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News > Foundation Archive News > It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Join me as I try to capture some of the Christmas Spirit by delving into the archives to learn more about Christmas Fairs held at Princethorpe College in the past for December's #Throwback Thursday.
Image of the Christmas Tree in the Quad with the Chapel behind
Image of the Christmas Tree in the Quad with the Chapel behind

Like so many events this year, Princethorpe College’s Christmas Fair sadly fell victim to the current pandemic and had to be cancelled. As the Christmas Fair is one of the events that really helps to get me in the Christmas spirit here at Princethorpe, I thought that I would do the next best thing to attending in person and have a look through the archives at Christmas Fairs of the past to share with you.

Interestingly there is only one mention in all the Peeps Magazines of anything resembling a Christmas Fair at St. Mary’s Priory. In November 1946, the girls held a Jumble Sale and Sale of Work, where they sold items that they (and probably the nuns) had made themselves such as embroidered cloths. The aim was to raise money for two projects: the ‘Electric Light Fund’ so that the Priory could finally move away from using the dirty acetylene gas lights they had relied on for over a century, and to repair the drive up to the Priory. Due to the enclosed nature of the Benedictine order here at St Mary’s Priory, the girls organised the sale so that it took place not here at the college but down in Princethorpe’s Village Hall to avoid strangers disturbing the community’s religious life. (Peeps 1946, SMP.27.3.36).

I then had to jump forward almost 30 years to find another reference in the school magazines. When Father Clarkson became the Headmaster at Princethorpe College in 1969, one of his first aims was to establish a Parents’ Association as he realised what a vital link they were between the school community and the parents. Whilst it took a couple of years, by 1975 the Parents’ Association was well established and they held a number of events including Princethorpe College’s first Christmas Fayre and Coffee Evening. All told the Parents’ Association raised an eye-watering £1,550 that year which was put towards the cost of reflooring the Gym in what is now the Theatre as the Sports Hall was not completed until 1979 (Princethorpe 1975, PC. The generosity of the Parents’ Association (and the parents who attended and donated at the events of course) continued to have a positive impact on the facilities within the college from this point on. In 1979, their donation helped to equip the new woodwork department whilst in both 1980 and 1994, the Parents’ Association helped to fund a new minibus for the college for example.

By the early 1980s, the event had been renamed the Autumn Fayre despite being held at the end of November or start of December. It continued to be an important fundraiser regularly raising over £2000 to help support college’s improvement programmes. It would not be called the Christmas Fayre again until 1996 when, with a description that would be just as accurate today, it was described as:

‘A present-buyer’s dream. A vast array of stalls and side shows entertained the parents, pupils and friends…’ (Tribune, Spring 2005, PC.



After a small change to the Grand Draw in 2003 to try to revitalise it, the following year saw a much bigger change. In 2004, the Parents’ Association decided that the Christmas Fair would have a Victorian or Dickensian theme in which the stallholders and helpers gamely dressed up in period costume! To help get everyone in a festive (and generous) spirit, there were prizes for the best dressed pupils, the college was bedecked with festive decorations, and music played throughout the college. There was even a live Nativity complete with a real donkey and sheep. Even though it was chilly that year, pupils Tom Cross and Ruth Turner did a great job as Joseph and Mary whilst different members of staff read extracts of the Christmas Story. It clearly worked with the event raising a record amount! (Tower, Number 19, PC.

Whilst I started my research with an aim of focusing solely on the Christmas Fair, what soon became abundantly clear is how lucky Princethorpe College is to have a dedicated, enthusiastic Parents’ Association, whose time and efforts help support the college in its aim to offer the best education and facilities to its students. I think that it is only fitting to end this month’s piece with a massive thank you to everyone involved in making all the past Christmas Fairs a success. I hope that in 2021 we can get together to make future fairs just as successful an event! Merry Christmas from the Archives.


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