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Inside Wintershall, the stately pile that is home to the ultimate nativity play

On a dark December night, if you walk up a hill on the Wintershall estate to the top of a spur of the North Downs, past a tree that features in the Domesday Book, you arrive at a panoramic view of the Surrey Hills.

There you will find the Holly Barn, inside which is a theatre for 500 people, as well as donkeys, sheep and horses, a choir and musicians. Welcome to the Wintershall Nativity.

For 30 years the estate has been known for dramatic performances. The first Nativity was held in the former cow shed in 1989, a small affair for family and friends of Peter and Ann Hutley. The audience sat on straw, the shepherds followed not a star but battery torchlight, and the crib was a trestle table.