With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I would take a look at the festive season in our community in years gone by, starting exactly 90 years ago in 1926.
The postal arrangements in 1926 certainly made a contrast with today: on Christmas Day itself there was a delivery of letters and parcels, no collection in towns, but a collection in rural areas. Last posting dates for guaranteed delivery were December 22nd for parcels, and midday on the 23rd for letters!
Ten years later in 1936, reports in the local paper were about the Christmas parties at local schools. Shepperton Council School (now Saxon School) which was then sited in Sheepwalk, had ‘a jolly party of games, a conjuring entertainment, and a visit from Father Christmas, who gave each a present’.
At the Shepperton C. of E. Schools, (now St. Nicholas) then in School Lane at the back of the present site, the Headmaster, Mr G. Reynolds, had arranged his 23rd Christmas party: ‘Tea was served on tables decorated by the children, and the party, numbering 200, were visited by Father Christmas, who gave each child a present. Carols were sung, games played, and Mr Shepherd entertained with conjuring tricks. Each child also received crackers from the Rector (Rev. H.E McCloud). The day before, the infants, numbering 50, were similarly entertained at the school, and Mr Gibbons sent each an orange and a bag of sweets’.
Another decade later in 1946, the Christmas period was dominated by one of the ‘pea-souper’ fogs that were so common when most homes and businesses burned coal: ‘Passengers were shaken but fortunately no one was injured when a single-decker bus on Route 237 travelling towards Shepperton, left the road and plunged into a ditch in Halliford Road during the heavy fog which was widespread in the district’. It was reported that drivers who did venture beyond Shepperton towards Chertsey and Staines had to find their way with considerable difficulty through heavy patches of dense fog, with visibility almost nil.
In a reminder of the recent World War Two, a party was arranged for 140 local children in Shepperton Parish Hall (now the Village Hall) sadly including 30 war orphans. By contrast, the day before, the Parish Hall also saw the monthly meeting of the Shepperton Fanciers’ Association, including ‘a special table show for members of the rabbit section’!
By 1956, modern influences were beginning to be felt: the 1st Shepperton Green Cubs at their headquarters in Wood Road (the tin hut is still there but disused), were entertaining parents and friends with a local teenage rock ‘n’ roll band (a description which would have meant nothing even 10 years before!) called ‘The Rolling Dominoes’. Some semblance of tradition was then restored with a recitation of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.
The next public meeting of the Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society will be in the New Year on Tuesday 17th January, when Nigel Scott, one of our members, will be talking about the the development of the tank and the Battle of Cambrai a century ago in 1917, which saw the first widespread use of this new invention. The talk takes place at Halliford School in Russell Road, Shepperton, and starts at 8pm. All welcome, admission £2 for non-members of SSLHS.