Monday, 21 July 2014

Countdown to the Centenary

As the Centenary of the First World War approaches, I am posting extracts from my new book, Bristol in the Great War, which is out next month. Using military events as background, it describes what life was like in the city between 1914 and 1918 and takes a look behind the scenes to see how ordinary people coped. As always on this blog, the extracts use the words of people who were actually there. Today's post describes Christmas in Bristol, and in 1915 it was business as usual. For more details about Bristol in the Great War, click the link on the left.

'Electric torches - a most acceptable present for soldiers'

The Bristol Times and Mirror advertise
tempting treats for Christmas
(Credit: Bristol Reference Library)
AS 1915 drew to a close, it was reported by one London newspaper that, despite the war, women were still spending freely as the festive season approached. While shops that depended on male customers were finding business slack, those for women were reporting record sales. The same was true in Bristol, and a look through the local newspapers in the week leading up to Christmas 1915 shows that women had all the encouragement they needed from advertisers.
Alongside a big, bold appeal for army recruits, the pharmacist Henry Hodder, of Wine Street, commanded: ‘Do your Xmas shopping now’. The Misses Weymouth of Corn Street offered their furs as ideal ‘yuletide gifts’ with motor wraps from five guineas and foot muffs at 10s 9d. James Phillips & Sons, a household goods store in Union Street, helpfully let it be known that ‘You cannot do better than inspect our large and choice assorted stock of goods’.

In Clifton, the Alexandra Company proudly advertised its ‘dainty fancy goods’, while in Augustine’s Parade, MW Dunscombe Ltd showed off its ‘Meccano for boys’, and suggested their electric torches and pocket Kodaks were ‘a most acceptable present’ for soldiers at the Front.
Who could blame women for indulging in a bit of retail therapy? They were the ones who were left to bring up families by themselves, who struggled when food and money was short, and who could not forget that their loved ones might never return. 

(Copyright © 2014 Jacqueline Wadsworth)

NEXT POST: 'Sewing, scrubbing, scraping and fetching for the British Army' - 1916

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