Tudor Christmas at the Old House

Ho, ho, ho!           

Long time no see! It’s been a while since we posted anything , but how busy we were! Christmas shopping, present hunting, going to parties – we barely had the time to sleep 🙂 With Christmas round the corner, everybody was a little bit panicked, trying to do several things at once. Mal and Rita were ready to celebrate early this year, so we would be taking things much slower than others and dedicate more time to the blog. Rita has enough materials and pictures to write at least 3 more entries for your entertainment, so let’s us begin. On the 28th of November, Rita has been invited to the Old House Museum in Hereford for the first Christmas party of the season. If you think it was yet another mince-pie and glass-of-red-wine party, you are seriously mistaken. The workers of the museum prepared something more interesting – a real recreation of true Tudor Christmas. And by true, we mean real fireplace going, real cooking and baking, hand prepared meal, hand sewn clothes and medieval entertainment.

Old House Christmas Evenings advert

Old House Christmas Evenings advert

If you ever visit Hereford city center, the first thing you see is a big, old, black and white house strangely positioned in the middle of the main square. This house, known to locals as the Butcher’s House or simply as The Old House, is one of the oldest, fully preserved timber buildings of this kind in the county and the only building from the Butcher’s Row, still remaining today. The Butcher’s Row was a tiny medieval market street demolished at the beginning of the 19th century when Hereford underwent drastic changes (so called “modernization”). Nobody is sure, why the Old House survived, while the other buildings were knocked down, but it was a lucky coincidence for the city. The Old House was built in 1621 by a very wealthy and influential merchant who was probably a member of the Butchers Guild of London.

You can learn more by clicking on the link or reading a scan from the official Herefordshire Council Museum brochure:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_House,_Hereford

Herefordshire Council brochure mentioning The Old House Museum

Herefordshire Council brochure mentioning The Old House Museum

The Christmas party started exactly at 5 pm with the arrival of two very distinctive ladies dressed in elaborate dresses. The guests were informed that they were on their way from London to visit their families living in the lovely Herefordian countryside, but because of the cold and snow, their carriage lost a wheel and they were forced to look for a shelter until it would be repaired. Luckily, the owners of the house were not complete strangers: the master butcher and his wife have been delivering meat and other delicacy to the royal court for years, so the ladies were very relived learning that they will eat the Christmas dinner in a respectable company. The ladies took residence on the third floor of the house and each was given a separate bedroom for her needs. The butcher’s family (parents, three children and the grandparents) would have to sleep in the lounge and in the children room, but they were still honoured and very happy to serve Queen Elizabeth’s relatives. Although the house was very small by the royal standards, the Duchess and the Countess were truly pleased with everything and after drinks or two, they danced and sang traditional Christmas carols.

It took seven years of research before this hand sewn costume could be made.

It took seven years of research before this hand sewn costume could be made

Costume details with a hand made fan and a little copy of  the Bible attached to the belt!

Costume details with a hand made fan and a little copy of the Bible attached to the belt!

Lynne Eaves and Lindsay Smith, two local enthusiasts of medieval dances and costumes, played the part of the Duchess and The Countess. They are members of “Courtesie” dance troupe specializing in medieval, Elizabethan, English and Burgundian court dances. The members of the group not only sew their own costumes, but spend a lot of their free time in libraries, studying medieval fashion and fabrics. Thanks to that, their outfits are as close to the real thing as possible.

Lynne and Lindsay entertaining guests with some royal dancing

Lynne and Lindsay entertaining guests with some royal dancing

Another shot of the dancing ladies

Another shot of the dancing ladies

Please visit Courtesie Early Dance group official website at: http://www.courtesie.co.uk/Home.html
You can also contact Lynne or Lindsay regarding events, lectures and educational talks.
Lynne Eaves – d.eaves167@btinternet.co.uk
Lindsay Smith – lindsay@zircon.freeserve.co.uk

The biggest attraction of the evening was the preparation of the Christmas meal. The visitors had a chance to decorate a cake in the shape of a tree with green colored marzipan leaves, bake a traditional mince pie or taste the Tudor delicacy- a salty cheese. All dishes were made with kitchen equipment available in the 17th century. Cooking was no fun back then, believe us. Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver would be very unhappy without their ovens, electric mixers and microwaves.

Dinner being prepared

Dinner being prepared

A traditional whisk made from birch twigs used  in Tudor times. Works better than the metal ones we use today!

A traditional whisk made from birch twigs used in Tudor times. Works better than the metal ones we use today!

Hard at work - the long table was quickly filled with delicious food

Hard at work – the long table was quickly filled with delicious food

Hereford Tudor Christmas wouldn't be complete without a cathedral cake. The Bishop of Hereford was supposed to come to the dinner as well, but he was unfortunately stuck in the traffic....

Hereford Tudor Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a cathedral cake. The Bishop of Hereford was supposed to come to the dinner as well, but he was unfortunately stuck in the traffic….

While adults and teenagers were busy cooking, the kids could take part in craft activities on the first floor of the museum. Presents wrapping, trying out medieval wooden toys (dolls with moving parts, toy soldiers and multi colour bricks that reminded Rita of primitive Lego’s) and making a pomanders were hugely successful. We tried to make our own pomander, also known as a refreshing sphere or perfume ball, a popular form of early aromatherapy at the Court of Elizabeth I. The modern pomanders are made by studding an orange or other fruit with whole dried cloves and letting it dry. We decorated our pomander with blue, golden and red ribbons, turning it into a Christmas ornament.

 

Kids and museum staff making a pomander

Kids and museum staff making a pomander

Rita's very interesting creation - she still has it!

Rita’s very interesting creation – she still has it!

We have also managed to take a picture of almost all volunteers and museum workers involved in preparation of the Tudor Christmas. We told them to stay still and say “Christmas”. Result can be seen below:

Volunteers and museum staff posing together for a picture.

Volunteers and museum staff posing together for a picture.

The Christmas Evenings at the Old House are recurring events. They are being organized each year at the end of November and run till the mid-December. If you have missed your chance this year, please come back in 2013 – we are sure, you’d have a time of your life.

Mal, Rita and Olympia would like to wish all our readers and accidental visitors, a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays.

Have fun, peace, love and understanding!

XXXX

R, M+O

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2 thoughts on “Tudor Christmas at the Old House

  1. I have just found your website. We met at the Old House in Hereford. I’m Lindsay – one of the Courtesie dancers. Thank you so much for the wonderful write up you gave everyone at the Old House. I have passed on your address, and printed out this page. They are THRILLED.

    We are very busy, at the moment, performing lots, being on television, and travelling abroad. Great fun, especially as we cover different periods.

    Hope to keep in touch,

    Lindsay

  2. Dear Lindsay! Thank you kindly for your comment! It’s so good to hear from you – it’s been three years since we have seen you last. We are thrilled to know you have been on the TV! All the best to the entire group. Please keep us updated!

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