On Saturday, 2nd December, the medieval Great Barn at the National Trust’s Buckland Abbey, near Plymouth opens its doors for Christmas 2023 with an immersive Tudor Frost Fair display. The Great Tudor Frost Fair in the Great Barn has been inspired by the incredibly cold winters in the 16th and 17th centuries that led to rivers freezing over for weeks at a time, allowing people to gather, setting up stalls and festivities. As you follow the frozen river on the floor you will be able to admire glittering trees, falling snow and listen to the hustle and bustle of a Tudor market crowd. 

Wooden market stall displays will be set up throughout the trees to give visitors the feeling that they have stepped back in time, with plenty of opportunities to stop and learn all about the history of these fairs and the people who attended them. You may even spot a few animals amongst the stalls! 

Eleanor Hopkinson, Visitor Operations & Experience Manager, said: "Buckland’s Great Barn is one of the largest medieval tithe barns left in England and we always look forward to filling it with festive cheer. Throughout its history, there are stories of it being a place where the community are brought together. This has continued into the modern day and there’s no better time than this festive season for families to come together in the Great Barn for a magical Christmas."

The beautifully decorated Abbey will feature a Christmas cascade with countless beautifully hand-crafted decorations made by volunteers. Hundreds of hours of needlework have been put into this display which tells the story of winter at Buckland leading into a beautiful frost fair at the bottom of the staircase.  

Emma Whitworth, Visitor Experience Officer, added: "We have really enjoyed making this year’s frosty Christmas. Most of the decorations are either second hand or have been handmade by staff and volunteers, who have worked incredibly hard this year to bring this frosty vision to life. Visitors will be able to see the true community effort from our volunteers runs through the whole of Buckland Abbey from constructing the Barn display, putting together flower displays, dressing Christmas trees in the Abbey and sewing the Georgian staircase cascade."

No New Year festivities are complete without a traditional Wassail. Every year at Buckland Abbey the team make sure to wake the trees from their slumber to bring in a good harvest for next year. The celebrations will start from 1pm on Sunday, 7th January 2024 with a traditional mummers play and dancing, which will be performed by the Dartmoor Border Moors. Everyone will then head down to the orchards to make as much noise as possible to wake the trees in a traditional Wassail. Pots, pans, and anything noisy will be needed to help chase away any bad luck in the hopes of getting a good harvest next year. 

Half of the trees on display in the Great Barn will have been felled from the Buckland Abbey estate as part of Buckland’s ongoing woodland floor management plan to support the health of the woodlands on the estate. As space in the woodland is created, light floods the woodland floor allowing new growth to accelerate a dynamic structure of flowers and young trees creating a broad age structure for all life.  

Ed Furdson, Area Ranger, said: "It’s wonderful that we can use trees from Buckland’s Great North Wood in this year’s Christmas display. Once the display is finished, they will be chipped and used across the estate the complete their circular journey."

Buckland Abbey and the Great Barn are open from 2 December – 31 December. Check the website for opening times and the full list of family events, including local choirs, Christmas storytelling and Christmas workshops. Go to nationaltrust.org.uk/buckland-abbey  

Image from: National Trust, SGHaywood

Buckland Abbey

Discovery, tranquillity and history – Buckland Abbey is an ancient gem in the Tavy Valley landscape. When you visit Buckland, you follow over 700 years of footsteps; from the Cistercians who built the Abbey and farmed the estate, to seafarers Grenville and Drake who changed the shape of the…