Edwardian Christmas at Tyntesfield
Tyntesfield has a long standing reputation of celebrating the Christmas season. Since the National Trust acquired the estate they have continued this tradition and Tyntesfield will be filled with local handmade decorations from 2nd December to 2nd January. “…The house will be home to the Gibbs family dressed in their Victorian finery. Look out for them passing through with their friends, maids, chaplain, butler and footmen and soak up the atmosphere as the family and their servants prepare for the Christmas festivities …”
In Victorian and Edwardian times entertainment was frequently home created and the family loved theatricals and putting on a show. Lady Via Gibbs particularly enjoyed a party and having everyone dressed up for the part. This photo shows the family in their costumes in the conservatory at Tyntesfield for New Year 1903 and gives a fabulous insight into their lives. Nancy (Anstice Katherine Gibbs, dressed as her great-grandmother Dorothea), who would have been 21 at this time, wrote about the occasion in her diary, indicating the guests and parts played; her diaries are preserved in the archive of St George’s Chapel Windsor.
There is further mention of Via’s love of festivities in the book “Via Gibbs a Memoir” by Madeline Alston, published in 1921, following her tragic death from influenza…
“At Christmas there was a large family party; and on Christmas night Via would have everyone come to dinner in costumes. The house was filled with the sounds of children’s laughter, and merriment reigned – as surely it ought to at the Festival of Childhood. And no child was merrier than Via herself… On 7th January 1920 all the Tyntesfield men who had returned from the War, with their mothers or wives (to the number of sixty-five), were entertained to dinner. It was a most joyous occasion, and at the dinner Via made one of her characteristic felicitous little speeches welcoming them all back. Afterwards there was entertainment in the library…”
Big seasonal celebrations continued with Baroness Ursula Wraxall; a cousin recalled that in the 1950s “… as children we used to love staying at Tyntesfield for Christmas. Aunt Ursula loved having all the cousins to stay and it was all such fun!…”
This December a variety of local choirs are performing in Tyntesfield’s beautiful chapel over the festive season, keeping the Christmas spirit flowing.
Really beautiful archival record, and so much evidence of humour in what we sometimes think of as more sombre times than ours. These people had the sense to poke fun at themselves and to maintain light-heartedness, which is all the more remarkable, given the tragedies that befell them, and the precariousness of the political and social circumstances of the age.