How to decorate a Victorian Christmas Tree

We went along to meet the team at Rockingham Castle to find out their top tips for creating a traditional Victorian Christmas Tree.

Many of today’s Christmas traditions originated from or were influenced by the Victorians. From carols (including O Come all ye Failthful and Away in a Manger) to Christmas crackers. The Christmas Tree was already popular in Germany at this time, but was introduced to Britain by Queen Victoria’s German consort, Prince Albert.

Rockingham Castle, near our Oakham Headquarters, knows all about this, and celebrates Christmas in a very Victorian way each year, opening their doors to the public for just a few days in the run up to Christmas. The housekeeper, Kay and cleaner Jacquie are in charge and have plenty of experience, each with over 20 years at Rockingham. Here are their five top tips:

  1. Finding the perfect tree. Our tree comes to us on a Friday from a local farm shop and is placed in the house with water and lemonade to extend the life of it. It is then given the weekend to drop before we inspect it to make sure it is the right height and width. This year we have trimmed the bottom to fit the presents underneath.
  2. Candlelight.  Traditionally, candles lit the trees, however due to health and safety, we imitate candlelight with electrical lights. These should always go on the tree before you decorate with ornaments.
  3. Start at the top. Trees are often very tall, ours is over 6ft and therefore it is important to place your angel on the top of the tree before you start adding decorations. Then work your way down.
  4. Handmade decorations. For a truly Victorian Christmas, handmade ornaments are essential. The children, ladies and staff of the house would make all the decorations themselves. They would often be made of paper, however it was also traditional for small handmade gifts such as oranges, sweets and nuts to be placed on the tree. For a festive scent you could also try cinnamon sticks.
  5. Glass baubles. The tradition of the glass bauble was brought to Britain from Lauscha in Germany by Prince Albert, along with the tree.  Many of our ornaments are glass however we do also dress our tree with a few modern ornaments too. This year we’ve got some lovely Lands’ End additions.

If you like the sound of this, why not visit Rockingham Castle for yourself? They are open to the public this week and you’ll be taken back to 1849 on your tour of the castle, led by the butler or housekeeper, dressed in period costume.

VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS AT ROCKINGHAM CASTLE
Open this week until Friday 24th November 2017, 11am to 8pm daily. Tours run every 15 minutes throughout the day with the last tour at 7.30pm. Visit www.rockinghamcastle.com for more details.