Video: Decking the (stately) halls with holly

IT IS a time for families to savour whatever generation they are from.

Mollie Dodd, General Manager of Nunnington Hall, dressed as a maid by the tree in the Oak Hall
Mollie Dodd, General Manager of Nunnington Hall, dressed as a maid by the tree in the Oak Hall

And some of Yorkshire’s historic stately homes are giving visitors the chance to sample what Christmas was like throughout bygone eras.

The interiors of the region’s finest homes are being scented by foliage and floral arrangements as the public are able to learn a little about how families marked the holiday season in times gone by.

This year Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley, will be celebrating Christmas in a 1920s style.

Mollie Dodd, General Manager of Nunnington Hall, dressed as a maid by the tree in the Oak Hall

Visitors will be welcomed for a Christmas Day experience, as would have been enjoyed by the Fife family over 90 years ago. They can get an evocative taste of the 1920s by sampling sherry in the dining room and sugared almonds in the drawing room, before venturing upstairs to the nursery to visit Father Christmas.

Mollie Dodd, the general manager at Nunnington Hall, claimed the period had been chosen to reflect life as it would have been enjoyed by the Fife family. She said there was also a lot of interest in the period with the success of ITV’s Downton Abbey, which is set in North Yorkshire.

Regular viewers of Downton Abbey are used to hearing the familiar murmur of North Yorkshire place names and while the series is not filmed in the county, Lord and Lady Grantham, their family and servants all utter references to towns and places well known in the region including Thirsk and Ripon.

It follows life upstairs and downstairs in a grand house and like the hit TV series, which has delighted viewers with its seasonal specials, Christmas at Nunnington will showcase the different ways the family and their servants mark the season.

Miss Dodd said the maids would have been too busy to visit their families over the festive period: “The maids would really have been frantic around Christmas time.

“Their employers did buy them a present. The maids would have had something in the post from their families but they would not have got any time with their families.”

Presents given to the servants by their employers were traditionally wrapped in brown paper.

“It’s very exciting to see the hall transformed for our Christmas experience again,” Miss Dodd added.

“It’s the second year running we’ve done this for our visitors, so they can go back in time and imagine what life would have been like for the Fife family at Christmas-time.

“The beautiful interiors of the hall have been decorated by our staff and volunteers with natural foliage which all helps to add to the smell and magical experience.

“We hope people might recognise many similarities between modern and 1920s Christmases, but also find fascinating differences, such as the tradition of employers giving their servants presents wrapped in brown paper.”

The 1920s Christmas Experience runs at Nunnington Hall on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 4pm from tomorrow until December 15.

About 30 volunteers are giving their time to decorate the hall and show visitors around.

“We have a team of volunteers who come in and help decorate the house for us,” Miss Dodd added.

It is a pattern being repeated at many of the region’s historic homes as they prepare to welcome visitors over the festive season.

Chatsworth House will transport visitors to the magical land of Narnia this Christmas as the Grade I listed property undergoes a spectacular transformation to bring C S Lewis’s classic tale of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to life until December 23.

The lower floors will be decorated with trees, snow and sleighs to recreate the wintry wonderland discovered by Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy as they burst through the wardrobe for the first time.

A spokesman said: “Visitors will be taken on a magical journey as they experience London in wartime in the North Entrance Hall before walking through wardrobe doors surrounded by furs to enter the Narnian forest under the icy grip of the White Witch.”

At Castle Howard the historic house will be adorned with thousands of baubles, garlands, candles and wreaths as visitors are welcomed for the festive season.

Each year, Castle Howard is transformed when the family decorate the house for the festive season.

The North Yorkshire stately home will be open daily from tomorrow until Sunday, December 22. Visitors will also be treated to live music performed under the Christmas tree or by the stately home’s roaring log fire.