If you know Denny Abbey as it is today, it might be hard to imagine it as a family home. But it was!
After the closure of the Abbey and the destruction of the nun’s church, it became the home of the families that farmed the land around Denny Abbey for hundreds of years. Families living there in Victorian times may very well have taken up the new tradition of having a Christmas Tree. If they did, they would have had to make their own decorations as you could not buy such things ready-made like you can today.
Below are some examples of the sorts of things Victorian children might have made. We’ve put together instructions as perhaps you would like to have a go yourselves? Please share any completed decorations with us on social media – we love to see them!
Victorian Christmas trees weren’t decorated with fairy lights and tinsel – people used candles, ribbons and orange pomanders. Have a go at making your very own pomander!
You will need an orange (any size), some ribbon and whole cloves.
1. Cut two pieces of ribbon that will fit around the orange and leave a bit extra to make a loop for hanging on the tree.
2. Use a pin to fasten the ribbon to the orange, with one piece of ribbon crossing over the other piece at the top and bottom.
3. You will now have four quarters to fill with cloves. Sometimes the cloves can be pushed into the orange if it is soft, otherwise you can use a thin knitting needle to make small holes in your orange and then fit a clove carefully into each hole.
The Victorians loved to use anything shiny on their trees. Above is a very simple decoration to make. If you have an old Christmas card cut a circle round the main picture then stick a piece of tinsel garland round the edge and add a ribbon to hang it up.
Make a Victorian Scrap Snowflake Ornament using pages from a magazine, glue, a split pin, recycled Christmas cards and ribbon.
1. Cut 7 strips from the magazine page, each about 14cm long by 2cm wide.
2. Fold each strip in half without creasing it and glue the ends together.
3. Using a hole punch, make a hole in each strip at the stuck end.
4. If you have a split pin you could put that through all the holes and then fan the strips out to make the snowflake shape. Or you can stick them together by putting a dab of glue on one folded piece and laying the next one onto it at an angle. Repeat with all seven strips.
5. Then decorate the centre with whatever Christmas shapes you have, perhaps cut from a recycled Christmas card.
6. Add a ribbon to hang your snowflake.
Another popular decoration was the Cornucopia – the horn of plenty, which are fairly easy to make.You will need thin card, a plate, double-sided tape, ribbon and stickers or pictures to decorate.
1. Use a plate to draw a large circle onto a sheet of thick paper or thin card.
2. Cut out the circle, then cut the circle in half. This will make two ornaments.
3. Fold each half circle into a cone shape and use double sided tape to stick it down.
4. Punch a hole through each side and thread through a ribbon for hanging.
5. Then decorate it however you like, using ribbons, lace, trims and pictures. Fill it with sweets, nuts, perhaps small presents and hang on your tree.
We hope you have fun making these decorations and have a wonderful Christmas! We look forward to making crafts with you again at the museum as soon as we can.