December Newsletter

An Edwardian Christmas

In Edwardian times Christmas was an elegant festive season for the wealthier families.  The house would be decorated with mistletoe, holly, ivy, yew and laurel.  The Christmas tree continued to be popular with many of the tree decorations being handmade.  For those who could afford them, manufactured Christmas tree ornaments from Germany came to be widely used during the Edwardian era.  Some were made of gold and silver embossed cardboard in a variety of three-dimensional shapes, such as bells, stars and animals.  Glass tree ornaments were especially popular, the best being made in the village of Lauscha in southern Germany.  Even the Edwardian inventions of the airship and aeroplane were mass-produced in miniature by glass-makers to hang on the trees.  Small presents such as toy soldiers or penny whistles were hung amongst the decorations.  Perhaps the things that most made the Christmas tree special were the candles.  Metal candle holders were used to clip onto the tree’s branches to hold the candles safely upright.

As in Victorian times Christmas cards remained an important feature of the Edwardian Christmas. They did not become affordable to the masses until early in the 20th Century when better printing and colouring techniques saw the mass-production of high quality postcards and people took advantage of the cheap but reliable and efficient postal system.

Children, even from well-off families, seldom got more than one present with perhaps a few home-made treats such as sweets or embroidered hankies in their stockings, along with an orange, apple and nuts.  Lucky children might have received a train set, a dolls house or (a new gift which was gaining popularity at the time) a teddy bear.

The main dish for Christmas Day was goose stuffed with chestnuts, pork and apple stuffing.  It was served with apple, gooseberry and bread sauces.  A traditional plum pudding followed with brandy butter.   After dinner there would be parlour games such as Charades and Blind Man’s Bluff.  Families would also gather for carol singing around the family’s upright piano.

Poets Corner, Bear Flat, Bath

 

Winter property market headlines and 2011 forecasts

 Property price graphs have resembled a rollercoaster this year and autumn trends have been no exception. Halifax’s reported 3.7% drop in September became a 1.8% upward swing in October. Hometrack weighed in with a reported 0.9% drop in the same month. The National Association of Estate Agents spotted a 3% increase in sales made to first time buyers in October yet Rightmove’s commercial director (Miles Shipside) is quoted in their November summary as saying: “First time buyers and buy-to-let investors both appear to have gone missing from estate agents’ books.”

Many portals and commentators broadly agree that asking prices have been slashed as Christmas approaches and the average ‘time on market’ for properties has risen to around 100 days. However, this slowdown in activity has also discouraged new sellers, with 9.1% less properties being placed on the market in November versus October. Will this lead to more stable prices as supply dries up over the winter?

Mortgage applications for house purchase fell by 11.4% in October, whilst remortgage applications were up 19.7% on September. With lenders currently offering five-year fixed rates under 4%, the remortgage figures are no surprise and it could be argued that a fall in purchase applications is a normal seasonal trend for October.

Looking for brighter news? The Centre for Economics and Business Research expects the property market to edge up next year, appreciating by 2.2%, as unemployment increases on the back of public sector cuts and household incomes remain under pressure. However, it expects house prices thereafter to gain momentum from low interest rates, quantitative easing and the shortage of properties in the UK.

Brock St in Bath

 

Do you know your Poet?

 With 7 local roads built by a family of devoutly religious builders, Bath’s Poets Corner is a homage to Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey – all of the poets named in the Bath estate are either buried there or have a memorial plaque in place.

John Milton

 Born in Bread St, London in 1608 to a Protestant composer of the same name and educated at St Pauls School. Milton obtained a M.A from Christs College, Cambridge whilst preparing to be an Anglican priest. After a grand tour of Europe, Milton served as an official to Oliver Cromwell and was appointed Secretary for Foreign Tongues by the Council of State in 1649. Completely blind from glaucoma by 1654, Milton dictated Paradise Lost to a series of aides from 1658 to 1664. John Milton died, impoverished, of kidney failure in 1674. Although he is not buried in Poets Corner (Westminster Abbey), he has a memorial there.

The Circus in Bath