If you have been looking for a festive activity with a heritage twist, then search no more, I have done all the hard work for you. Here are my recommendations for the best nostalgia events taking place, throughout the UK, over the next few weeks. All you have to do is choose an era then allow yourself to be transported back in time to celebrate the magic of Christmas past. There are events here to suit all ages and interests.
For information on each event, simply click on the relevant property address.
- Medieval Christmas Market. Lincoln Medieval Bishops’ Palace, Minster Yard, Lincoln, Lincolnshire. Saturday 8th December (10am-9.30pm) and Sunday 9th December (10am-7pm). £1 entry charge for the market.
- Caerphilly Medieval Christmas Fayre. Caerphilly town centre, South Wales. Saturday 8th December (10am-5pm) and Sunday 9th December (10am-4pm). Apart from fifty market stalls there will be a hog roast, mulled wine, Medieval magician, dragon puppeteers, Jack the jester, dragon stilt walker. Father Christmas will be arriving on a horse and cart and travelling through the town centre to Caerphilly Castle. Free (town centre only).
- The Medieval Christmas. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Belsay, Nr Morpeth, Northumberland. Saturday 8th December and Sunday 9th December. Christmas gifts will be on sale and children can dress-up in Medieval costumes. Re-enactors, Heuristics, will be giving lively presentations containing facts about Christmas during Medieval times. Presentations each day will take place at 11.15am, 12.30pm, 1.45 and 3pm. Charges apply but English Heritage members are free.
- Elizabethan Christmas. Plas Mawr, Conwy, Wales. Saturday 8th December (11am- 4pm) and Sunday 9th December (11am-4pm). Plas Mawr is a stunning Elizabethan house built between 1576 and 1585 for wealthy merchant Robert Wynn. There will be mince pies, mulled wine, music and a range of other activities, plus a visit from a green Father Christmas! Charges apply.
Jane Austen’s festive birthday. Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire. Come and celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday on Sunday 16th December (10.30am-4.30pm) in the pretty village of Chawton, rural Hampshire. Jane lived in Chawton, with her family, from 1809 until a shortly before her death in 1817. This atmospheric, 17th century house, is the perfect choice if you prefer a quieter slice of Christmas nostalgia. On the day, visitors can enjoy a complimentary coffee and mince pie. Free (for Sunday 16th December only).
- Victorian Christmas Weekends. Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Madeley, Telford, Shropshire. Saturday 8th December (10am-4pm), Sunday 9th December (10am-4pm), Saturday 15th December (10am-4pm) and Sunday 16th December (10am-4pm). If, like myself, you were riveted by the BBC series Victorian Pharmacy (2010) or simply have a passion for the Victorian era, then you will thoroughly enjoy celebrating Christmas in the atmospheric surroundings of Blists Hill Victorian Town.
Step back in time and be treated to an array of traditional celebrations from the 1800s, listen to stories of life more than one hundred years ago and do some Christmas present shopping. Gifts on offer around the town will include traditionally made cast-iron paperweights and doorstops, handmade plaster decorations and even rocking horses, all produced in the Gorge by skilled craftsmen and women. There will also be a huge range of unusual items in the museum gift shop.
Mr Morton’s Christmas Celebrations will once again see the magnificent Iron Rolling Mill transformed into a place for a ‘workers Christmas party’. Here visitors will be able to enjoy festive food and a wide variety of seasonal entertainment, such as Christmas songs, Punch and Judy and even a magic show. You can also sing-a-long with carol singers and listen to brass bands around the town, which will be festooned with traditional Christmas decorations as the townsfolk prepare seasonal goodies and make traditional Victorian presents.Families will have the option of visiting Father Christmas (extra charge in addition to entrance fee). Across on The Green, they will also be able to see and pet Father Christmas’ reindeer before their mammoth journey around the world on Christmas Eve. Charges apply.
- A Victorian Christmas. Apsley House, Hyde Park Corner, London. Saturday 8th December (11am-4pm) and Sunday 9th December (11am-4pm). Home to the Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, located near to Hyde Park and Wellington Arch. See how the dinner table would have been laid for a Victorian Christmas feast and get into the festive spirit with traditional music and dance from the period. Charges apply but English Heritage members are free.
- A Very Victorian Christmas. Tudor House and Garden, Southampton, Hampshire. Saturday 15th December (10am-5pm) and Sunday 16th December (10am-5pm). On both days, in two separate sessions (10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm), there will be Christmas crafts family workshops where you can make a Victorian-inspired peg doll angel or a reindeer spoon puppet. You can also meet Father Christmas and his helpers in the grotto. Charges apply but if you download a special voucher one child (6-16) goes free when accompanied by a full paying adult.
- Festive Guided Tours – Queen Victoria’s royal retreat. Osborne House, York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight. Osborne House will be beautifully decorated throughout the Christmas period and festive guided tours are available Wednesdays to Sundays (except 26th December) until Sunday 6th January 2013. The expert guide will tell you how Christmas was celebrated at Osborne when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children were in residence. It is essential to pre-book your place on the tour by calling 01983 200022 or their bookings mobile 0777 526 5278 (standard mobile rates apply). The House is open at 10am and closes at 4pm, the last tour is at 2.30pm. Charges apply but English Heritage members are free. Even if you are an English Heritage member you must still book pre-book your place on a tour.
WORLD WAR TWO
- Evacuee Christmas Party. St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire. Saturday 22nd December (10.30am-3.30pm). Experience Christmas through the eyes of an Evacuee. There will be free children’s activities and traditional music and games in a community air-raid shelter. After all that excitement there will be an afternoon tea of traditional party food. If you come dressed as an Evacuee you will get free entry to the museum otherwise, normal charges apply.
CHRISTMAS – MULTI-PERIOD
The Museum at Christmas. Weald & Downland Museum, Chichester, West Sussex. Wednesday 26th December until Tuesday 1st January 2013 (10.30am-4pm). If you cannot decide on one particular era and have not got time to fit a heritage event in before Christmas Day, then this annual event at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum is the perfect choice. Experience the traditions of Christmas past and discover how our forebears enjoyed the festive season. The Museum has fifty rescued buildings covering the time period, c.1300 to c.1910 all set in the beautiful Lavant Valley. Many of the houses will be traditionally decorated and have crackling log fires. Charges apply.
THE TRADITIONAL FATHER CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE
- This year, Milestones, a Living History Museum near Basingstoke, Hampshire is bringing back the traditional Father Christmas experience. Not a hint of commercialisation, just lovely, old-fashioned charm where children can meet Farther Christmas in a magical setting.
His grotto will be located in the heart of this superb Museum, surrounded by buildings and shops from the Victorian era through to the 1940s. After meeting Father Christmas, you can take a family stroll through the full size, cobbled streets and make a visit to the 1940s sweetshop where you can exchange your penny for 2 0zs of sweets, this was the weekly ration allowed during World War Two. The sweetshop is open from 1pm-3pm weekdays and 12noon-4pm at Weekends, Bank Holidays and during the school holidays. There are also friendly costumed interpreters who will delight and enchant you with tales of days gone by.
Pre-booking to meet Father Christmas is essential – Telephone: 01256 477766. Each child will receive a gift from Father Christmas. It costs £3 per child, aged 0-15, to visit Father Christmas plus the normal entry charges. He visits Milestones on the following dates:
Saturday 8 December
Sunday 9 December
Saturday 15 December
Sunday 16 December
Saturday 22 December
Sunday 23 December
Details of opening times at Milestones over the Christmas period can be found here.