Southamptonians have celebrated the New Year in many ways down the years.
In our researches in 1940-41 and 1945-46, we found the following descriptions of a wartime new year, and the first peacetime new year.

New Year 1941
In peacetime, there would have been crowds “on the asphalt” outside Holy Rood church to hear the bell ringers ring out the old year and ring in the new, an “ancient” custom dating back to the 1870s. Holy Rood’s bells had rung out 1939 and rung in 1940, before being silenced by government order after Dunkirk in June 1940, and destroyed by enemy action only a month before New Year’s Eve, 1940. Holy Rood’s tower still stood, though, even though the rest of the church was in ruins, and about 40 people still gathered in the black-out, witnessed by firewatchers and policemen. The twelve strokes of midnight were beaten out on a frying pan before they sang “Auld Lang Syne”, “There’ll always be an England,” and three verses of “Our God Our help in Ages Past.” “I would not have missed it for anything,” said Mrs Rew, the ARP worker on duty. (Southern Daily Echo 2 January 1941.) A local man spoke briefly to the “little knot of people.” “I hope,” he said, “that Sotonians will always gather outside the old church on New Year’s Eve. I always have. This is still Southampton. Though Hitler may have wrecked our buildings, he has not wrecked us.” Then everyone went home.
The Holy Rood bell ringers rang the VE day peal from St Michael's. See VE Day Celebrations, 8 May 1945.

New Year 1946
"Tradition, which even the blitz years could not break, was observed at Holy Rood, where some 300 people assembled 'on the asphalt' outside the ruins of the church to join hands and sing and dance. The celebrations went on for half-an-hour or so, and the arrival of 1946 was marked by the singing of 'Auld Lang Syne' and cheers" (Southern Daily Echo 1 January 1946.) The Cross family (including, for the first time, grandson Jim) rang out the old and rang in the new from St Michael's, change-ringing from 7pm, and chiming 12 strokes at midnight. "Down in the Docks the ships set up a chorus of greeting on their sirens."


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