It has been a year since our last visit to the magical Christmas Village of Dickenshire. The lights are lit, the trees are decorated and the 139 residents are just about prepared for the Holiday Season. The village is all a buzz with Holiday excitement so let's take a moment from our own holidays to glimpse what the season was all about in "days of yore"...
It has been a stormy season and a recent snow storm has covered our little village with a seasonal blanket of snow. It will be a White Christmas for Dickenshire this year. What better way to arrive in our little village than by sailing in on the steamer Britannia. The seas may be a bit choppy but the Britannia does not appear to be having any difficulty with her arrival.
Once the sailingship Emily Louise makes sail the Britannia will be able to make her berth. Dickenshire is a small village and the dockyard only can berth one ship at a time. So until the Emily Louise departs on the tide the Britannia will have to hold her position off Lighthouse Point. However from our position on deck we can see that the recent storm has certainly added a festive touch to Dickenshire.
While on the voyage to Dickenshire I did have a moment to speak to AB seaman Perkins. He was recently on a British Indiaman that put in at Southhampton. He says he was fortunate to get a booking on the Britannia and so he was able to earn a little extra money for the holidays while also making certain that he would arrive home in time for the Holidays. He sent a post to his wife informing her that he might arrive today. He expects that his wife and children will be on Lookout Point looking forward to his arrival.
Now that the Emily Louise has departed we should make landfall shortly. From the looks of the dock and customs yard there seems to have been a lot of recent shippping. The yard seems full and I note several "old salts"on the pier ready to assist with our docking.
I can see Longshoreman Edwards hard at work in the yard. I'm sure he will get some overtime for unloading the Britannia. Seaman Perkins told me that if I wanted a first rate and fresh seafood meal I should try the Blue Marlin as it has a fine reputation around the fleet. Maybe we can get a meal there before we leave.
As we disembark from the Britannia we will walk right past the Blue Marlin. Looking through the windows it looks to be crowded, so perhaps a bit of sight seeing is in order while we have the time. I see that the snowfall has created some new business for the bootblacks as everyone's footwear will be the worse for wear in this weather.
As long as the weather is not too severe how about a brisk walk up to the alpine meadow above Dickenshire? The stone stairway begins just behind the Blue Marlin. Let's get started.
Climbing the stairs the first cottage we approach is the Perrymans'. The Perryman family creates some of the finest hand made toys in the kingdom. Mrs. Perryman has just received a letter from her son who is in London. He writes that he will not be able to make it home for Christmas, but hopes to make it for the day after. If the tracks get cleared from the snowstorm maybe he can catch a late express train.
Just past the Perrymans' cottage is the old wooden bridge which crosses Dickens Falls and leads to the Fraiser's home. Dickenshire has a noted photographer who captures the magical moments of the village. I see he is currently on the bridge photographing the falls and a rather large bull moose. We probably ought to wait until he is finished before walking out to see the falls.
Across the footbridge is the Fraiser Cottage. The Fraiser boys and their father run the village lighthouse. While Mr. Fraiser is at the lighthouse the boys are working on repairing the thatched roof from the damages incurred in the recent storm. That rough hewn stone staircase leading to the boat dock looks like it could get pretty slippery in bad weather.
The Taylors own the very solid stone cottage that is the next stop as we climb to the alpine forests. The Taylors make fine lace and are the village garment makers. I see the Taylors are heading out to town for the evening celebration that will take place at midnight.

Just past the Taylor's is the footbridge that leads to the high country. The snow seems to be a bit deeper in this area.

Over the bridge stands Sheffield Manor. When the current generation of Sheffields inherited the lands they preserved the still standing old tower of the keep but erected a new manor house that is much more comfortable than the centuries old broken castle. Just to the right of the bridge you can still see the remains of the outer bailey. Also, if you look, there is a fine roe deer buck hiding at the forest edge.
If we continue past Sheffield Manor and over the last bridge we will arrive at Heathmoor Castle. Long before Dickenshire became a village this ancient fortress guarded this valuable harbor and water supply from invading Norsemen. The original lord of this castle is buried in the old church cemetery at the far end of town. We can stop by on our way to the hotel. If you listen you might hear the Great Horned Owl that lives in the forest. Let's head back to the village.
Back in Dickenshire, just outside the Custom's House is the Plumstead Market and Christmas Bazaar. The Plumsteads have run the corner market for years. They are well known for their fresh farm produce. Today they have fresh fruits in their mobile cart and sacks of other goods at the market. Every year Mr. Plumstead donates space next to the market to the annual Christmas bazaar. Local residents offer both baked and canned goods for sale. Today I see that Mr. Perryman is selling some of his toys at the market. We could hire a hack to take us to the hotel, but I suggest we walk and just let the hack carry our luggage to the hotel where we will be spending the night.
The bazaar does feature a variety of homemade goods but from this view we can also see the Burton and Sanders Stained Glass works. The two partners have been making fine stained glass for many of the area churches for many years. The glass works is the most successful business in all Dickenshire.
In Dickenshire the Strand runs from the Customs House, through the old town, and on to Portobello Road. Along the Strand is located Monument Park which recognizes the village's history. In the park is a statue of Queen Victoria that was dedicated after she granted the village a Royal Charter. It also has a statue of the original Lord of Heathmoor whose castle we saw up in the alpine forest. From this view we also get a look at the offices of Scrooge and Marley Enterprizes, and the village bakery.
At the bend on the Strand are the offices of Scrooge and Marley.
I can see that even on Christmas Eve old Ebeneezer is still working late in his office. Wonder if he has given any thought to entertaining guests tonight?
Never one to waste an opportunity to make money old Scrooge rented out the land behind his offices to the Georges. They put up a modest house where they have lived for many years. I see Mr. George heading out to work right now.
Just behind and above Scrooge Corner stands Queensbridge Station. In recent years the railroad has added several daily trains to the schedule and now residents can catch a morning and evening train to London. The trip only takes 4 hours. One of the reasons for the expanded schedule is the demand for glass from the Burton and Sanders Glassworks.
I see 'Liza Doolittle has her flower cart at the station tonight.
Passengers waiting for trains (which often run late) can pass the time at the Melancholy Pub where the working class comes to get their pints at the end of the day. The ale is said to be the best for miles. For the holiday season the village has added a bus to transport residents and visitors to the hotel. The bus is one of those new fangled double deckers.
On the highway above the station you can see the Holiday Coach taking travelers to nearby villages that are not served by the railroad. Just having the Queensbridge Station here in town has helped village commerce.
The ale served at the Melancholy Pub is brewed in the nearby village of Lonsdale. Deliveries are made as necessary by wagon. I see a new shipment is about to arrive.
If you are in a hurry to get to town or to the harbor for a departing vessel, the fastest means of transportation is still by hack. Jimmy Brown's hack is off on a run at this moment. He will be taking Portobello Road to the Strand and then to the docks. The fare is only 2 shilllings, plus of course a tip for the driver.
A view of Old Town in Dickenshire
Along the Strand, just past Scrooge Corner, is the wheatcakes and pudding house (seen here to the right). The plum pudding is a village favorite. Next door stands the Falstaff Inn, the oldest rooming house in the village. It is a favorite of seamen and guests looking for a cheap, but clean place to spend the night.
At the end of the Strand stands Old Michaelchurch the oldest building in Dickenshire after Heathmoor Castle. In the church graveyard is the grave of the original Lord of Heathmoor. Every year residents still lay a wreath on his grave. The custom has been going on for more than 900 years. Certainly Dickenshire has retained a sense of its history. Next to the Falstaff Inn is the village park. Residents annually decorate a tree with candy canes and in the last few years have been setting up a Nativity scene at the base of the tree. With the snow storm this year, village children have managed to erect at 10 foot tall snowman to add to the festivities.
At the beginning of Portobello Road stand two of the older shops in Dickenshire. Spider Locks has been furnishing both locks and keys for more than 100 years and the next door poultry shop is known far and wide for its fine cornish hens and of course the ever popular Christmas goose. With the heavy snowfall, I doubt that anyone will be sitting at the table to enjoy the view.
Thomas Griswold always has a fine Christmas goose for those who desire a traditional Christmas dinner.
Mr. and Mrs James have been coming to Dickenshire since they were married in Old Michaelchurch more than 40 years ago to get their annual Christmas goose. Looks like they made it in spite of the snow again this year.
With the recent expansion of British maritime trade to China, Dickenshire has opened the unique China Trader Shoppe. Mr. Mortenson opened the shop after he retired from the foreign service and business has been brisk.
The China Trader Shoppe and nearby newsstand.
Just up the road from the China Trader Shoppe are the village speciality shops. The Antiquarian Bookseller not only offers new publications (especially those by Charles Dickens) but also has a collection of original texts which date back several hundred years. The village also boasts a fine wine and spirits shop.
Mr. Trent and his granddaughter manage the Old Curiosity Shoppe on Portobello Road (those of you that have read Dickens' work will understand what happens at the shop). The shop offers a unique collection of old treasures some of which can be seen on display in the front yard.
The best place in town to get a fine meal is at the venerable Horse and Hounds. The Wilsons, who came to Dickenshire tonight for the festivities, also enjoyed the bangers and mash for which the pub is famous. I prefer the fish and chips.
We are reaching the end of Portobello Road as night begins to fall on the village. It will not be long before the festivities begin. I suggest we stop at the Coffee House for something hot to drink before heading to the Plaza in front of St. Paul's for tonight's concert.
The highest point in the village is dominated by majestic St. Paul's whose white stone work stands out against the skyline. The Vicar of St. Paul's always distributes Christmas loaves to the needy on the church steps. Ever since the current vicar arrived he has had the church choir preform a Christmas carol concert at midnight on the church steps. While people are starting to gather in the plaza I think we will have time to check into our hotel before the concert if we hurry.
Next to St. Paul's stand Dickenshire's historic landmark hotel the Timbers. Although it was built in the late 19th century this Victorian style structure has been renovated to modern standards but still features magnificent four poster beds with goosedown comforters. We will spend a toasty warm night in our rooms after the concert. Good thing we made reservations last year or we might have been left out in the cold.
Midnight has arrived and the Choir is assembled on the church steps, the plaza is filled with the residents and guests who annually come to this hour long concert. Let's just enjoy the moment.
The last carol of the night is always the Carol of the Bells and for this piece the town crier, and the village postmen all join the choir with their bells adding just the right touch to the carol.
With the concert over we can retire to our warm beds in the Timbers Hotel. We should remember to make a reservation for next year before we leave in the morning. However the night is not quite over for at least one visitor to Dickenshire. In the still of the night St. Nicholas makes his annual appearance pulling his sleigh loaded with toys. The first stop he always makes is at the village park on the Strand where in front of the Nativity set he leaves a small toy drum.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from the residents of my Christmas Village of Dickenshire. Thank you all for visiting this year. I hope this year's village brought a smile to a few faces and maybe brought back some fond memories of Christmas past to some of the older visitors.

Please take a moment to sign the Guest Book if you enjoyed your visit.

Finally, don't forget to come back next year for a new display.

 

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