CARNARVON TRADERS

The Repository of all Things Historical for the Ancient Welsh Town of Carnarvon

  Castle Square, Carnarvon. Published by Williams & Hughes, Bridge Steet, 1850


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CHRISTMAS IN CARNARVON 1903


These days we have become immune to the mass-marketing of Christmas on television, newspapers and magazines. From September onwards it is impossible to escape from the festive season, and it can sometimes be a relief when the big day finally arrives. We tend to forget that this is a fairly recent trend, which has gradually crept in almost unnoticed. But how was Christmas marketed a hundred years ago? I had a look in the December 1903 editions of the Carnarvon & Denbigh Herald to see.


What surprised me most was that there was very little mention of the season in the paper, and in the December 4th. edition the only item to appear was this advert:


PRIVATE CHRISTMAS CARD BOOKS
NEW SEASON'S BOOKS READY

DO NOT ORDER UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN MY SELECTION

CARADOC ROWLAND
17 CASTLE SQUARE, CARNARVON


By the following week, a couple of other shops had their Christmas advertising ready:


CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR GIFTS

WE INVITE INSPECTION OF
OUR NEW STOCK OF WATCHES, JEWELLERY
SILVER AND ELECTRO-PLATED GOODS
SUITABLE FOR
THE PRESENT SEASON

WE ARE ALSO SURE THAT THE LOW PRICES AND SPLENDID QUALITY OF THE
GOODS DISPLAYED WILL BE AN EYE-OPENER TO ALL

ROBERTS AND OWEN
12 POOL STREET, CARNARVON



CHRISTMAS TRADE

WATERLOO HOUSE
Noted for
GLOVES AND FANCY GOODS


In the December 11th. edition there was also a glimpse of the kind of entertainment the public enjoyed over the festive season, as a short piece under local news shows:


POOLE'S MYRIORAMA - Messrs. Poole, the celebrated and popular amusement caterers, made their annual visit to Carnarvon this week, and the Pavilion was each night filled with appreciative audiences. The scenes showed on the canvas were superior in many ways to those presented in years gone by, and there are some excellent cinematograph views, those of local interest being pictures of Carnarvon Castle, the crowds coming to the winter fair, and the football match in the Oval. The life of Napoleon as depicted on canvas is also very entertaining. There is in addition to the pictures shown, a capital musical and variety entertainments. The Japanese tricks and the illusionist's performances were well worth seeing, and the humorous antics of the Snow Family kept the people in roars of laughter, whilst their clever show was really well worth seeing. Lyndon and his musical instruments also deserve praise. He brought capital music out of all manner of things. In fact, the whole entertainment from beginning to end is interesting and clever.*


On December 18th. a few more traders had their festive advertising available, and readers were invited to partake of all manner of seasonal goodies:


GRAND SHOW OF
CHRISTMAS CARDS

PRIVATE SHOWROOM
at the
CAXTON HOUSE
CIRCULATING LIBRARY
POOL STREET, CARNARVON
WELSH CHRISTMAS CARDS
WELSH CHRISTMAS POST CARDS
W. GWENLYN EVANS



Established 1828

O. THOMAS
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL GAME
MERCHANT AND POULTERER

Specialities:
TURKEYS, GEESE, PHEASANTS,
AND HARES
37 POOL STREET, CARNARVON



CHRISTMAS SPECIALTIES

HOME-MADE GOODS
BEST QUALITY INGREDIENTS ONLY USED IN THEIR MANUFACTURE

MINCE PIES, OUR FAMOUS QUALITY
CURRANT CAKES IN GREAT VARIETY
SEED AND LUNCH CAKES IN VARIOUS SIZES

ORDERS BOOKED for MINCE PIES up to December 23rd. For PLUM, CURRANT,
SEED, and LUNCH CAKES up to Dec. 19th.
To avoid disappointment, orders should be booked as early as possible
We cannot guarantee delivery unless orders be booked on or before the aforesaid dates

EVAN OWEN
POOL-STREET BAKERY
CARNARVON



XMAS 1903

FOR BEST SELECTION
OF
CURRANTS, RAISINS, SULTANAS,
PEELS, MUSCATELS, ALMONDS,
MINCEMEAT, APPLES, ORANGES,
&c. &c. &c.
Send to
JOSEPH ROBERTS
POOL STREET and TWTHILL
CARNARVON


Unusually, to our modern way of thinking at least, the Herald appeared on Christmas Day in 1903. Its pages extolled the delights of:


JONES AND MILLER
GRAND DISPLAY
OF
XMAS NOVELTIES
IN SCARFS, HANDKERCHIEFS, MUFFLERS, COLLARS, GLOVES,
DRESSING GOWNS, TRAVELLING RUGS, UMBRELLAS,
LEATHER BAGS, &c.
Sole Agent for Henry Heath & Scott's Hats, Hatmakers to His
Majesty, the King and
Royal Family
LONDON HOUSE, CARNARVON



GRAND CHRISTMAS BAZAAR
AT THE
GOLDEN EAGLE, BRIDGE STREET
NOW ON
All are invited to pay a visit to our GRAND DISPLAY of
TOYS, DOLLS, AND FANCY GOODS
SUITABLE FOR PRESENTS
Including HANDKERCHIEFS, GLOVES, COLLARETTES and TIES, FUR NECKLETS,
UMBRELLAS, BLOUSES, APRONS, PURSES, and all other kinds of MECHANICAL
and other TOYS, XMAS CARDS, &c.
UP-TO-DATE MILLINERY AND TAILORING a Speciality
OWEN AND SONS, CARNARVON


Entertainment was also on the agenda, with some pretty diverse offerings:


GUILDHALL, CARNARVON

NEW YEAR'S EVE AND FOLLOWING
NIGHT

The
ERYRI WELSH AMATEUR DRAMATIC
SOCIETY (Carnarvon)
will produce at the above Hall, for the first
time on any Stage, a new Welsh Romantic
Drama, entitled:-
GWLADYS O HARLECH,
by Gwilym Rhug
Beautiful Scenery, Pretty Costumes
Tuneful Airs
Grand afternoon performance for the Children
on Thursday, December 31st., 1903, at 2:30
o'clock. Admission: Twopence for this performance
only. Adults: Ordinary prices.
Doors open at 7 o'clock, to commence at 7:30
precisely - Admission: 2s, 1s, and 6d.


WILDMAN'S
GIGANTIC WINTER CARNIVAL
NOW OPEN
for the season, in the
PAVILION, CARNARVON
The building brilliantly Lighted by
Electricity
Tremendous Reception of all the Star Artistes
A HUGH SUCCESS
The vast audience held spellbound at the daring
feat of
PROF. TED HEATON
Champion High Diver and Ornamental Swimmer
in his Unparalleled Feat. Diving from
the Roof into a Tank of Water only 42 inches
deep
EDDIE CLAY, The Musical Tramp
TWO PERCYS, Comedians and Dancers
FRANK HOPE, Trick and Scientific Cyclist
The TATTERS TROUPE, in Laughable Sketch
Three LEONARDS, Triple Horizontal Bar
Experts, Comical Clowns, and Grotesques in
Funniosities
PERCY VICTOR'S Troupe of Dog Minstrels
WILDMAN'S Galloping Horses and Cockerells
A Large Variety of Sports and Pastimes
PRINCE SAMOUDA, The Indian Mystery
AFTERNOON PERFORMANCES, Christmas
Eve, Dec. 24th., and Boxing Day, Dec. 26th.,
Opening at 1:30, commence 2:30
Every evening open 6:30, commence 7:30
Prices, 3d, 4d, 6d. Boxing Night, 6d, 9d, 1s.


In the same edition was a short report about Wildman's show:


THE PAVILION - On Monday, Mr. A. Wildman opened his popular carnival and fancy fair at the Pavilion. The programme, to which the best talents contribute, is exceedingly enjoyable and interesting. Hope's feats on the bicycle are marvellous, and the tricks on the horizontal bars are exceedingly clever. The performances of the dogs are unique, and clearly show the wonderful command their master has over them. The programme winds up with a great dive by Professor Heaton. This - the principal item on the programme - is indeed a wonderful performance, and well merits the applause accorded him by the audience. The vast audiences which throng the great hall are held spell-bound as he dives from the very ceiling of the building to the water beneath.


As well as another notice for a rival show at the Guild Hall:


THE GIPSIES - At the Guild Hall, on Boxing Night, the Carnarvon public will have an opportunity of seeing Mr. D'Arcy Clayton's celebrated humorous entertainers, the Gipsies and their Jester, from the Principal Concert Halls in London and the Provinces, in a thoroughly unconventional programme. Smart, up-to-date, unique society humorists and vocalists. Monday December 28th., The Star Dom(..?..) and their Pierrot. Two Shilling seats can be booked at Mr. R. Roberts, chemist, Bangor-street. The other charges will be 1s. and 6d.


Of course, we must not forget that it was not all fun and entertainment for some of Carnarvon's population. There was also much poverty in the town, and we end with a report, from the same December 25th. edition, which illustrates the point very well:


REMEMBERING THE POOR - There is at present a good deal of poverty in the town, caused mainly by the slackness of work. The number of unemployed in the town is greater than it has been for some time past. There is in consequence a large amount of suffering, though not so acute as that felt in bigger towns. Charitably-disposed persons are doing much to alleviate the distress, and some good work in this direction is being carried out by the Salvation Army. They purpose giving a free Christmas dinner to 300 children on Christmas Day, and an appeal is being made for financial assistance and food. In addition to this, the Army are collecting cast-off clothing for distribution among the deserving poor. All donations will be gladly received by the Commanding Officer, at 26 Margaret-street or by Treasurer Davies, Pretoria-terrace.
We understand that, at Tanybont School, too, there will be a distribution of bun-loaves and tea to the poor, and on Christmas morning the Mayor will distribute 350 tins full of tea to the deserving poor of the town. The tins are specially made and decorated for the occasion. The Mayor has also sent fruit to the children at St. Mark's Home, and will give each of the inmates of the Workhouse a silver coin.


It would be interesting to find out if any of the tins of tea have survived?

* Mr. John Turner has kindly allowed me to include a short piece about the Poole family.

The family, in their time, were responsible for Panoramas, Dioramas, Myrioramas, Theatres, Variety Halls and Cinemas. The company outlined their history in the booklet "100 Years of Showmanship" published privately in May 1937.
The enterprise was started by the brothers George and Charles Poole, itinerant musicians, who were recruited, in 1837, by the travelling showman Gompertz who was exhibiting his Panorama at Margate. A Panorama was a series of pictures, on rollers, which moved across the stage of a fit-up theatre. The Poole Brothers quickly became partners of Gompertz. Early shows were ‘Franklin’s Expedition to the Arctic Regions’(1837), 'A Trip Round the World', the 'Bombardment of Alexandria', 'Rourke's Drift' and the 'Battle of Tamasi’. A later one was 'The Loss of the Titanic'. Special effects, such as simulated cannon fire, were devised and other panoramas were ‘mechanically illustrated’. Gompertz soon dropped out and the Poole Brothers were eventually joined by their brother John's son Charles W. Poole (born 1860). In 1876, the Panorama company was made up of George Poole junior and his wife, Felix Somers the ventriloquist, Fred Medix the lecturer, Robinson the pianist, and Fuge the agent in advance. The greatest scenic artists of the day painted the scenes. Sebastian Estelos painted 'The Halt by the Way of the Viceroy of India's State Elephants', for £350, and William Telbin got £150 for a picture of Edinburgh. Tom Rogers painted for Poole's for many years. Later, the lecture was replaced by special cross-talk acts, with a clown interrupting the instruction, similar to the clown-ringmaster act of the circus. A famous clown at Poole’s was ‘Chef’ (George Parker). Founder George Poole died 6th December 1877 and his brother Charles died in the same year.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Poole's had seven road shows on tour for 40 weeks in the year. The 'Myriorama' was the name given to the show by Charles W. Poole (nephew of the founders) who took over Poole's, which by then incorporated 'Hamilton's Excursions' (founded by William Hamilton, born 1837, one of several brothers associated with dioramas), some time after Hamilton’s death in 1907. By that time Poole’s had special trains for many of their journeys. There were four pantechnicons, a few more baggage trucks and from 40 to 50 people, which included an orchestra of ten. In its heyday, the Myriorama programme consisted of about 50 subjects, six vaudeville turns and cinema 'shorts' shown by 'limelight'. Many of the vaudeville artists put on circus acts. Later on, Poole purchased many of the halls and theatres they visited, for one week in the year, and ran them as theatres with legitimate theatrical companies. When the variety boom came, the theatres were converted to vaudeville houses. In 1909 C.W. Poole purchased a site in Gloucester for the erection of a first class skating rink. The Poole family eventually converted most of their properties to cinemas (the first being at Ipswich, in 1905). From fit-ups, on the fairgrounds and elsewhere, the Poole entertainments had graduated to circus and theatre buildings then purpose-built cinemas.
In 1937, the third generation of the family was represented by John R. ‘Jack’ Poole, Chairman and MD of the company. His son John Kenneth Stafford Poole (born 1911) was, in 1937, in charge of the 'Regent' cinema, Aberdeen and the 'Roxy', Edinburgh, also Director of Poole's Theatres Ltd. 'Jack' Poole died in 1950.
The history of Poole's Myriorama was previously told in the World's Fair of 26th December 1953 (p.15, col.3). When Ernest C. Rogers celebrated 50 years with Poole's Entertainment Ltd., on 27th July 1957, the World's Fair of 3rd August 1957 (p.29, col.5) reported how he had joined Poole's Myriorama as a boy in 1907, on the same day as the lion tamer was killed at Poole's Palace Theatre, Gloucester. Mr Rogers had travelled most of the British Isles with the Myriorama and in 1950 was appointed joint Managing Director.
© J. Turner 2002


SOURCES

Carnarvon & Denbigh Herald: Various Editions December 1903

Many thanks to Mr. John Turner for allowing me to include his history of the Poole Family. He has a very interesting website, The 'Dictionary of British Circus Biography' Project, at www.circusbiography.co.uk

  © 2003 - 2016 Keith Morris. All rights reserved