Christmas and New Year cards from the archives

One of my favourite collections of all those I’ve catalogued over the years is the archive of the Hicks Beach family of Williamstrip in Coln St Aldwyn, Netheravon in Wiltshire, and Oakley in Hampshire. It is full of all sorts of treasures, and two of them are particularly appropriate to revisit around this time of year.

One is a cache of Christmas, New Year and birthday cards sent to Ellice Hicks Beach (1875-1947), a member of the Hampshire branch of the family, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ellice studied in France and Germany, and joined the Diplomatic Service in 1900. He was posted all over Europe, including to Stockholm, Berne, Madrid, Belgrade, Constantinople, St Petersburg, Athens and Helsinki. He had many international friends and several of his papers, including a few of the cards, are in languages other than English, including French, German, Danish, Spanish and Russian.

Ellice was born in 1875, and so his childhood coincided with the late-Victorian boom in the production of Christmas cards. His collection (reference D2455/F4/5/1/4) is a fascinating snapshot of the sorts of cards people were sending each other at the turn of the 20th century – many of them are not really what we would call Christmassy, as you will see…(warning! Lots of images follow the ‘read more’ link.)

The second ‘treasure’ really merits its own post, and it will give you something to discuss with family and friends over the Christmas period. See my next post, which should appear here this time tomorrow morning…!

Karen Davidson, Collections Management Archivist

card1a

This not-particularly Christmassy card was sent to Ellice by his brother Archibald

card1b

It’s very scenic, but not even a snowflake in sight!

card4

Swallows aren’t exactly the bird one thinks of at this time of year…

card8

…and butterflies and flowers are a distant hope at this point.

D2455-card14

There are only two cards in the collection featuring that mainstay of Christmas cards, the robin.

D2455-card17a

The robins on this one are flying alongside some very glittery holly…

D2455-card17b

…and their outline has been cut out carefully, as you can see on the other side.

D2455-card22

Bullfinches seem to have been just as popular as robins – maybe it’s the red feathers.

D2455-card21

The Victorians loved kittens just as much as the Internet does today.

card7a

They also seem to have liked glitter. I wasn’t aware the Victorians even had glitter until I came across these cards.

D2455-card23a

More glitter on this lovely floral card sent to Ellice by his former nurse, Ellen Barfoot.

D2455-card23b

Ellice stayed in touch with Ellen for the rest of her life.

D2455-card24a

Here’s a truly Christmassy card, although…

D2455-card24b

…it’s got a rather Scrooge-like message!

D2455-card12a

Many of the cards show evidence of damp damage, probably from being kept somewhere damp before the advent of central heating. You can see the stains on the paper quite clearly on this card.

D2455-card12b

I am not sure what this card’s designer thought pigs (or indeed mock-Irish verse) had to do with Christmas!

D2455-card19a

The next few images show a pair of clever ‘rebus’ cards sent to Ellice by his nieces Winifred and Cicely.

D2455-card19bD2455-card19cD2455-card20aD2455-card20bD2455-card20c

D2455-card16

This card from one of Ellice’s German friends wishes him 365 happy days…

D2455-card25

…and this one sends heartfelt wishes for happiness.

card2

Meanwhile, this French card wishes him a Happy New Year.

D2455-card10

Let’s not forget the cute puppies; the Victorians loved them just as well as we do, too!

D2455-card26a

The Victorians clearly liked to send New Year cards, like this one showing two children in 18th-century costume.

D2455-card26b

They also went in for verses, as you’ve probably worked out, just as much as we do today.

One thought on “Christmas and New Year cards from the archives

  1. What a wonderful collection, especially like the cards with pigs on them, very appropriate for the Forest of Dean. Happy Christmas

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s