The National Civil War Centre is marking Yuletide by sitting on the fence. The museum will open throughout the festive period apart from Christmas Day and New Year's Day to offer visitors the perfect holiday day out in Newark.
But the celebration of Christmas was a big point of division amongst the sides fighting the 17th century British Civil Wars with the Puritan authorities banning it and revellers being driven underground. So because museum chiefs refuse to take sides they have opted to erect a Christmas tree half bare and with baubles sporting the legend 'Christmas is Banned' and with the other side glittering with tinsels and colour.
Stuart Jennings, academic advisor to the National Civil War Centre, explained:
“The Parliamentary act abolishing Yuletide as a 'popish superstition' was passed in 1644, but Cromwell was away fighting at the time so definitely did not ban Christmas. But he must have sympathised with the clamp down as during his period as Lord Protector the legislation was enforced. In Newark Christmas was observed openly up to 1646 and probably was over much of the 1650s, but much more quietly and secretly. You had to be careful.”
Things got more dicey in 1655 as Edward Whalley, the Major General for Notts, was based in Newark. He was committed to the new regime, signed the death warrant of King Charles and was an efficient solider who sternly imposed the new rules on Christmas. Even eating mince pies was banned and churches raided to ensure they were not holding services. Shops and markets were forced to open and there are records of Notts shopkeepers being fined for transgressing. Some culprits were also whipped. Elsewhere frustrated revellers rioted in Canterbury, London and Bury St Edmunds. Not until the restoration King Charles II did the festive good times roll again in England.
The National Civil War Centre is open daily 10am to 4pm. Entry is £7 adults, £6 concessions and £3 children. A season ticket is £11. Half price entry for English Heritage members. Follow us on Twitter: @civilwarcentre or at www.facebook.com/NationalCivilWarCentre