Unwrap a victorian Christmas at Audley End

17:26 28 October 2013

Christmas preperations at Audley End House. Housekeeper, Mrs Warwick puts the last decoration onto the Christmas Tree. Picture: RMG Photography

Christmas preperations at Audley End House. Housekeeper, Mrs Warwick puts the last decoration onto the Christmas Tree. Picture: RMG Photography

Archant

It’s billed as a ‘magical weekend events full of festive spirit, Father Christmas, reindeer, carols and cookery’. The popular annual ‘A Victorian Christmas’ returns to Audley End House and Gardens with plenty of sparkle and spirit to make for a memorable yuletide celebration.

Revellers can wander around some of the beautifully decorated rooms to see the Victorian costumed characters prepare for the upcoming festivities, and catch a glimpse of the resident family as finishing touches are put to the traditional garlands and wreaths by their hardworking staff. They will be entertained by Victorian storytelling and will be able to admire the Christmas tree – the centrepiece of the house, standing proudly in the Great Hall.

The scent of Christmas will be brought to life as staff in the authentic Victorian Service Wing will also be seen hard at work, where the cook and servants would have prepared traditional game dishes, mince pies and other festive fare during the 1880s. Guests can witness a world ‘below stairs’ where staff prepared lavish feasts for the Braybrooke family and their guests in times gone by.

Children will be delighted to meet Father Christmas who will be paying a special visit to the grotto in the Stable Yard at Audley End for the weekend, along with his trusty reindeer and their sleigh as they prepare for their busiest night of the year. There will also be merry music, carol singing, children’s crafts, replica Victorian Toy Shop and Falconry displays in the grounds.

Lucy Hutchings, events manager for English Heritage in the London and East region, said: “One of our highlights of the year, Audley End House and Gardens offers the perfect backdrop for a Victorian Christmas and plenty of festive cheer.

“The event will once again give visitors a chance to see just how much the Victorians shaped the way in which we celebrate today. We’re thrilled to offer our visitors the chance to visit above and below stairs to see how the Braybrooke family entertained their guests during the festive season.

“Children will also love meeting Father Christmas in our Victorian Stable Yard and meeting his magnificent reindeer with their magical sleigh.”

It may be difficult to imagine now, but at the beginning of the 19th Century, Christmas was barely celebrated and no one had heard of Father Christmas. However by the late 1800s, it had become our most important annual celebration and had taken on the form that we recognise today.

This change is widely attributed to Queen Victoria and her marriage to German-born Prince Albert who introduced many traditions including:

The Christmas tree: a royal portrait showing the family celebrating around a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle led to Britons copying the tradition and decorating their own trees with candles, sweets and gifts.

Feasting: Christmas food as we know it can be traced back to Victorian times, with turkey introduced as the centrepiece of Christmas lunch. Mince pies became made without meat and evolved into the mince pies we know today.

Christmas cards: The first Christmas card was designed in 1846 and by 1870, the popularity of sending cards rapidly increased as postage costs reduced. The most popular Victorian designs were plum puddings and church bells.

Carols: While not new to the Victorians, they considered carols to be a delightful form of entertainment and actively sought to popularise them - publishing the first significant collection of carols in 1833 for all to enjoy.

A family event: The Victorians also transformed the idea of Christmas so that it became a family affair. Eating, decorating the tree, giving gifts and parlour games were all essential to the celebration of Christmas by the whole family.

This seasonal event will invite visitors to step back in time to discover these origins of Christmas as we know it, and with plenty to eat, drink and be merry, it is guaranteed to get everyone in the festive spirit.

PRICES

Non-Member: Adults £15 / Concessions £13.50 / Children (5-15) £9 / Family ticket £39.20.

English Heritage Members: Adults £1.60 / Concessions £1.40 / Children (5-15) £1.20 / Family ticket £4.40.

Ticket price includes entry to: the Main House, Service Wing, Stables and Grounds.

For details of other events to enjoy with English Heritage, call 0870 333 1181 or visit english-heritage.org.uk/events.

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