Children experience the thrill of a Victorian Christmas at Gawthorpe Hall

One of Lancashire's loveliest houses opens its doors to children for a Victorian Christmas<br/>Photography by Kirsty Thompson

The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Lancashire Life 

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Next time you send a Christmas card, dress the tree or contemplate the challenge of eating yet another dish of turkey left-overs, give thanks to the Victorians.

Before their time the biggest date in our modern religious calendar barely registered as an excuse for celebration and revelry was the preserve of the elite in British society.

No puddings, no presents and no day off from back-breaking work. Rachel Roberts, historian and museum manager at Gawthorpe Hall at Padiham, argues that the Victorian era saw the ‘democratisation’ of Christmas.

‘People had more disposable income because they had moved from the land to working in factories,’ she says. ‘Holidays started to come in and working people began to ape the festivities of the rich.

‘The Christmas we know today is rooted in the period – the Victorian era revolutionised Christmas and Prince Albert was key to the popularity of trees, cards, crackers and turkeys.’

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Drawings showing Victoria and Albert celebrating Christmas appeared in the London newspapers and that set for fashion for the rest of the population to follow. Charles Dickens, the greatest author of the Victorian age, fanned the flame on the yule log with his Christmas stories.

Just how much they invented Christmas forms the basis for a wonderful weekend of events at Gawthorpe, the Elizabeth house which formed the family home of the Shuttleworth family.

The hall, run by the National Trust for Lancashire County Council, will be staging Victorian Christmas celebrations at the hall in December, with the aim of letting children know how our forefathers used to celebrate.

‘One of the main draws is that the house is trimmed for Christmas and the dining room is all set for a big Christmas dinner,’ adds Rachel. There are craft stalls, carols on the Saturday and Regency dancing on the Sunday.

‘We have a great mixture of events – children can go down into the kitchens and find out about the secrets of plum pudding and there will be Father Christmas who will be talking to the children about Victorian toys.’

It’s a magical way for youngsters to appreciate that Christmas isn’t all about 21st century technology, as you can see from our pictures of happy youngsters from Laneshaw Bridge and Pendle Primary Schools during last year’s events.

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