PREPARATIONS have begun at Castle Howard for 'A Christmas Masquerade' which promises to be the estate's most lavish seasonal presentation yet.

A mask of secrecy often surrounds the theme of Castle Howard’s Christmas decorations culminating in a spectacular reveal, but this year’s theme takes this to a whole new level as visitors will be welcomed into preparations for a grand Venetian Masquerade Ball.

It is the third time theatrical designers Charlotte Lloyd Webber, Bretta Gereke and their team have worked their magic on Castle Howard at Christmas.

And this year they take inspiration from one of the most indulgent and elaborate celebrations – the Venetian Ball – to ensure every room of the house will glitter and shine.

Four of the most significant masked performers from the 16th to 18th centuries also influence the displays.

From the Commedia dell'arte, the colours of Harlequin and Colombine’s stunning diamond chequered costumes, the monochrome Pierrot and the zany clown Pulcinella – the inspiration behind seaside favourite Mr Punch – will be showcased throughout the house.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the High South, where a life-size ‘paper theatre' creates a colourful, pantomime display.

Head of marketing, Abbigail Ollive, said: “Castle Howard is a house inspired by theatre, originally designed by playwright Sir John Vanbrugh, and we always endeavour to have our Christmas displays tell an authentic story that unfolds as you walk from room to room.

"This year’s displays are unlike anything we’ve had before – using a wonderfully vibrant harlequin colour palette to remarkable effect.”

The presentation runs from November 16 until January 5.