December 7, 1915 – First World War shopkeepers getting in the Christmas spirit

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Christmas bells – that’s the bells of the shopkeepers’ cash tills – are well and truly ringing in Market Harborough town centre, if the advertisements in the December 7, 1915, edition of the Advertiser are anything to go by.

There are ‘display’ adverts on every page with a huge cross section of goods to be bought from Christmas puds and cakes to oil lamps, stoves and electric pocket lamps.

And the adverts are all very tastefully designed with ‘ordinary’ selling messages in contrast to the approach taken in December 1914 when some traders resorted to the crassest of ‘military’ language to promote their wares.

One ad from Elliott & Son, the clothiers and outfitters at 2 Church Street, shouted: “War Sales News – The enemy in retreat. As a result of the terrible onslaught of our customers, in every part of our stock, we can see how the goods have retreated. Reinforcements of bargains are still being brought in, and so the struggle continues. Their low prices, however, make them easy captures.”

The store is not advertising in 1915 – perhaps Market Harborough shoppers were so unimpressed with the insensitive approach that Elliott & Son went out of business – but the many stores that are spending money on promotions are clearly keen to take an appropriate line.

Among the advertisers are:

  • C A Simpkin & Son of 30 High Street – now making a special show of articles suitable for Christmas gifts
  • West’s of 11 High Street – selling Christmas cakes, pies and home-made chocolates a speciality
  • Emerson’s of The Square – selling Christmas sweets and novelties for the children and for Christmas trees.
  • Symington & Thwaites of 1 St Mary’s Road – with a variety of Christmas plum puddings.
  • Horatio Monk & Sons of 12 St Mary’s Road and 13 Goward Street – with dinner sets, toilet ser vices, and mincing machines.
  • A H Nash of 2 High Street – with Christmas gifts of quality’ including English and French perfumes.
  • F S McLachlan of 9 The Square – with ‘a splendid selection of fancy articles’ including hand mirrors, scrap albums and writing desks.
  • Martin & Co of St Mary’s Road – ‘showing splendid value’ in – among other things – mechanical toys of all descriptions.
  • Shindler & Douglas of London House – with a nod to the many young men at the Front the ad says “war conditions emphasizes the desirability of, wherever possible, buying useful presents; such presents not only please but are suggested by wise economy.

Messrs Shindler and Douglas have another attraction to bring in the shoppers as well. The store has an exhibition of souvenirs brought from the Front by Trumpeter Leonard Bird of Hearth Street. The articles include a gas sleeping helmet and bag, a French service cap, various time fuses, a French ‘75’ shell case and a German ‘Jack Johnson’ shell case.

Perhaps pride of place will go to Trumpeter Bird’s ‘own trumpet, which has been battered by shrapnel’.


And talking of pride, on the back page is a story of five Harborough brothers all serving ‘with the colours’.

The story gets special typographical treatment with a different font than the usual headlines and has photographs of the men, neatly displayed in a row in identical sizes.

The story says: “Mr and Mrs J Bosworth of Wartnaby Street have the proud distinction of having five sons in the Army and another son who is engaged on war munitions. It is indeed a worthy record of which Mr and Mr Bosworth may justly feel proud.”

The pictured men are all named – Thomas, Archie, William, Arthur and Harry.

It would seem they are all unharmed, unlike Private E Carter of East Street who is reported as being wounded in action.

  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.



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