Christmas 1899 was the first my orphaned grandfather was at Chase Farm Schools in Enfield, North London. How was his day?
A post-Christmas column in the Middlesex Gazette through the years he was there reported much the same program, the articles a rewrite from the previous year with the numbers and names updated.
The issue for Saturday, December 29, 1900, under the heading Festivities at the Chase Farm Schools, started —
At these Poor Law Schools the Christmas season was observed in time-honoured fashion. While the Guardians granted special fare, private sources yielded many a delight for the nearly 400 children who receive a thoroughly sound all-round training at this institution. And nowhere do the staff of any similar schools enter more heartily into the spirit of the season than do those at Chase Farm; with the result that, as formerly, nearly every room presented quite a festive appearance; and it is pleasing to know that the little ones have realized the joys of a Happy Christmas.
Early astair on Christmas morning, they were furnished with an abundant breakfast, after which the children attended the service at St Michael’s Church, returning with hearty appetites for the great event – the Christmas dinner. That they were not stinted in this particular is shown by the fact that the viands placed before them included 12 stones weight of beef and 15 of roast pork, with potatoes, followed by 36 – 17 lb plum puddings! We can only hope that the medical officer has not been unduly taxed at the Schools since then. After the dinner each child received a parcel containing apples, oranges, dates, sweets, nuts, biscuits, etc. It was, indeed, a happy, if large, dinner party that assembled in the dining hall; and the proceedings were made the more gladsome by the strains of the Schools Band. The spacious apartment was quite a picture in its decorative glory. Gaudily-coloured paper chains cross and re-cross overhead; attractive devices brightened up the walls; and there smiled down upon the juvenile diners the wish, in large lettering, “The Happiest of Christmas Days, the Brightest of New Years to You”; while, in sequence, around the walls ran this kindly wish: –
“May the sunshine of success,
all our labours crown and bless;
and make bright the onward way
This, and every Christmas Day.”
The amounts work out to be for each child 6.7 oz of beef, 8.4 oz of pork, and 1.5 lb of plum pudding. Even allowing for feeding the staff and guardians in attendance the amount is generous, perhaps as well the 1910 report mentions that “The whole of the viands enumerated above were not consumed on Christmas Day. Enough is provided to ensure a special spread on New Year’s Day.”