Getting ready for Christmas at Mompesson House 2017
We start getting ready for Christmas from around July, when we begin research on our theme for the year. The theme for this year is all the different ways the house has celebrated Christmas in its long history.
The dining room is based around 1710 when Charles Mompesson would have had a grand feast on the wonderfully large table filled with lobsters and poultry and piles of marzipan fruits. To reconstruct this kind of feast, we have to test what can be fake food and what can be real and this is why my desk has different sorts of pies sitting on it at the moment. The pies have been made out of salt dough and we are experimenting to see if they last for a few weeks without going mouldy. So far, so good! We were very pleased with our fake lobsters but the roast chicken may need to be repainted as it looks as if it has had a spray-tan for Strictly.
The small drawing room is having a Victorian Christmas as would the house’s tenant of the time, Barbara Townsend. This has been the room we have been able to make things in advance for. It is October and we have been making handmade crackers and paperchains for the last few weeks. I have enjoyed stringing lengths of popcorn and tried not to eat too many along the way.
3 weeks to go
The house has closed and we have started full time on the festive decoration. The dining room is first on the list and is based on a 1710 Christmas for Charles Mompesson and his family. We have been looking through ceramics that are not usually on display so that the table is now full of large Delft platters and pewter plates. The fake food that has been sitting on my desk now has a home. We have bought a new tablecloth so that the magnolia garland can be sewn onto the edge. This room is looking very beautiful in a very modest and natural way.
Onto the Victorian room and the paperchains, crackers and cornucopias that we have been making since September have been brought out. Thanks to the conservation assistant volunteers for their help in making these over the last few months. We have moved a few items of furniture out of this room and the first of our Christmas trees is going up. The tree would have sat on a table and we have put ours next to the fireplace. The decorations for this have largely been made by us. Swags of popcorn adorn the branches with cornucopias filled with sweets. The gingerbread has not been made yet but dried oranges fill the room with a beautiful scent.
Into the library; this room is based on the 1970s. This year is the 40th anniversary of the Trust taking over Mompesson House, so it seems appropriate to decorate one of our rooms in a 1970s Christmas style in honour of Denis Martineau who bequeathed the house to the Trust. We have had a lot of fun doing this room and it evokes a lot of memories for me. There is another Christmas tree and we have festooned it with very kitsch and plastic decorations, topped off with a lot of sparkle! One of the ladies from our tea-room has made the most amazing Christmas cake covered with plastic Christmas decorations. Add a little Babycham and the room is complete.
2 weeks to go
We are waiting for a delivery of fake lemon slices and I have some bay leaves drying in the volunteers’ room. The strange list of things that need to be finished off is still quite long.
The large drawing room is the last to be decorated. This is our Georgian Christmas room, from when the Portman family lived in the house. This has been the easiest room to decorate as we have a lot of the decorations that we used last year. The little sugar baskets I made and the flummery fish have been taken out of storage and are back on display.
We still have a few finishing touches in all the rooms as volunteers appear armed with tins full of wonderful biscuits and puddings to fill the empty plates.
The house is starting to smell of gingerbread and spiced biscuits.
1 week to go
We wait until the last moment to fill the house with flowers and greenery. Our gardener Colin collects a lot of greenery for this very purpose. This week we are reliant on our wonderful garden volunteers and flower arrangers. The garland on the stairs goes up on Wednesday and the flower arrangements the following day. Conservation assistant volunteers are also on hand to help get the house cleaned and ready for the door to open again. Orange pomanders are being made.
The house looks and smells of Christmas and as usual the winding of the clocks slowly brings everything back to life. Many hands help to bring this wonderful time of year to life in the house and now is the time to sit back and watch the public enjoy the fruits of our labour.
Do come and see the house and immerse yourself in times gone past. It’s still quite early but Happy Christmas to you all.