Waddesdon Manor launches its Christmas Carnival

Spectacular light displays and fancifully decorated trees bring festive cheer to the country house

Image: Derek Pelling/courtesy of the National Trust and Waddesdon Manor

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s vision of creating his own French Renaissance-style château – a home to escape the heat of the capital during summer months, where lavish house parties would be held for Royal and aristocratic guests – culminated, in 1883, in a property of palatial proportions set amid lush Buckinghamshire countryside. Fast-forward a century or more and, with the property now under the umbrella of the National Trust, you could be forgiven for thinking the Rothschild era is banked as history. Yet though the family no longer inhabit Waddesdon Manor, their legacy lives on, not least in the opulence of its Christmas festivities. 

Image: Chris Lacey/courtesy of the National Trust and Waddesdon Manor

This year’s celebrations centre around the theme of carnival, featuring an extravaganza of yuletide displays and outdoor installations. From the North Fountain, the lure of the illuminated Manor vies with an avenue of decorated wooden chalets where the magic of Christmas is evident in temptingly presented unique products and crafts from artisan producers. The Christmas Fair runs until 16 December, though the Manor Shop also stocks its own array of gifts.

Image: Chris Lacey/courtesy of the National Trust and Waddesdon Manor

Inside the house, the ornaments on every monumentally sized Christmas-tree reflect the colours and features of each location. There are masks evoking Venetian traditions of Carnevale and plaid decorations influenced by Highland fancy dress. The White Drawing Room table, where swans, three-tiered cakes and trimmings are all crafted from paper, replicates masked royal balls traditionally held at the French court. Nearby in the Red Ante Room, some of Waddesdon’s masquerade portraits are on show, the theatrical theme revealed in a tree laden with comedy masks.

Image: Mike Fear/courtesy of the National Trust and Waddesdon Manor

Feasting on the festive aura within Waddesdon Manor is only part of the attraction. In the grounds, thanks to a collaboration with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, light installations enable visitors to enjoy enchanted walks along pathways where illuminated trees continue the carnival feel. Contemporary, angular light pieces – some distant, others part of the trail – are juxtaposed with soft, spectacular snowstorm effects.

A short downhill stroll from the North Fountain along lit paths leads to a sculptural tunnel of light through which visitors are invited to walk before entering the Stables, where the party theme takes a new direction. A 3-D wintry animation, courtesy of Guildhall students, is projected onto an exterior wall, bringing colourful fairy-tale charm to this corner of the estate.

Christmas at Waddesdon is always impressive – but go along at dusk and you’re guaranteed an extra dose of magic.

Christmas Carnival runs until 2 January 2019 (closed 24-26 December) at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.

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