History of the Baby Shower: Since When Have Geordies Spoilt Unborn Children?

At the Newcastle History Society, we’ve decided to inject a little personality into our usually drab and dry historical diatribes. In this issue, Anna Markie is going to talk about how the baby shower has taken the UK by storm in recent years…

We used to make fun of the ridiculous nature of the American baby shower, but it’s very much time for this writer to hang her head in shame. From major newspapers reporting on the trend’s boom to run-of-the-mill bloggers waxing lyrical about their most recent baby shower, it seems that it’s now a mainstay of the British way of life.

The Daily Mail has even put some figures together: £220 million is spent on a yearly basis, which is about £50 per woman in the UK. It’s even estimated that 1/8 of girls spend over £100 per shower. Staggering figures, that’s for sure.

Where Did They Come From Anyway?

While the term ‘baby shower’ is relatively new, the idea actually spans several millennia. I suppose it’s not surprising that people have been excited about cute little babies since the beginning of time. The Egyptians and Greeks were a little more logical and held celebrations once the baby had been born – perhaps wise considering the mortality rates in the ancient world.

The Middle Ages brought the Christian aspect to the whole affair, with priests coming to the fore and people more worried about confessing their sins, avoiding death during childbirth and baptism of the newborn. The latter usually occurred on the day it was born, with the mother not allowed to attend.

So far, nothing close to what we’re used to today. Until the Victorian era, that is…

The 19th century is really when we can start seeing the contours of the modern-day baby shower. Post-birth, ladies would get together to celebrate by having a very British cup of tea. The Americans really ran with the idea during the baby boom era. Once material goods became more affordable for the average family, the baby shower was born. Us Brits only decided to make the trend our own half a century later.

Why I Don’t Like Baby Showers

The thing that bothers me about this trend is just how much financial strain it puts on families all over Tyneside. While we’re constantly reading about enforced austerity measures, zero-hour contracts, and living costs going up on what seems to be a daily basis, we’re still expected to fork out for a child that’s not yet experienced the wonders of Newcastle United.

My advice (not that you’re asking for it)? Instead of focusing on how much you’re spending or asking for gifts if you’re throwing one yourself, why not make it about getting friends and family together? Personally, I hardly ever see those that are dear to me all in one place, so it’d be nice to throw a party without making people feel like they need to splash out with money they don’t have.

Details of Our Next Historical Gathering

We’re going to be holding our next gathering in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. The provisional date is November 29, 2014. We’re planning to hold the event at As You Like It, but this location is subject to change. However, we can guarantee that it’s going to be in this general area – so if you’re coming from outside of Newcastle, you can book your hotel or B&B without worry!

Event Details

The event hasn’t been set in stone as of yet, but we can give you a vague sketch – don’t hold us to it! However, you can be sure it’s going to be something similar to the following:

  • Meeting at 11:00AM at Newcastle Central Station
  • Coffee/Breakfast at a nearby convenient location
  • Visit to historical site at around 12:30pm (transport by mini bus)
  • Late lunch at As You Like It with a surprise guest speaker (hint: he’s a huge figure when it comes to Newcastle history)
  • Drinks at a quiet Jesmond pub, where we’ll discuss history with fellow members! This is usually the best part :-)

Costs: each member will need to pay an additional £10 to cover the tickets to the historical site as well as the transport costs. We’re going to be subsiding members with the attached costs, so we hope you find a tenner reasonable! Please give us your feedback on this if you have any objections.

Travel Details

Newcastle Central Station is directly connected to the metro. You can either take a metro to Jesmond or a taxi – buses are also available, but nowhere near as convenient!

There are two metro stations in the area: Jesmond and West Jesmond. Both stations are walking distance from As You Like It, but if you have any mobility issues we suggest making taxi arrangements. It costs around £10 to get from Newcastle Central Station to Jesmond – usually it’s less, however. But it’s always good to have some extra change handy just in case. If you pay more, you’ve been had.

Additional Events

In addition to our ‘main’ events, we’re also planning on having a couple of casual drinks on Friday night for those of you arriving the day before. Considering that most of the team live near the Jesmond area, we’re probably going to stick to a pub near there! However, it’s going to be a quiet ‘old man’ pub as it can get a little busy on a Friday night. While we’re not quite stuffy historians, a Geordie weekend night out is just a little too much for most of us!

Where to Stay

For those of you that are arriving on Friday, we recommend you stay in a hotel in Jesmond. The prices are usually a lot lower than in Newcastle city centre, and you’ll also be closer to all of the events! There are several hotels you can stay in, but we particularly recommend Jesmond Dene House and the Rosebery Hotel in Jesmond. Both are gorgeous hotels, with the former having a particular ‘historical’ feel to it. The Rosebery is a great example of using vintage French furniture and upcycling it – great mix of both history and modern style.


Not sure whether you can make it? Wondering who the secret guest is going to be (we’re not going to tell!)? Or maybe you just want to know As You Like It’s menu options. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to get in touch. We’re happy to answer your questions.

Famous Geordies: Earl Grey Tea and 1966!

In this ‘Famous Geordies’ edition, we’re going to take a closer look at two slightly contrasting figures. The first is a household name, but perhaps not for the reason you may think. The second wasn’t a famous general or politician, but nevertheless had a massive social impact on England (and beyond). 

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey of Howick

Grey's Monument

Grey’s Monument

Most people only know of Charles Grey for the famous monument that stands in the centre of Newcastle. The metro station has even chopped the Grey bit off, and is simply known as ‘Monument’. But very few are aware that there’s a good reason for the name – and that’s Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey of Howick.

Born in 1764 at Falloden, he was part of an illustrious line. His own father had been a British general in the colonies, having won various battles during the Wars of Independence. You’d think Charles would find himself living in the shadow of such achievements, but he had other ideas.

At just 22 years of age, he was made a Member of Parliament. Known for his diligence and fervour for reform, this would be just the beginning. In 1830, he became Prime Minister and served until 1834.

His ‘main’ claim to fame is the Reform Act of 1832 – this guaranteed a level of equality never before seen in the United Kingdom. His ‘one man, one vote’ principle transformed British politics, while his move to abolish slavery throughout British dominions abroad was seismic in its effect.

You may also recognise the name Grey for another reason. If you’ve ever had a cup of Earl Grey tea, you know whom to thank! The story harks back to a diplomatic visit to China. The Prime Minister managed to save a man’s life, who in gratitude sent him a unique blend – it was later christened the now-famous ‘Earl Grey’. Not bad from your average Geordie, eh?

Bobby Charlton

From a political figure we move towards something that’s a little more ‘popular culture’. The impact that Bobby Charlton had on English football cannot be underestimated. He was part of the greatest generation Manchester United ever put on the football pitch and was also an integral part of England’s World Cup winning side of 1966.

Born in a humble mining village in Northumberland, Bobby’s family already had a strong connection to football. His uncle was a very respectable professional footballer by the name of Jackie Milburn, while the rest of his family was very much taken by the game. In fact, it was his mum who coached Bobby through his first kicks of the ball!

Bobby wasn’t a late bloomer – his talent was seen early on as a teenager. Picked for England’s schoolboys, he had a slew of professional teams vying for his signature. It ended up being Manchester United. He was one of the survivors of the Munich Air Disaster and was left with the task of rebuilding the team from scratch. He led by example throughout his career, always being commended for his attitude and professionalism.

He’s still the leading scorer for England, with 49 goals for his country. He won 106 caps, a World Cup, the FA Cup, league titles, as well as the all-important European Cup. Legend is almost an understatement for Bobby Charlton…