Burton Agnes celebrates Christmas

Although Burton Agnes may sound like the upper crust villain of an Agatha Christie novel, the reality is altogether more interesting. Built between 1598 and 1610 near the village of Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Burton Agnes is a magnificent Elizabethan mansion that’s been associated with the same family for over 400 years.

Although the Hall is now managed by a charitable trust, the family still lives there. To help cover the cost of its upkeep, paying visitors are invited to have a poke around this Grade I Listed architectural masterpiece. And, inevitably, the period before Christmas is a great time to pep up the income stream.

The Great Hall

This, of course, is nothing unusual. Up and down the land the good, the bad and the ugly of British stately homes open their doors to the Great British Public at this time of year, anxious to milk the cash cow that is Christmas.

Some do a great job, investing heavily to decorate their mansions with festive frivolities that are sure to get their visitors into the mood for Christmas and, hopefully, will encourage them to return the next year. Others, I suspect, do the absolute minimum that they calculate is necessary to prevent the paying public demanding its money back.

Burton Agnes, which we visited a couple of weeks ago, felt like good value for money. The place was tastefully, but not excessively decked out in seasonal finery. They say that “less is more”, and whoever planned the Christmas decorations here clearly understands the benefits of measured restraint in such matters. The seasonal adornments seemed in tune with their setting rather than simply overwhelming it, which has been the case in some of the places we’ve visited over the years

To be honest, I would normally find it difficult to feel festive in mid-November, but by the time we left Burton Agnes I could happily have polished off a plateful of mince pies and knocked out a verse or two of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Roll on Christmas, I’m ready for you now!

The White Drawing Room

And, just as important, our visit to see the Christmas decorations also served as an introduction to a truly spectacular building. The Great Hall is just that, a masterpiece of plasterwork and panelling. The Long Gallery, with its barrelled ceiling, is light, airy, elegant (and very, very long!), while the White Drawing Room is comfortably tasteful. Although the decorations were great to see, the quality of the building itself shone through clearly.

Above: The Red Drawing Room. Below: The Long Gallery

Burton Agnes has been described by the author Simon Jenkins as ‘the perfect English house’ and as one of the twenty best English houses. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that there’s lot to admire in it. Mrs P and I have agreed that we’ll make a return visit at another time of year when the Christmas decorations have been removed, so we can get to know it a bit better.

In the entrance hall

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36 comments

  1. Yeah, Another Blogger · December 7

    Can you imagine living in a place like this? It’s WAY too big for comfortable living. I’ll stick with my modest home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 7

      Agreed, you could get lost in it. And can you imagine the heating bill in winter? In the old times there would have been countless staff to make the place run smoothly, but I wonder how they cope these days?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shazza · December 7

    Looks beautiful and very tastefully decorated. I also love those bay windows. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 7

      Yes, lots and lots of glass. It must be a full time job for one poor soul, forever keeping the windows clean!

      Like

  3. Paddy Tobin · December 7

    Burton Agnes is certainly a beautiful house and pleasantly decorated for the Christmas season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 7

      It prides itself on feeling more “homely” than the average stately home, and the tasteful Christmas decorations certainly added to that impression.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paddy Tobin · December 7

        We watched a television programme recently on Chatsworth where the Christmas decorations were a huge attraction and a source of what seemed to me immense income.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · December 7

        Yes, we saw it too, it was filmed in the run up to the 2021 Christmas festivities. Fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes! We visited this year’s Chatsworth seasonal extravaganza a few days ago, and it will feature in my post next Wednesday (14th). SPOILER ALERT: sadly (and very surprisingly) , we were a bit disappointed…but you’ll have to wait until next week for the full verdict.

        There’s currently a 4-part series running here about a year at Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey is filmed), and doubtless the 4th episode will cover winter, and the Christmas festivities. Worth watching out for!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paddy Tobin · December 7

        Highclere is on the viewing list here also! Looking forward to next Wednesday for the true report and insightful comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. June’s Travels · December 7

    Burton Agnes is incredibly beautiful!!! The villages in UK are amazing. Glad you mentioned Agatha Christie. I love mystery books, and my dream is to live in a beautiful English village and solve crimes as Miss Marple. Haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 8

      Yes, Burton Agnes is a very special place; Agatha Christie would approve! Picturesque villages of the type she wrote about can still be found in parts of the UK, but they aren’t typical of life here! Property in them is often beautiful, but tends to be very expensive…and I’m unable to comment about the local crime rate. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Graves · December 9

    Such a pretty place! I really like the architecture. Those decorations are just right. Merry, merry!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol Ann Siciliano · December 9

    This is a festive post! The decorations are magical (I can only imagine what “excessive” looks like!) You and Mrs. P have adopted a delightful holiday tradition. And you’re doing your part of keep the houses going. Thank you for taking us along!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 10

      You are most welcome! Watch out for next week’s post, when I’ll feature another grand house that has been decorated for Christmas…and maybe the following week’s post too!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann Mackay · December 11

    The Christmas decorations are lovely and that great hall is quite amazing – an interesting visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 12

      The building as a whole, and the Great Hall in particular, far exceeded our expectations. Spectacular, a hidden gem (well, hidden from me anyway, until just a few weeks ago!).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. tanjabrittonwriter · December 12

    Burton Agnes is truly grand and imposing and I also think the holiday decorations are tastefully done.
    I apologize for the social commentary, but I find it ironic that the present-day owners of grand homes (or some kind of trust, national or otherwise) now ask the “Great British Public” for their hard-earned money to visit, when they considered themselves worlds away from the lowly plebeians and only allowed them in to do menial work.
    I wonder if the bankruptcy that was the fate of many proprietors (or, alternatively, marriage to an American heiress) made them feel a little less haughty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 12

      Thank you for the social commentary, Tanja, definitely no need to apologise as we plainly have a similar outlook! We have a phrase here, and I suspect you may have it in the US too, which says “how the mighty have fallen.” The way aristocrats have had to open up their stately homes to the Great British Public in order to earn the money to maintain them illustrates the point perfectly. Oh, the humiliation, my heart bleeds for them! (I’m British, so I’m a master of irony! 🙂🙂🙂)

      Currently, in progressive parts of UK society (which I inhabit, obviously!), there is a lot of reflection and soul searching about how the wealth was generated that made it possible to build these great houses. Much of it came from slavery, particularly in the West Indies, and much too came from the exploitation of ordinary people back here in the UK. What was built was often beautiful, but I share what I think is your view, that the cost – in human terms – should never be forgotten.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter · December 13

        I wasn’t familiar with the particular expression “how the mighty have fallen,” but am aware of several historic figures who did exactly that.
        I find the human tendency to admire (and envy) rich individuals deplorable, because more often than not their wealth was acquired in ethically questionable ways. There is a reason we call some people “filthy rich!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · December 13

        Very true!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. alison41 · December 13

    I enjoyed seeing the pics, and particularly the ‘less is more’ decorations. I still have a vivid memory of a ghastly photo of Christmas at the White House, during the Trump years, of a matching row of small, sugar-candy pink fir trees viewed down a long hall way …. shudder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 13

      Luckily I don’t think I ever saw the White House photo you describe in your comment…sounds like the stuff of nightmares!

      Like

  10. Ju-Lyn · December 13

    Wow. Just wow.
    Thank you for this very festive tour of a stunning house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 14

      Glad you enjoyed. Today’s post – published just a couple of hours ago – features another grand mansion decked out in Christmas finery. And next week’s post too…just getting us all in the mood for Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 16

    Stunning and way too showy for my tastes but the message is clear 🙂 As always, our southern hemisphere Christmas will be hot and sticky yet we persist with northern hemisphere traditions, jolly holly decorations and food. Maybe one day it will change… Wishing you all the joys of the festive season 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 16

      I’ve always found Christmas in the southern hemisphere to be a slightly surreal experience. In 2016, on a balmy evening just a few days before Christmas we were at a table outside a Starbucks in Melbourne, drinking mocha and watching the world go by…Here’s what I wrote at the time in my blog of our trip to Oz: “The streets are rammed with folk getting into the festive spirit, giggling girls in Santa hats, half-cut guys in the full Father Christmas gear, green-uniformed elves roaming the street like gangs of unpaid extras from a Lord of the Rings movie, and screaming kids, all kitted out in reindeer antlers, presumably auditioning for a walk-on part as Santa’s Little Yelper…it’s unnatural: the lead up to Christmas is meant to be cold, dank, gloomy and miserable, yet here we are sitting in warm late afternoon sunshine witnessing scantily-clad festive shenanigans all around us.” It was totally bizarre and unexpected, and to my eyes totally un-Australian too! But what do I know? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 17

        Fascinating! Such a good example. As you said ‘surreal’ and ‘bizarre’ because it does happen every year; Santa in stores, fake snow, elves, European Christmas carols, etc. I was brought up on the full British tradition although there is no family connection. Of course, if we had been founded by the Dutch (who actually mapped Australia before Captain Cook) no doubt we would have entirely different Christmas traditions. However, one aspect I do enjoy and still participate in is the food. The glories of a roast dinner, plum pudding, brandy sauce, shortbread, rich fruit cake, mixed nuts, and the pulling of bonbons with those silly little hats and toys in them. What could replace that? Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 16

      My apologies, I’d intended to sign off my previous comment by offering you my best wishes for a wonderful (hot and steamy?) Christmas, but hit too soon. I hope you have a great one, and a fantastic New Year too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 17

        Thank you so much 🙂 So far it has been mild weather so maybe a cool Yule. I have enjoyed reading your blog throughout the year and wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season – Gretchen.

        Like

      • Platypus Man · December 17

        Thank you. Take care and stay safe, and remember never to eat the green ones! (I bet you’ve never heard that one before. It’s a saying that, I believe, goes back to the nineteenth century when food hygiene standards were not as they are today and – it was rumoured – green sweets were coloured with a compound that included traces of cyanide. Sounds improbable, but you never know! 🙂). Happy Christmas to you and yours.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 23

    You are right, better to be safe than sorry during the festive season! Ironically we have had a massive nation-wide recall on cellophane packaged baby spinach leaves. Supermarkets were in a tizzy because this particular batch was full of green algae weed which caused all kinds of stomach problems and in some cases hallucinations. Fortunately no lasting affects but I will heed your advice and won’t eat my greens this Christmas 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Spinach recalled? Popeye would have been upset about that! As for me, I’d be celebrating. Ban sprouts and broccoli too and I’d spend all Christmas Day partying! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 23

    Long may you party!

    Liked by 1 person

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