Great Expectations as Chatsworth Gives Christmas a Dickens Twist
The Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future will all visit Chatsworth this year as the festive season is given a Victorian gothic twist with ‘Oh Dickens! It’s Christmas’, a celebration of Charles Dickens’ best loved works.
Actors playing Scrooge, Fagin, Miss Havisham and others from Dickens’ rich cast of characters will bring the theme to life, along with room guides in period costume, as they roam around in the fog and gaslight of Chatsworth’s grand rooms. Visitors of all ages can join in the fun by choosing from dozens of character costumes ready to try on and made by Chatsworth’s textile team.
Rooms throughout the house feature period sets that evoke both the splendour and squalor of Dickensian London – as well as the London docks and Victorian shop fronts, specific scenes from the books, such as Scrooge’s bed, have been recreated in detail. Thousands of traditional and lavish seasonal decorations and hundreds of metres of ribbon will dress the celebrated Painted Hall, Oak Room, Chapel, State Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery, which will also contain 25 real trees, two of which stand more than seven metres tall.
This enchanting interpretation of books such as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop and A Tale of Two Cities will feature large-scale illustrations, wall murals, sound and light effects, projections and props. Artists such as the paper sculptor Su Blackwell are working with Chatsworth to help recreate the Christmas spirit that Dickens sought to highlight in the gathering together of families and the enjoyment of food, drink, dancing and games.
Displays will also include related items from Chatsworth’s own collections, such as letters from Dickens himself to the 6th Duke of Devonshire; first editions of books including Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities; and letters from Duchess Georgiana to her mother from Paris during the uprising referenced in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.
Christmas at Chatsworth spreads beyond the house to include events in the garden and farmyard such as the hugely popular Christmas market (17 Nov – 5 Dec); wreath making classes; an evening pea and pie supper and a nativity play in the farmyard starring the farm animals.
More than fifty costumes have been made by Chatsworth’s textiles team while in-house joiners are helping build the elaborate sets, dressed with individual props and decorations made by staff from across estate.
Planning for the two-month Christmas season at Chatsworth starts the previous year and involves nearly everybody, including the Duke and Duchess, in generating ideas, developing themes, creating costumes and sets and getting everything in place for the opening day.
Chatsworth’s Christmas season will run from 11 November 2017 to 7 January 2018. The house and garden will be open every day from 11am-5.30pm (10am opening at weekends) except 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January. The farmyard and playground will also be open from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Chatsworth will be using timed entry ticketing during the Christmas season to improve the visitor experience and prevent overcrowding at peak times.