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“Stepping into Christmas Past” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Kentwell Hall

Kentwell Hall
Long Melford, England
01787/310207
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Type: Historic Sites, Cultural
Attraction details
London
Top Contributor
131 reviews 131 reviews
59 attraction reviews
Reviews in 74 cities Reviews in 74 cities
161 helpful votes 161 helpful votes
“Stepping into Christmas Past”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 12, 2013

For us, Kentwells' Dickensian Christmas produced some truly magical moments.

It is a very strange place... a grand country house which has seen better times and is now seems to be inhabited by re-enactors who remain totally and utterly in character no matter what is said to them. They will either allow visitors to drift through the building like whispering ghosts or greet them in character as welcome visitors to the house... it is strange, spooky, unique and immensely appealing to anyone with a modicum of imagination or a spark of Christmas spirit.

The receptionist in the gate house was warm and welcoming and very personable. She and her companion were seriously concerned that we had had such a difficult journey up from London and tried so hard to make sure that we knew where everything was on the complementary map so that we could enjoy the day.

It was wet and muddy and so we went first to the house... once we went over the bridge crossing the moat we were a wee bit at a loss... no signs... no doors open... but... just as would have happened in Victorian times, a door opened, the under-butler leaned out and, in full character, wished us welcome to Kentwell and asked if we would like to enter out of the cold. He invited us to leave coats and umbrellas and then suggested that we might wish to spend a few moments warming up in the kitchen where the cook was busy preparing lunch for the family and where there was a good fire on.

The cook and kitchen maids chatted together... again totally in character... they were interrupted by the butler giving the cook final instructions for the family’s lunch and so it went on.. until we were brave enough to speak and then we were acknowledged and welcomed but again all the re-enactors remained in character and treated us if were were were visitors to the house in Victorian times.

Thought the butler’s pantry where oil lamps and candles for that day were being prepared, and then a door open... a maid welcomed us...and invited to see the ‘master’s new toy from London what was called a magic lantern.” It was a real delight half a dozen guests, a magic lantern and a couple of sets of children’s slides for the days of out great, great, great grand parents. We were transported across the generations to a far simpler time before the days of electricity... let alone anything else.

Then we went into the amazing dining room which was set for a festive dinner and then into the hall where members of the family, friends and children were conversing in front of the fire and under an enormous Christmas tree.

One maid complained to us about the new fashion of Christmas trees indoor “just because the Queen had one” and assured us that they would never catch on! We were inveigled into their world... offered bonbons, invited to see the children’s games and entertained with music on what our hosts called “the piano-forte.”

It was so good that we felt like we had slipped through a time-warp... and we were the very privileged and very welcome guests to the house. It was an eerie, slightly disturbing and wonderfully delightful sensation to experience such charmingly polite hospitality from a bygone age.

And then down to the stables to hear “Mr Dickens” give one of his readings. Well, the stable was damp, drank, dark and cold and then... a very unlikely character in a top hat appeared... he sat... gave a withering frown... stared at us and then spoke... “He’s late y’know... always is...” We slowly realised that we were having a face to face with Ebenezer Scrooge... but then... the room hushed, there was an intake of breath as Mr Charles Dickens entered... it was magical.

Soon we were transported back to Christmas Eve 1843. Scrooge dismissed Bob Cratchet for the holiday and with mirrors and gauzes the ghosts of Jacob Marly and those of Christmas Past, Present and Future were made to appear. This was not the Royal Shakespeare Company. They had no special effects but it would not have been out-of place at a traveling fair 150 years ago and it only required the audience to suspend disbelief for it to be a magical experience.

Upstairs... we enjoyed some pretty amateurish old time music hall but their performers, especially the magician, won the audience over and it was great fun. We then had a drink in a would-be tavern... full of re-enactors... cider and beer supplied in pewter tankards... Victorian pub-games and candles on the tables and the most delightful children in Victorian dress and in full character who came and chatted to us. Another magical moment.

Afterwards as dusk was falling, we went back to the house... we were again welcomed in and made our way to the hall and were soon involve with the family and their guests in more delightful parlor games and then, by the light of candles and oil lamps, we all joined in and sang Christmas carols under the tree... this wasn’t entertainment, it wasn’t a voyeuristic experience as much re-enactment can be, it was, for us and other’s that we could see with tears in their eyes, a wonderfully moving experience... we had been transported back 150 year to a true Dickensian Christmas... at that had been needed was to suspend disbelief and have just a little bit of Christmas spirit... The whole thing was a truly remarkable experience.

Visited December 2012
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English first
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3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Dickensian Christmas - What a rip off!”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed December 20, 2012

We decided to take our 3 children to this instead of a pantomime this year. What a mistake! We paid the best part of £100 online and our tickets said to arrive between 10-11am. We arrived 3 minutes before 10am and were told that we were too early! Gradually more and more people started to arrive and had to cram into the small entrance/shop whilst we waited for the staff to get organised and let us go through. After what seemed like an age we were allowed to start our self guided tour. As we walked upto the main house, there were no signs to show us how to get in (other than a folded wooden board that hadn't been put up) and all the doors were closed. We eventually found someone and asked how we got in. We wandered into the kitchen which was full of Victorian dressed staff and nobody spoke to us, it was all very strange. As we walked through to another room some of the staff were still getting ready and having their hair done! We walked upstairs, still unsure where we were supposed to be going and walked into a room where a man was getting dressed!! The tour of the house took us about 15 mins. We then went outside and stumbled upon a door where we could make our own decorations. This part was ok but there wasn't enough chairs for people to use whilst making their crafts. We then made our way to find Father Christmas. This took us ages as again there were no signs telling us where to go. After wading through all the mud we found him! He was good with the kids but he gave my 7 year old son a princess jigsaw! As you would expect he was upset by this and confused why he got a girls present! We tried to get a cup of tea from the cafe but there were only 5 benches to sit at so gave up waiting to sit down. We then went to listen to a story of "a Christmas Carol". We were sent into a blacked out barn which absolutely stuck of pigs urine and listened to some guy reading the book.....boring for kids! We decided to leave straight after that.
Basically, it was all very unorganised. If you're going to open at 10am, be ready for 10am! Get more seating, put some sawdust down over all the mud and lower your prices!

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Sudbury, United Kingdom
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16 reviews 16 reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“very educational”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 18, 2012

the staff who i belive are volanteers were dressed and spoke as they would in the 16th century.we spent some time in the kitchen where bread and soup was being prepared the smell was wonderful very nice inlook to times gone by.

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rural Essex
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Great venue”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 19, 2012

we watched the Tempest here through a night of miserable rain, the plays cast acted stoutly throughout, the place is lovely and a great place to stage such period plays

Visited August 2012
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Diss, United Kingdom
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Scaresville!!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 16, 2012

Have to admit I went twice this year, once with family and then with group of friends from work. As usual it was such fun and a great night out. Although very busy (9pm to 10pm slot ) it was well organised and we were into the "walk" within 20 minutes or so. Having been for the last four years I'm always impressed how many new scares and themes there are each year. A great input from the scarers makes every step of the journey tense with anticipation and the screams and laughter in the distance adds to the atmosphere, both inside and out!
Great finish this year on "Ripper street"! and nice to end up at "Barbaric " for a wind down and drink.
Also nice to be able to have a hot drink and or snack while waiting to go thru' and afterwards if you want to. Will be doing it all over again next year........well worth the money!

Visited October 2012
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