In the nineteenth century the new year in Cornwall was as quiet as it was this year. Our forebears did little, if anything, to celebrate the new year, which was a working day like every other. The Royal Cornwall Gazette’s brief reports of the new year period in 1860/61 indicate little out of the ordinary.
On New Year’s Day, the Truro freemasons were celebrating the festival of St John by holding a banquet at a local hotel. Meanwhile, at St Agnes Institution, people sat down to a lecture on ‘The example of Admiral Lord Exmouth’.
A bazaar was being held at the Wesleyan chapel at Mevagissey in aid of a fund for a harmonium and better lighting. This raised £40 (equal to £4,800 nowadays). Another bazaar at Penzance in aid of the Volunteer Corps did considerably better business, raising £212 (or over £25,000).
In various places, charity was doled out. At Fowey the ‘necessitous poor’ were ‘regaled with cakes and tea’ at Place, the home of Joseph Treffry. Each woman present also received a ‘garment of warm clothing’ from Mrs Treffry. Further east at St Neot, a major landowner in the parish, the Reverend Bewes of Plymouth, had sent £10 (almost £1,200) to be distributed among the ‘deserving poor’ of the parish.
At St Neot too there had been a heavy fall of snow before New Year’s Day and a ‘sharp frost’ on the day itself. Seasonal weather in those days did not prevent a cattle market at Wadebridge, where good bullocks were to be had for three guineas (£377) a hundredweight and fat sheep at seven pence (£2.40) a pound.