Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

January 2011

This months News



Village History

Christmas Treat at Oxhill

Mrs Evelyn Colyer, born Evelyn Gilks in Oxhill in 1908, spent the years of the First World War in Oxhill.  Now 102, she is very frail, but her daughter has kindly given permission for me to use here her account, written years ago, of the Oxhill Christmas Treat.  I have very slightly shortened this, and added footnotes based on other details gleaned from Evelyn during our discussions over the years.   A.H.

“Our village school was very small, and as most of the pupils also attended Sunday School, the annual Christmas Treat included all the children.  We spent several afternoons before the holidays making paper chains to hang around the schoolroom walls.  On the last day of term a large Christmas tree was brought into the “big room”,1 and the two teachers and the older children set about decorating it with paper chains, and small coloured candles secured to the tree with metal clips.  This wasn’t as dangerous as it sounded, because the candles were not lighted until the presents were actually distributed, and then a careful watch was kept.  After lunch the children lined up and sang carols.  (Some of them I have never heard since – “Carol, sweetly carol”, and “In the fields with their flocks abiding”) …………  The last carol to be sung was “We Three Kings of Orient are” to the entry of the Rector and his two grown-up sons2, dressed as the Three Kings, and bearing sacks containing presents for the children.  When the carol ended everybody sat on the floor, and the Three Kings handed round the presents, which were received with tremendous excitement.  Some of the families were very poor, especially those whose fathers worked on farms.  Some families numbered seven, eight or more children, so they had few presents at Christmas; consequently the toys from the Sunday School treat were doubly treasured.

After all the parcels had been opened and the contents displayed, the candles on the tree were lighted, the children gathered round, and more carols were sung, whilst tea was prepared in the “little room”.  Even now more than sixty years later, I can see in my mind’s eye the little coloured candles flickering and the children singing in the dim light, and I can almost smell the melting wax and the pungent odour of the tree.

Tea was served by some of the mothers, supervised by Mrs Carter3, the Rector’s wife.  Then we played a few games before we left for home, carrying our precious presents.

1     The school was divided into two classrooms, one for the older and one for the younger children.

2     Rev James Carter had two sons, Reggie and Arthur, who with their sister Marjorie all were later to become missionaries in either India or China.

3     During WW1 Mrs Carter ran working parties for women to make shirts and sweaters for soldiers.  There was a separate children’s class too, during which Mr Carter would read aloud the stories about Brer Fox. 

Although I fared pretty well, having fond parents and two pairs of grandparents4 all living in the village, who spoiled me terribly, my presents from the Christmas Treat were always very special.  I remember a little grand piano (with one octave!), that really played, also a beautifully made doll’s bed on rockers, with hand painted roses on the foot and the headboards.

Thank goodness, in those days there were no television advertisements to make us worry our parents for expensive toys which they could not afford!” 

4     William and Bertha Gilks, and John Henry and Esther Summerton.  William Gilks was the blacksmith.

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Last modified: January 06, 2011