Visitors to the Weald and Downland Museum were treated to sounds, smells and tastes of Christmas in bygone times.
Although heavy rain on Boxing Day reduced visitor numbers to about 400, Friday was much busier at the Singleton site, with families enjoying a chance to get out in the fresh air and enjoy finding out how their ancestors celebrated the festive season.
From Tudor to Victorian times, a historic festive treat awaited visitors on Thursday and Friday last week, when the museum’s traditionally decorated houses reflected the spirit of Christmas through the ages.
Cosy open fires in many of the restored historic houses drew in people to see traditional green decorations and look at displays of period-style food and drink, including the chance to try samples of plum pottage, warm cider and apple juice.
Sarah Miller, from Nutbourne, visited on Friday with her husband Colin and their eight-year-old daughter Isabelle.
She said: “We were going to come yesterday but the weather was just awful. We decided to come today instead as it’s dry!
“Isabelle has really enjoyed looking at the decorations and the different styles of food and drink.
“We enjoyed the entertainment outside too. It’s just somewhere different to go and something different to see.”
Volunteers were on hand in each building to explain how Christmas was marked in eras such as those of the Tudors, Stuarts, Georgians and Victorians.
As a centrepiece in the Market Square, good triumphed over evil as a Mummers’ play was performed to show rural winter entertainment of the old days.
Graham Williams and his wife Molly took their grandson Teddy and granddaughter Cassie to the museum.
“It’s a great educational place to come with the grandchildren,” he said.
“It gets the kids outside in the fresh air and enjoying the entertainment on offer.
“We come up here regularly to different events when we can.”
Museum director Simon Wardell said: “We enjoyed welcoming many visitors as part of their celebrations at this time of the year to find out more about how those living in the homes here may have experienced Christmas, how this has changed over time, as well as enjoying the atmosphere of the Museum.”
The first of this year’s series of Historic Life Weekends will be held on Saturday, January 18.
Listening to tales around the fire was a common pastime for our ancestors, especially in winter months. Stories not only brought families and communities together. They were – and continue to be – an important source of enjoyment, education and inspiration.
Stories will range from mythology and Shakespeare to Viking legends and accounts of smuggling and poaching in years gone by.
There are stories to delight every age, and all will be told within the historic buildings of the museum.
The day will also feature traditional wassailing with a procession of music and songs that will move from the Market Square to the Orchard.
Traditionally, wassailing was a ceremony to promote a good harvest for the coming year.
Emma Keen, marketing manager at the museum, said: “This Historic Life Weekend is the first of a series across the year, and we’re delighted to have such a rich programme of stories and activities to capture and inspire our visitors in a day filled with history.”
Among the award-winning museum’s collection of homes, shops and public buildings where the stories can be enjoyed are the traditional bakehouse, dairy and watermill where visitors can discover live demonstrations.
This event is one of many at the museum in the coming year and highlights the broad range of activities and experiences designed to provide an immersive and interactive view of history.
To find out more, visit: wealddown.co.uk/