A traditional Messel family Christmas

Phoebe Messel, one of Ludwig Messel’s grandchildren dressed for winter © NT/Nymans archive

Phoebe Messel, one of Ludwig Messel’s grandchildren dressed for winter

Latest update 27.11.2013 17:26

On 29th December 1903 Leonora Messel, newly married to Harold,  wrote to her mother in New York: 'We had a charming Christmas at Nymans, about twenty in the party and all in good spirits with charades and theatricals in the evening. On Christmas night they had presents and Mrs Messel gave me such charming things....'

In the following decade, a new generation of grandchildren was born and Christmas celebrations became increasingly elaborate. Anne Rosse had a clear memory of candlelit Christmas trees with presents piled at the foot of the tree.

After tea, the grandchildren lined up two by two led by the eldest boy and girl. She used to be in the second line with her cousin Godfrey Loring. The boys received presents from Ludwig, their grandfather, and the girls received theirs from their grandmother Annie. it must have been a happy and colourful scene.

Later years

in the war years of 1939-1945 there were numerous evacuee children here and Victoria Messel remembers the excitement as each child received a present from Leonard and Maud Messel.

in 1980 David Masters, newly appointed as Head Gardener, was invited to the Garden Hall to admire the decorated Christmas tree arranged by Daphne Dengate (secretary and companion to Maud Messel). He was most impressed by the yellow and blue flashes coming from the lights in the tree.

He congratulated Daphne and asked how she arranged such a show 'Oh' said Daphne, 'I don't think they are meant to dear,  it must be the electrics!'