National Trust in Kent this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 15:58 08 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:02 23 November 2016
For the National Trust, this month is all about putting the finishing touches to the decorations at the glorious houses in its care that have been inspired by Christmases past.
Believe it or not, Christmas is already on the horizon, so why not be inspired by festive occasions of the past and add a historic flavour to your decorations this year?
Quebec House in Westerham, home of 18th-century military hero General Wolfe celebrates its Georgian past with natural decorations inspired by the era. Fireplaces and staircases will be draped in garlands of hops and greenery.
Kirsty Haslam, duty manager at Quebec House says: “Georgian festive decor centred largely on foliage and log fires, always essential in a period before central heating, and we will be including both in our Christmas decorations.
“A wreath on the door will welcome visitors, just as it might have done when the Wolfes welcomed Christmas guests 300 years ago.”
Christmas food and drink was a key part of Georgian celebrations and many of the 18th-century seasonal cakes and sweet treats made by Mrs Wolfe and her household will be recreated for visitors to sample.
Quebec House reveals its Christmas decorations during a series of open afternoons over the first three weekends in December. See also feature on page 56.
Victorian and 1950s
Ightham Mote at Ivy Hatch has a varied 700-year history and this year Christmas decor will focus on two key moments: traditional Victorian and the 1950s, the latter with a distinctly American flavour.
As the Victorians favoured lavish decorations, Ightham Mote will also be stuffed with bright colours, mixed with plenty of holly and ivy complemented by candles and ribbons.
Tamsin Leigh from Ightham Mote explains: “Many of today’s Christmas traditions stem from this era, including the widespread appearance of Christmas trees, crackers, carol singing and giving sweets, cookies and fruits as gifts.
“Our own 20ft tree in the Great Hall is laden with traditional trinkets including paper horns, which were often filled with sweets and sugared almonds and popular as gifts for children.”
Ightham also pays homage to the Christmas traditions celebrated by its final private owner, the American businessman Charles Henry Robinson, who lived there from 1953 until his death in 1985. American 1950’s Christmases were all about celebrating post-war peace and prosperity with fine foods and toys, but this was also the era that introduced inexpensive festive decorations from mass production.
At Ightham Mote, the 1950s are represented with tinsel, fairy lights, bright baubles and hanging ornaments made from glass and moulded plastic.
From 2 November, visitors can watch the house gradually be transformed for Christmas, or join in historically inspired craft-making sessions in the squire’s room on Tuesdays in November (a small additional charge applies to cover costs).
A grand Christmas fair takes place over the weekend of 28 and 29 November, when the decorations will be displayed in their full glory, with children’s activities, local produce stalls and a special guest appearance from Father Christmas.
The Roaring 20s
Finally, a 1920s Christmas will be in full swing at Sir Winston Churchill’s former home, Chartwell, just outside Westerham recreating the festive scenes enjoyed by the family in their heyday of living there.
A ‘Roaring ‘20s’ Christmas featured plenty of hand-picked foliage and hand-made edible treats. The Christmas tree was the focal point, draped in baubles and lametta (thin wire with shiny, shredded metal). Decorations would normally only go up on Christmas Eve, but food preparation would begin much earlier, with puddings and cakes started in October.
At Chartwell, volunteers will be making many of their decorations by hand, using greenery from the grounds to create beautiful, naturally opulent displays in four of the rooms.
Sophie West, Assistant House Steward at Chartwell adds: “In the Churchill’s family home, there will be lots of natural decorations which could easily be recreated in your own home. We’ll be using lots of holly, ivy and fir from the Chartwell estate along the mantelpieces and wrapped around the banisters.”
● Chartwell’s decorated house will be open during the first three weekends of December via timed tickets (£2 per person after normal winter admission).
Chartwell will also host a special Christmas market from 27 to 29 November for those searching out unusual presents.
Find out more
Further information about Christmas at the National Trust this November and December is available at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast.