Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

A Tudor Christmas (S Devon Branch)

Thu. 14 December 2023 at 2:15 pm

£2 – £4

A Tudor Christmas with the Lady Katherine.

Appearing in full period costume Rosemary Griggs will bring the festivities, feasting and fun of a Tudor Christmas to life in a lively presentation. We will travel back in time as a guest invited to join Sir Philip Champernowne’s Christmas feast at the Court House Modbury and discover the etiquette, the menu and the customs of the twelve days of a sixteenth century Christmas.

 The cost will be £2 for DA members, £4 for non-members.

Report on the event

The Lady Katherine and her peasant

Members and friends of the South Devon Branch were introduced to a Tudor Christmas by Lady Katherine and her peasant, aka Rosemary and David Griggs. Rosemary is a local author who is particularly interested in the forgotten women of Devon’s history.

Lady Katherine and Rosemary explained to the audience how different Christmas was 400 years’ ago while peasant David interspersed the narrative with folk songs of the period.

Following their Advent Fast, the Tudors began their Christmas festivities on Christmas Eve when they bought in greenery to deck the halls and a log to keep burning throughout the celebrations.

There are two different versions of wassailing.  The first is more like our carol singers – when the wassailers came singing and were given a steaming bowl of cider or ale to drink with a piece of toast at the bottom.  The cider or ale was all drunk and the toast was raised up! The other wassailing occurred (and is still celebrated) when cider or ale is thrown round the roots of the apple trees and toast is hung in the branches.

On Christmas morning everyone went to Church and afterwards the feasting started!  This was an opportunity for the great and good of the country to show off how rich they were.  The best linen would be brought out to cover the tables and several courses would be served.  The first course was the meat course – not only beef, pork and venison but also a boar’s head, goose, duck, chicken and peacock.  By the 1530s turkeys were also appearing.  Then came the fish course and then the pies – many types of pie, including mince pies.  Mince pies at that time included meat and the aim was to have 13 ingredients in them to represent the 12 apostles and Jesus.  Then came the sugar banquet – often in another room.  This included sugared almonds, marzipan and pieces of quince marmalade with spun sugar models of horses, for example.  Sugar was becoming cheaper, and cooks and chefs were keen to display their talents.

The feasting was all about display and how prosperous someone was.  Leftovers were considerable and these were then given to the servants and the poor of the area.

The festivities continued for the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Boxing Day was called St Stephen’s Day.  The Feast of St John was a day for getting drunk! The 28th was the Feast of the Holy Innocents when the boys of the household were whipped but children took over as the Lord of Misrule. Gifts were not exchanged until January 1st and on Twelfth Night a fruit cake was made which contained a small pea or bean.  Whoever found the pea or bean in their slice of cake became the King or Queen of the Pea or Bean.

After the twelve days of feasting and fun, life returned to normal!

Rosemary has a new book due to be published in the Spring of 2024 about Sir Arthur Champernowne’s daughter.

Chris Reader


Thu. 14 December 2023
2:15 pm
£2 – £4
Event Categories:


South Devon Branch
Annie Maltby: 07771 277761


Newton’s Place
43 Wolborough St
Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 1JQ