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Christmas in September – Jane Marriott presents Harewood’s vision for Christmas

Is it really time to think about Christmas already? In my second year as Director here at Harewood, I’m just getting used to the fact that we have had to plan for Christmas 2018, since spring this year!

Harewood is a beautifully restored, historic house that we want to ensure stays alive and relevant. It is an educational charitable trust, but it is also a wonderful collection of social and cultural stories, shaped by the Lascelles family. Christmas is such an important and magical time of the year, to be shared with our families, and at Harewood we feel exactly the same. We want to extend that family welcome to all of our visitors.

Christmas at Harewood 1920sHarewood’s Christmas will be both a nostalgic and moving experience, encouraging visitors to delve a little deeper into our social history. Our theme and artistic director this year will ensure that Christmas at Harewood is imaginative, bold, beautiful and simply impossible to replicate anywhere else….

The decadent era of the 1920’s and its more celebratory note is a natural continuation from Seeds of Hope, our exhibition in the Walled Garden and Bothy, which commemorates the end of the first World War, honouring the incredibly important work the gardeners did in supporting the war effort. This participatory and immersive work of imagination, rooted in historical fact and created by Lord Whitney, marks a poignant moment in history and led us to decide Christmas should end the year on a high.

Without giving away too many secrets, visitors will step back in time to imagine Christmas through the eyes of two little boys at the end of the decade; George and Gerald Lascelles. George was the current Earl’s father and both boys were the sons of the sixth Earl and Princess Mary. ‘Imagine it is Christmas Eve 1929, and George and Gerald are wildly excited about the day ahead. As they sleep their unconscious seeps into the rooms of the house, creating a magical dreamscape. Their miniature Pony & Trap is pulled by a Rocking Horse, a satyr from the Chippendale Pier Tables morphs into Santa and their Mother’s elegant wedding dress turns into a beautiful Christmas tree……’

It is important not to be too led by a historical recreation, but rather to be playful and nostalgic. We therefore approached Simon Costin to be our Artistic Director. Simon has worked with the wonderful, late Michael Howells, who created our first Christmas at Harewood last year. He is an internationally respected art director who has collaborated with the likes of the late Alexander McQueen and Givenchy to create jaw-dropping catwalk designs. His work has also been included in many exhibitions and collections from the ICA in London to The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Simon is also great fun to work with and I am sure the staff and volunteers will enjoy every moment dressing the house from top to bottom!

I, for one, cannot wait to open our doors, this Christmas, and welcome everyone into the dream world of the 1920’s at Harewood.

Helen & Joe Got Married

MrandMrsCrabtreemarryatHarewwodFrom the end of this year, couples can again get married at Harewood, the first time in several years. Mr and Mrs Crabtree got married in 2014 and gave us an insight into their big day.

How did you meet?
We met at York Races through a mutual friend.

Why did you choose Harewood for your wedding?
We’d looked around a few venues but as soon as we were shown around Harewood we knew it was the venue for us. Beautiful house, stunning views and penguins to boot!

What was your wedding like?
From start to finish, the day was perfect. It was the hottest day of the year so we spent most of the day and night outside, either on the terrace or in the courtyard. It was a very relaxed day – exactly what we wanted – with a BBQ served to our guests in the sun and all our friends and family enjoying the live band in the evening.

Where did you do your first dance and what was the music?
Our first dance was in the Courtyard to Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’ sung by our fab wedding band ‘The Players’.


What are your lasting highlights / memories of your wedding?
Joe – Helen walking down the aisle as our friend sang ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’
Helen – standing on the terrace after the ceremony with all our friends and family and just looking around feeling incredibly happy.

If you could do it all over again, would you…?
Absolutely – we wouldn’t change a thing.

The Harewood Wedding Showcase takes place on Sunday 30 September and present wedding opportunities and some exceptional partners and suppliers to couples looking to tie the know. To find out more visit online and follow us on social media @harewoodhouse


An Introduction to the Walled Garden at Harewood House

Heritage Fruit & Vegetables

Recognising the contribution gardeners and farmers made to the war effort

As part of the Seeds of Hope exhibition in the Walled Garden we have been growing an interesting selection of heritage fruits and vegetables that we researched and believe may have been grown here during the First World War.

Old seed catalogues and articles published in the 1918 Gardeners’ Chronicle, a monthly magazine for Head Gardeners, enabled us to develop planting plans and resources from a few of the specialist seed suppliers still growing these old varieties today, such as Thomas Etty, Garden Organic and Pernnard Plants.

In 1914 Britain imported over 60% of its total food supply. British farmers focused on the production of livestock for meat and dairy, a far more profitable and much less labour-intensive product than arable crops.

As the war progressed, the Government became so concerned that Britain may run out of food, in part due to the sustained bombing campaign, that they decided to take action and in February 1917 introduced rationing for the first time and launched a ‘Ploughing Up’ campaign. This ordered farmers to convert pastures into arable fields to produce vital crops such as wheat, oats and potatoes.

In November 1917 the Harewood Estate received its order and the 5th Countess of Harewood actively encouraged her own tenant farmers, gardeners and other local farmers to employ women on the land.

Over the next few months, we will share with you just some of the examples of what we believe would have been grown in the Walled Garden to provide food for the Harewood Estate’s staff, the soldiers convalescing in the auxiliary hospital in the house as well as for sale in the in the local village shops and markets.

With our Kale looking particularly vibrant in the garden this month, the first blog will highlight its virtues and varieties. Read more about Seeds of Hope.

Maria Mahon, Kitchen Gardener

The Story behind Seeds of Hope

5 questions with….Nicola Stephenson, Harewood House Trust Exhibitions Producer

What’s the story behind Seeds of Hope?

We wanted to find a way of marking the end of the First World War, in this the centenary year, and rather than dwelling on the well-reported horrors, when we thought about what was happening at Harewood in that period, we found so many interesting stories linked to life in and around the Estate, such as keeping the local population (and Navy) fed, the House as an auxiliary hospital and the work and activities people did to lift their spirits and keep going despite their personal worries about family and the war. It soon became clear that the Walled Garden and the gardener’s Bothy had a real story to tell.

How did the Seeds of Hope project develop?

The Walled Garden lies on the opposite side of the Lake and although our visitors have always had the opportunity to go there, not many people were. We felt they were missing the chance to see a very magical part of Harewood and that there was an opportunity to bring both outdoor and indoor spaces to life. For that we needed some real creativity.

We had been aware of Lord Whitney and their work in Leeds and beyond for some time. A collaboration of young creative directors, many of us had seen their highly acclaimed immersive work at Leeds Town Hall, The World Beneath the Woods, and we loved the approach of creating an immersive environment to tell a historical story and to bring this project to life, so that it could appeal to young and old. And what they have created has really transformed the space for the good.

Tell us more about the process of the collaboration?

Rebekah Lord and Amy Whitney make up the creative duo of Lord Whitney, in addition to a team of exceptionally talented artists, musicians and set designers, including Buffalo who created the soundscape. They first came to Harewood in the winter, when it was cold and the garden was empty and looking huge and the Bothy had not been converted – a daunting introduction! Over the following months they developed and presented their vision, through research and conversations with people such as Head Gardener Trevor and Rebecca Burton in our Collections department. A narrative began to emerge based on the historical research but telling the Seeds of Hope story through a number of characters. In addition, they developed a layout for the garden, stocked with heritage vegetables, goats and chickens, encouraging visitors to step back in time to a 100 years ago.

The visual and audio soundscapes (based on a song of the time called The World is Waiting for a Sunrise) were created for the Orchard and the old green houses, planted with 1,269 sunflowers, representing the number of soldiers treated in the hospital during the war. The music shows how sound can transform a space and has surpassed our imagination and that of our visitors.
As we uncovered more stories about the time, through callouts to the local community and through research, we could see Lord Whitney become completely absorbed with the stories, and whilst this is a work of fiction, it is very much based on historical fact.

What did you learn working in this way?

This has been a completely new challenge for the Trust, as it’s the first time we have worked across all the different collections in this way; Collections, Gardens, Farm and animal management and practical matters to do with accessibility. It has been a real collaboration with new experiences and responsibilities for everyone. And it’s a long and living exhibition, which means that there is constantly work to do to keep it looking fresh and appealing.

We’ve also learnt a great deal about our capabilities…there has been an exceptional level of team work and contribution from our volunteers in planting 12,000 Cosmos plants and hundreds of sunflowers in a heatwave.

What are your highlights?

  1. Standing in the orchard and listening to the music that seems to flow from the trees, it’s poignant and moving and yet very peaceful.
  2. Standing in Mr Leathley’s office, looking out of the window and seeing his collection of bird books and seeds drying out and the view that he had over his garden. The level of detail is lovely and you get a real sense of stepping back in time.
  3. Learning more about this period of history and how it relates to Harewood – the social history stories are fascinating.

A View from the Bird Garden

Just as the summer holidays are getting into full swing, so the Humboldt penguins’ annual moult does too. As you visit the penguin pool over the next few weeks you will see some very plump and scruffy looking penguins waddling about. This is a natural part of their life-cycle which occurs after breeding season.

Being an aquatic bird, they must change all their feathers at once to ensure that they remain well insulated and able to swim efficiently when they are hunting. A few weeks before they moult the penguins experience a huge increase in appetite (which is the best time to book a ‘Meet the Penguins’ Feeding Experience, as this is when you’ll really get a good crowd around the fish bucket).

The reason for this increase in appetite is to ensure they have enough body fat to live off for up to 10 days, as they are unable to enter the water to hunt while they are moulting. Their feathers lose their waterproofing qualities during this time. Geoff is currently in the lead, having already started losing big chunks of feathers, which are being pushed out by the new ones growing underneath. By the time August arrives he will be sporting brand new pristine plumage and be the envy of the rest of the colony!

Many of the other residents of the Bird Garden are nesting and raising young themselves, but it is not only the birds who have been carrying out parental duties – one of the keepers, Lisa has been working day and night hand raising two Brown Lory chicks for the past month. This is because their parents, Charlie and Peppermint (who can be seen by the Mini-beast Trail, near the flamingos) had been trying to feed them feathers and other unsuitable items.

You can follow @HarewoodHouse on social media for some behind the scenes footage of these two new noisy additions, and make sure to follow the Bird Garden activities on #TakeoverTuesday.