(c) Victorian Festival of Christmas

(c) Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

A couple of weeks ago the Victorian Christmas Festival was on in Portsmouth. It’s a fantastic event that happens every year and gets lots of businesses and local people involved, including an exhibition from the archive I research in. I was sadly unable to go, but with this year being Sherlock Holmes themed, I couldn’t not tell you all about it!

So hear it from someone who was there and loved it; Lucy Smith (fellow PhD student at Portsmouth University):

“The 2013 Victorian Christmas Festival at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard was the biggest yet, with a varied mix of themed ‘snowy streets’, market stalls, exhibitions, theatre and performances and a vast number of actors from the Groundlings Theatre Company, as well as volunteers dressed as Victorian characters from history and fiction.

Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas1

The festival was organised into a number of colourful themed areas such as a phantasmagorical Art Nouveau pub staging sea shanties and brass bands, and literary readings inside HMS Warrior, which was decorated for Christmas.


This year’s Sherlock Holmes theme was represented by a fake snow-covered Baker Street themed area with food and stalls, figures dressed as the main characters outside the front door of ‘221B Baker Street’, and a theatre performance ‘Ho Ho Holmes’.


Baker Street

221B Baker St

Additionally, part of the City Museum’s Conan Doyle exhibition was removed to the Action Stations area. After dark, the festival really came alive as it was easier to believe we were in a real Victorian street rather than a modern dockyard. The festival culminated on the Sunday, with a parade of all the chronological kaleidoscope of Victorian ‘characters’ through the ‘snowy streets’, heckling and joking with the crowd as they went, leading to a final carol singing service to round off the event.”

Victorian Christmas 2

Michael Gunton, Senior Archivist for the Doyle collection wrote of their exhibition:

“We took the ‘introductory exhibition’ (which has previously been to France, Germany and Japan), as well as some framed posters from the collection, and the first of the ‘Sharing Sherlock!’ exhibitions, produced by Portsmouth MIND. Some 2500 people visited the exhibition over the three days, from Portsmouth but also much further afield. Most spent a good while looking at the exhibition, and there were many positive comments.”

Doyle exhibition

From the look of the Victorian Festival of Christmas website and their Facebook page, everyone had a thoroughly good time! There are lots pictures on there if you want to see more of the fun and you can even book for next year.

Unless otherwise stated, all photos here belong to Lucy Smith or Michael Gunton and are used with permission, with special thanks to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for the photo of Sherlock and Watson on stilts.


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