Until 1929, Lady Agnus Gertrude Macdonald—wife of Sir Hugh John Macdonald—would sit in the solarium gossiping with her closet friends over a cup of tea in her home, which is now the Dalnavert Museum and Visitors’ Centre.
“The Macdonald family often entertained with formal dinners, afternoon teas, and high teas,” says volunteer coordinator Susan Moffatt.
Back then, afternoon teas started out in rooms like the solarium at Dalnavert. Moffatt says just women normally attended these and they’d last for a few hours.
But over the years, they grew to be more formal and a way to show their social status.
“Ladies dressed in formal wear and enjoyed tea, a scone, and what Victorians called ‘a sweet’. A sweet was a small cake,” says Moffatt.
But the higher class didn’t create high teas in the Victorian era. High teas started when farmers wanted to take a break before they ended their workday.
“They’d pack a ploughman’s lunch, which consisted of a meat pie and tea,” she says.
The higher class has high teas as light meals before dinner where they always served meat pies, sausages, cucumber sandwiches, scones, and a sweet.In 2017, teas are a bit different now, but Dalnavert is bringing back the Victorian traditions of tea time with a twist with its upcoming event—A Wilde Tea Party.
Charlene Van Buekenhout, director of programming and marketing, created the event as a fundraiser for the museum so it can continue some of its programming.
“It’s a ‘W-i-l-d-e tea party because it has an Oscar Wilde theme,” Van Buekenhout says. “I thought it was a perfect way to combine Victorian manners, entertaining, and entertainment because Wilde is a well-known playwright who delves into Victorian manners in his work.”The museum created a few new educational pilot programs and started them for a few high schools already, she says. It’s also creating new events and other programs for the downtown community, but can’t fund them all on its own.
“We want to keep these new programs and deliver them throughout the year since they’ve gotten great reviews so far,” Van Buekenhout says. “And people want to see them to continue too, we’ve seen this with the great support from people donating things to help out with our tea party.”
The museum received dozen of silent auction prizes from local artists, other museums, local book publishers, walking tours, and local theatre companies.
“We’ll have actors immerse themselves among the tea partiers to perform scenes from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde,” Van Buekenhout says.
Unlike the Victorian era where only one kind of tea was served, there will be several different teas provided by Amsterdam Tea House, she adds.
The Wilde Tea Party is on June 11 at Dalnavert Museum and starts at 2 p.m
For more information and tickets go to wildetea.brownpapertickets.com