A few snippets from The Times to ring in the new year.
5 January 1842: Old Year’s Night at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum – On Friday evening, the last in the old year, the above institution for the reception of lunatic paupers belonging to the different parishes within the county of Middlesex, exhibited an extraordinary and pleasing instance of the gratifying effect of the humane system at present pursued in that establishment, whereby coercion has been done away with, and corporal restraint no longer forms a part in the treatment of the insane. It has been the practice for the last year or two to give the female patients an evening’s entertainment at the close of the year, and to prepare for that joyous occasion the patients had been for the week previous busily engaged in decorating their wards with laurel, holly, and other evergreens, which were most tastefully and fancifully displayed on the walls of their rooms, in various devices, amongst which were the initial letters of the Queen, “V. R.,” of Prince Albert, “P. A.,” and of the illustrious infant, the future Sovereign of the united empire, “P. W.” with crowns and Prince of Wales’s feathers, &c., the whole forming an alcove of upwards of 70 feet, in which the utmost tranquility prevailed. Soon after 5 o’clock the patients had assembled, to the number of nearly 400 . . . Tea and cake were then served round to the patients by the matron, Miss Conolly …and the nurses, by whom afterwards were played on a piano-forte many cheerful and enlivening tunes, to which the patients commenced dancing, which they kept up with much spirit and glee for upwards of an hour. On their again resuming their seats, they were each presented with half an orange, after which dancing again commenced, and was continued, with music at intervals, until 8 o’clock when supper was served, and at the conclusion the patients retired to their several apartments, apparently much delighted with their evening’s entertainment. (Shown above: male patients at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum celebrating Twelfth Night, 1848).
2 January 1843: New-Year’s Day in the City Prisons – Yesterday being New-Year’s Day, the whole of the prisoners at present in Newgate, those in Giltspur-street Compter, about 200, and the debtors in the Borough Compter, 21 in number, were regaled with 1 lb. of roast-beef, 1 lb. of bread, and a pint of porter each person, the gift of the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, Mr. Alderman Hooper and Mr. J. Pilcher. In addition to the above allowances, those who are confined in the Borough Compter will, upon the 6th inst. (Old New Year’s Day), receive from Mr. Pritchard, the high-bailiff, 1 lb. of roast-beef, greens, potatoes, 1 lb. of plum-pudding, and a pint of beer each, thus showing that the criminals fare much better at this season of the year than the inmates of the union workhouses.
2 January 1861: New Year’s Festival – Yesterday (New Year’s Day) Miss Burdett Coutts was present at a dinner given by that lady in the schoolrooms of St. Stephen’s, Westminster, when 300 poor people partook of a well-ordered banquet, with speeches and carols, and music supplied by a portion of the Coldstream Guards band, under the leading of Mr Godfrey.
The Times also covered, in great detail, the queen's New Year's gifts to the poor of Windsor, where she and her family regularly spent the holiday season.
30 December 1843: Gifts to the Poor of Windsor – On Monday next (New Year’s Day) nearly 200 pairs of blankets, and a large quantity of meat, bread, plum-pudding, potatoes, coals, and ale will be given to the poor and needy residents of Windsor by Her Majesty and his Royal Highness Prince Albert, under the excellent arrangements which have been made by the Rev. Isaac Gosset, the vicar, the Mayor of the borough, and Mr John Clode, jun., one of the churchwardens of Windsor, by whom the objects for the exercise of the bounty of the Sovereign and the Prince have been judiciously selected. It is expected that the distribution of the blankets, meat, pudding, and bread, will take place in the New Riding-school, and that Her Majesty, his Royal Highness Prince Albert, and several members of the Royal Household will be present to be spectators of the gratifying scene.
2 January 1868: The Queen’s New Year’s Gifts – Yesterday morning, between 9 and 10 o’clock, the annual ceremony of presenting Her Majesty’s New Year’s gifts to the poor of Windsor took place in the market beneath the Guildhall. The gifts consisted of meat and coals, the latter being delivered at the homes of the families, while the beef was delivered to the recipients from the butchers’ tables in the market. On this occasion, the Mayor of Windsor, Mr. J.W. Wellman, the Rev. H.J. Ellison, the Rev. Mr. Thompson, and other clergy, were present at the distribution, during which the bells of the Chapel Royal of St. George and St. John’s Church rang merrily. The poor of Windsor entitled to the gifts included 351 families; the parish of Holy Trinity, 198; and that of Clewer, 219; giving a total of 768 persons. These families were divided into five classes, of which the first received a piece of beef weighing 7 lb.; those of the second, 6 lb.; third, 5 lb.; fourth, 4 lb.; and the fifth, 3 lb. The weight of the beef thus given by the Queen was 3,119 lb. It was of splendid quality, and was supplied by Messrs. Bedborough, Copeland, and Hughes, of Windsor. Its value was 97l. 9s. 4 ½ d. Mr. Heale, who represented Mr. Cullen, the clerk of the kitchen at Windsor Castle, was present for the Queen. Fifty-nine tons of coal, supplied by Mr. Little, Her Majesty’s coal merchant, were distributed at the homes of these families in quantities of 3 cwt., 2 ½ cwt., 2 cwt., 1 ½ cwt., and 1 cwt. The value of the coals was 73l. 9s. 4 ½ d., so that the total value of the Queen’s gifts was 170l, 18s. 9d. Her Majesty also gave 100l. to the Royal Clothing Club at Windsor.