Christmas isn’t necessarily about things. It is about being good to one another and showing kindness. Often, spending time together can create positive memories as well as family traditions.
For children it is the anticipation and excitement of presents. Little girls often had a pony on their Christmas list. If they couldn’t have a pony then a pony book was often treasured. The Pullen Thompson sisters’ books were some of the most popular but everyone’s favourite was a book written in 1877 by Anna Sewell – Black Beauty. The story of a horse’s life, happy at first then very sad but ending on a happy note. I wonder how many people realise that it was written to highlight the plight of so many horses, and to encourage people to treat horses more kindly?
Some horses were much loved by their owners, but for many were just tools of the trade. It was said on average five horses a day died in harness on the London streets. Apart from hard work, poor feed, standing around in the cold, and the rain, one of the cruellest things was the bearing rein. All these are referred to in Black Beauty and the book helped to make the bearing rein gradually go out of fashion.
The bearing rein can be seen at the Museum of the Horse. The Walks of Life Museum has some lovely prams in their collection, including the blue cane doll’s pram which was intricately designed and produced by skilled workers. It would have been an exciting gift but later, unwanted, it was purchased from Retford sales room in 1993 by the museum’s founder Dorothy Harrison to add to her collection.
Traditions of treasured Christmas gifts continue. Do you remember your first Christmas annual? The Dandy first appeared in 1938 and has been published every year since. Children and adults still enjoy making gifts. Calendars remain a popular item and, due to the memories they contribute to or the pictures featured, they are often kept for many years. Examples from Dorothy’s teaching days in Africa in 1967 are part of her collection.
The Museums would like to wish everyone peace and happy times in the festive period. The Museum of the Horse is open 10.00am to 4.00pm daily and 10.00am to 2.00pm on Saturdays, while the Walks of Museum is closed for the winter. Viewing can be organised on request via 01777 872776 firstname.lastname@example.org.