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A Dickensian Christmas at Tissington Hall - a look at what’s in store for visitors

11:18 16 November 2015

Richard and Fiona with dogs Daisy and Guy

Richard and Fiona with dogs Daisy and Guy

as submitted

Tissington Hall is celebrating the festive season for the first time

Tissington Hall was built in 1609, and has been the family home for over 500 years. Today it is a prestigious Derbyshire wedding venueTissington Hall was built in 1609, and has been the family home for over 500 years. Today it is a prestigious Derbyshire wedding venue

Only a handful of historic houses in the country today have remained in the ownership of the same family since first created and Tissington Hall is one of these special places.

Home to the FitzHerberts from when the house was built in 1609, Tissington Hall’s stately rooms, corridors, hallways and working quarters have experienced over four centuries of FitzHerbert family members, friends, and staff living there. Its modern-day motto: ‘Entertaining Since 1609’, has given this Jacobean house standing as the go-to marriage venue of the region. For over a decade wedding ceremonies have taken place in the hall and grounds throughout the year. In addition, a season of animated hall tours – often led by the owner of Tissington Hall and Derbyshire Life columnist Sir Richard FitzHerbert – keeps this historic house alive.

‘It’s an enormous privilege to live and look after Tissington Hall but it is also a huge responsibility,’ says Sir Richard, who lives at Tissington with his wife Fiona, Lady FitzHerbert and their family and many pets.

Sir Richard fully embraces the importance of diversifying the business opportunities surrounding historic houses to ensure their survival. Tissington Hall is one of over 1,600 independently owned houses, castles and gardens which form the HHA – Historic Houses Association – many of whose members share similar challenges to keep their historic homes from falling into decay. Sir Richard and Fiona are long-standing members of the Association. ‘HHA houses are entirely privately held and owners like us make a substantial contribution to the preservation of the country’s heritage and rural economies through tourism and other commercial activities, such as the weddings that we host here at Tissington. Without these activities Tissington would simply not survive as a family home. It’s as simple as that,’ explains Sir Richard.

Depicting a scene from 'Great Expectations', the table is laid for Miss Havisham's wedding feastDepicting a scene from 'Great Expectations', the table is laid for Miss Havisham's wedding feast

Sir Richard and Fiona are constantly looking for new ways to attract support and revenue for Tissington Hall, and this year in the run-up to Christmas the house will play host to a theatrical treat for visitors.

‘What The Dickens!’ – a three week long spectacular – is the first festive opening of Tissington Hall of its kind, and promises to showcase the house as visitors will never have seen before.

‘Forget tinsel and Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, Tissington will be presenting a much darker side to Christmas by paying homage to the ingenious works of Charles Dickens,’ explains Sir Richard. ‘Dickens is who we all turn to for traditional and compelling stories at Christmas time and his famous novels will be recreated with great theatre and thought throughout the house. We couldn’t resist the idea of hosting a Dickensian Christmas here at the Hall.’

The creator of ‘What The Dickens!’ is David Walker, owner of the Tissington village business ‘Edward & Vintage’ and a self-confessed Romantic.

The magnificent Dining Room immediately transforms visitors to a bygone eraThe magnificent Dining Room immediately transforms visitors to a bygone era

‘I have always felt that Tissington Hall’s location is perfect for the very best of Gothic Drama. Set so proudly on the north side of the village, over-looking the Norman Church, the Hall has always conjured up images from Dickens classics, especially Satis House – the home of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations – with its splendid Bakewell Gates, separating the outside world from its treasure within,’ David muses. ‘Tissington Hall holds so many wonderful quirks of history it lends itself perfectly to the themes from some of Dickens’ best novels.’

For the past six months, David has been working on the mood boards for the transformation of many of the rooms at Tissington Hall into Dickensian–inspired Christmas scenes, including the great drama of the ravaged rooms of Great Expectations, the bed chamber of Ebenezer Scrooge, and a classic Victorian parlour set out with all the fayre and fancy of the festive period.

‘I’ve been very lucky to be able to explore the house and have been given permission to open up sections of the Hall that are no longer used by the family especially for this event. I am sure visitors are going to love seeing normally private areas within the Hall in their Dickensian guises,’ says David.

Tantalising descriptions of the rooms talk of the Spartan bed, nightgown and cap and bags of money lit by the flickering fire grate of Ebenezer Scrooge’s bedchamber; Miss Haversham’s wedding table set with cobwebs, decaying food and the ruins of lace and faded grandeur; and The Grangery’s Parlour set with all the sights, sounds and trimmings of a Victorian Christmas.

Tissington Hall's impressive Library is Sir Richard's favourite roomTissington Hall's impressive Library is Sir Richard's favourite room

‘Fiona and I are fortunate to have David Walker in the village who has such a vision to bring the rooms of our homes alive. Our Christmas Dickens events promise to be fascinating and we are looking forward to seeing how David transforms these popular rooms,’ says Sir Richard, who has lived at Tissington Hall since he inherited the property and Estate from his late uncle in 1989.

‘This is a first for us to offer such a spectacle within the Hall itself and so it will be a pleasure welcoming visitors from across the county to our home this November and December. It’s going to be a very special event, and Fiona and I hope that “What The Dickens!” will put people in the festive spirit. It will offer a fun and entertaining, if slightly darker, take on Christmas,’ Sir Richard concludes.

What the Dickens! At Tissington Hall will open for visitors on the following dates: For group tours: Monday 16th November to Sunday 6th December, advance booking only. For public visits: Saturdays and Sundays 21st, 22nd 28th, 29th November and 5th, 6th December. Full details and booking information can be found at www.tissingtonhall.co.uk or call 01335 352200.

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