A house maid's memories at Hinton Ampner - 2016
This article was about our Christmas activities at Hinton Ampner in 2016. We’ll be updating this with 2017 event information later in the year. 3,000 decorations, a 20ft Christmas tree, carol singing mice and a maid’s memories. House Steward Rebecca Plumb reveals how Christmas comes to life at Hinton Ampner.
What’s the theme for Christmas at Hinton Ampner this year?
Christmas is all about traditions. We thought it would be fun to explore the stories behind our favourite ones. The six ground floor show rooms have been transformed into a traditions-fest.
So in the Study, we’ve got over 100 stockings of all shapes and sizes, mostly handmade. They look amazing and reflect different periods and fashions. Some are filled with gifts, and they’re really decorative, with beads, embroidery, pretty fabrics and sparkly bits.
When do you start working on Christmas?
January! Well, that’s if our theme is heavily props-based. We usually come up with our ideas a year in advance. We start the creating process early in the New Year.
What inspired you to tell the story of Christmas traditions?
We’re lucky enough to have the recorded memories of a wonderful lady called Glady Trickle. Gladys was born in the late 1920s and worked as a maid at Hinton Ampner for several decades. The Dutton family had some lovely festive traditions, which we wanted to tell our visitors about.
Every Christmas owner Ralph Dutton invited the village children up to the house. They’d be given a new half crown and afternoon tea. Then they were led into the Drawing Room to enjoy a magic or theatre show.
This year, I’ve made a Punch and Judy set, complete with snapping crocodile. We hope our visitors like it; we all felt it summed up the kind of man Ralph was; very kind and community spirited.
Who helps create Christmas with you?
A wonderful volunteer called Tina Whelan who's very good at sewing. She’s made the tartan rosette decorations for the Entrance Hall tree and the huge bannister swag.
We couldn't do it without our volunteer woodworker Pete Cheyne, who gets all sorts of weird commissions from us. This year he had to make replica 16th-century trenchers for our Tudor dining scene. He’s also made a huge platter for our big Tudor swan – we couldn’t find one big enough!
What other Christmas traditions are you revealing?
Well, we don’t want to give it all away. But in the Library, our Flower Ladies have created huge floral arrangements. They depict three ships ‘sailing in’, and ‘a bleak midwinter’.
Why do you love making Christmas?
I’ve been creating Christmas at Hinton for several years and it’s an absolute joy. This house just lends itself to dressing up. It’s such a homely place and looks its best when it’s full of sparkling lights. You can imagine Ralph just walking in, and our visitors feel like our house guests.
How many decorations do you think you’ve used?
Probably around 700 baubles outside the house alone, on our seven dressed Christmas trees. I’d say we’ve used over 3,000 decorations in total, including our very popular miniature mice. They’re dressed in new festive costumes this year. We love candle lights at Hinton and we’ve got about 500 twinkling away. It’s all completely magical and Christmassy.