History of the Christmas Lights

WR&CS has researched the history of the lights on the large beech tree on the Green and the following summary gives the story

Through the years...

6th May 1935

‘The old school building was then demolished, on part of its former site, the copper beech tree was planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V’ (Source: Willaston’s Heritage, E.C.Bryan (revised by David Morris); ‘In the centre of the village greenis planted a copper beech tree to commemorate the Jubilee of King George V’ (Source: All About Willaston, A.B. Moreton)

Commemorative plaque on the Memorial Hall

19th December 1967

First Carols on the Green ‘Mr Williams [Hadlow Green WI choir master] had asked Mrs Neal [President] if the Choir could give a recital and also if some of the husbands could attend. It was decided to ask Mr Williams in December and offer him approximately half an hour.’ ‘It was a fine winter’s evening & the suggestion to gather outside Willaston Memorial Hall [where Hadlow Green WI met on the 1st Tuesday of every month] to sing Christmas Carols was much enjoyed by all.’ About 300 people attended. (Source: Hadlow Green WI Minutes: 5th July 1967 & personal diary)

15th November 1968

‘3. Dec 19th the choir will sing carols on the green. 4. There will be a Council Meeting re the coloured lights on the Green Nov 25th Mrs Leck is dealing with this.’ (Source: Hadlow Green WI Minutes: 15th Nov 1968)

Commentary: The lights on the Green were initiated by Hadlow Green WI to illuminate the Carols on the Green, whilst also giving the village a festive feel in December. It is not clear exactly when the lights on the tree were first installed. The source of power for the lights was from the top of the street lamp on Hadlow Road, until a specific power supply was installed at the base of the tree (date unknown). For the street light to work for the rest of the year, the lights had to be removed each year. There was no light on the corner of the Green outside the Memorial Hall so the coloured lights on the tree illuminated the whole area.
Mrs Eileen Macdonald (Member of Hadlow Green WI and WR&CS committee) would phone Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council to arrange for the lights to be put onto the tree in November and switched on in advance of Carols on the Green. (Source: Eileen Macdonald personal memories)

31st January 1973

‘The lights plus wiring for the tree on the village green were in the custody of Harlan Taylor. Mrs Ruddock [member of Hadlow Green WI who ran the village hairdressers at Laburnum Cottage on The Green] offered to store these and her offer was gratefully accepted. In passing, it was suggested the lights were to be placed higher on the tree next year. In order to combat vandalism.’ (Source: Willaston Residents’ Society minutes)

31st July 1973

‘The Xmas tree lights were delivered by two young men who first threw them on the ground at Mrs Harlan Taylor’s home, the consequence of which several bulbs were broken. These will have to be replaced.’ (Source: Willaston Residents’ Society minutes)

5th November 1973

‘A considerable amount of the bulbs need replacing. The lights were in the possession of Mrs Ruddock. And Manweb to be notified that these were required for the first week in December.’ (Source: Willaston Residents’ Society minutes)

Commentary We are not certain of the dates but some villagers remember the lights were also stored in a hut next to the old Church Hall (now Elizabeth Cottages, Neston Road). (Source: Roger James, now deceased, former WR&CS Chair)

11th January 1976

‘Christmas tree lights on the green had been appreciated’. (Source: WR&CS minutes)

26th January 1981

‘Mrs K Ruddock, reported having 200 bulbs in garage. Sending letter to council if want them returned’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

9th September 2009

‘It is unclear who – within the council, is to authorise the replacement lights but the matter is being vigorously pursued. Councillor Hogg has insisted that a replacement policy should be in existence for this and similar situations.’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

2nd November 2009

‘Christmas lights on the green – new lights had been purchased, at a cost of £660, by Cllr Hogg’s fund’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

New Willaston Christmas Lights on 5th January 2010: Photo- Ruth Hampshire


6th September 2010

‘Many residents were surprised to see lights on the tree on the Green recently. This was for a wedding although some concern was expressed on how electricity had been obtained.’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

Willaston Christmas Lights 2011: Photo Marianthi Lainas

10th December 2013

The Hadlow Green WI ceased and Willastonhey WI agree to continue annual ‘Carols On The Green’ village community event & provide refreshments etc.

5th December 2014

Willaston and South Wirral Rotary Club organise the first switch-on event for Willaston Christmas lights.

Lights – exact date unknown

18th September 2017

Cllr Myles Hogg reported that if he is to buy new lights for the tree, this will cost £3,500. (Source: WR&CS minutes)

21st November 2017

Cllr Myles Hogg reported that ‘the Council agreed to refurbish the lights for this Christmas only, after which they will take them down and new ones need to be purchased. An initial quote of £11,000 has been rejected. It was suggested that a beam into the tree would be cheaper.’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

Commentary: The lights were scheduled for removal due to their age, condition and concerns about electrical safety. They were left in situ for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of ‘Carols on the Green’ on Tuesday 19th December 2017.

19th December 2017

Willaston celebrated the 50th Anniversary of ‘Carols on the Green’. Hosted by Willastonhey WI and accompanied by Birkenhead School Band around the beech tree lit up with Christmas lights.

The 50th Anniversary of Carols on the Green: Photo – Martin Eves

15th January 2018

The Christmas lights on the tree were refurbished this year. When they are removed, the tree will be trimmed’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

19th March 2018

‘The current lights in the tree have been there for 10 years and due to the weather/their age, have deteriorated so they will not pass health and safety/electrical tests. Therefore they have to be removed. In addition, the tree needs to be pruned before new lights are put on and CWaC [Cheshire West and Chester Council] are about to undertake a survey for this pruning work.’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

Commentary: A Willaston Christmas Lights community group was set up to organise fundraising for the new lights. The group held regular meetings at The Nags Head and Pollards Inn.

WR&CS Facebook post 19th April 2018

18th May 2018

A fundraising campaign commences to raise funds for new lights. The campaign started at Willaston School Fair. (Source: WR&CS minutes)

22nd May 2018

‘Fundraising for the lights has started and the ‘ask’ is to ‘sponsor a Willaston star. This will enable a donor to have an individual dedication of up to 30 characters being included in a commemorative book.’ By this time, it was reported that a logo, posters and newsletter had been designed and the newsletter would be delivered to all households in Willaston. Also the Willaston Christmas Lights website and Facebook page had been set up. (Source: WR&CS minutes)

Front page of Willaston Christmas Lights newsletter

Willaston Christmas Lights newsletter P2

Willaston Christmas Lights newsletter P3

Acknowledgements: The newsletter design services were donated by The Chase and printed by Helen Diamond Swimming School.

29th May 2018

Liverpool Echo report on ‘The tiny village campaigning for lights on the hottest day of the year’ (Source: Liverpool Echo online article)

3rd July 2018

Radio Merseyside’s Breakfast Show visited the village and interviewed two committee members about the Christmas lights fundraising campaign and history of the tree.

September 2018

WR&CS announces that £18,500 has been raised. They place an order for 1600 LED multicoloured festoon lights at cost of £11,569 and assume responsibility for insurance, electricity and maintenance of lights.

26th October 2018

WR&CS announces that £24,185 has been raised. ‘Chris then explained that an arrangement had been made with CW&C so that they would purchase the lights on our behalf but then the Society will own them and will be responsible for maintenance, public liability insurance, electricity etc.  Chris confirmed that as the fund raising had significantly exceeded the original target, the Society has the funds to cover these costs for several years.  He stated that all the monies raised for Christmas Lights would be ring-fenced in a special WR&CS account and not used for any other purpose.’ (Source: WR&CS AGM minutes)

The new lights are put onto the tree

19th November 2018

‘[It was] confirmed that the total now raised for the lights was £25,192. This includes 441 donations under sponsor a star … Following the pruning of the tree, the lights have now been installed.’ (Source: WR&CS minutes)

3rd December 2018

New Christmas lights are switched on. BBC Radio Merseyside breakfast show visited to discuss success of fundraising, the big switch on & Christmas markets.

Lights Switch on: Photo Simon Bennett

8th December 2018

Christmas lights dedication book for ‘Sponsor a Willaston Star’ opened at Willaston Methodist Chapel – every Saturday morning in December.

23rd March 2020

Christmas Lights come on for a week in March showing solidarity as a community with the start of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

4th December 2020

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social isolation, the lights were switched on without any ceremony.

Acknowledgements: WR&CS committee members (the late Hilary Morris, Ceri Jones and Sarah Shannon); longstanding former committee members; Hadlow Green WI; Eileen Macdonald; Ruth Hampshire; longstanding Willaston residents.

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