Respectable ways to celebrate Christmas in 19th century Havering

09:18 24 December 2012

Cllr Andrew Curtin

Cllr Andrew Curtin


In 1851 about 50 “respectable inhabitants” marked Christmas by attending the annual meeting of Romford Glee Club on December 29.

The Chelmsford Chronicle reported that “a number of admired glees were admirably given” by Messrs Hammond, Wheatley, Carter, A. Harvey, J. Day and others.

Mr Harvey in particular “excited much laughter by his comic efforts” and Mr Carter “gave ‘Jolly Christmas’ in excellent style”, all of which contributed to the party passing “a pleasant evening”.


Glees were a type of short song for trios or quartets which were popular in England in the 19th century. Glee clubs existed from the late 18th century.

A glee club was recorded at The Lamb Inn in Romford Market in 1806, though whether this is the same one referred to in 1851 is unknown.

Though we cannot be sure who the named gentlemen were, in an 1848 trade directory Hammonds were recorded as the publican at the Swan Inn, and a carpenter and publican at the Blucher’s Head, both in the market.

One Wheatley was a blacksmith in the market, and one a boot and shoemaker in the yard by St Edward’s Church.

There was a Carter who was a saddler, another a wine and spirit merchant/publican at the Coach and Bell Inn, both in the High Street, and another a baker in Waterloo Road.

Harveys ran newsagents and a library in the market, and booksellers in the High Street.

Christmas was not always peaceful. In 1868, villagers petitioned for the Christmas wrestling match for the boar’s head in Hornchurch to be abolished, saying it had become an unruly brawl.

In 1789, Havering magistrates banned a boxing match planned for an inn on December 21, fearing it would result in serious disorder.

They threatened publicans with having the army billeted on them if they ignored the ban.

On January 4, 1852, the South Essex Hunt met at North Ockendon.

In 1850, it was recorded as meeting at Wennington, Rainham and Hornchurch as well. The Essex Hunt met at Dagnams and Havering-atte-Bower.

From 1845, Rainham was the first known centre for coursing in Essex.

Christmas was also a time for charity.

In 1837, charities gave bread to the poor in Hornchurch and in 1787 five shillings and six pence was given to the poor in Hornchurch Work House for their Christmas box.


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