Christmas at the country house: Yorkshire's largest stately homes unveil their festive displays

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Immersive Christmas experiences are now a highlight of the events calendar at Yorkshire's grandest country houses.

The likes of Harewood House and Castle Howard hire top artists and designers to create dazzling interactive displays and decorations for visitors to enjoy. This is what the region's stately homes have planned for their Christmas events programmes. Photos by Charlotte Graham.

This year's Christmas at Castle Howard is themed around masquerade balls

This year's Christmas at Castle Howard is themed around masquerade balls

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Harewood House

Back in 2017, the Harewood House Trust's newly-appointed director Jane Marriott decided to revive Christmas at Harewood, seven years after the house had last opened to the public during the winter. That year, the award-winning TV set designer Sir Michael Howells, who had worked on ITV's period drama Victoria, which was filmed at Harewood, was commissioned to create Victorian House. The staterooms were decorated in 19th-century style to honour the Victorians, who introduced many German Christmas traditions to Britain.

In 2018, artistic director Simon Costin - who has designed catwalk shows for the liked of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney - collaborated with Harewood for Dreams of the 1920s. He recreated a 1920s Christmas based on those experienced by George and Gerald Lascelles, the sons of the sixth Earl of Harewood and his wife Princess Mary, the daughter of King George V, during their childhood in the house.

For 2019, Harewood has partnered with two local artists, who have spent two weeks living in the house to gather inspiration for this year's Christmas at Harewood.

The famous 25ft tree in the Great Hall at Castle Howard

The famous 25ft tree in the Great Hall at Castle Howard

Hull-based Davy and Kristin McGuire run Studio McGuire and have previously been involved in Hull City of Culture 2017. Their client list includes Harrods.

They have been tasked with creating an interactive 'enchanted house' show which brings rooms and artifacts to life using visual and audio projections - including gossiping paintings and singing crockery!

Harewood will open for six weeks from November 23 - January 5, and this year will be open on New Year's Day for the first time.

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Other activities include wreath-making workshops, cookery demonstrations, children's craft trails, a market and Father Christmas. There are twilight tour packages, which include an after-hours visit, mince pies and fizz.

Hull-based artists Davy and Kristin McGuire have designed Christmas at Harewood this year

Hull-based artists Davy and Kristin McGuire have designed Christmas at Harewood this year

Castle Howard

This year, Castle Howard's creative director Charlotte Lloyd Webber and designer Bretta Gereke have chosen the theme A Christmas Masquerade for the house's displays, which can be viewed until January 5.

The highlight is the iconic 25ft Christmas tree in the Great Hall, festooned with 3,000 baubles. Open fires, candles and light music accentuate the magical decor of the staterooms, inspired by the opulence of masquerade balls.

The events programme includes enchanted evenings with Father Christmas, and a grotto in the courtyard. Charlotte is also hosting an afternoon tea and tour where visitors can learn about the design and installation process surrounding the Christmas displays.

A decorated stateroom at Castle Howard

A decorated stateroom at Castle Howard

There are also twilight tours available.

Wentworth Woodhouse

Run by a charitable trust who need to fund major repairs over the next 20 years, Grade I-listed Wentworth - one of the largest private houses in Britain - has only been open to the public for two years and many areas are still out of bounds to visitors. They're gradually increasing the number and variety of events, and this year have introduced a Scandi-themed Christmas programme.

The Twelve Days of Christmas schedule begins on December 4 and is inspired by homespun, 'hygge' traditions.

Local craftspeople have been secured to run creative workshops - including Millie's Floral Boutique, based in Wath, who will host the wreath-making sessions, which come with a cream tea.

Rotherham-based fashion tutor Amy Winterbottom, who runs Tickle Mouse Crafts, is taking a needlecraft class teaching visitors how to make festive baubles and decorate gingerbread.

This is the third year Harewood has worked with artists and designers to create its Christmas displays

This is the third year Harewood has worked with artists and designers to create its Christmas displays

Sheffield business The Soap Loaf Co have been invited to demonstrate how to make soap and bath bombs for Christmas gifting.

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Jo Graham, a chef and former catering lecturer who now runs Joy to Eat Cakes in Dinnington, is hosting two Christmas cookie decorating workshops.

Wentworth have also gone in-house, asking head gardener Scott Jamieson, a former commercial florist, to run two classes on Christmas table decorations.

There are also festive cinema days, where audiences can snuggle up to watch Elf or It's A Wonderful Life with hot chocolate and popcorn.

The Howards with the 25ft tree at Castle Howard

The Howards with the 25ft tree at Castle Howard