Festive memories at Oxburgh Hall

Visitors to Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, will be transported back through history at the weekend with the re-creation of a Victorian Christmas.

They were scenes traditionally played out inside the great houses as the festive season drew near more than a century ago.

Greenery was brought in from the estates and parkland for decorations, the tree trimmed, the table laid with the best china and cutlery and the fire grates given an extra blackleading for the big day.

Time may have moved on, but visitors to Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, will be transported back through history at the weekend with the re-creation of a Victorian Christmas. “We thought it would be a very nice way to increase the appeal of the property at this time of year,” said property manager Lloyd Taylor.

“A lot of the Christmas we have now stems from Victorian times and values. The main thing really is that we are preparing the ground-floor showrooms, which are the saloon, the west drawing room, the library and the dining room.

“We are getting them dressed up for a Victorian family Christmas so it will be very much a work in progress.”

Staff and volunteers will be donning period costume for the event on Saturday and Sunday, taking on the roles of family members who “own” the hall or their servants.

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“It's not a set performance - it's on a very informal, natural basis,” said Mr Taylor. “The visitors can come in and see it happening and have a chat with people going about their business.”

While recent surveys have shown that many people would prefer to spend the festivities with their friends these days, family was at the heart of the celebrations in Victorian times.

“I think you would have had all the staff and live-in servants as well so you had one big family, albeit with strict social demarcations,” said Mr Taylor.

“I think it was more simple pleasures. It was based more on family entertainment and a big get-together and social occasion. The present-giving was a token and an addition, rather than the main commercial drive that it is now.”

Other attractions lined up at the 15th- century moated manor house include carols, dancing, handbell ringing, roasted chestnuts and crafts and storytelling for children.

There will be carriage rides around Oxborough and part of the estate, a trail to Santa's grotto and a Victorian Christmas lunch of an old English lattice pie, followed by plum pudding or “peasant's pie”, on offer in the restaurant.

“The main thing is to give it atmosphere, something tangible, rather than the normal commercialism,” added Mr Taylor. “I think the house really enjoys that sort of party atmosphere. The whole place feels wonderful. It gets its spirit back and that's what we're trying to create.”

t The Victorian Christmas event runs from 11am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, although the shop at Oxburgh will be open until 8pm on the Saturday. The Christmas lunch will be served from midday to 2pm on both days. Admission to the estate, including the shop and restaurant, is free, with a fee of £3 for adults (including trust members) and £2 for children for entry to the house. Carriage rides cost £10 and a visit to Santa's grotto £3, including a present.

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