Christmas in Bremhill Past

Written by Louise Ryland-Epton

Christmas in the nineteenth century was a more restrained occasion than it is today. However, it was still a cause to celebrate. In the first half of the nineteenth century, during the time Rev. William Lisle Bowles was village vicar, there were often communal celebrations. These were provided by Bowles and his wife who must have spent large sums of money to ensure their flock, at the very least, had a festive meal. In 1819, 55 girls attending Mrs Bowles Sunday school had a Christmas lunch of beef and pudding at the Rectory. Later Rev. Bowles published his 'Christmas Hymn' in a book of verse which he had written for use at the school. I imagine it may have been first performed here: -

Hark! angel voices from the sky,
Proclaim a Saviour's birth;
Glory, they sing, to God on high,
Peace and goodwill on earth!

Catch the glad strain, ye seraphs bright!
The glorious tidings spread;
Wake, wake to wonder and to light,
The dark sleep of the dead!

Let the wide earth, from shore to shore,
One loud hosanna raise,
Glory to God, whom we adore,
Glory and hymns of praise!

Meanwhile, at two local pubs, likely the Dumb Post and the Bell and Organ, 'the parochial choir and 50 poor men and women had a substantial dinner of beef and beer; and on the same day, bread and soup was distributed to upwards of 200'. Those who had subscribed to the local 'penny a week club' also received their share of a distribution of blankets, stockings, cloaks, shirts, shifts, petticoats, handkerchiefs, shoes and dresses. 'At this meeting, the clergyman [Bowles] addressed some of his assembled parishioners, in a speech replete with the most affectionate admonition.' Hopefully, this well-meaning advice did not distract too much from the festivity of the day.