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The World’s First Christmas Card is Delivered to Ironbridge (7th December 2011)

Today greetings cards are an essential part of our Christmas celebrations but the custom of exchanging cards did not start until 1843, another wonderful Christmas tradition we have to thank the Victorians for.

The first Christmas card was sent by Henry Cole, a Civil Servant with a keen interest in art and design.  Cole commissioned 1,000 Christmas cards and used those he required before selling the rest for 6d each.  This price made the cards a luxury item and something that was unavailable to the working classes.

The card was designed by John C Horsley and was printed lithographically and then hand-coloured.  Of the 1,000 printed very few are known to remain in existence. 

One of Cole’s original 1843-produced cards, held in the collection of the British Postal Museum and Archive, will be on display on Thursday 08 December in The Post Office at Blists Hill Victorian Town from 12 noon until 3pm.  Anna Flood, BPMA Archivist, will also be on hand to answer questions on the heritage of Christmas cards.  Following that, a replica of the card will be on display at the Blists Hill Post Office throughout December for everyone to enjoy.

Anna Flood commented;

“Since opening the Museum of the Post Office in the Community above the historic Post Office at Blists Hill, we have worked closely with the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. There is nowhere better to let people see the world’s first Christmas card than in a Victorian Post Office. We are sure that people will enjoy seeing such a precious object on Thursday and have a greater understanding of the history of Christmas cards by seeing the replica over the rest of December.”

The replica Christmas card will be one of the many highlights during Blists Hill Victorian Town’s Christmas weekends when families can come together and enjoy the preparations for a Victorian Christmas during the weekends of 10-11 and 17-18 December.

The town’s Ironworks will be the setting for Mr Morton’s Christmas Party, an extravaganza of music, singing and stories.  Carol singers and brass bands will fill the air with their fabulous festive tunes whilst our culinary expert will rustle up some fantastic seasonal fare in wonderful cooking demonstrations. 

Father Christmas will of course be in residence throughout the weekends and children can visit him in his wonderfully decorated Grotto.  Don’t forget to say hello to his reindeer before they head off on their mammoth journey around the world on Christmas Eve!

These special Christmas events will take place during the weekends of 10 - 11 and 17 - 18 December when Blists Hill is open from 10am to 4pm. Passport Tickets are not valid for Blists Hill Victorian Town Christmas events. Entry is £14.95 adults, £11.95 for 60 plus, £9.95 children 5- 18 years in full time education and under 5s free. New for 2011 is a family ticket (two adults and two children) at £45. A visit to see Father Christmas is £3.50.

For further information, contact the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on Tel: 01952 433424 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk.  The Gorge is easily reached via the M6 and M54 motorways exiting at Telford (M54 junction 4 or 6).