Step back in time to visit the home of Huguenot weavers in the Denis Severs house; raise a glass of mulled wine in the erstwhile home of Charles Dickens; see how the middle classes in London have celebrated Christmas down the centuries in the Geffrye museum and visit Santa Claus in the Victorian grotto at the Museum of London Docklands.
The Denis Severs House
A visit to the Denis Severs house is a surreal experience at any time of year, at Christmas it is enchanting. The house is buried deep in the east end of London in Folgate Street, Spitalfields. The eponymous artist who once lived here created a living museum, a masterpiece where the guest is subsumed in the artistry.
The visit opens with the premise that you are the guests of the Jervis family who, so the yarn goes, lived here from the 1700’s to the early 20th century. As you tour the house in silence, vestiges of the family engross the senses. The visitor smells the owner’s part eaten dinner, half catches whispers on the stairs and hears the creak of floor boards as someone walks across the room. The Jervis’s are all around you but just out of sight.
It is a dream like experience enhanced by candle light and the accoutrements of Christmas past. The house is dressed for Christmas from the 22nd November until the 6th January. Booking details can be found on the Denis Severs House website.
Toast the Festive Season with a Glass of Mulled Wine in the Dickens Museum
The Charles Dickens museum at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury houses the foremost collection of Dickens memorabilia. Dickens lived here between 1837 and 1839 during which time he wrote the Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. It was here that his 17 year old sister in law Mary died unexpectedly. Charles was heartbroken and used her untimely demise as inspiration for the death of little Nell.
48 Doughty Street is one of the few London attractions open throughout the holiday period giving the visitor an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Dickens’s old home. There will be viewings of the movie “A Christmas Carol”, readings from the great man’s works and, of course, the obligatory mince pie and glass of mulled wine. Visit the Dickens Museum website for details.
See how the English Middle Classes have Celebrated Christmas down the Centuries
The Geffrye museum in Hackney, East London is one of London’s lesser known gems. It is a museum of home interiors. Each year the 11 period rooms are decked out for Christmas giving the visitor an insight into how Christmas has been celebrated by middle class London families since the 1600’s (runs 23rd November to 5th January). The museum has a bright and airy tea shop which serves festive fare at this time of year and a gift shop where you may just happen upon that elusive last minute gift.
Visit Father Christmas at the Museum of London Docklands
If you really can’t stand the thought of the crowds in Oxford Street why not visit the Victorian Christmas Grotto at London’s Docklands Museum? That way the kids not only get to see Father Christmas they also have an educational experience.
The museum is at No1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4A and Santa is in residence from the 4th to the 22nd December. There are various other festive family fun activities on offer at the museum for full details visit the Museum website.
There are a myriad of other activities for the holiday maker in London at Christmas time, ice skating, carol concerts, pantomimes and shopping to name just few. But if the bright lights and crowds of the 21st Century pall try stepping back in time and discovering Yule tides of yore. Merry Christmas!