Skip to main content
×
×
Home

The Christmas Season and the Protestant Churches in England, c. 1870–1914

  • NEIL ARMSTRONG (a1)
Abstract

Histories of the English Christmas tend to downplay the role of religion in the development of the modern festival. This article examines the place of religion in the popular celebration of Christmas, as well as the provision of worship offered by the Protestant Churches during the festive season. It argues that although some churchmen viewed Christmas pessimistically as part of a broader battle between sacred and secular, the Churches played an important role in the expansion of the urban public culture of Christmas in the late nineteenth century, whilst the doctrine of the incarnation provided a religious framework for the celebration of childhood and domesticity that the festival had come to embody.

Copyright
References
Hide All

1 J. M. Golby and A. W. Purdue, The making of the modern Christmas, London 1986; Gavin Weightman and Steve Humphries, Christmas past, London 1987; Mark Connelly, Christmas: a social history, London–New York 1999, 7.

2 Christmas was also very important to the Roman Catholic liturgical year, but there is not sufficient space in a journal article to include the English Catholic Church in this discussion.

3 Daniel Miller, ‘A theory of Christmas’, in Daniel Miller (ed.), Unwrapping Christmas, Oxford 1993, 6.

4 A. B. Bartlett, ‘The churches in Bermondsey, 1880–1939’, unpubl. PhD diss. Birmingham 1987; Jeffrey Cox, The English Churches in a secular society: Lambeth, 1870–1930, Oxford 1982; S. J. D. Green, Religion in the age of decline: organisation and experience in industrial Yorkshire, 1870–1920, Cambridge 1996; James Obelkevich, Religion and rural society: South Lindsey, 1825–1875, Oxford 1976; Mark A. Smith, Religion in industrial society: Oldham and Saddleworth, 1740–1865, Oxford 1994; Sarah C. Williams, Religious belief and popular culture in Southwark, c. 1880–1939, Oxford 1999.

5 Callum G. Brown, The death of Christian Britain: understanding secularisation, 1800–2000, London 2001.

6 Hugh Cunningham, Children and childhood in western society since 1500, Harlow 1995.

7 Louisa Mary Knightley, The journals of Lady Knightley of Fawsley, 1856–1884, ed. Julia Cartwright, London 1915, 272.

8 Katherine Chorley, Manchester made them, London 1970, 33.

9 Hamlin David, ‘The structures of toy consumption: bourgeois domesticity and demand for toys in nineteenth-century Germany’, Journal of Social History xxxvi (2003), 857–69.

10 Paul Davis, The lives and times of Ebenezer Scrooge, New Haven–London 1990, 78, 81.

11 Rowell Geoffrey, ‘Dickens and the construction of Christmas’, History Today xliii (Dec. 1993), 1724 at p. 19.

12 Lady's Monthly Museum ii (1799), 41.

13 Boyd Hilton, The age of atonement: the influence of Evangelicalism on social and economic thought, 1795–1865, Oxford 1988, 5, 299.

14 York Herald, 28 Dec. 1867.

15 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1881).

16 Mill Hill Chapel Record (Jan. 1867).

17 Mill Hill Chapel Monthly Calendar (Dec. 1893).

18 Yorkshire Herald, 26 Dec. 1913.

19 The Times, 26 Dec. 1910.

20 Leeds Mercury, 26 Dec. 1890; 28 Dec. 1900.

21 José Harris, Private lives, public spirit: Britain, 1870–1914, London 1994, 165–6.

22 Smith, Religion in industrial society, 145; Green, Religion in the age of decline, 339.

23 York Herald, 24 Dec. 1869; Leeds Mercury, 28 Dec. 1870.

24 See, for example, Herbert Vaughan's ‘The font and the flowers’, illustrated by Leech, Illustrated London News, 22 Dec. 1860, and the extended descriptions of church decorations in the York Herald in the early to mid-1870s.

25 Ronald Hutton, The stations of the sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain, Oxford 1996, 34.

26 E. L. Cutts, An essay on the Christmas decoration of churches, London 1862, 19, 48, 54–5, 61.

27 Ibid. 63.

28 P. F. Anson, Fashions in church furnishing, 1840–1940, London 1960, 200–2.

29 York Herald, 1, 8 Jan. 1859; 10, 17 Dec. 1859. See also the controversy in the parish of St John the Baptist, Hulme, in Manchester in 1870: Nigel Yates, Anglican ritualism in Victorian Britain, 1830–1910, Oxford 1999, 170.

30 C. M. Davies, Orthodox London: or phases of religious life in the Church of England, London 1876, 160–5.

31 Percy Dearmer, The parson's handbook, London 1928, 445–6.

32 St Philip and St James Parish Magazine (Jan. 1892); St Olave's Parish Magazine (Jan. 1906).

33 Davies Gilbert, Some ancient Christmas carols, with the tunes to which they were formerly sung in the west of England, London 1823; William Sandys, Christmas carols, ancient and modern, London 1833; Connelly, Christmas, 62–6.

34 John Wolffe, ‘“Praise to the holiest in the height”: hymns and church music’, in John Wolffe (ed.), Religion in Victorian Britain, Manchester 1997, pp. v, 61–2; N. Temperley, The music of the English parish church, Cambridge 1979, i. 273.

35 J. A. R. Pimlott, The Englishman's Christmas: a social history, Hassocks 1978, 109.

36 The Times, 28 Dec. 1878; St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1892); Whitkirk Parish Magazine (Dec. 1898).

37 R. R. Chope, Carols for use in church, London 1892, introduction.

38 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1892); Pimlott, Englishman's Christmas, 110.

39 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1892).

40 St Philip and St James Parish Magazine (Dec. 1887).

41 Connelly, Christmas, ch. iii.

42 The Times, 24 Dec. 1910.

43 J. N. Morris, Religion and urban change: Croydon, 1840–1914, Woodbridge 1992, 54.

44 St Simon's Parochial Magazine (Dec. 1876); St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1882).

45 Morris, Religion and urban change, 55.

46 Frances Knight, The nineteenth-century Church and English society, Cambridge 1995, 80.

47 Green, Religion in the age of decline, 295; Obelkevich, Religion and rural society, 127.

48 St Olave's Parish Magazine (Dec. 1894).

49 Borthwick Institute for Archives, York, PR BP.57, V1912-22; York Minster Library, S 3/1/8, S 4/2 c-e.

50 Whitkirk Parish Magazine (Jan. 1903).

51 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1885).

52 St Olave's Parish Magazine (Jan. 1907).

53 Knight, Nineteenth-century Church, 71; Arthur Burns, ‘The authority of the Church’, in Peter Mandler (ed.), Liberty and authority in Victorian Britain, Oxford 2006, 179–202 at p. 192.

54 St Olave's Parish Magazine (Jan. 1913).

55 Obelkevich, Religion and rural society, 143.

56 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Jan. 1895).

57 Whitkirk Parish Magazine (Jan. 1903); (Jan. 1907).

58 Robin Gill, The myth of the empty church, London 1994, 22; Cox, English churches, 102–3; Green, Religion in an age of decline, 332.

59 St Olave's Parish Magazine (Dec. 1894).

60 Green, Religion in the age of decline, 309–10; Morris, Religion and urban change, 66–7.

61 St Philip and St James Parish Magazine (Jan. 1892).

62 Whitkirk Parish Magazine (Dec. 1907).

63 Davies, Orthodox London, 183–6.

64 Whitkirk Parish Magazine (Jan. 1871); St Olave's Parish Magazine (Jan. 1898).

65 Green, Religion in an age of decline, 293–7.

66 J. H. Pollen, Narrative of five years at St Saviour's, Leeds, Oxford 1851, 103.

67 The Times, 28 Dec. 1878.

68 St Saviour's Monthly Paper (Dec. 1892).

69 St Olave's Parish Magazine (Dec. 1909).

70 Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer rites: the buying and selling of American holidays, Princeton 1995, 119–21.

71 Wesleyan Methodist Magazine (Jan. 1823).

72 Davies, Orthodox London, 176–8.

73 York Herald, 6 Jan. 1866; 6 Jan. 1872.

74 Mill Hill Chapel Record (Jan. 1858); Mill Hill Chapel Monthly Calendar (Dec. 1881); York Herald, 28 Dec. 1872.

75 South Parade Baptist Church Magazine (Dec. 1913).

76 Green, Religion in an age of decline, 339–40.

77 Sarah Williams, ‘Urban popular religion and the rites of passage’, in Hugh McLeod (ed.), European religion in the age of great cities, 1830–1930, London–New York 1995, 216–36 at p. 223; Cox, English churches, 103.

78 Williams, ‘Urban popular religion’, 223–5; Green, Religion in an age of decline, 340.

79 Cox, English churches, 103; Bartlett, ‘Churches in Bermondsey’, 203.

80 Williams, ‘Urban popular religion’, 225.

81 Yorkshire Herald, 26 Dec. 1910.

82 Ibid. 6 Jan. 1914.

83 Matthew Grimley, Citizenship, community and the Church of England: liberal Anglican theories of the state between the wars, Oxford 2004, 81.

84 Freethinker, 24 Dec. 1911.

85 St Simon's Parochial Magazine (Dec. 1887).

86 South Parade Baptist Church Magazine (Dec. 1912).

87 David Bebbington, ‘Gospel culture in Victorian nonconformity’, in J. Shaw and A. Kreider (eds), Culture and the Nonconformist tradition, Cardiff 1999, 43–62 at p. 46.

I would like to thank Professor Arthur Burns, Dr Catriona Kennedy and the anonymous reader for this Journal for their helpful comments on previous versions of this article.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
  • ISSN: 0022-0469
  • EISSN: 1469-7637
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-ecclesiastical-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 31
Total number of PDF views: 70 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 186 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.