Historic properties celebrating the evolution of Christmas

Winston Churchill surveys the green at Westerham in Kent
Winston Churchill surveys the green at Westerham in Kent, near his Chartwell home

The National Trust has transformed many of its historic houses to reflect Christmas from times gone by. Travel anywhere from the 1970s back to Tudor England to enjoy an unusual Christmas visit to one of the National Trust’s many historic properties.

The Elizabethan famous, Moseley Old Hall, in the West Midlands, has gone back to the 17th Century, with historical house decorations and festive delicacies that were popular in the Stuart period. The house is famed for hiding King Charles II from Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1651. 

Christmas was officially abolished in 1644 by Cromwell, who forbade carol singing and festive celebrations. However, 70 years later the Georgian era brought Christmas back and it became a month-long celebration of festive get-togethers and balls, lasting from 6th December to 6th January. A visit to church followed a festive feast on Christmas Day, and Christmas boxes were given on Boxing Day.

In the South East, Uppark in West Sussex has been decorated in a Georgian theme with wreaths and fireplaces decorated accordingly. At Northern Ireland’s Castle Ward you can help the mansion’s servants decorate with Georgian decorations or enjoy a period festive feast. Also celebrating a Georgian Christmas is Quarry Bank in Cheshire, where you can see how mill apprentices celebrated Christmas during the Industrial Revolution.

Christmas as we know it today has been largely styled by the Victorians, including Christmas trees and decorations, Christmas cards, Christmas presents and Christmas crackers, as well as the carol singing and Father Christmas with which we are familiar! Queen Victoria also got rid of the Georgian’s elaborate Twelfth Night celebrations on 6th January.

In Northumberland, Cragside has gone Victorian with appropriate fare, Father Christmas, and a wreath-making workshop, while Ightham Mote in Kent has given a Victorian Christmas an American twist. 

The Vyne, in Hampshire is offering a Dickensian theme and is celebrating the Victorian age with swathes of paper roses decorating the banisters. Reflecting the tale of A Christmas Carol, you can enjoy a candlelit tour of the historic property followed by festive mince pies in the servants’ quarters.

In the South West, Castle Drogo has dressed up in 1920s style reflecting the age of the property. And in Wales, original 1920s pantomime scripts are displayed at Chirk Castle, where you can experience a world of make-believe as enjoyed by the De Walden family, whose lavish performances at home became an annual tradition from 1923-1931.

Powis Castle in Wales represents the 1940s with ornate trees and traditional decorations typical of the era.

A more modern Christmas can be experienced at Chartwell, near Westerham in Kent, which is celebrating Christmas with the Churchill family. Greenery from the estate decorates the mantlepiece, vintage Christmas cards adorn the walls and Christmas trees are dressed in glass and gold. Chartwell was the home of Sir Winston Churchill from 1922 until his death in 1965, and the house contains a collection of personal possessions and property. 

In contrast, “It’s Christmaaaaaaas!” at Hanbury Hall, in the Midlands, which reflects the 1970s and 1980s with a fun Christmas to remind us of the era that brought us Babysham and Slade.

Find a National Trust Christmas event near you, or visit the V&A’s Christmas exhibition which runs until 31st December 2019. The V&A is housed at Cromwell Road, London which was said to be named after Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, who owned a house there. 

If you’re buying historic property, ask a Chartered Surveyor to overlook the condition and structural elements of your new home to help you safeguard your investment.

Back to December 2019 Newsletter

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