Gingerbread, period properties and elves, Charlotte Pearson delves into a magical world in Hastings.
Doors can lead to all sorts of adventures and behind one in All Saints Street in Hastings is a world filled with smells of spiced wine and burning log fires.
Owned by Alastair Hendy, the Christmas House will open this month to share some festive joy.
“The house tells the fictional story of the elves and the baker,” he reveals. “There are a lot of baked cakes and treats around the house like gingerbread heart decorations.
“To coincide with the house I rewrote the story of the elves and the shoemaker, replacing shoes with baked goods and illustrated it with my own photographs. It also includes recipes so people can recreate the items at home.”
However when Alastair bought the Tudor property it wasn’t for business purposes.
“My grandparents used to live nearby so I was looking for somewhere to live in Hastings,” he explains. “I wasn’t even looking for a Tudor house but I saw that it was up for sale and thought it was worth having a look around.
“When I stepped through the door it just captivated me and I fell in love with it.”
While many people would have been tempted to redevelop the property this wasn’t Alastair’s plan.
“I de-modernised it,” he explains. “I stripped it back to how it was, as much as I could, while also putting my own stamp on it.
“This meant taking out the modern windows and sky lights, but this made it quite dark inside.”
Something which Alastair admits lends itself to being perfect for this time of year.
“I think it is very much a winter house,” he adds. “It is lovely when I light the fires and the smell of oak burning fills the rooms.
“It is one of the first things people say when they step through the door that they love the smell.”
The idea to open up the house to the public came when the renovation work was being carried out.
“The builders would leave the door open when they were working and people would just walk in and have a look around,” he says. “I think it is because it has a little front door, it fascinates people.
“It had also been on the market for just over three years so I think there was a curiosity with it.
“The first time people could properly have a look around it was when it was still being renovated.
“It was during the Hastings carnival weekend with money going to Old Hastings Preservation Society,” he recalls. “I was surprised at the interest and queues to get in.”
Shortly after the idea for the Christmas house came and the rest is history.
But this isn’t Alastair’s only venture in the town.
Less than a ten minute walk in the High Street is A G Hendy & Co Home Store which sells new and vintage hardware, kitchen, dining and gardening items with a restaurant offering fish dishes at lunchtime on the weekends.
“There are four floors of items,” explains Alastair. “But everything has to be practical as well as beautiful.
“Occasionally I do have decorative items but everything has to have a purpose.”
With a career that includes being a chef, journalist, writer and photographer, Alastair sees the shop and Christmas house as a ‘window into his vision’ and a 3D space for himself rather than a ‘2D version of someone else’s work’.
And it is from all these areas that Alastair has honed his own style.
“I have always collected things from school age,” he says. “So I suppose the shop is me coming full circle.”
If you are looking for a festive adventure or somewhere to buy those must have home items Hastings has just what you are looking for.
The Christmas House, 135 All Saints Street, Hastings Old Town, TN34 3BG. Open: Saturday and Sunday throughout December 2pm – 5pm. Admission £7 for adults or £4 for children. No booking required.
Special openings will take place on December 21, 22 and 23 11am until 5pm Christmas Eve from 11am until 4pm. Admission: Adult £9 Child £4. Your visit on these special opening days will include a warm tipple of Tudor spiced wine. Booking required.
A G Hendy & Co Home store is based at 36 High Street, Hastings, TN34 3ER. Open Thursday to Sunday 11am-5.30pm.
For more details, visit aghendy.com
Pictures: Alastair Hendy