A few years ago, the BBC and the National Trust collaborated on a project to do up Avebury Manor, in Wiltshire, in an innovative way. I avoid the word ‘restore’, as each room was done up, using modern copies and decoration, as a kind of stage set, to illustrate how the room might have looked at a certain period of the Manor’s history. Right now, staff and volunteers have further embellished each room to show how it might have looked at Christmas. I visited last week with a friend. Here are some photos I took, reflecting not historical order, but our tour, which started with how a Tudor dining room might have looked at Christmas in the mid 16th century. Next was a dining room as it might have been in 1798, when the then owner, Sir Adam Williamson, former Governor of Jamaica had a fatal fall in that very room, possibly as the result of a stroke. We visited the post World War I billiard room, but I was unable to get a decent picture, other than this one, for too much brilliant sunlight and the presence of too many visitors.
The 1912 kitchen occasionally reminded us of items we had known in our own 20th-century childhoods.
We were pleased to be offered in the room next door, which had been the servants’ hall, minced pies and mulled apple juice.
It was the millionaire archeologist Sir Alexander Keiller, of the marmalade family, who bought Avebury Manor in the 20th century, in order to work on excavating and re-erecting the standing stones. (His widow gifted the estate to the National Trust in 1966.) Here is his parlour as it may have looked in the 1930s.
Next we saw a late Tudor bedroom, sadly with a sumptuous bedcover removed and a rather boring ‘Christmassy’ one in its place. Still, it was good to see the handmade felt decorations on the Christmas tree, though on reflection wasn’t it the Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert who introduced that traditional Christmas symbol to the country? Queen Anne may or may not have dined at Avebury Manor, and may or may not have slept there in 1702. But Richard Holford, the owner at the time, may well have prepared for the eventuality, and here is a stage set version (as the guide insisted) of how it might have been done.No explanation was given of these festive delights: Most of the garden was closed, but we were able to see a little of it and look back at the house,
before walking alongside the wall past the church to the outbuildings, including the cafeteria where we lunched, after visiting the archeological museum. Then, as it was a chilly day, whether or not the sun was out, we limited our visit to the Avebury Stone Circle to a few minutes, before making our way home.