Life of Christmas past to breathe through museum

A wassailing we go - Gail Duff walks through the apple orchard to offer up the traditional wassail, here pictured with Ros Malyon and Nick Powling at the Weald and Downland Sussex Christmas fair.

A wassailing we go - Gail Duff walks through the apple orchard to offer up the traditional wassail, here pictured with Ros Malyon and Nick Powling at the Weald and Downland Sussex Christmas fair.

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Crackling log fires flood period houses with life. The sound of music that time forgot fills the air, and the warm taste of traditional festive drinks makes a delight of a cold winter’s day.

It’s all about stepping back in time at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester, as they celebrate the festive season with the Sussex Christmas event.

The museum is a slice of history right before your eyes and contains 50 buildings, from 1340 up to the 1900s, saved from demolition. Teamed with medieval demonstrations like the sounds of the baroque guitar and old fashioned cooking, it really is like walking through a time machine.

Henry Warner, head of operations at the museum says: ‘It’s a lovely opportunity to go for a walk in the country away from all the modern glitz.

‘I think it makes people realise how lucky we are with all the things we have.’

There’s no tinsel, fairy lights or battery-powered snowmen here from Monday until New Year’s Day as the collection of restored buildings will undergo a festive make-over, transforming each cottage and farmhouse to look as it would have in the Christmas of its time.

Families will be reminded of the true spirit of Christmas, stripped of 21st century sparkle, as they stroll from Tudor houses to Victorian cottages, and across all years in between.

Children will get the chance to play games such as traditional board game Nine Men’s Morris. While adults can try the Lambswool and various spiced ales.

The whole family can enjoy traditional Mummers’ plays, which are theatrical shows in the style of Punch and Judy.

Plus, there will be opportunities to try foods like roasted chestnuts and sweetmeats, and to see what a Tudor banquet at Christmas entailed.

Karen Searle Barrett, head of interpretation at the museum says: ‘Children can join in with everything, they can stroke the horses, try the food, play games. It’s a very warm welcome and there is an exciting atmosphere.’

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is open from 10.30am to 4pm today, and will re-open after Christmas for the Sussex Christmas event on Monday until New Year’s Day. Tickets cost £9.50 for adults and £5 for children. Call (012) 4381 1363 or visit wealddown.co.uk to find out more.

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