Hinton Ampner to be transformed this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 10:34 07 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:28 09 December 2015
Elegant country manor, Hinton Ampner will be transformed in to a Victorian spectacle this Christmas. Natalie French visited to discover the magic happening behind the scenes
“This year we are focusing on a Victorian Christmas wedding,” says Visit Experience & Events Officer, Louise Washington, “a slightly unusual idea, but one that was very popular in Victorian times.
“The tradition started when churches allowed the poor to marry, free of charge, on Christmas Day,” says Louise, “and records show that two members of staff from Hinton Ampner did exactly that. Before the idea caught on and the richer folk began copying it.
“Our wedding is focused on the last owner of Hinton Ampner, Ralph Dutton’s grandparents,” explains Louise. And to add to the authenticity, the team have managed to secure the loan of the actual wedding dress worn by Blanche Dutton in 1888. “Blanche was the mother of Ralph Dutton, 8th Lord Sherborne, and the last owner of Hinton Ampner. The exquisite wedding dress is kindly on loan from Hampshire Cultural Trust.
“There will be various scenes, from street scenes with wedding shops to a lavish wedding breakfast laid out in the dining room,” says Louise. A traditional ‘Gift Table’, will be on view in the South Drawing room, whilst the wedding breakfast will include three wedding cakes: “Traditionally the wedding cake was a dark, rich fruitcake with ornate white frostings of scrolls, orange blossoms, etc… The bride and groom’s cakes were not as elaborate. Hers was a white cake, his dark. It was cut into as many pieces as there were attendants and often favours were baked inside for luck. Each charm had its own meaning, explains Louise. “The ring for marriage within a year; The penny for wealth, my dear; The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born; The button for sweethearts all forlorn”
It is worth noting that all of the decorations are handmade by the staff and volunteers at Hinton Ampner. As too are the lavish floral displays, dotted throughout the house, which Louise advises the talented volunteers spend many months planning and designing.
Assistant House Steward, Becca Plumb says: “We have been working tirelessly all year making all the decorations, and can’t wait to open the doors and see the delight on people faces as they stroll through the house.”
Outside, you can also enjoy the pretty Christmas courtyard, full of twinkling lights and Christmas trees, along with stalls selling freshly roasted chestnuts, mince pies and mulled wine – to help add to the occasion. “It will be a magical experience,” says Louise.
Father Christmas Visit
Father Christmas will be taking time out of his busy schedule and heading to Hinton Ampner on December 21 and 22, along with his two favourite real life reindeer. Children can visit Father Christmas in his Grotto and they will each receive a gift. There’s lots of Christmas fun for the family, including a festive reindeer trail for the family and free face painting.
11am – 4pm, £7.50 per child
Christmas Wreath Craft
Get creative this Christmas and make your own Christmas wreath using foliage cut from the Hinton Estate. Expert guidance will be available from Hinton Ampner’s own floral arrangement volunteers and staff. What’s more you can take the wreath home at the end of the workshop and be the envy of all your neighbours when it takes pride of place on your front door.
10.30am – 1.30pm, Thursday December 3, £30
Boxing Day Walk
Grab the dog and walk off the excess roasties on a brisk Boxing Day walk around the estate. The Head Gardener will guide you on a 4-mile walk to enjoy the panoramic views of the South Downs and the stunning winter woodland surrounding the estate. All efforts will be rewarded with a glass of mulled wine and minced pies as you warm up inside.
11am – 1.30pm, Saturday December 26, £10
Marvel at the treasures hidden in the attic for over 30 years, only discovered following the storm damage and subsequent roof restoration.
Daily from 11am – 4pm, from December 27 2015 – February 7 2016
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