The past couple of weekends here at Quarry Bank we have been celebrating Christmas Victorian style. Both weekends were absolutely fantastic and got everyone into the festive spirit, with well over 2,000 visitors!
The Mill Yard was full of costumed characters serving our special mulled wine and roasted chestnuts on an open fire (well it was a brazier but just work with me here!). We were also joined each Saturday by Bryan Carrington with his Victorian barrel organ and the Gallery Choir on the first Sunday and the Halle Buskers on the second Sunday, both of whom enhanced the whole experience, singing all the favourite carols, with many visitors joining in for renditions of classics such as ‘O’ Little Town of Bethlehem’ adding to the lovely Christmassy feeling.
Meanwhile, inside the Mill, visitors had the opportunity to dress up as Victorians and pose for a photograph in ‘Grandmother’s Parlour’. This was certainly one of the most popular activities taking place in the Mill, with several visitors commenting that it was ‘brilliant’ and ‘great fun’. Children also had the opportunity to decorate a paper stocking and make their very own Christmas cracker ready for the 25th or design their own Christmas bunting to add the finishing touches to their decorations at home.
Over at the Apprentice House Dr Holland was on hand to tell visitors exactly how to cure a cold just in time for Christmas with traditional Victorian remedies, and the children were able to meet our incredibly wriggly leeches! There was also traditional Victorian storytelling in the parlour. The Victorians used to regale their children with rather scary tales in the hope they would be encouraged to behave better in the run up to Christmas, and whilst our storytellers made their versions slightly lighter, we hope that they may have helped to ensure that the children who heard them will be little angels in the last couple of weeks before Christmas!
I was on hand both Sundays to help out Father Christmas in his grotto (otherwise known as the Mill Manager’s office) and finally got to dress up myself, (my excitement at this prospect highly amused several members of staff). All the children I met were absolutely adorable and incredibly patient during their wait to meet Father Christmas. All of them would have had me believe they had been very good this year, and only occasionally were they jokingly challenged on this point by their parents. Luckily I had abridged versions of the Naughty and Nice lists on hand to check, but told them to make sure that Father Christmas knew exactly which list they needed to be on! Father Christmas was inundated with requests for all kinds of presents including the more bizarre – one child asked for ‘weird slime’, another for ‘lots of cheese’ – seriously strong in particular, whilst one little boy asked for ‘everything’! Father Christmas thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the children and was sincerely grateful for all the little gifts and presents he received from some of the kids.
Everyone here had a wonderful time and we are so glad that those we spoke to really enjoyed the event and hopefully we’ll see some of you next year! And of course I can’t end without saying a big thank you to all the volunteers and to the staff who decorated Quarry Bank and made sure Victorian Christmas was such a success.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Quarry Bank!