while, at Heversham Church, a concert featured a new carol, ‘It came upon a Midnight Clear’.

Festivities continued into the New Year with excellent attendances at hunts, football matches, clay pigeon shooting, and, notably, at Military Balls ‘under the auspices of local volunteers’.

All too soon, however, many of the part time and peace time soldiers would be exchanging their ballroom crimson uniforms for Khaki battledress.

Finally, an ironic footnote was struck by a Westmorland Gazette report that an advertisement for ‘Bugsley’s Bullet Proof Capes’ was a hoax.