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Tweets from Lostwithiel Musuem


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"The BIGGEST Little Museum in Cornwall"

  The museum is housed in a Georgian building on Fore Street. It was originally the Corn Exchange and  has also been a school-room, a butchers, then a magistrate's court and the town jail. Nowadays the building houses the Guildhall, which is used for meetings of Lostwithiel Town Council, above the museum.
The museum was founded in 1972 and  it is now is now a fully accredited museum and a registered charity, which is run entirely by volunteers
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2018 / 2019  SEASON

Page updated 29th October 2018

The Museum has now closed for the 2018 season, and will re-open on Monday 1st April 2019.

Heritage Award for Lostwithiel Museum

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Advent Window Display for Christmas 2018

The History of the Christmas Card



Henry Cole (1808 – 1882) was a prominent civil-servant, educator and inventor. He modernised the British postal system, managed construction of the Albert Hall, arranged for the Great Exhibition in 1851, and oversaw the inauguration of the Victoria and Albert museum and was their first director.

Traditionally at Christmas a letter was written to family and friends, but Cole was a very busy man, and in 1843 he decided a timesaving solution was needed. He wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a "Merry Christmas" that could be personalised with a hand-written greeting.  He commissioned his friend, artist and respected illustrator of the day John Callcott Horsley.   1843 was also the year Charles Dickens wrote and published “A Christmas Carol.”

Horsley produced a triptych. Each of the two side panels depicted a good deed - clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. The hand-coloured centrepiece depicts three generations of the Cole family raising a toast, (causing severe criticism from the British Temperance Movement), and black and white scenes depicting acts of giving; the twofold message was of celebration and charity.

This first Christmas card's inscription read: "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you".  Merry was then a spiritual word meaning "blessed" as in "merry old England".

Cole then commissioned a printer to transfer the design onto cards, printing a thousand copies. Of the original one thousand cards twelve exist today in private collections.   In 2010 one of these designs sold for £22,000.

Cole may have been ahead of his time but the commercialisation of Christmas was on its way, prompted by developments in the publishing industry and Prince Albert introducing various German Christmas traditions to the British public, including the decorated Christmas tree.
By the 1870s the new Christmas trends were firmly established in Victorian Britain.



The introduction of the halfpenny stamp, in 1870 meant that sending cards was affordable for almost everyone.  The majority of cards were more like the ones we post today - with frosty scenes, Father Christmas and family get-togethers. The cards were overwhelmingly secular as the Victorian Christmas was not particularly Christian, more a time of good humour.

Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular. Rosy-faced children gathered round a decorated tree might be seen on a card - but so might a dead robin or a turnip wearing a hat.  Food features a lot - not just in family feasts and traditional spreads. One card shows a group of rats, nattily dressed, sharpening knives and settling down to a nice meal of roast cat.  

In 1880 11 million Christmas cards were printed throughout the world.   In 2017 one billion cards were sold in the UK alone.
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Lostwithiel Museum display
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