A man who's treasured the humble family Christmas tree that's been part of his life since he was born is finally parting company with the 80-year-old festive heirloom.
The tree, bought at Woolworths in the 1930s, has been in Steve Rose's life at Christmas for every one of his 74 years. As a child, he remember his mother decorating it and, though his parents are long gone, he has maintained the tradition.
The sparse affair, one of the first mass-produced trees ever made for the famous department store, will be sold at Derbyshire's Hansons Auctioneers on December 19 along with more of Steve's festive collectables - 1950s Woolworths Christmas tree lights, still in their original box, baubles and glow-in-the-dark icicles.
For Steve, from Syston, Leicestershire, it's time to say goodbye and give someone else the opportunity to create a vintage, simple Christmas. For him, a festive season without excess was a recipe for happiness when he was a boy.
"I've decided to sell the tree to raise money for the homeless," said Steve. "I've got a nice house and everything I need. It's awful to see people on the streets, especially at Christmas. I am going to give the proceeds to The Greater Manchester Mayor's Homelessness Fund."
The only son of a miner, he grew up in a modest terraced house overlooking his father’s colliery in Markham, Wales. When December dawned, he watched mum, Florence, dress their humble Christmas tree with tinsel and baubles.
The tree sits in a painted pot and has a few sparse branches featuring the odd goose feather dyed green and a sprinkling of red berries.
Humble, small, modest - call it what you will - but this month it will be thrust into the limelight. The historical object, together with Steve's 1950s lights and decorations, will go under the hammer with an estimate of £200-£300 - and they could be extremely sought after.
Last Christmas, a similar tree - with out any decorations - sold for £420 at Hansons and was bought by the American Christmas Tree Association.
Steve is parting with his yuletide heirlooms because he says he’s getting on a bit now and has no children to leave them to.
He confesses it did cross his mind to throw the tree in the skip once– but he’s glad he didn’t. Not only is it a reminder of his family Christmases of old, it’s potentially valuable. He spotted the story about the tree being sold to the American Christmas Tree Association last year. Like his, it was purchased from Woolworths for around sixpence in the 1930s.
“I saw how much that tree went for and thought someone might like this one,” said Steve, a retired biology teacher. He inherited the tree when his mother and father, also called Stephen, passed away, and used it every Christmas until about eight years ago.
“It was our main family tree for years and I remember my mum putting it up every Christmas,” said Steve. “I’ve had it all my life.
“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.”
Steve as a little boy, above right
“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.”
Now Steve, who has lived in Leicestershire for 51 years, is looking forward to Christmas 2018 – but without his family festive tree. He said: “Let’s hope it finds an exciting new home and puts a sparkle into Christmas for generations to come.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to buy your very own vintage Christmas and own a tree of historical importance. Nearly a century after it was made, it's time for this tree to be an evergreen star in our saleroom.”
Department store Woolworths started selling some of the first mass-produced artificial trees in the 1920s. In 1930, the British-based Addis Housewares Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used machinery utilised to manufacture toilet brushes.
The very first artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and were made using goose feathers dyed green.”
The vintage Christmas tree, lights and decorations will be sold on December 19, 2018, at Hansons Auctioneers' Fine Art and Jewellery Auction, which is being held at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, ST17 0XN. Estimate £200-£300. Entries are invited for Hansons’ Christmas Fine Art and Jewellery Auction until November 30. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.