A Dickensian welcome, complete with broth, bread and hot chestnuts, awaited visitors to a Victorian Christmas fair held at the Pleasaunce Christian Centre, Overstrand.

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Attractions at the event, which was organised by centre managers Veronica and Charlie Buxton with the help of staff member Cheryl Scille, included a fancy dress competition judged by Father Christmas, stalls selling Victorian-themed cakes and sweets and Christmas carols and stories.

Characters from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol including Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim greeted fair-goers, who were given guided tours of the centre, originally a private house designed by famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and built in 1888 for Lord Battersea, a chief whip in Liberal prime minister Gladstone’s government.

Famous visitors to the 33-bedroom mansion have included King Edward VII, two-time Conservative prime minister Benjamin Disraeli and Victorian romantic novelist Florence Barclay.

Now one of four centres owned by Christian Endeavour Holiday Centres Ltd, the house has been used for retreats and holidays by church groups and schools since the 1930s.

Mr Buxton, who dressed as Lord Battersea for the day, hoped the Christmas fair would raise the profile of the centre and give local people a chance to share in the history of the house.”

“The idea was to put the Pleasaunce on the map,” he said. “As, although we are a big place, a lot of people still don’t know we are here.”

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