Lighting up historical Waddesdon Manor for a magical Christmas holiday season

Waddesdon Imaginarium by Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Picture credit Mike Fear, copyright National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Magical lights and animals are the theme for Christmas at Waddesdon this year, with thousands of fairy lights on the trees in the house and a huge fluorescent dragon in the grounds.

The annual Christmas Fair market stalls, have been moved from the back of the house to the North Front.

One of the house decorations. Picture by Heather Jan Brunt

So when visitors arrive, they are greeted with 80 pretty wooden chalets selling everything from unique gifts to delicious food lining the drive up to the house.

The trees behind them are lit with pretty pink lights and the manor itself is incredible, From dusk, the front is decorated with an extraordinary light and sound show, Waddesdon Imaginarium, created by video design students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Projected onto the manor’s ornate facade, the show has been inspired by the architecture, gardens and history of the estate with objects from the collections 3D scanned and transformed into detailed animations.

Visitors can see roaming porcelain animals, dancing musical clocks, fluttering clouds of butterflies and moths and 18th century portraits creating a fantastical visual story of Waddesdon.

The decorated bathroom. Picture by Heather Jan Brunt

Pippa Shirley, head of collections and gardens, said of the results of the collaboration with Guildhall: ”The house is exploding and the collection is liberated in a most extraordinary way. The musical sound track used is specifically for the projection and it was composed, created and is performed by the students.”

After several years of outdoor light installations from Bruce Munro, American artist Lauren Booth is now illuminating the Rothschild grounds with Electric Menagerie. The display winds from the Aviary to The Stables with a collection of neon goats, parrots, a flea circus and a quite spectacular dragon lighting up the darkness of the evening.

Inside the house, the theme for this year’s decorations, Enchanted Menagerie, celebrates the weird and wonderful animals that can be seen throughout Waddesdon’s collections, from an elephant parade inspired by the 18th century musical automaton to a life sized zebra and trees decked with colourful birds and mythical beasts, and in the Bachelor’s Wing Noah’s Ark in the billiard room and a very amusing bathroom decoration featuring sealions.

Florist Mike Massaro worked with his colleagues at The Flower People to create much of the artistry in the house. He said the project was planned over two to three months off site and then seven people arrived to put the displays together over several days. Fourteen feet Christmas trees are used throughout the house with 10,000 fairy lights, 3,000 baubles, 500 animals, 300 birds and 700 butterflies.

There is plenty of food and drink to keep visitors warmed and filled up during a visit to the manor. In addition to the tasty refreshments on offer from the Christmas Fair market stalls, the Wigwam Cafe has returned, and there is the Treaterie at the Stables and festive teas and lunches at the Manor Restaurant.

Waddesdon is open for Christmas from 11am-6pm Wednesdays to Sundays until January 2 (closed December 24, 25 and 26). Although not usually open on Mondays and Tuesdays, it will open on Monday January 1 and Tuesday January 2. Admission to the house and grounds is £25 for adults, £12.50 children, free for under fives. Admission to the grounds only is £10 adults, £5 children. Discounts are available, full information on opening times and ticket prices at

The Christmas Fair is at the manor during opening hours until Sunday December 10.

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