As the Christmas period approached I decided to get in the festive mood and visit A Victorian Christmas at Audley End in Essex at the end of last month. For two weekends only the house, situated close to Saffron Walden, held two Victorian inspired events focused around Christmas and the house itself.
An English Heritage administered property Audley House was once one of the largest and most opulent houses in Jacobean England and even today people from around the UK visit the house to learn about the area and the history of the mansion.
As part of the weekend we were given access to the house, gardens, lawn, the stables and the servant’s wing. We walked through the house whilst actors in Victorian clothing walked around talking in a posh accent and interacting with each other as if they were back in the Victorian era.
I was really impressed with the way they had decorated the house with beautiful Christmas trees and decorations hanging from the ceilings. The Great Hall was certainly dressed for Christmas with wreaths and beautifully decorated Christmas trees and the rest of the house was equally imposing with grand rooms.
After visiting the main area of the house we then headed downstairs to the servants quarters where the staff were hard at work in `Mrs Crocombe`s Kitchen`. Being a massive fan of Downton Abbey, the ITV period drama, I was captivated by the rooms below deck and it was fascinating watching the actors cook and arrange themselves as if it was a real life kitchen.
After all this excitement we then booked in to meet Santa! My three year old step-daughter was so incredibly excited to visit the famous man and as we edged nervously towards the room where Santa was sitting I could tell her nerves had kicked in. Father Christmas told the children who were all seated on soft cushions around the room the story of `The Night before Christmas’ and when it was her turn she went up to Santa and met him, smiling ferociously as me and Theo took a photo.
She also loved the `free` mini-carousel and swing boats and enjoyed walking with the ponies from the Stable yard back up to the house delivering some of the presents from Father Christmas.
There were a number of other activities taking place in and around the service yard including music and the singing of carols from a collection of adults and children. There is nothing better than the sound of carol singers at Christmas!
I was really impressed with my visit to Audley End House and once it opens again in the Spring I plan to take another visit there with picnic in hand.
Thanks to Audley End for inviting me to your Victorian Christmas weekend.