Nostalgia: Chorley grandmother writes about her perfect Christmas in 1952

At the age of 71, Isabelle Llewellyn, has a lot of memories.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 3:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 5:08 pm
Isabelle Critchley wearing a party hat at a Christmas party in 1952
Isabelle Critchley wearing a party hat at a Christmas party in 1952

The Chorley-born resident has compiled a journal of all her experiences as a child and shares an extract about Christmas 1952.

“Let me tell you about my wonderful childhood memories of a happy Christmas in 1952 for the Critchley family.

“Born in 1947, I was five years old in 1952.

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Mum Bella Critchley with the new family dog, Rex

“I lived in an end of terraced three-bedroom house near to Chorley town centre with my mum Isabella (Bella), my dad, Harold, and my three older brothers Paul, then 16, Arnold, 14, and Roland, seven.

“Our Christmas began the week before the big day with parties: a class party at school, everyone contributing sandwiches and jellies; and my teacher reading three or four chapters instead of only one, from the book The Famous Five by Enid Blyton.

“And of course a flying visit from Father Christmas, who gave each child a small present to take home.

“My parents owned a fish and chip shop and were members of The Fish Fryers Association. Every year they had a Christmas party with lots of food. Cakes were such a treat in those days so we ate until we were so full we could hardly stand up to play the games.

Isabelle Critchleys brothers Paul, Arnold and Roland

“In the photo I’m the only one wearing a party hat, because I loved it so much I thought I was a true Princess. Roland is stood in front of the second window pane.

“I remember many of the games, The Farmer’s in the Dell, Oranges and Lemons, and Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, with a small sweet for each winner.

“The week before Christmas Day was a very busy time for mothers making batches of mince pies and sausage rolls, shopping and cleaning the house. The smell of lavender mansion polish hit you every time you walked in the door.

“The Christmas tree was standing in a bucket of water, bound with string till Christmas Eve, when it would be released to open wide its gorgeous branches to be decorated.

The Critchley family at the Fish Fryers Associations summer coach outing in the early 1950s

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“We had my granny and grandad, Auntie Allie and cousin John who travelled all the way by trains from Northumberland to enjoy the fun with us, and my godparents Mrs Pearson and ‘Pop’ Pearson came by bus from Oldham.

“How wonderful it was to be all together again. I do recall sleeping in my brother’s double bed - five of us head to toe which was great fun.

“Christmas Eve day was so busy and enjoyable.

Isabelle Critchley with her Aunt Allies dog Sandy

“The front room was for special occasions only and naturally this was such an occasion to open it up.

“The curtains were drawn, the tree lit up and neighbours would join us as we all gathered around the piano for mum to play. We all sang Christmas carols, followed by the first taste of the mince pies, a glass of sherry for the grown ups and milk for the children.

“Now the reason why 1952 was such an especially exciting one?

“Just before my bedtime on Christmas Eve the front doorbell rang.

“Roland and I, curious as all children are, saw a family friend called Annie at the door. It was a wet night and she was holding something in her arms as dad welcomed her into the hallway.

“Annie explained that the wet bundle in her arms was a puppy, just a few weeks old, found abandoned in the dark.

“He was an adorable black and white ball of fluff, cold, wet and hungry, with extremely wobbly legs being so young.

“We asked if we could take him in, and mum said only until after Christmas, as we have enough mouths to feed and then we will have to find it a new home.

“How delighted we all were. It was the best present ever. Mum named puppy Rex and, of course, he became our best dog and he lived to a ripe old age, and we all loved him. But I think of all of us, my mum loved him the most and Rex was her devoted companion.

“With such an exciting event Mum nearly forgot to put the turkey in the oven.

“We almost forgot to hang up our stocking and leave a saucer of milk and carrot for Rudolf, a mince pie and glass of sherry for Father Christmas.

“Luckily we remembered before being tucked into bed and reminded that Christmas would not come until we children were asleep.

“Once in the oven, turkey cooked all night and when Roland and I awoke and went down to Christmas morning, very early, the smell made us so hungry but we had to wait.

“The milk had been drunk, the sherry too and the mince pie eaten.

“The front room fire was warm, tree lights on and in the stockings Roland and I had hung up was a rosy red apple, an orange (a real treat), a packet of modelling Pleistocene, a bag of real nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts which had to be opened using nutcrackers, very hard so dad and my older brothers helped us with this.

“Father Christmas had been and left wrapped presents for each of us, a nurse’s outfit, new ribbons for my hair, a Rupert the Bear annual, a story time book of fairies, a bat and ball and three new handkerchiefs for me.

“We had a lovely time: everyone wishing each other a Merry Christmas, hugs and delight, with Rex now fed, dry, happy and excited to be with his real new family. It was truly a Christmas morning to remember forever.

“We walked across town to our church for the Christmas service,

“Chorley was so still and quiet, with only the sounds of people calling Merry Christmas across the streets as families made their way to their special churches, everyone friendly and happy.

“We looked into the crib for Baby Jesus, sang carols and the huge old bells were ringing in our ears as we made our way home.

“We had more neighbours calling until eventually the men folk were sent off to the Joiners’ Arms pub for a pint of beer and a game of dominoes.

“Frantic preparations in our kitchen now; as children we stayed ‘out of the way,’ happy to call round to see our friends in the street, show off Rex and play hopscotch, skipping and hide and seek.

“The living room was set with tables, anywhere there was a space to eat was ready, and mum would go down to the Joiners’ Arms and knock outside on the window to tell the men to come home, dinner’s ready.

“After the rush, in Lancashire the women relaxed with their children while the men did all the washing up in time for the Queen’s speech at 3pm in the afternoon, listened to on the wireless as no TV.

“We children had to be quiet, such a long speech it seemed. Then a doze for the adults until teatime. Neighbours and their children would pour through our door for the evening celebrations.

“My mother was an accomplished piano player who chose to follow her nursing career rather than becoming the professional musician she could have been, a singing voice like an angel.

“Our street would flock to our home to hear her play and sing, and Christmas night was the penultimate occasion.

“So our front room became transformed, heat from the coal fire, decorations and tree lit up, outside calm and silent in the cold night air, and my lovely mother, playing Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, We’ll Gather Lilacs in the Spring Again, There’ll be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover and other favourites.

“All would be quiet as she sang and played Ave Marie, and then moved into the ones we children loved, 10 Green Bottles Hanging on the Wall, My old Man said follow the Van and don’t Dilly Dally on the Way, Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do and more.

“We all joined in until sleep overcomes Roland and I, a cup of Cocoa, a last night story from dad from my new fairy story book.”