Lady Ellen’s elegant drawing room awaits you. The elves have been busy preparing the Edwardian family home for the arrival of a very special visitor – Father Christmas himself.
Preston Manor in Brighton is a magical place at any season but garlanded and dressed for the family festivities it takes on a special glow.
Paula Wrightson, who looks after Preston Manor as part of Brighton Museums, has been overseeing Santa’s visits there for the past four years. She says it’s her favourite time of the year.
“I love it, although it’s my busiest time. It seems my entire life is taken up with preparing for it, making sure the tree is dressed in traditional green and gold, that all the mantelpieces sparkle and there’s enough room for every child to meet Father Christmas. They each get a special gift, not to be opened until Christmas Day.”
The house was last owned by one of the most influential families in Brighton. When Ellen and Charles Thomas-Stanford took up residence in 1905, they modernised the house to fit their lifestyle and social aspirations. It’s now a perfect time capsule of Edwardian life, both above stairs and below.
An Edwardian Christmas
Paula says they really knew how to celebrate Christmas. “The Victorians began the tradition of feasting and merriment and the Edwardians took it a whole step further. The decorations were low-key, no flashing lights as we have today, but they went heavy on the eating and drinking!”
The dining room is set for a family high tea with glittering glassware and reproductions of all of the favourite festive dishes. Lobster, oysters, mince pies, sweet treats and a huge three tier Christmas cake. Above stairs a costumed guide takes you to view the elegant bedrooms and explains how the family would have spent their Christmas Day.
There’s even a magical mouse hunt. Hidden away amongst the beautiful displays are twelve tiny, stuffed mice, just waiting for sharp eyes to spot them. You’ll need to look hard as you have no idea where they’ll be hiding.
But the highlight has to be meeting Father Christmas himself as he sits in a chair by the fireplace and tells the children stories of Christmas past.
More about Father Christmas at Preston Manor
Preston Manor is closed to the public over the winter except for these special days in December.
Details of this year’s events can be found on Brighton Museum’s website