Social History Curator Nicola Pullan explores Christmas objects from the collection – from trees to pantomime
Here are a few of my favourite objects from our Christmas collections:
Firstly, our Wassail bowl (LEEDM.E.1964.0085.0001) which would have been used by Wassail singers out on January 5th to mark the twelfth night, and would have been filled with an alcoholic punch like Lambswool.
Our bowl also has two wooden cups on the top. Lambswool would have contained ingredients such as roasted apples, beer, sugar and spices like nutmeg or cinnamon.
A Feathered Christmas Tree?
Second is one of our artificial Christmas trees (LEEDM.E.1990.0073). We do have more than one in the collection, but this particular one was bought in a Leeds shop in 1923 and was used every year until 1989.
The leaves are made using dyed green feathers, and some of the branches have candle holders on, others have red berries.
Artificial trees date back to at least the nineteenth century and feathered ones like ours originated in Germany.
Next, a programme from the Leeds Empire Theatre for Emile Littler’s Laughter Pantomime “Dick Whittington” from Jan 1958 (LEEDM.E.1990.0004.0008), which was presented to Alderman J. Hiley, then Lord Mayor of Leeds, on his visit to the theatre.
Littler was in charge of the Palace Theatre in London from 1946 to 1983 and well known for putting on pantomimes, bringing over 200 to the stage in his career, and he was author or co-author of many of them.
A Victorian Christmas Stocking
Finally, I really like this Christmas stocking (LEEAG.2015.0035). It is a man’s white cotton knitted long stocking, with laundry mark embroidered at the top in red cross stitch of “W.M.7”.
The stocking originally belonged to a Mr William Mee, a lawyer in Retford, Nottinghamshire, between 1825 and 1850. It was then used as a Christmas stocking by Dr S. Holoran from Leeds 16. It looks nothing like the stockings we have become used to today, but it is a charming object when you know its history.