Transforming Ickworth into a 1930s Christmas

Christmas decorations Ickworth

Each December Ickworth's Servants' Quarters are transformed for our Christmas Sparkle event. Paper chains are hung, Christmas trees are decorated and lights fill the rooms ready for Father Christmas to visit. House Steward, Sophie Court explains what is involved in creating a 1930s Christmas.

How long does it take to decorate the house?

It usually takes a week to get the house decorated for the festive season.  Our big Christmas activity in December is our ‘Family Christmas Sparkle’ which is a lovely opportunity for families to soak up the special festive atmosphere in the house. They get to hear a story, sing songs, decorate biscuits and of course meet Father Christmas! To achieve this we decorate the Entrance Hall which is where the families begin their experience with a grand tree as well as all of the rooms in the Servants’ Quarters.

It is a big team effort to decorate Ickworth, as the Rangers and Facilities Team help us to install the larger trees whilst the Gardeners provide us with armfuls of foliage cut fresh from the estate.  Our Conservation Assistants are joined by volunteers who spend the week decorating the rooms.  This year we are also joined by pupils from Ickworth Park Primary School who decorated one of the basement trees.

Getting Ickworth ready for the festive season
Christmas trees Ickworth
Getting Ickworth ready for the festive season

What style of decorating do you use?

The Servants' Quarters is often used for Living History events at this time of year so it is important that it has a feel of the 1930s.  To achieve this we have handmade gingerbread men, raffia garlands and oranges tied up with ribbons and cinnamon sticks.  This year we are replacing the beautiful (but not historically accurate) strings of popcorn and cranberry with strings of nuts – the team have been hard at work learning which nuts can be drilled through!
We don’t hold back though from layering on the sparkle though and have reams of fairy lights and battery powered tea lights hidden amongst piles of foliage cut from the gardens to create a beautiful, magical ambience.  There are garlands made by volunteers which run down the stretch of corridors and piles of wrapped up presents.

The Entrance Hall has a very different feel as this space has a very different atmosphere.  Here the decorative scheme is grander and more polished.  The large tree is adorned with baubles and lights whilst Christmas music floats around the hall.  Above our statue of Athamas we have a stunning garland of sewn fruits and flowers which echoes the stonework garland above.  Also made by volunteers is the wreath which hangs opposite the tree.

What details should we look out for?

Make sure you don’t miss the transformation of the Visiting Male Servants’ Bedroom; this has now become a bedroom for Santa to use during his stay at Ickworth and includes his spare suit hanging up.  Also, look out for the Dry Goods Store with its seasonal display of food, now accessorised with a washing line of elf socks!

Do you have a favourite decoration?  

I am very fond of the gingerbread men as I made these with a couple of volunteers and a colleague a few years ago.  We had a fun afternoon cutting and baking and then I took them home to give them several glazes of varnish.  Three years later and they are still being hung on the tree!

Making gingerbread decorations for the Christmas trees at Ickworth
decorating christmas ickworth
Making gingerbread decorations for the Christmas trees at Ickworth

How long are the decorations up for?  When can we see them?

The decorations are up till just after Christmas. This is a long period of time for us so our challenge is to keep them looking fresh for the duration. You can see them all if you have tickets to Sparkle or you can see the decorations in the Servants’ Quarters if you join one of our tours on select weekdays in December.  There are also days when the Servants’ Quarters Is fully open for exploring at the end of December, check the website for details.