Castle’s spectacular pantomimes of the past inspire festive events - with pictures and video

They've had some spectacular pantomimes at Chirk Castle down the years. But those days are behind them.

Oh yes they are.

However, the magic of those times is being recreated by the National Trust attraction as it transforms itself into a land of make believe for a modern generation of children over Christmas.

The Grade One listed building on the Shropshire-Wales border is drawing for inspiration on those pantomimes and festivities of the past as it turns itself into a fantasy castle of theatre and fairy tales.

A fascinating collection of photos has been unearthed which reveal the love of pantomimes which was shared by the family who lived in the medieval fortress nearly 100 years ago.

And now volunteers and staff have used them as a theme for decorations, displays and attractions for what is being dubbed "a Christmas of make believe."

Visiting youngsters and families will be following in the wide-eyed footsteps of the six children of Lord and Lady Howard de Walden as they grew up in the magnificent 13th century building.

Andy Burgess from the Chirk Hand Bell Ringers with the Jack & The Beanstalk Tree.

Those photos which recall the entertainment of the past show that there were elaborate sets and costumes. One picture depicts a knight in shining armour but wearing, rather incongruously, a hat.

There was the time that the children had what looks like a dragon, or maybe a dinosaur, to tea. One character from a past entertainment seems to have been inspired by one of the biggest stars not only of those times, but all times – Charlie Chaplin.

A castle spokesman said: "John, Bronwen, Elisabeth, Priscilla, Gaenor and little sister Rosemary grew up playing make-believe, putting on Christmas pantomimes, and playing dress-up in a castle full of imaginary dragons and knights, princesses, and stories.

"From 1923 to 1931 Lord Howard de Walden wrote six pantomimes, based on popular tales, for his children and their friends to perform at Chirk Castle.

"Inspired by these pantomimes, and the photos we have of them being performed, volunteers and staff have spent hundreds of hours handmaking decorations, costumes and props for a fun family Christmas."

The special themed event runs from November 30 to January 5 – but not Christmas Day or New Year's Day.

Detail on the "Puss In Brutes" Tree in Cromwell Hall.

Decorations inside the State Rooms are themed on the de Walden family pantomimes, and there is a fairytale trail in the gardens.

There is a display of six Christmas trees, each one decorated with the theme of a different panto.

Visitors will have a fun challenge to see how many traditional fairytales they can name, and will be able to watch family cine film, dress up, and enjoy music, games, and storytelling.

A dramatic Christmas for the benefit of the castle's occupants of yesteryear.

Weekends will have special storytelling with local storyteller Andy Harrop-Smith, and on Sunday afternoons there will be festive music from the Chirk Hand Bell Ringers.

Somebody missing? Don't worry, as Father Christmas will also be in his traditional grotto each weekend.

The historic castle was leased to Thomas, the 8th Lord Howard de Walden, in 1910, and before taking up residence the following year he made extensive repairs and improvements.

My cherie armour... Lord Howard de Walden dressed for the part.

He was a man of many and varied talents, of which writing pageants and pantomimes for his six children and their friends was just one incidental aspect – he even competed in the 1908 Olympics at speed boat racing.

Under him and his wife Marguerita, who was a renowned party organiser and a soprano singer, the castle was a vibrant place with many high profile visitors.

At the end of the lease in 1946 Lord Howard de Walden retired to his Scottish estates and died later that year, but is still remembered as a generous custodian of Chirk Castle where there are echoes everywhere of his time living there.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News