For our next Christmas visit we will stop to marvel at the glory that is Chatsworth in the Derbyshire Dales. Home to the Dukes of Devonshire, it has belonged to the Cavendish family since 1549. The house is home to some of the most important collections of art, furniture, books, Old Master drawings, and neoclassical sculptures in the world. Beneath Chatsworth’s half-a-hectare lead roof there are over 300 rooms, 17 staircases, 459 windows and 2,084 light bulbs.
The house has been featured in numerous period films, including the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice where it played the role of Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley. I visited Chatsworth in 1968 when I was ten years old. I will admit I was so awestruck I could not really fully appreciate everything about this amazing home. Hopefully the next time I visit I’ll be much better able to appreciate it!
I have included several views of the painted hall in different years as the people who come up with the themes each year do an amazing job! Wouldn’t you agree?
Chatsworth is another house featured in Number One London Tours Country House Tour (September 16-24, 2022. Check this link for more information!
The next stop on our Christmas pilgrimage through the stately homes of England is Haddon Hall which is located near the River Wye in Derbyshire. The original house was built in the 11th century and additions were made in the 13th and 17th centuries. The house is considered one of the finest examples of a Tudor manor house in existence. It was once the family seat of the Dukes of Rutland and is currently the home of Lord Edward Manners and his family, brother to the current duke.
The exterior and many of the interior rooms of Haddon Hall have been used in numerous films and television programs. It is most easily recognized as the location of Prince Humperdinck’s castle in The Princess Bride ! However, it has also been used in various versions and adaptations of Jane Eyre and was used in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice.
I cannot begin to imagine the fun it would be to decorate a Tudor manor for Christmas, but here are some photos to fill all of our Christmas dreams!
The natural decorations are a tribute to Haddon Hall’s Tudor heritage. Can’t you almost smell the oranges and the cinnamon?
Our Christmas tour of English stately homes takes us next to West Yorkshire where we find Harewood House. It was built between 1759 and 1771. The architects were John Carr and Robert Adam and the 1000 acres of grounds were designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. It is considered one of the great treasure houses of England. Not bad for a home built for a humble baron at the time!
The Yellow Drawing Room decorated for an evening of cards and coffee perhaps?
A child’s Christmas in the library.
The entrance hall all decked out for Christmas.
You knew we would have to visit the music room. This lovely venue is considered the most complete example of Robert Adam’s interiors at Harewood House.
A formal dining room allows one to set a spectacular holiday table!
Tabletop tree in the yellow drawing room.
Another portion of the entrance hall. Notice the lovely Adam interior enhanced by the old-fashioned Christmas tree.
How does one decorate the library for Christmas? Why with a book tree, of course!
The Nativity set up in the Long Gallery.
Check back for a visit to another stately home in all of its Christmas splendor. And if you want to see the wonders of Harewood House in person you might want to join Number One London Tours’ Country House Tour scheduled for September, 2022. You can find more details here:
Anyone who knows me knows I would visit a stately home in England at any time of the year! There is always something to discover, always something to appreciate, always something to jot down and use in a future romance novel! However, I think if I could I would love to do a tour of English stately homes at this time of year because most of them are decked out in the most amazing Christmas finery imaginable! I don’t know that I would want to be the person responsible for decorating such large and elegant spaces, but I would definitely sign up to be an appreciative audience!
As we cannot visit these homes ourselves, I thought I might take us on a little tour of some of these homes to enjoy them in their Christmas best. We will start with my favorite stately home ever, Apsley House, which I would make a pilgrimage to every year if I could.
Of course any tour one takes with me is going to start where a musical instrument can be found. This particular instrument is the oldest surviving grand piano in the country. It was handmade in London by Americus Backers in 1772 and was owned by the first Duke of Wellington.
As an added bonus, treat yourselves to this lovely podcast about the torcheres in the Waterloo Gallery. Definitely worth a listen!
They are likely very happy they did not ask me to decorate this particular statue for Christmas! I’d have been on the Naughty List for certain!
The Waterloo Gallery is already decked out for Christmas with the lovely red silk wallpaper. This is a handsome Christmas tree, but with those tall ceilings I might have gone for a much taller tree!
Here is a better view of that amazing pianoforte and the lovely garland on the marble mantle.
A longer view of the Waterloo Gallery.
Here are two views of the entrance hall decorated for Christmas. I suspect His Grace likely spent far more Christmases at Walmer Castle than he did here. However, as he was inordinately fond of children wherever the Duke of Wellington kept Christmas, he kept it very well!
Keep an eye on this space for a Christmas visit to another stately home soon!
It is that time of year once more! We at Number One London are inordinately fond of Christmas. We kick off the month of December with a Christmas favorite!
I write Regency historical romance because I fell in love with the era at the age of nine, and my love has only grown stronger since. I love the manners, the rules of proper conduct, the elegant clothes (especially men in breeches and boots,) travel in carriages and on horseback, the stately homes, and every aspect of life in this unique period.
Be that as it may, I have come to realize there are some aspects of Regency life, even in the most elite portions of society, that would not be amiss in the red plastic cup, mud-bogging, tobacco spitting locale in which I live today. Directions to my house do include the words “Turn off the paved road.”
Lest you think I use the term “redneck” as a pejorative, I spent a large portion of my childhood living in mobile homes in the South. My mother’s family were Native American sharecroppers. My father’s family were Pennsylvania coal miners. I know who and what I am. Jeff Foxworthy, the leading expert on the redneck lifestyle, defines it as “a glorious lack of sophistication.” For the purposes of this essay, and in my semi-expert opinion, that is the definition we will use.
There are examples of redneck behavior to be found in every race, religion, socio-economic group, and country in the world. I now realize the same is true of every historical era. Rednecks have been with us forever. Even during that most gracious and elegant of times—The Regency.
Prove it, you say? I give you a series of Regency Christmas traditions any self-respecting redneck would be happy to call his or her own.
Under the heading of a Regency version of “Hey y’all, watch this!” comes the Christmas game of Snapdragon. Raisins and nuts were soaked in brandy in a large shallow bowl. The lights were put out, and the brandy lit. People had to try and grasp a raisin or nut and eat it without burning themselves. The winner was the person who managed to capture and eat the most. I think you’d have to soak me in brandy to get me to try it!
Another Regency era Christmas game with a redneck flair is bullet pudding. One must have a large pewter dish piled high with flour pushed to a peak at the top. A single bullet is placed at the crest of the “pudding.” Players take turns cutting a slice of the “pudding” with a knife. The person who is slicing the “pudding” when the bullet falls must then put their hands behind their back and poke about in the pile of flour with their nose and chin to find the bullet. Once they find it, they must retrieve it with their mouth. All the while trying desperately not to join their companions in laughter as this will result in flour being inhaled into the mouth and nose. Regardless, the bullet retriever ends up with flour all over his face. Any game played with live ammunition and the promise of someone ending up covered in a mess would be as welcome at a Redneck Christmas as it was at Regency Christmases.
There were no Christmas carolers in Regency England. However, wassail groups would go from house to house singing begging songs in the hope of receiving food, drink, and money. Wassail was a mixture of beer, wine, and brandy and was usually served to the singers at each house. Every house. A great many houses before the night was done. I think I’ve seen groups like this around my neighborhood at Christmas-time.
Very few houses had our idea of Christmas trees during the Regency. Such decorated Christmas trees were made popular in England by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the middle of the 19th century. However, trees were not left out of the Regency holidays. On Epiphany Eve, men would gather round a fruit tree, usually in an orchard, with cider and guns. In an ancient ceremony, they would drink to the tree and fire the guns to drive away evil spirits and promote the vigor of the trees. Horn-blowing was an alternative to firing guns. (Sounds like a Regency tail-gating party to me!)
The Yule Log
Speaking of trees, what could be more fun than a large group of men sent out into the woods to find the largest log possible to burn in the Christmas fireplace? The yule log had to be large enough to burn through the entire twelve days of Christmas. In fact, it had to be large enough to burn through to Twelfth Night and leave enough to be used to light next year’s log. Between the mine is bigger than your’s aspects of the hunt for the yule log and the opportunity to show off one’s strength in helping to drag the log home, this Regency Christmas tradition is rife with redneck possibilities.
Mistletoe and Kisses
Round out your Regency Christmas outdoor adventures with shooting mistletoe out of the trees (a method used by many Regency bucks) and hanging it about the house in every doorway and dark corner, a Regency version of spin-the-bottle if ever I’ve heard one.
A FLAMING DESSERT
Oh, and don’t forget a Christmas dessert for which many families put the ingredients on layaway. K-Mart did not invent the concept. The original Christmas clubs were for families who could not afford to pay for the ingredients for their Christmas pudding all at once. Wives in less affluent households deposited their pennies with their local shopkeepers in order to have the money to purchase those luxury food items necessary for a proper Christmas pudding. And after all of that, said dessert was brought to the table amidst great pomp and ceremony and… set on fire. Anyone who doesn’t believe your average redneck would shout “Hell, yeah!” at the idea of a flaming Christmas dessert has never been to a Christmas barbecue in the South.
At the end of Christmas Day, men and women of every age, no matter how strict the rules of society, tend to celebrate this joyous holiday with a bit more exuberance than decorum prescribes. Even Regency ladies and gentlemen, at least during Christmastide, might show “a glorious lack of sophistication.” So should we all!