Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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All I want for Christmas …

Boy with Christmas Gifts

A Louis Quatorze Photo Frame, a Pompadour Jewel Case and some Swiss Cow and Sheep Bells for table use. These items and a ‘host of novelties of all kinds’ were available for purchase at Shipwright’s, 2 Pier Terrace, Ryde and advertised in the Isle of Wight Observer in 1899. Some of us today complain that Christmas starts too early but Shipwright’s ‘Christmas and New Year Gifts, containing the pick of the English and Foreign Fancy Trade,’ had been on show that year since 21 November.

‘Fur Necklets and Muffs’ is another eye catching headline in the December 1899 Observer. ‘What more useful, or gives greater delight, than the present of a nice fur necklet or muff?; and see, too, how it enhances the attractiveness of the wearer. It has been said that Diamonds and Jewellery are the greatest temptations fair women have to withstand, but surely furs might be added to the same category.’ The article continues with a list of the most fashionable furs – bear, skunk, sable, mink, marmot etc. How fashion and taste have changed since 1899.

Looking for something a little more down to earth, perhaps?

‘Messrs. Fowler’s handsome windows were the centre of attraction in Union Street. Inside the large and conveniently arranged establishment, are to be found an exceptionally good stock of articles useful for Christmas presents. In the windows are a large assortment of scent, handkerchiefs, &c., and one window is devoted entirely to articles suitable for evening wear, and will tempt many a lady who contemplates accepting invitations to balls and parties.’

Under the title ‘FANCY,’ several shops are mentioned which could be catering for the more basic present buyer.
‘ Mr. Evans, Union Street, is showing a choice assortment of fancy articles and bric-a-brac that will be found very useful for gifts. T Dimmer and Son, 135 High Street, are exhibiting a large assortment of all that is original and charming in Christmas and New Year’s cards. Mr. J. A Purnell, 7 and 8 High Street, (who has recently been appointed upholsterer to Her Majesty the Queen) is showing a large and varied stock of Xmas novelties charmingly arranged. Gifts of a high class quality are obtainable at Mr. Watts, Union Street, where an endless array of seasonable novelties are to be seen, all most attractively displayed. This is the depot for the Society for promoting Christian knowledge, and there is no better place in the town if one wants to get a good book for old or young.’

The great and the good of the day were also being praised for their generosity and benevolence. Under the title ‘AN ACCEPTABLE XMAS PRESENT,’ we read –
‘ In pursuance of a very laudable custom, Mr. Councillor B. Whittington, has presented to each member of the Borough Police Force and other Corporation servants a large plum cake. We need hardly say that Councillor Whittington’s kindness is greatly appreciated.’

As 1899 drew to a close, the Queen herself was organising a treat for her loyal subjects serving in foreign battles.
‘THE QUEEN’S NEW YEAR GIFT.- A Birmingham correspondent states that the forty thousand boxes of chocolate which the Queen ordered from Messrs. Cadbury as a New Year’s gift to the troops in South Africa will be despatched on Saturday. The greatest care has been taken that none of the boxes should find their way in to the hands of the public, and the dies have been destroyed. Thirty thousand boxes each have been supplied by Messrs. Fry.’

Source: Isle of Wight Observer 7, 9, 16, 23 & 28 December 1899
Picture source: www.olddesignshop.com & www.chocolatetraders.co.nz