Croxteth Hall is getting ready to celebrate Christmas – in true Victorian style.
Thousands of pupils will be taken back to 1891 to experience life during the Festive Season in a Victorian country house.
This year the Hall is celebrating 25 years of its living history education programme- making it one of the longest running programmes of its type in the country.
It is estimated that 50,000 pupils have taken part in the programme and this year’s schedule – which starts on 14 November- is again a sell-out with 2,500 pupils bringing the Key Stage Two ‘Victorians’ topic to life.
Councillor Peter Mitchell, Mayoral Lead on Parks, said: “This programme has enthralled youngsters for the past 25 years and it really brings a part of the city’s history to life. For some of them it is like they are taking part in an episode from Downton Abbey but as well as being very enjoyable they get a greater understanding of conditions and society over 120 years ago.”
Victorian Christmas is an educational experience based around a living history visit to Croxteth Hall, the former home of the Earl’s of Sefton. The period interiors and historic estate are used to enable visitors to step back in time.
The children all ‘apply for jobs’ at the park, in a variety of roles, from footmen to farm-hands. The ‘new employees’ arrive -in period costume- at the Hall, where they are met by the indomitable butler, who soon lets them know their place in the strict social hierarchy!
Once the programme is under way the cast, of Rangers, volunteers and living history specialists, all keep in character throughout, as the children have to quickly learn new skills under the watchful eye of the household staff. Teachers are not excluded!
Lord and Lady Sefton’s presence ensures the children learn something of their lives and pastimes, from pheasant shooting to social etiquette. Relief comes in the form of the servants’ Christmas party, a traditional affair with carols, food and period party games.
The half day programme’s success is based on the children’s participation in activities of the time such as polishing copper pans, or feeding livestock. The pressure is on as they rush to get arrangements in place for Lord Sefton’s Christmas house party, creating an opportunity for some interplay between the characters. Invariably the children tend to side with the character that is in charge of them from butler to woodman, gaining experience of how their role was perceived in the society of the time.
Inequality and sexism, alongside ‘Victorian values’ and discipline, bring home the social life of the time more effectively than any classroom lesson.
Victorian Christmas runs from 14 November to 14 December (weekdays, excluding Mondays). There are two sessions every day (9:30am – 12:15pm and 1pm to 3:15pm).