New Years Eve Victorian Style.

Weymouth is a great and fun place to be on New Years Eve, it’s the party town of the West, everyone, but everyone who’s out is in fancy dress.

I can even recall one New Years Eve when a police car roared up through town, playing the theme from a Mr Whippy’s ice cream vendor…

During the victorian Era things were slightly more staid, and religious based, people attended what was termed a Watchnight Service to see out the old year, and the new in.

Taken from the Western Gazette of 1883;

NEW YEAR’S EVE.-Sunday evening being New Year Eve the usual Watchnight service was held in the Weslyian Chapel. A special service was held at St John’s church at eleven o’clock, in order that the last hour of the old year might be spent in religious observances. Similar services were also held at St Mary’s Church and at Gloucester Street Chapel.


In 1891, New Year’s Day was celebrated by the elderly citizens of the town, courtesy of the well know local philanthropist Sir Henry Edwards, whose statue stands at the end of Alexander gardens as a reminder to the folks of the town of his past connection.


Held in the grand building of the Jubilee Hall, 450 aged people of the town, those being over the age of ‘three score years and upwards’ were treated to a slap up meal of roast meats and plum pudding, all gratefully washed down with flagons of beer, aerated water and cups of coffee.


They received oranges and tobacco for after the meal. They were waited on hand and foot by a number of local gentlemen, who saw to the carving of the meats, and a flock of young ladies in caps and aprons ran to and fro with plates and dishes as they appeared from the kitchens.

At the end of the festivities a  letter was read to the well fed and much contented gathering from Sir Henry Edwards,

“53 Berkeley Square,W

Dear Old Friends,

As your festive gathering will take place on the first day of the New Year I feel I cannot begin my letter better than by wishing you all ‘a very happy new year’ which I do most heartily. Last year I had the pleasure to send back a canister of Indian tea, such as I had seen growing and enjoyed myself when I was in India, and it gratified me to know that the gift was much appreciated by you, and I have felt that I should like to once more to afford you an equal gratification. I have therefore sent you another supply, which I believe you will find equally good, and I hope it will enable you to enjoy some happy hours at your own firesides. I hope your gathering will be a happy one. I know you will be surrounded with many kind friends who feel it a pleasure to help to render your gathering will be a happy one. I desire to thank them all most heartily, from the mayor, who so kindly presides over you, and to each and everyone now helping in your festivities. I trust the new year will be one richly laden with blessings for you all.

Your sincerely, Henry Edwards.


Every person who attended the meal went back home laden with a canister containing 1 1/2 ib tea, a bushel of coal and  a warm blanket.

As the old Victorian era ended, and the new one was heralded in so the Mayor decreed that people should celebrate the event. Little did they know the significance of this, as Queen Victoria died a short while later, on the 22nd January, and her son Edward took the reigns to the country, heralding in a new Edwardian era.

Weymouth 28th December 1900...’THE FIRST DAY OF THE CENTURY.-It is understood that the Mayor is taking steps to arrange a half day on January 1st 1901, to mark the commencement of a new century. It is hoped that the bankers, traders, and shop-keepers will fall in with this idea, and thus support His Worship’s happy suggestion.’

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to one and all.


Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


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