An 1850s Christmas in Keighley…

Ian, our wonderful Butterfield archive volunteer has been trawling the family letters to find some seasonally approriate extracts to share with you all.

The following extracts are from a 27th December letter written to Henry Isaac Butterfield [1819-1910] by his feisty and engaging Baptist sister Sarah Anna [1814-1871] from Cliffe Hall, the precursor of Cliffe Castle.

Sarah Hannah Butterfield dressed in a black riding habit, with black hat, white gloves
Sarah Hannah Butterfield in Riding Habit

Sarah Anna doesn’t date her letters by year but other evidence dates these from the 1850’s. It demonstrates that Christmas epidemics are not a new thing.

“For several days, almost weeks I have proposed acknowledging your very welcome letter, first the sickness of John (1810-65) then dear Jeannie (1850-1877) then cook and not enjoying very robust health myself have caused me to postpone [writing] from day to day. John however wrote you somewhere about a fortnight ago which was some little salve to my conscience…….

Mrs Smith’s Christmas tree [party] went off last week, poor Jeannie was sadly disappointed as her sickness prevented her going. Mrs Garforth, the Wednesday previous, gave a sort of mixed children’s and up grown peoples party. A beautiful doll was drawn for by the little girls and a large solitaire board by the little boys, however every little visitor had a present. William [1812-1874] and Mr Pierce were there, poor Jeannie of course was prohibited, another disappointment……

Miss Sugden was and still is in the neighbourhood .She was to have been my guest but in consequence of dear Jeannie being ill at Woodlands [Haworth] and cook lying with symptoms of typhus here I was obliged to forgo the pleasure of receiving her and now the young (lady?) is at home for a little while but of course it is a serious inconvenience at Xmas time.

We have had a good deal of snow the last few days and the weather is bitter cold.”

I have included the following extract from a letter of 9 March as it shows that unseasonable weather isn’t new either as the weather still sounds very Christmassy.

“ Richard [1806-1869] says a handsome claret jug with silver lid [for a wedding present] may be had for £10.0.0. This seems to me to be a most exorbitant sum and made me the more anxious to see for myself but I did not like to wait longer, especially as the weather is most severe, the ground covered with snow which makes the country look very beautiful, seasonable though it cannot be considered ,there is a good deal of sickness about fever, influenza………..

We have little news in the neighbourhood . Miss Sugden gave a handsome dinner (to about 10 as many as she can accommodate) last Tuesday, the J Sugdens, Mr Greenwood and Mrs Ide were to have been there but the road was snowed up so that a carriage could not get [through].

The same day John Cravens second son, Joseph Henry, was married to Miss Spencer, a grand [wedding] for Keighley, 5 bridesmaids and the bride without a bouquet, all in white, 6 gentlemen [attending].

The carriages were hired from Halifax so were to arrive at 8 am, after trying to come direct they found it impossible and came round by Bradford which delayed the ceremony to the eleventh hour”.

Which goes to show that travelling delays due to unseasonable weather are not a new thing either and that those nostalgic images of snowy Victorian scenes on Christmas cards had a downside too!

All those referred to by first name only with dates ie John, Jeannie, William and Richard are members of the Butterfield family living in either Keighley or Haworth.

Editors note:  This whole post reminded me of the image we found of Cliffe Castle in the snow.  So although technically its the wrong date (because talking about unseasonable weather, this snow was in May), we thought festive looking  enough to include in our last blog post of the year.

Snowy Cliffe Castle - in May!
Snowy Cliffe Castle – in May!

See you all in 2020!


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