It's Christmas time, and the presents are under the tree. Some may be struggling through strikes and inflation so let's have a look at Christmas in the Northwich Workhouse in 1903.

And when Christmas in Middlewich was not a very happy one in 1878.

Christmas at the workhouse was celebrated in Northwich on lines similar to previous years.

The great Christian festival was ushered in by bands playing suitable selections and several local church choirs singing carols for the residents.

In the Northwich churches, including some non-conformist places of worship, well-attended services were held, and the churches and chapels were chastely adorned in keeping with the season.

The Northwich Workhouse was described as a most comfortable one in ordinary times, but at Christmas time, there is a kind of happiness and rejoicing that is equalled in few, if any, institutions in the whole kingdom.

Northwich Guardian: Working boats Trent and Mersey canalWorking boats Trent and Mersey canal (Image: Paul Hurley)

Adopted children who have been brought up by the guardians at the home and sent out into the world as good citizens return at Christmas to enjoy the times again that they once enjoyed as inmates.

The guardians and officers seem to engage in a joyous conspiracy to enhance the pleasure of the inmates.

The house's interior had been prettily decorated for the occasion by the inmates with evergreens, cut papers, etc.

The dining hall looked a picture of cleanliness with its new seating and tables and the newly decorated walls and painted woodwork.

At one end of the room above the entrance hung the motto "Long life, health, and prosperity to our Guardians, Clerk, Master, Matron, and Officers", which had been framed by one of the inmates.

Santa Claus made his usual visit to the children's dormitories whilst they were asleep on Christmas Eve.

When the little ones awoke in the morning, they found their stockings filled with toys, sweets, oranges, etc.

The celebration of Christmas Day began at 8am with a breakfast of coffee, bread, and butter. An hour later, the usual service took place in the chapel, Reverand C Packer; the chaplain was officiating.

Northwich Guardian: Northwich Workhouse in later yearsNorthwich Workhouse in later years (Image: Paul Hurley)

As noon approached, preparations commenced for the great Christmas feast.

There were many beaming faces when the huge barons of beef, vegetables, and mineral water were brought in.

When two giant plum puddings weighing 56 pounds each and smaller ones were also delivered, there was a cheer for those who would be partaking.

The year had seen a remarkable almost total immunity from sickness, a sign that all was well.

And the 200 inmates were all able to enjoy the festivities. Longevity was another success story.

One old lady declared that she had witnessed 90 Christmas Days, and there were upwards of 20 who had seen more than four score Christmases.

One of the inmates who ended her long life there was a much-loved lady called Granny Vernon, whose photo is here.

Northwich Guardian: Granny VernonGranny Vernon (Image: Paul Hurley)

She lived to be 105 years of age and died on February 10th 1928. She was then given a proper funeral paid for by the trustees of the workhouse, not the pauper's funeral, which was usual for inmates.

During the afternoon, the male inmates received tobacco gifts and the females' tea and cake. Evening entertainment was given, and the time for retirement came only too soon.

Looking now at another Christmas, this time in December 1878, when Middlewich was not going through such a joyous season.

There was slackness in the salt trade, and many men were unemployed. On the canal, work had stopped, and the boat people were suffering from poverty.

On Tuesday morning, the town crier went around crying the joyful intelligence that 100 4lb loaves would be distributed to the starving boat people and others that evening at the Town Hall.

Northwich Guardian: Newton Manor MiddlewichNewton Manor Middlewich (Image: Paul Hurley)

But first, they must apply to Mr W. R. Court for a ticket. In a short time, gangs of men and women were seen heading to Newton Manor to collect the necessary tickets.

That evening the bread was distributed according to the tickets presented, and the following day, coal was made available to the needy.

Christmases through the years have seen ups and downs, as shown in these two examples. But each one has been enjoyed in its own way, from the trenches of the first war to happier times invoking childhood memories.

So, from the Looking Back column, can we wish one and all a safe, healthy, and fun-filled Christmas time and, for many, a holy Christmas time.