True festive spirit! Owner of treasured 1930s Christmas tree donates auction proceeds to homeless

Posted on 10/12/2018 in Press Coverage

A man who decided to auction off his parents’ treasured family Christmas tree - bought from Woolworths in the 1930s - is giving all proceeds to the homeless.

Steve Rose, 74, decided to part with the tree he’d watched his mother decorate as a small boy as he had no children to leave it to.

Then, amid a whirlwind few weeks of national and local press and radio interviews, and even an appearance on BBC’s The One Show sparked by his humble Christmas story, Steve decided any money made from the sale should go to a good cause.

“I’ve got a nice house, I don’t need anything,” said Mr Rose. “I don’t like seeing people on the streets, especially at Christmas. So, I’ve decided to give the money to The Greater Manchester Mayor’s Homelessness Fund.

“I’ve met the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and I’ve been really inspired by his work with the homeless.”

The tree, together with Mr Rose’s vintage baubles and Pifco Christmas tree lights, sold for £280 at Hansons Auctioneers’ Christmas Fine Art Sale, held at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, on December 19.

It was bought by London-based artist Eloise Moody, 36, after she read stories about the tree online.

She said: “I am working on an Arts Council England-funded project with Metal in Peterborough called Remember Me which is all about belongings of significance owned by people who are last in the family line. Mr Rose had no one to pass his tree on to.

“The tree will form part of the collection of other people’s memories that would otherwise become lost. These objects will eventually go on display in Peterborough."

The tree had been part of Mr Rose’s life at Christmas for every one of his 74 years. His parents are long gone but he maintained the tradition of decorating it each Christmas.

Mr Rose, a retired biology teacher from Syston Leicestershire, was prompted to sell after noticing how much a similar tree, unearthed from a Derby garage in 2017, fetched last Christmas.

It smashed its estimate of £40-£60 to sell for £420 to the American Christmas Tree Association – much to the delight of its owner Diana Rigby, who sold it to raise money for London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital’s children’s cancer charity.

“I saw how much that tree went for and thought someone might like this one,” said Mr Rose, who inherited the tree when his mother, Florence, and father, Stephen, passed away.

He confessed it did cross his mind to throw the tree in the skip once – but he’s glad he didn’t. “It was our main family tree for years and I remember my mum putting it up every Christmas. I’ve had it all my life.”

The only son of a miner, he grew up in a modest terraced house overlooking his father’s colliery in Markham, Wales.

He said: “Christmas was not an extravagant affair when I was a child growing up in South Wales. in the late 1940s you’d get a Christmas sock and inside it was a tangerine, nuts, some loose change and small presents.

“It was very simple but enjoyable. On Christmas Day we had a chicken from the lady at the back of our house who bred them.”

“I think we enjoyed Christmas more back then. Because we didn’t have much, we valued what we did have. I was given a train set when I was 11 and I only parted with that eight years ago. It was still in mint condition with its original box.

“These days, some children get thousands of pounds spent on them and don’t appreciate it because they’re used to having so much.

“My father had to start work down the mine at the age of 13 because his mother had been widowed twice, there were four children to feed and the rent had to be paid. He worked in mining for 49 years.

“He retired at 62 and lived until he was 77. He was a lovely, strong man – my parents were what I call good folk. The village where I grew up had a strong community spirit. Money was scarce but we always had one good cooked meal a day.”

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “It’s a wonderful story and a wonderful tree. We’re delighted Mr Rose has decided to donate the money from its sale to charity – his Christmas spirit and kindness shine bright. What a wonderful gesture.”

The vintage Christmas tree, lights and decorations were be sold on December 19, 2018, at Hansons Fine Art & Jewellery Auction at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, ST17 0XN. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.

Eloise Moody is looking for more people who are last in their family line who may be interested in sharing objects, photographs or stories. Email [email protected]