Behind the scenes Christmas at Bateman's 2017

Volunteers at Bateman's busily making decorations from book pages and natural materials from the estate.

This article related to our 'Rewards and Fairies' Christmases in 2016 and 2017. In 2018 we will be featuring Kipling's 'Just So Stories' in our Christmas theme with opulent colours inspired by Kipling's travels to India. We will follow their progress in a new Q & A feature article as we get closer to Christmas.

Our volunteers and events co-ordinator, Louise Brangwin, will be working hard to create some new decorations crafted around the animals that feature in Kipling's stories and featuring the opulent colours of the Indian sub-continent where Kipling spent much of his early life. 

What was your inspiration for Bateman’s Christmas theme?

Following on from the success of last year's Christmas, we wanted to create even more magic this year, kindled by Kipling's fairy tale stories which were inspired by the local Sussex landscape.  Kipling loved this area and he drew upon it a lot for his writing. The books we’ve chosen to focus on are ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ and ‘Rewards and Fairies’ set in the local area.

The colours in the theme reflect the valley scenery around the estate – the greens and browns of the woodland, the copper of autumn leaves.  We are bringing the natural environment inside.  Our tea room eaves will be a lovely feature with lights and hazel above the beams.  We’ll gather the natural elements from the estate.

Will there be decorations in the house?

There’ll be plenty of fresh and dried floral arrangements around the house.  These will reflect different poems from the two Sussex fairy tale books.  Visitors will be introduced to these poems through elements of the stories.

A lot of the poems are very well known in their own right.  The nation’s favourite poem, ‘If’, originated in ‘Rewards and Fairies’.

Bateman's Christmas
A natural foliage Christmas wreath set against some Rudyard Kipling books at Bateman's in East Sussex
Bateman's Christmas

Tell us about some of the things that have been created for the theme.

Our craft volunteers Pat Weaver, Sue Lane-Smith, Joan Brown and Barbara Agent have keen eyes for detail. They've been busily working away for the past couple of months, crimping paper from beyond repair books for paper stars and pinwheels and creating some beautiful natural Christmas wreaths from pine cones, acorns and their caps and other natural foliage gathered from our estate and their gardens. 

They have been working really hard so that, apart from a few plain copper baubles, everything will be handmade.  Their volunteered time is much appreciated by us and their contribution to this event is significant.

Bateman's Christmas
Some paper decorations made from old book pages for Christmas at Bateman's
Bateman's Christmas

Are there fairy-themed things to see?

We will again have the fairy houses hidden around the house for the children to find.  I used old books to give the impression that Kipling’s characters have moved into their creator’s home.

To complete the impression, there are some tiny versions of some of Kipling’s classic stories.  The fairies love reading.

There's more to look out for as you wander around the house. Keep your eyes peeled for miniature doors that lead our fairy and pixie inhabitants back to their garden homes.  These were created by some of our carpentry volunteers and are based on the different styles of wooden doors found at Bateman’s.

Mini books on a shelf at Christmas at Bateman's in East Sussex
Mini books on a shelf at Christmas at Bateman's in East Sussex
Mini books on a shelf at Christmas at Bateman's in East Sussex

Are you looking forward to seeing the house decorated?

Yes, it will be good to see the house decorated again. Last year we created a very natural and warm atmosphere throughout which showed off our collection beautifully.

The house team will be working hard during November as they start their winter conservation work to make some of our main rooms ready for the festive season. We're even planning on having the fire lit again.

We are very lucky to have such a wealth of material right on our doorstep that we can use to create a magical Christmas atmosphere that compliments some of Kipling's famous children's books.

" We feel that these decorations and house trails bring a magic into the house and nostalgic winter warmth. We look forward to our visitors enjoying it with us over the cold winter months."
- Louise Brangwin, Visitor Experience Officer

Christmas at Bateman's runs from 3 to 31 December (closed 24 & 25 December), 11am to 3pm.  Normal admission charges apply.