The history behind Christmas at Kingston Lacy

Christmas postcard from Kingston Lacy

Christmas is a magical time of year. When you come to discover Christmas past, it helps us protect Kingston Lacy for Christmas future.

Christmas is a time for children, family and friends. This year at Kingston Lacy the childhood memories of Daphne, Viola and Ralph have been brought to life.

Ralph, Daphne and Viola Bankes
The Bankes children at Kingston Lacy

At this busy time of year, we all make lists to prepare for the festivities. Over 100 years ago, the children’s mother, Henrietta Bankes, did just the same. Her lists and letters along with the children’s homemade story book, Gleanings from Schoolroomland, Christmas card albums and Viola’s memoir, ‘A Kingston Lacy Childhood’ have shaped the Christmas you see today.

Daphne Bankes was born in June 1898, she was the eldest of the Bankes children. Daphne and her younger sister Viola were very close. They were always up to mischief, once spending the afternoon hiding in the stable loft whilst important visitors were being given a tour. The voices of children mysteriously appearing to come from the horses did not amuse their mother. Viola was two years younger than her sister, born in February 1900. Viola had a great imagination and often pretended she was riding her rocking horse through the wild west. Ralph, the youngest, was born in July 1902. As the only boy, Ralph would go on to inherit Kingston Lacy. He loved cricket and music. One of his favourite past times in the house though was sliding down the marble staircases and starting epic umbrella battles with his sisters.

As with any family, Christmas was a special time for the Bankes family.

" Gardeners would arrive with armfuls of holly and mistletoe"
- Viola Bankes

Today you will see the gardeners, conservation assistants and volunteers have worked hard to recreate the greenery of Bankes’ Christmas past. It’s important that we keep the decorations natural as they traditionally would have been. Every time you visit the gardens, it helps us grow holy, mistletoe and ivy throughout the year for Christmas time.

Recently when rummaging through the storage rooms, our House Steward discovered an album of Christmas cards and postcards sent to the Children. In her memoirs, Viola remembers this as one of her favourite parts at Christmas, receiving and replying to good wishes.

" the appearance of old Mrs Lush with her boxes of Christmas cards… we children rummaged through, pick out all those with fat, red-breasted robins on them, or pink faced little girls in the snow"
- Viola Bankes
How many people does it take to decorate your Christmas tree?
Christmas tree at Kingston Lacy in Dorset