Christmas Day 1888

First off, might I wish you all a very merry Christmas and I hope your day is going swimmingly.

I thought it would be nice to wish readers the compliments of the day with a Central Telegraph Christmas Card that people would have been waking up to on December 25th 1888.

So, here it is.

An 1888 Christmas Card.


Since December 25th fell on a Tuesday in 1888, it was business as usual for the Victorian newspapers, and the majority of them had Christmas Day editions.

So, I thought it would be interesting to scour some of those papers and see what sort of stories people were waking up to on this day 130 years ago.

Interestingly, many of them carried reports on the charity – in the form of food, clothing and money – that had been distributed to the poor on  the previous day.

For example, The Morning Post, contained the following report:-


“A distribution of Christmas dinners on a large scale took place at the Harley-street Chapel, Bow, last night, provision being made for some 12,000 of the poor of East London, representing in all 2,343 different families.

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress attended at the chapel early in the evening. and were warmly greeted by the numerous recipients, who had already gathered in the building.

The Rev. Evans Hurndall, in connection with whose East London mission and relief work the distribution was made, briefly opened the proceedings, after which the Lord Mayor delivered an address on the question of poor relief.

He said that it had been suggested that he should establish a fund for the purpose of dealing with the distress that existed in the East-end, but while in some cases such funds might do good and might be so administered as to be a benefit to the poor, he was, nevertheless, constrained to say that, judging from the experience of what he had seen three years ago, he should not feel disposed to open any fund at the Mansion House unless there were proper and better centres for its distribution than had existed on the last occasion. (Cheers.)

Provision for the distribution should,of course, be adequate; but, above all, they should be discriminating – (hear hear) -and he was inclined to think that the real poor did not, on the occasion to which he referred, receive all the benefit from the fund that they were entitled to. (Cheers.)


Many who did not deserve assistance were then the recipients of it. He was not going to commit the same mistake, but would rather take a centre such as that in which they were assembled, with a man at the head of it with the character of Mr. Hurndall, and do all he could to assist him. (Cheers.)

Referring to the wider question of the removal of the causes of distress, he expressed the belief that something might be done by means of emigration if properly organised under the Government,though he thought the Government had, to a great extent, cut the ground from under their feet by not maintaining Crown Colonies more than they had done.

He felt, too, that some bar should be placed upon the admission of pauper foreigners into London, and hoped that some scheme might be devised by which land which was not now cultivated, but was capable of being so used, might be brought into cultivation.


After further urging that the drink traffic should be more vigorously dealt with, he concluded by wishing a merry Christmas to all those present. (Cheers.)

The dinners which were given away during the evening consisted of joints of beef and materials for Christmas puddings.

The distribution was carried out under the direction of a committee, the total cost of which was raised by subscription, amounting to £550.


The Lord Mayor, accompanied by the Lady Mayoress, was present last evening at the Great Assembly Hall, Mile-end-road, to witness the distribution of materials for a Christmas dinner to a large number of the deserving poor in the East-end, provided by means of a fund raised by the staff of the Eastern Telegraph Company.

These dinners have been provided annually for the past seven years.

On the first occasion about 100 persons received assistance of this kind, and each year the numbers have increased largely, the recipients last night numbering as many as 1,700, representing over 400 families, known to be in real need of help.

The food, which was laid out in an imposing display in the body of the hall, consisted of beef, bread, flour, tea, fruit, and materials for a Christmas pudding, the portions being graduated in size, according to the extent of the different families.


Mr. Frederick N. Charrington, of the Tower Hamlets Mission, under whose direction the distribution was arranged, having briefly welcomed the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, the secretary (Mr. F. H Kerwin) made a short statement as to the origin and extent of the evening’s entertainment, and concluded by wishing all present a very happy Christmas.

The Lord Mayor then addressed the meeting, and heartily congratulated Mr. Charrington and all concerned on the success of the undertaking.

After alluding in terms of admiration to the beneficient work being carried on by the Tower Hamlets Mission, the Lord Mayer alluded to the debt still existing in connection with the building of the Assembly Hall, and warmly advocated the claims of this excellent institution to wide and liberal support.

The distribution then took place, and a cordial vote of thanks to the Lord Mayor concluded the proceedings.

An image showing the Mile End Assembly Hall and Frederick Charrington.
Frederick Charrington And The Assembly hall


About 320 poor families received Christmas gifts after Divine service last evening at St. Thomas’s Church, Lambeth. The address was given by the vicar (the Rev. J. R. Starey) who mentioned that it was the 30th anniversary of the gifts, which he had himself established.

During the distribution, which took place after the address, Christmas carols and an anthem was rendered by the choir.

The gifts consisted of 7,000lb. of beef, 1,000 quartern loaves, 70lb. of tea, besides quantities of other provision, purchased from local subscriptions.


At the Royal Park Hall, Camden-town, yesterday afternoon, Mrs. J. Bangs, hon. secretary of a fund for supplying the unemployed of West St. Pancras with a Christmas dinner, attended with a committee of ladies and gentlemen to distribute tickets to persons out of employment.

The tickets were of the value of 1s. 6d., 2s. 6d., and 4s., according to the number in a family, and consisted of orders upon local tradesmen for meat, grocery, and bread. The amount so distributed was raised by private subscription and the result of an entertainment at Park Hall and a ticket benefit at the Princess’s Theatre. The total number of persons thus being secured a Christmas dinner, including children, amount to 1,500.

Yesterday, at the, Crowndale Hall, Mrs. Chatten, of Oakley-square, distributed Christmas dinners to the poor of the immediate neighbourhood. The fund for the same was raised privately, and the recipients were widows and men with large families.

Beef, suet,currants, raisins, sugar, flour, bread, tea, and ls. each were given to the 370 applicants.


The members of the Christian Men’s Union Gospel Mission at St. Pancras yesterday distributed to between 300 and 400 persons tickets for beef, coals, flour, bread, raisins, currants, and tea. In some cases a motley grant was also given besides clothing.

Yesterday some 500 poor persons living in the district of the Clerkenwell Police-court district were given out of the funds of the poor box tickets which entitled the recipients to receive coals, potatoes, bread, flour, and meat.

To some there was given in addition blankets or flannel.

The annual distribution of the Baroness Burdett-Coutts’s Christmas gifts, consisting of beef and grocery, to upwards of 1,000 of her tenants on the Columbia Estate, Bethnal-green, took place yesterday, under the supervision of Mr. L. A. Harrison.”


In addition, the newspaper, in common with other journals, also had a section in which charities, and other deserving causes, could request support from the readers. These were listed under the headline “CHRISTMAS APPEALS”, and a few of them are worht quoting:-

“We have received the following appeals to the benevolent. The names and addresses of those to whom contributions may be sent are in each case given. We cannot receive or acknowledge contributions.

Christmas offerings and New Year’s gifts are earnestly asked in support of the 3,000 children now being maintained, taught trades, and educated in Dr. Barnardo’s homes. Gifts will be gratefully acknowledged by the treasurer, Mr. William Fowler, the founder and director. Dr Barnardo, by the bankers, London and South-Western Bank, and Messrs. Dimsdale, Fowler, and Company, or by the secretary, Mr. John Odling, 18 to 26, Stepney-causeway.

The Shaftesbury Home for Friendless Boys provides for friendless lads, and by securing them employment gives them a good start in life. Funds are much needed to help this work, in the poor and rough neighbourhood of the .”New Cut.” Subscriptions will he gratefully received by the treasurer, C. A. Stein, 162, Stamford-street.

The Society for the Relief of Distressed Widows, at Sackville-street, has now been in existence 63 year, granting relief to poor destitute widows. Funds are earnestly solicited to enable the committee to sustain the work.

The Factory Helpers’ Union is an association banded together to do something towards ameliorating the lives and moral condition of the female employees, in our factories by instituting clubs and evening homes. Contributions will be most thankfully received by the treasurer, Miss Morley, 47. Grosvenor-street.”


As people sat down to their collections Christmas Days across the country, it is comforting and intriguing to know that they were being reminded of the plight of the poor of the country, and no doubt, many of those who read these reports and appeals were inspired to do something to help alleviate the suffering of those less fortunate than themselves.

As Tiny Tim had observed 45 years earlier, at the close of Charles Dickens’ Yuletide favourite A Christmas Carol, God Bless Us. Every One!