Savour the glamour of the pre-war era at Mottisfont in Hampshire, dressed for a 1930s house party, as it was so many times under owner Mrs Maud Russell. Mrs Russell was a high profile patron of the Avant-garde movement who hosted glittering social events at this 12th-century priory. The rooms open to view include the drawing-room famously decorated by Rex Whistler with a Gothic trompe l’oeil scene. There is plenty on offer for children too, with Father Christmas holding court in the Cellarium and lots to make and do at the property’s craft workshops.
Osterley Park in West London provides a stunning presentation of a country house Christmas from two very different periods in its history. Originally a Tudor mansion, it was transformed into a neo-classical villa by famous architect Robert Adam. Witness the opulence of an 18th-century Christmas in some of Osterley’s grandest rooms, whilst below stairs visitors can experience the austere days of WWII, when the house was used as a bank’s headquarters. Children can get to grips with glitter and glue during the art and craft activity days whilst adults reveal artistic talents on a wreath-making workshop. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping at the craft fair, and the whole family can get together for rousing carols in the Stableyard.
Hinton Ampner, one of Hampshire’s most enchanting country houses, is well known for its elegant festive decorations, with ground floor rooms decorated in foliage from the gardens including large bunches of mistletoe. For the first time ever, the walled garden is open on selected dates in November and December, offering visitors an excellent starting and finishing point for ancient walks such as the Wayfarer’s Walk. The new shop is packed with delightful gifts for all pockets and on 14 December the Christmas season really kicks off with a visit from local hand-bell ringers.
Basildon Park in Berkshire offers unrivalled sophistication and style, with the entire house decorated in nostalgic styles from the past, and no fewer than seven beautifully dressed Christmas trees. The floral decorations are the work of House Steward and professional florist Neil Shaw, who is revealing his trade secrets in a series of workshops on wreath and garland making, table decorations and seasonal arrangements.
A Family Christmas at Ham House in Richmond offers fun for youngsters in the form of balloon modelling, face painting, story-telling and torch-lit ghost tours. The children’s Christmas trail includes presents for all participants, but gifts from local partisans and traders can also be purchased at the property’s craft fair. Visitors can experience Ham’s sparkling festive decorations in every room, and there is the opportunity to view the house lit up at night during a series of traditional Christmas dinners in the famous Orangery, and carol concerts in the Great Hall.
The ancient working City Mill of Winchester is a lively location at any time of the year, with its regular milling demonstrations and visitors keen to watch the latest cctv footage of the mill’s local otters. The range of Christmas events on offer makes this cosy property the perfect venue for a bit of family fun, the centre of which is the huge Christmas tree in the mill room. Visitors can each dress the tree with decorations, and children are encouraged to hang a star with their written wish on the ‘Wish Tree’. There is fruity punch and mince pies for everyone, and the chance to test one’s knowledge of Yuletide traditions in the festive quiz. Local bell ringers are back by popular demand and wreath-making tuition from floristry experts is available at a one-day workshop. Christmas cake- and pudding-makers can benefit from a purchase of the mill’s very own flour, used by the famous Lainston House Hotel and Winchester’s local bakers and patisseries.
Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire sells the locally produced Benjamin Disraeli Hughenden Ale, brewed by the Chilterns Brewery. This stunning Victorian estate is hosting a lively programme of December events for all ages. Visitors can see three of the fine rooms decorated to capture the atmosphere of a 19th-century Christmas and enjoy delicious festive lunches on several days throughout the month. Carol-singing, hand-bell ringing and a brass band ensure a really traditional experience and children are kept busy with a garden trail, story-telling and the opportunity to pass on Christmas wish lists to Hughenden’s roaming Santa!
For further information on the events and activities listed, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or call the houses
Mottisfont, Mottisfont, nr Romsey, Hampshire, Tel: 01794 340757
Osterley Park, Isleworth, London, Tel: 020 8232 5050
Hinton Ampner, Bramdean, nr Alresford, Hampshire, Tel: 01962 771305
Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, Reading, Berkshire, Tel: 0118 984 3040
Ham House, Ham, Richmond, Surrey, Tel: 020 8940 1950
Winchester City Mill, Winchester, Hampshire, Tel: 01962 870057
Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Tel: 01494 755573