Britain’s stately homes and historic houses are full of year-round inspiration for decorators of course, but at Christmas many of them are dressed up to their very best to offer a taste of Christmas past to visitors. We pick out 5 country houses hosting a historic Christmas celebration, where you can not only see how those upstairs and down enjoyed the festival, but also get close enough to smell the Christmas pudding cooking. Whether your thing is an authentic Tudor 5-bird roast and seasonal garlands, or a Victorian Christmas complete with butler, here are the best days out for a taste of Christmas through the centuries.
A Tudor Christmas
The centrepiece of the Christmas decorations at Cornwall’s Cotehele Tudor house is the famous Cotehele garland. Made up of thousands of flowers from the house’s gardens, the garland measures 60ft, and festoons the Great Hall. It is such a popular feature that you will need to book in advance to see it! Also on offer are a chance to visit both Father and Mother Christmas in their grotto, and a wassailing parade through the gardens, celebrating this tradition supposed to scare away dark spirits for the winter.
A Georgian Christmas
Downstairs in the kitchen at Berrington Hall, cook is soaking the fruit for a plum pudding and the sound of festive music from the 18th-century filters down the stairs. This Georgian mansion in Herefordshire is one of the first designed by Henry Holland and features jewel-like rooms, surrounded by a garden by Capability Brown. With a network of stairs and passageways designed to keep an army of servants hidden as they served the house, the house at Christmas offers a fascinating glimpse into both the opulence of a Georgian manor Christmas and the work that went into it.
A Victorian Christmas
Speke Hall in Liverpool is a timber-framed Tudor manor house – perhaps not the first place you’d think of to enjoy an authentically Victorian Christmas. However the history of this building explains a little more – built, complete with a ‘priest-hole’, by a Catholic family in Tudor times, during its life it fell into such disrepair that it was used as a cow-shed, until the Victorian era saw it being brought back to life, complete with Arts & Crafts decorative elements and all Victorian mod cons. Today you can visit to see the house decorated for Christmas, including the original Great Hall, along with events including carol singers, a grotto, and even workshops for children to make that Victorian Christmas stocking filler – sugar mice.
A 1930s Christmas
Join the cooks of Blickling Estate as they prepare festive feasts in the kitchens – and if you’re lucky you may even get a taste. This house is decorated for Christmas in true 1930s style, and you can even get involved in helping to decorate by hanging a decoration on the tree. The gardens are also decorated in a display of colour and light, which you can enjoy from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.
All images courtesy of the National Trust