After the very recent experience of Black Friday it’s pleasant to remember Christmas shopping of 50 or 60 years ago. Every town in Wiltshire had at least one toy shop and many village shops bought in toys especially for Christmas. For children the short daylight hours of November and December were brightened by the brightly lit windows of the toy and grocery shops. Few vehicle lights and less strident street lighting made these into bright beacons attracting children as moths to a flame. The prices in this Wiltshire shop window may make you long for the days when inflation meant pumping up your bike tyres and it’s useful to look at relative prices in past decades.
Old newspapers are a great source for this, particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Since the beginning of the 20th century shops and businesses have been advertising their seasonal offerings in the pages of local newspapers. Have a look in the Salisbury Journal, Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, and the Wiltshire Times and you will find what earlier generations bought at this time of year and how much it cost them. You’ll find all our Wiltshire newspapers, dating back to 1736, in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. On a cold, grey winter day you can lose yourself in the past whilst sitting at one of our recently refurbished microfilm readers scrolling through pages of newsprint. You'll just need to give us a call on 01249 705500 to book a reader before you make your journey into a Wiltshire Christmas past.
County Local Studies Librarian