It’s ‘Downton Abbey’ tea time at the museum

Saturday, Dec. 5, event will show that history can be fancy (and fun)

As the British television series “Downton Abbey” has become increasingly popular on public television the past five years, it has sparked new interest among its fans in some very old British customs – like “tea time.”

Jeane Burk
Jeane Burk

Jeane Burk of Jefferson, past-president of the Greene County Historical Society, is one of those fans. And she is leading the organization’s presentation on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 5, of a special event, “Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea,” at the historical museum, 219 E. Lincoln Way in Jefferson.

“The TV series really has inspired afternoon teas like this across the U.S.,” Burk said. “I thought it’d be fun to have one here.”

The event here won’t be quite as fancy as what you see on the TV show when the Crawley family and their servants are hosting a tea at their elegant country estate. The “Downton Abbey” story is set from about 1912 to the mid 1920s.

Would Greene County people of that era ever have hosted afternoon teas? “You know, some of our early people here did have significant English roots,” Burk said, “so it’s possible they could have had occasional teas. If they did, they were probably kind of private, exclusive gatherings.”

The afternoon tea on Saturday will certainly be putting some “society” into “historical society.”

For example, the menu promises “English tea, sweets and savories,” by two of this area’s best cooks and bakers, sisters Denise Harberts and Marianne Carlson.

The museum won’t look the way you’re accustomed to seeing it. There will be 20 tables, with room for 80 guests, that will be elegantly decorated, each of them differently. Centerpieces will be from the teapot collection of Jan Rosdail Aegerter. And there will be a display of other fine teapots from the collection of sisters Margaret and Abby Hamilton.

There are plans for a display of period fashion styles, many of them from the museum’s collection of the finery worn by earlier Greene Countians. Burk and her tea committee, which has included Marilyn Copeland and Marilynn Hoskinson, are trying to arrange for live models, and there will be commentary from master of ceremonies Jerry Roberts.

And there may be a demonstration of formal dancing from that era.

Some might consider this “Downton Abbey Tea Time” to be kind of a “make-up” by the Historical Society for two years ago having presented a special program on “The History of Outhouses in Greene County.”  The two programs at least demonstrate that history spans quite a spectrum.

Tickets for the tea are $15 per person. They are on sale from Historical Society members and at The Printer’s Box on the square in Jefferson. Early sales make a sell-out almost certain.

The door will open at 2 pm for viewing of the tables and other decorations.

Formally-attired greeters will welcome guests. “We’re inviting guests to wear period clothing, too, if they’d like,” said Burk. “Today’s clothes will be fine, too, but if somebody has clothing from that earlier era they want to wear, it’ll just add to the fun for everybody.”

Serving begins at 2:30 pm, and Burk promises “there will be plenty to eat.”  

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