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Christmas Cards from the Gibbs of The Grove

Posted on 20.12.2019

With its origins heralding back to the Victorian era, Christmas Cards were first designed by Sir Henry Cole and his friend, John Callcott Horsley. They were sold for 1 shilling each, which was expensive at the time.

In 1840, after the introduction of the ‘Penny Post’, cards were easier to send and the tradition grew.

Victorians exchanged, displayed and collected Christmas cards in vast numbers. Early Christmas cards had flowers on them, cherubs and other romantic imagery. Throughout the era, themes developed and the Victorians established the now familiar iconography of Christmas: robins, holly, ivy, snowy landscapes; Father Christmas and Christmas crackers.

A large collection of Victorian Christmas cards is held at Manx National Heritage, in the archive of the Gibb family, who lived at The Grove in Ramsey from the mid 1800s.

The cards tell us who the Gibbs were in contact with, both on the Island and beyond, and which festive designs appealed to this typical middle-class Victorian family. The cards in the image below include religious imagery (the Victorians are known for their morality and faith) and the ever popular floral designs which appeared on so many Victorian Christmas cards.

The archive includes the family’s Christmas lists. In the image below, Janet and Alice  have written out their Christmas card list for 1898. Included on the list is ‘Will’ their younger brother, also ‘Auntie’ Janet, who was the daughter of Duncan Gibb, a successful shipping merchant from Liverpool: Duncan purchased The Grove in 1838 during a visit to the Isle of Man. Janet and Alice became the last members of the family to live at The Grove.

Later lists, from 1935 and 1944, tell us that cigarettes were a popular choice of Christmas present, as well as calendars, scarves, and the odd tangerine!

This studio portrait shows Janet and Alice as children, with brother William and mother Sara Ann Turnbull Gibb. It was taken around 1891 or 1892 at Moore and Cowen Photographic Studio in Waterloo Road, Ramsey.

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa from all at Manx National Heritage!

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