It's panto time!!!

Lord Howard De Walden and his family putting on a pantomimen in the 1920s
Published : 26 Nov 2018

For over four hundred years, the British public has delighted in cheering heroes, booing villains and rejoicing as Good inevitably triumphs over Evil… be it in the company of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk or the perennial favourite, Aladdin, an afternoon or evening spent at the panto’ has always been a high point of the holiday.

Today, the professional pantomime is the focus for the Winter/Spring booking season of popular television and music stars, but for those unable to go and see their modern-day heroes perform in person, the local pantomime has become an established way of bringing together the community (albeit sometimes reluctantly) to ‘put on a show’ – and have fun!

All that’s needed is a strong-minded personality (with a passion for community tradition) who will write, direct (and probably appear in) a ‘modern masterpiece’ which will feature topical references, popular songs… and lots of audience participation. No matter how dreadful the plot line, or how awful the dialogue, you can almost guarantee a cheerfully spirited response from the community-based audience, who may shout themselves hoarse in the process!

Between 1923 and 1931, the tradition-driven tenant of Chirk Castle, the multi-talented and exceptionally good-natured Lord Howard de Walden, presented himself in the role of script writer and actor for five plays, which were presented by the growing de Walden family to entertain their guests over the Christmas period.

" It was, I think, a very happy company. Their hack writer provided them with what they seemed to want. A very capable house carpenter built them a sort of expanding theatre to fit their growth; and equally-capable electrician responded to their increasing demands for light; all sorts and conditions of people were dragged in to design and execute scenery and costumes…"
- Thomas Ellis

This family tradition ended with the, ‘’awful time of adolescence,” as Lord Howard de Walden described the inevitable growth into adulthood of their six children.

At Chirk Castle we have taken the wonderful source material of ’Tommy’ Howard de Walden’s pantomimes as the theme for this year’s celebrations. Each room’s Christmas tree is beautifully decorated following the theme of his works – you can see Jack climb the Beanstalk to fight the Giant, or even come up close to the Reluctant Dragon as he hides, nervously.

Enjoy pantomime themed decorations through the castle.
A boy enjoys the Reluctant Dragon decorations on one of the themed trees
Enjoy pantomime themed decorations through the castle.

Led by the exceptional Josie Rayworth and her unflagging team of creative and dedicated volunteers, who have selflessly given hundreds of hours to the cause, join us at Chirk Castle for a traditional family Christmas… with a twist.

From all the staff and volunteers at Chirk castle – A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!!

Escape to a Christmas of make-believe at Chirk Castle
A child and mother enjoy looking at the theatrical themed trees at Chirk Castle
Escape to a Christmas of make-believe at Chirk Castle

Christmas opening is 8 to 23 December, 10am to 4pm. The State Rooms also open an hour earlier, so entrance to view the decorations is from 11am to 4pm (last entry 3:30pm). The shop and cafe are both open as normal, with some great gifts to buy and a special Christmas menu.

This year at Chirk Castle see the beautiful decorations inside the State Rooms themed on the De Walden family pantomimes. Explore our fairy-tale trail on the estate and gardens, and see how many traditional fairy-tales you can name. Watch the family cinefilm, or dress-up and recreate a scene from the De Walden family album in the Chapel.

Try some festive favourites in the cafe, or pick up a special present for someone from our Gift Shop. On weekends we also have special storytelling, with our favourite local storyteller Andy Harrop-Smith, and on Sunday afternoon’s festive music from the Chirk Hand-bell Ringers.

Admission is free to National Trust members, or please see admission prices on our website.

Father Christmas will also be in his traditional grotto each weekend. Tickets for the Grotto are now SOLD OUT.