Step back in time and experience the spirit of Christmas in the 1880s at Audley End this festive season, as costumed characters prepare the house and grounds for a magical celebration.
Life Above and Below Stairs
On Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 November, wander around the beautifully decorated rooms of Audley End as Victorian costumed characters prepare for the upcoming festivities - and catch a glimpse of the resident family as finishing touches are put to the decorations by their hardworking staff. Visitors will be entertained by Victorian storytelling and will be able to admire the Christmas tree - the centrepiece of the house.
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.
Meet Father Christmas
Children will be delighted to meet Father Christmas and have their photo taken with his reindeer, which will be paying a special visit to the Stable Yard at Audley End for the weekend. There will also be a festive fun trail around the grounds for all the family to enjoy, as well as merry music and carol singing. A snow machine will also guarantee winter wonderland scenes!
Christmas in the 1880s
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 Santa Claus. 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 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.
You can also find out more about how Queen Victoria changed how we celebrate Christmas at our Victorian Christmas event at Osborne House - her former home on the Isle of Wight.
Tickets are priced at £14 for adults, £12.60 for concessions, £8.40 for children, £36.40 for a family and free for English Heritage members. Find out more about the Victorian Christmas event here, or to book tickets call our dedicated ticket sales team on 0870 333 1183.