Harewood House: A nostalgic vision of Christmases past and glimpse into festive future

Harewood House offers nostalgic visions of Christmases past and a glimpse into our festive future. Chris Bond went to find out more.Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.

Harewood House, near Leeds, has become well known for its mesmerising festive installations in recent years – from Lord Whitney’s Upon a Christmas Wish a couple of years ago, to the award-winning A Night at the Mansion, created by Davy and Kristin McGuire in 2019.

And this year it looks like they have come up trumps once again with Harewood’s Great Time Travelling Christmas, created by Studio MUTT.

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“Each year we try and beat what we did the year before,” says Rachel Crewes, chief executive of Harewood House Trust. “This year with the time-travelling Christmas we’re not doing what you might expect a country house to do, like going back to Victorian times. We’re not doing that, we’re going from 1950 right through to 2050, so we’re looking back but also looking forward. It’s something very different.”

Harewood's Great Time Travelling Christmas.
Picture by Bruce RollinsonHarewood's Great Time Travelling Christmas.
Picture by Bruce Rollinson
Harewood's Great Time Travelling Christmas. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

Visitors are taken on a journey through past Christmases in the different rooms that evokes nostalgic memories – whether it’s playing board games with the family, or the remnants of a festive party from the 1990s. There’s also a reimagined Christmas dinner which features drone-delivered presents and fluorescent turkeys, that is bound to get people talking.

Graham Burn, director of Studio MUTT, says the idea is to make people feel like they are travelling in time. “We’ve taken the historic uses of the spaces in the house as inspiration for the installations; Christmas music in the music room, a futuristic Christmas banquet in the dining hall and sum up what Christmas feels like in each decade since the 1950s.”

He says it’s an interactive experience that people can be part of, with a little bit of humour and fun along the way. “We’ve been asking ourselves would Robert Adam, one of the architects of the original house, enjoy this? And we think he would enjoy lots of it because it’s proven the longevity of his design, and we are celebrating the existing design in a lot of the rooms.”

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Harewood’s Great Time Travelling Christmas runs to Jan 7. For more info and prices visit Harewood’s Great Time Travelling Christmas, www.harewood.org

This week: Our series continues with Treasurer’s House in York, Castle Howard, Burton Agnes Hall & Gardens and Chatsworth