This being New Year’s Eve, I figured I would share an apposite quotation from William Darter’s reminiscences of life in Reading, Berkshire during and after the Napoleonic Wars.
“[I]t was customary on New Year’s Eve for the ringers of St. Lawrence’s parish to ring in a few peals of changes and leave the bells up on their stays, and some short time before midnight to return. At the same time the Militia Band assembled at the upper part of London Street, and all was still, until the moment St. Lawrence’s clock began to strike twelve, when off went the merry peal of eight bells, and at the same moment three loud strokes of the big drum led off the Berkshire Band down London Street to the Market Place, and from thence through a portion of the town. Seventy-one years have elapsed since I first experienced the magic effect of this music of the band and the merry peal of St. Lawrence’s bells breaking out in the stillness of midnight, suggesting that the old year had passed away, and welcoming the dawn of its successor.”
Source: W.S. Darter, Reminiscences of Reading: An Octogenarian (Reading, 1889), p.82. This particular excerpt is dated August 1885, suggesting that Darter first experienced the New Year’s celebrations described above in 1814.
I wish all my friends and colleagues the very best for 2020.