New Year’s Eve 1859-1867

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for Reviews of the Year. Partly because people do like to reflect back on the previous 12 months, as they prepare to welcome in the next. But mainly because it’s a good way to fill news pages when ‘nothing much is happening’ and the usual go-to sources of copy are tucked up at home with the Quality Street and last of the mince pies.

Cumbrian Characters started 2023 with posts on Thursby Post Office, and Fishing Rights.

But readers can find all that for themselves by looking at the (blog) Archives. So, while following tradition, here is another sort of compilation: ‘Things from New Year’s Eves gone by’.

New Year’s Eve 1859

Carlisle Albert Quadrille Party held their first ball for the season in the Assembly Room of the Coffee House Hotel, on New Year’s Eve.

‘The party mustered strong, and danced incessantly to the music of a very efficient band, under the leadership Mr John Scott.’

All that ‘incessant dancing’ was carried out ‘in the greatest harmony and goodwill’.

(A repeat event two years later saw more than sixty couples dancing – possibly also incessantly – until 4am on New Year’s Day).


New Year’s Eve seems to have been a traditional date for groups to get together. 

About 100 members (and their friends) of the Independent United Order of Mechanics celebrated their 22nd anniversary, at the Grey Goat Inn, Carlisle. Members of the United Ancient Order of Druids held their annual ball at the Half Moon Inn Wigton. The volounteers of the 2nd Cumberland (Whitehaven) Rifle Volunteers celebrated their second anniversary with supper in the Oddfellows’ new hall, in Lowther Street. 

And the first anniversary and tea party of the Wetheral Total Abstinence Society was held at the house of Mr. George Tiffin, where between 60-70 people 

‘partook of the social and non-inebriating cup’

Showing that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time, they were later joined by dozens of others in the village schoolroom. Once the annual meeting was out of the way, there were ‘some excellent lectures,’ and ‘some very appropriate melodies were sung’.


1862 and 1863 were hard years, with December headlines more about ‘families/workers in distress’ in Cumberland than any kind of parties. No doubt those struggling to find work hoped the new year of 1864 would see an upturn in the economy.

James Mawson, of Lowther, penned a jolly few Lines Written on New Year’s Eve, about time’s chariot (unoriginal, James), rolling ‘heavily o’er the prostrate year’.

1862 had been a ‘year of passing sorrow’. There are a few optimistic lines after that, but reading it might have turned even the most-temperate of folk to reach for a glass of something.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Carlisle, Francis Close, in 1863, seems to have feared that a New Year’s Eve ball at Caldewgate Reading Room was a corrupting influence on young people. What most saw as ‘innocent and harmless amusement,’ he apparently feared would lead to ‘vice and immorality’.


Workington. The Primitive Methodists of Workington sat down to a fruit banquet in their chapel in John Street. Some 200 people enjoyed… whatever a ‘fruit banquet’ was.


Heads Nook. More than 300 people enjoyed a Penny Reading programme of readings and songs. These included Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, read by Mr M Salkeld. And Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes, sung by William Dalton. 


Thomas Peat, William Gray and Wilson Smith were ‘three respectable young men’. But for some reason, they decided to vandalise the Old Brewery (Carlisle). The facts of who broke a window shutter (the subject of the subsequent court case) are muddled. But they were fined 2s 6d each, plus damages and costs. The report bears the puzzling headline:

‘Foolish freaks on New Year’s Eve’.


Dean Francis Close held ‘a very strange prayer meeting’ on New Year’s Eve. 

‘The performances in question consisted of singing, expositions and prayer (?) and appear to have been highly irreverent, nay painfully grotesque in their character’.

It seems that he had a go at other members of the clergy, calling them hypocrites, guilty of paganism and popery, wolves in sheep’s clothing… This drew a lengthy letter (quoted above) of objection to the Carlisle Journal from the Rev Charles Moyes Preston, of Warcop Vicarage – my 4th cousin 5 times removed.

And today…

Whether you intend to see out this ‘prostrate year’ with a fruit banquet, or some incessant dancing, Cumbrian Characters wishes you well, and hopes 2024 proves a kinder one for the world.