Arley Hall at Christmas - Festive, floral and fabulous
PUBLISHED: 09:46 09 December 2011 | UPDATED: 11:35 04 July 2017
Floral experts from across the county give elegant Arley Hall, near Northwich, an extra sparkle for the Christmas season WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
The print version of this article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Cheshire Life
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When Rowland Egerton Warburton built Arley Hall it is likely he was pleased with his achievements. And rightly so because the beautiful stately home, built in Elizabethan style, is certainly something to be proud of.
The splendour of Arley and its gardens is something to behold at any time of year but at Christmas its star burns that little bit brighter. And it’s likely its former resident would be delighted by seeing the hall elegantly dressed for the festive season.
It is the job of a team of florists from across the county to create stunning displays to suit the grandeur of the hall’s interior for the Arley Christmas Floral Extravaganza. The various experts are charged with looking after one room or areas of the building and transforming it with blooms, garlands and striking decorative pieces.
Gaynor David, who runs GD Flowers in Sale, regularly creates floral displays for weddings and other events at Arley Hall. These occasions are always held in the downstairs areas of the hall so she loves having the opportunity to venture into those lesser-viewed rooms.
For three years she has decorated the South Bedroom, originally the principal bedroom which would have been used by Lady Elizabeth Ashbrook. Gaynor’s creations sit alongside the original furniture and Lady Ashbrook’s collection of watercolours. The florist has big plans for this year’s floral extravaganza.
She said: ‘I’ll be using long-lasting blooms like chrysanthemums, orchids and amaryllis using lots of traditional reds, purples and greens. The fireplace will have a big display as this is a main feature in the room and I’d like to design a swag for the wardrobe.
‘I want to create a traditional look that the Lady of the house may have done herself. Baskets filled with flowers will be placed around the room, as if they are waiting to be put into a display. I’m very excited about being able to do it.’
Gaynor will be one of several local florists to use their creative flair to enhance the rooms in the hall. As well as the South Bedroom, other areas to be decorated include The Gallery and West Door, the Front Hall and The Chapel. The staircases will be dripping with beautiful blooms. Pupils from a local college will dress the Library and Drawing Room and there will be a spectacular nativity scene on display in The Chapel. This will be created by acclaimed local willow weaver, Juliette Hamilton.
It takes several days to complete the transformation before the public can visit the floral extravaganza from December 3rd – 9th. But Gaynor said the effort is worth it.
‘It is such a nice event to be involved with, not just because of the ability to really let your hair down, but it is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase what a wonderful place Arley Hall is. Lord and Lady Ashbrook usually come around and see what we have all done and to hear their feedback is brilliant.
‘The atmosphere is fantastic. This is the third year I’ve done it and I certainly don’t mind going back and admiring the spectacular views.’
There will be pupils from ten local schools each decorating a Christmas tree in the Cruck Barn. Plus, there are plenty of other events lined up, including floral demonstrations, workshops to help you make your own Christmas table decorations and a gift and craft fair, which will take place on December 3rd and 4th.
A special Candlelight and Carols evenings will be hosted at the hall featuring the Serenade Singers and The Consort Choir. Visitors can meander around the hall which will be lit by candlelight.
The hall’s events manager Helen Robinson, who has been planning the event since October, said: ‘We make sure the florists have everything they need and direct them to the kitchen where our head gardener Gordon will have left leaves and foliage such as holly and ivy from the garden for use in their arrangements.
‘There can end up being a lot of people rushing around and although it might look crazy it is all carefully managed. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it when it comes together and the hall looks so spectacular.’