Victorian Christmas traditions

Picture James Hardisty
Picture James Hardisty

Harewood House is pleased to announce a special five-week Christmas season, A Victorian Christmas, which will see the house and grounds open during the festive period for the first time in five years, writes Alexis Guntrip of Harewood.

To celebrate the new series of ITV’s Victoria, which is filmed on location at Harewood House, the show’s award-winning creative director, Michael Howells, will create a magical Christmas experience giving visitors the opportunity to explore the house in full Victorian splendour.

At the start of the 19th century, Christmas was not regarded as a significant event. However, in 1848, the Illustrated London News published a drawing of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree.

The trend was adopted by the British people and by the end of the 19th century Christmas in the UK had become the major annual celebration it is today, with trees, homemade decorations, Christmas cards and gifts.

In celebration of the Victorians’ love of Christmas, the event will give visitors an insight into the ways the Victorians created and informed the Christmas traditions we enjoy today, including Christmas dinner, carol singing, the Christmas tree and present giving. Storytelling will be at the heart of the event with inspiration being taken from Harewood’s own archives and collections.

Display highlights will include loans from Ilkley Toy Museum including Victorian board games, dolls houses, toy soldiers and rare dolls from the era. Additionally, visitors will have the rare opportunity of exploring the award-winning gardens, which although usually closed throughout the winter months, will be open until 4pm daily.

Harewood’s magnificent State Floor, which is one of the principal locations for Victoria, will be beautifully dressed with visually stunning Victorian decorations, while ‘below stairs’, in the kitchens, visitors will get a sense of the hustle and bustle of a stately country house, with a cornucopia of traditional Christmas foods being prepared.

As well as the festive dressing, visitors will be able to enjoy a series of events and activities including wreath making, twilight tours, floristry workshops and Fireside Father Christmas.

Jane Marriott, Director of Harewood House Trust said: “2017 has been a positive year for Harewood House Trust.

“We have had a fantastic response from visitors to our Victorian Harewood season so extending this into an immersive Christmas event is really exciting.

“We are thrilled to be opening the house for Christmas and to be working with Michael Howells on the project.”

Michael Howells said: “I’m delighted to be working with Harewood House Trust for this event.

“Harewood has been an incredible place to work filming Victoria for the last two years and has provided us with some fantastic inspiration.

“It’s a special place, filled with history and wonderful stories to tell.”

A Victorian Christmas at Harewood House will be open from November 24 – 31 December 31.

Special attractions include Fireside Father Christmas on November 25 and 25 and December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16-23.

There will also be a Twilight Tour on November 30, Wreath Making on December 6 and Christmas floristry workshop on December 9.