This was my first time visiting Tyntesfield at Christmas for their ‘Very Victorian Christmas’ event.
I knew I was in for something special as soon as I saw the large Christmas trees decorated in all their sparkly wonder before even getting my ticket, and again, once I had to follow hundreds of twinkling lights leading to the house itself.
Here’s what I thought of a magical Tyntesfield Christmas and what you need to know ahead of your own visit… all wrapped up in a geeky history parcel a la moi.
Come and escape the present day with me…
Full disclosure: I received free entry to Tyntesfield’s Christmas event in exchange for some social media coverage. Although I wasn’t asked to write this blog post about my experience, I wanted to anyway because I enjoyed myself that much! I also have some must-know tips that I wanted to share with you in case you’re also thinking of visiting. As always, this review is all of my own thoughts, ideas and opinions, which I hope you find useful.
About the Tyntesfield House & Estate
But first… a little about Tyntesfield’s House and Estate in case you’ve never heard of it before.
The 540 acre Tyntesfield estate is on the outskirts of Bristol, roughly 7.5 miles from the city centre.
It was bought by William Gibbs in 1844 to serve as his family’s home. Between 1863 and 1865, he remodelled the house in the Victorian Gothic style we can see today.
Over the centuries, the Gibbs family continued to build and expand the estate. Until, in 2001, Richard Gibbs (the second Lord Wraxall and last Gibbs to live at Tyntesfield) passed away.
Just one year later in 2002, the National Trust began caring for the entire Tyntesfield estate and still does to this day.
Although the Tyntesfield estate is open every day of the year (apart from Christmas Day), the National Trust also hosts events here like Easter egg hunts, outdoor theatre shows and perhaps their most popular event hosted here – ‘A Very Victorian Christmas’.
Tyntesfield at Christmas: My Review of ‘A Very Victorian Christmas’
The Magic of Tyntesfield Estate
My eyes were wide and bright like I was a kid in a candy store.
After collecting my ticket, I was told to “follow the lights” which would lead me from the Home Farm visitor centre to Tyntesfield House. To be honest, they had me at “follow the lights”. All along the path, twinkly bulbs lit the way leading to a wrought iron gate decorated with ferns and red and gold bows.
I turned a corner and spotted a light installation of rainbow-coloured mushrooms; I later found out that they were made by Bristol’s very own ‘The Gentleman Octopus’.
I had arrived at sunset so my path was not only lit by twinkly lights but a beautiful pink glow from the sky.
Upon every bench was yet more red bows, and following the signs for the house’s entrance, I was giddy as I saw a huge Christmas tree near the entrance decorated with fairy lights, red ribbons, pinecones and red and gold baubles.
If this is what the outside had in store… I simply couldn’t wait to see the inside of the house!
The Magic Inside Tyntesfield House
As I hadn’t seen the bell near the door, a kind servant opened it for me to let me into the warmth.
She took my ticket while a footman told me that I could go anywhere downstairs as much as I like. But once I go upstairs, I couldn’t come back down otherwise Mrs Gibbs would be very unhappy with me. Point noted.
Christmas trees laden with decorations and twinkly lights adorned almost every room downstairs; seven trees in total if memory serves. Each one was decorated differently to go with the decor and style of each room and I’m told the decorations are traditional for what you would have seen in Victorian homes.
But it wasn’t just the trees that were magical!
All around the house, beautiful Christmas decorations could be seen. From poinsettia flower arrangements, garlands and wreaths to stacks of vintage Christmas cards and Christmas stockings by the foot of the beds.
The Stars of the Show
The house was also full of actors and actresses from The Natural Theatre Company… and boy were they fantastic!
Couples danced in the Drawing Room, ladies nattered in the hallways, gentlemen talked in hushed voices in the Billiard Room, butlers and maids swiftly waited on guests… no matter which room I found myself in, there was an actor or actress to talk to.
What I found most fantastic (and perplexing!) was that no matter what I said to them, they didn’t once get out of character. And I so clearly need to work on my improv skills as this totally threw me off at first!
I sadly didn’t get a chance to take a photo of them (apart from the Priest who had his back to me at the time) because they were so in character that they said they were worried I’d suck their soul out if I photographed them.
Like I said, they were good. Very good.
Arts, Crafts & Merriment-Making
Alongside all the beautiful decorations and talented actors, Tyntesfield also had various activities going on too.
Christmas carols and dancing were very popular and there was also the chance to make our own Christmas tree decorations and Christmas crackers.
The Overall Experience
Clearly, I loved my first experience of Tyntesfield at Christmas. I definitely think it’s worth spending the time to do – especially if you’ve never visited Tyntesfield before either. The house is a marvel to see in all its Gothic splendour, and as so often is the case with the very best National Trust places, the NT team have done a superb job of preserving it.
Victorian Christmas Traditions at Tyntesfield: Geeky History Stuff
I’ve already alluded to the various crafts and decorations involved in a Tyntesfield Christmas, but naturally, I wanted to know more about why a Victorian Christmas looks so much like our British Christmases of today. And so here’s some geeky history stuff related to Victorian Christmas traditions…
Christmas trees are a German tradition. King George III’s German born wife Charlotte told him about it and Queen Victoria herself wrote in her journal about having a Christmas tree in her room in 1832.
Later in 1841, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German born husband decorated a large Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, so as to reminisce about his own childhood Christmases in Germany. And thus, the tradition we all know and love today was born!
In Victorian times, Christmas trees were decorated with dried fruit, candies, cookies, nuts, small homemade gifts and candles.
In 1882, Edward Johnson (a colleague of Thomas Edison) hung strands of red, white and blue electricity-powered lights on his own tree, and by the early twentieth century, the first commercially available Christmas tree lights were sold.
Christmas cards are a deep-rooted UK tradition. It’s something we’ve kept alive over the centuries but it’s often unheard of to exchange Christmas cards in other European countries.
This tradition was started in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who helped set up the ‘Public Record Office’, which is now called the Post Office today. Alongside his artist friend John Horsley, they invented and sold the first batch of Christmas cards.
As printing methods improved, cards became cheaper to make and it wasn’t long before every single household was posting Christmas cards to friends and loved ones.
Christmas crackers are a popular addition to the British Christmas dinner table and take their origins from the Victorian era.
A London sweet maker called Tom Smith made the first Christmas cracker towards the end of the 1840s. He had seen French ‘bon bon’ sweets in Paris and wanted to sell something similar in the UK, although with the addition of a small motto or riddle within the sweet wrapper. However, they didn’t sell well.
A few years later, he gained inspiration from the sparkles and crackles of his log fire, and thought it would be fun for his sweets to open with a crack when the wrappers were pulled in half. And thus, the Christmas cracker sensation was born!
Christmas at Tyntesfield: Top Tips & Must Knows
So… who fancies their very own Tyntesfield Christmas experience? Here are a few must know tips ahead of your visit.
Evening entry is available throughout December
Throughout December the estate is open until 8pm Wednesday to Sunday. It’s a magical time to visit as you’ll get to see the Christmas lights outside at their twinkly peak!
This is a popular event so advance booking is recommended
Although Tyntesfield releases some on-the-door tickets, it’s recommended to book in advance if you can. I can imagine that weekends (particularly between 11am and 3pm) can also get very busy. Just look at the queues in these photos.
Entry to the house is via a timed ticket
Especially at Christmas, the house can get very busy so you’ll be prompted when booking to choose an hour time slot to visit the house. It’s a bit of a drive from the main road to the car park and it’s another fifteen minutes to walk to the house after getting your ticket. Make sure you leave enough time to make it to the house for your own time slot.
Come at sunset for some beautiful photos
Seeing as Tyntesfield is open late throughout December, this is the perfect time to see the house at sunset. If you’re lucky enough to come on a clear day then you’ll see the sunset over the city skyline, as well as the moon and stars starting to come out. It makes for a pretty special trip and photographs.
The only thing to note with coming at this time is that you may find the house is a little quiet as the day visitors would have left and most of the evening visitors wouldn’t have arrived yet.
I arrived at 4.30pm and I saw maybe a handful of other guests – but the actors kept the rooms full of life so this didn’t matter to me at all!
You might be surprised at how quickly the time goes when upstairs
When I visited, I found that there were a lot more rooms to see downstairs than upstairs. I saw just five rooms upstairs before walking a few corridors to the Chapel and then outside. This was a bit of a surprise at the time as it meant I spent a lot less time upstairs than downstairs. This was okay for me though as the downstairs really steals the show with Christmas trees in almost every room.
Sometimes the signs at Tyntesfield lie
When you leave Tyntesfield house, you’ll come to a signpost that says left for the way out and visitor centre or right for the cafe. If it’s dark, don’t follow the signs saying way out – this will take you along a different route from the way you came in, which isn’t lit at all and is also covered by trees so is pitch black. Instead, head right and go back to the house’s entrance and retrace your footsteps to get to the illuminated garden trail.
No flash photography is allowed inside the house
The rooms inside Tyntesfield House are kept dark to help with preservation, so you’ll need a decent low light camera or camera phone – without a flash.
You can’t take backpacks or prams inside the house
There are lockers available for large bags and backpacks as these aren’t allowed inside the house. There is also space available to leave your pram next to the lockers as you can’t bring these inside either.
You can get a 20% discount voucher for “going green”
If you cycle or catch a bus to Tyntesfield then you can claim a 20% discount voucher to use in the gift shop or restaurant – pretty nifty!
The X6 bus goes straight to Tyntesfield from Bristol City Centre
Speaking of buses, you can catch the X6 bus from the City Centre straight to the Tyntesfield entrance. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing this after dark as the paths from the bus to the visitor centre aren’t lit at all, which can be a little dicey (especially when it’s busy with cars).
Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop
The gift shop at Tyntesfield is quite big! At this time of year, it’s perfect for some Christmas shopping and every purchase goes towards helping Tyntesfield to keep running. You’ll find all sorts here. When I visited, I saw a bunch of things to tempt me – from mulled wine liqueurs and gins to chocolate gift boxes and stunning glass baubles.
So… are you visiting Tyntesfield at Christmas for their ‘Very Victorian Christmas’ event? Or do you wish you could? I’d love to know what you’re most excited about so just drop a note below…
Want to see more special National Trust places? Check out our roundup of them here!
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