How the Victorians celebrated Christmas at the Mill

Messenger Newspapers: Victorian lessons in the Apprentice House Victorian lessons in the Apprentice House

VIEWERS of TV show The Mill will not have seen how Christmas was marked by the Greg family and their apprentices during the 1800s.

However, visitors to Quarry Bank – which inspired the Channel 4 costume drama – will be able to discover more about Victorian festive traditions while also enjoying some fun of their own in December.

The Mill Yard will be transformed into a picturesque festive scene, with a beautifully decorated tree and food stalls selling festive snacks and treats.

Visitors will also be able to meet ‘Victorians’ as they get ready for Christmas, while in the Apprentice House there will be carols and current loaf to be enjoyed.

“Many of the things we love about Christmas began in the Victorian age,” said Rachel Whalley, visitor experience and volunteering assistant at Quarry Bank.

“Before Queen Victorian’s reign started in 1837, nobody in Britain had heard of Santa Claus, no Christmas cards were sent or crackers pulled and most people did not have holidays from work.”

At Quarry Bank, the Greg family may not have marked the occasion as they were Unitarian, but there is evidence they allowed their workers to celebrate.

While many workhouses refused to close for fear of losing a day’s work, the Gregs gave their apprentices Christmas Day off.

At the Apprentice House, their school work was exhibited to the Gregs and prizes were given for the steadiest at work, most proficient at school or most orderly of conduct.

The children dined on current loaf and enjoyed the ‘luxury of tea’ while medical records from December 26 in various years suggest older workers enjoyed a drink with a little more spirit.

Visitors to Quarry Bank in December can learn about treatments for winter ailments as well as meet Father Christmas, make festive decorations and play traditional parlour games.

“It will be an occasion that will get everyone into the festive spirit,” said Rachel.

A Victorian Christmas at the Mill will be on Saturday and Sunday December 7 and 8, 14 and 15. The event is free but normal admission charges apply.

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