An Edwardian Christmas

Happy Christmas to All Our Readers,

and thank you for following Calderonia into its fourth year!

Buckingham Mansion Christmas

The Calderons’ 1907 home in Hampstead

At Heathland Lodge, George and Kittie’s home from 1901 to 1912 in the Vale of Health, they always staged a large family Christmas, despite the fact that they had no children of their own. The secluded house giving directly onto Hampstead Heath had been built in the 1860s but made over by the Arts and Crafts architect George Birch in the 1890s. It was very comfortable and had at least fifteen rooms. Everything was done on a grand scale at Christmas (see George’s cartoon), with friends and relations sitting down to dinner with them, games, singing, and a full-length charade written by George. Kittie was stage manager, wardrobe mistress and programme designer, George played the lead, and there were always parts for his brother Frank’s children, Philip and Joan. In Kittie’s words, she and George invited ‘a large audience of all our friends who had children to bring and some who had not. These charades were capital elaborations […] Sometimes the show was repeated at Frank’s later’.

Christmas 1907, however, was different. The Calderons had shared Heathland Lodge with Kittie’s mother, Mary Hamilton, who had taken out a mortgage on it. Mrs Hamilton died on 30 August 1906 as George was on his way back from Tahiti, and it is possible that by the time he arrived in London on 30 October 1906 Kittie had already vacated Heathland Lodge for probate or financial reasons and moved a mile away to apartment 33 at Buckingham Mansions (see above today). The Calderons failed to sell Heathland Lodge in 1907, but let it quite lucratively and did not reoccupy it until 1908. At Christmas 1907, then, they were living in a flat and although it was spacious this changed things somewhat, as the only surviving diary of George’s illustrates:

Saturday 21. St Thomas.

K. called on the Briton Rivières. G. to tea at Frank’s (children back) to prepare charade etc. Memo: Tahiti.

Sunday 22. 4th in Advent. Peace Sunday.

Jones [Johnny Jones, their Aberdeen terrier, see passim] became ill.

Monday 23.

Jones ill. G. to BM after lunch, met Binyon & wife at tea.

Tuesday 24.

Jones convalescent. 4-7 children’s party at the Armsteads (Streets, Hugh Armsteads, Calderons). G. dined at Frank’s preparing charade.

Wednesday 25. Christmas Day.

Jones restored to health. K. & G. lunched at the Grays. Dinner [possibly pheasant supplied by George] at Frank’s (Hetty, Lotty, Mother, Marge), afterwards came Aunt G., Clara Sumner, Draper, Lowden and wife. Charade.

Thursday 26. St Stephen. Boxing Day.

Jones relapsed. 4.00 Sangster (vet.) to see Jones. K. to visit the Lubbocks.

Friday 27. St John, Evan.

Vet. again. G. to BM after lunch. K. & G. to dine with Mother (Clare Sumner, Ethel, Frank).

Saturday 28. Holy Innocents

G. to BM after lunch.

I have cut very little from these entries. Obviously they are minimal (it is only a pocket diary), but one drama looms large. George and Kittie had Christmas lunch and dinner out, they appear to have had few callers at 33 Buckingham Mansions over the Christmas period, and the annual long charade composed by George for Philip and Joan was postponed until Twelfth Night at their parents’ house. By 27 December George was back in his chair at the British Museum working on Tahitian history. And Johnny Jones, who did NOT die, had cost his owners a fortune in vet’s fees…

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2 Responses to An Edwardian Christmas

  1. Damian Grant says:

    A dog’s (Christmas) dinner indeed! Is there such a thing, Patrick, as a bidography? Yes there is–Virginia Woolf’s Flush a prime example, if not known under this handle. But I can see ‘Bidography’ having its own shelf space in bookshops at this time of year…

    Given the importance of their pets to George and Kittie –something which you faithfully record–I wonder whether it is impertinent to suggest that you might get sponsorship for your book from the RSPCA (‘A’ standing for authors as well as animals: a breed equally at risk of cruel treatment), or even Battersea Dogs’ Home, liberally endowed as it is by people who persist with Edwardian values?

  2. Clare Hopkins says:

    A Happy Christmas to you too Patrick, and thank you for another year of unfailingly interesting and stimulating posts.

    This one surprised me a little – clearly I have not been paying sufficient attention. One day in the summer I happened to find myself walking up Well Walk, Hampstead, and mused that when George Calderon is famous (again), he might have a blue plaque… But he didn’t actually move there until 1912? And Heathland Lodge, his primary home for 11 years then, sounds so much bigger and grander. I had also formed the impression that Kittie and George were pretty comfortably off after inheriting from her mother, but their move to Well Walk looks like a major downsize. One wonders why…

    … And looks forward to reading your book to find out!

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