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Is Willenhall grotto the best Christmas house ever?

Walsall | News | Published:

With more than 300 Santas, 100 snowmen, countless baubles and miles of tinsel, it's a grotto Father Christmas would be proud of.

Christmas crazy Hilda Creaney's modest semi-detached house has been a festive attraction in Willenhall for years.

People go out of their way to see her Las Vegas-style lights, a kaleidoscopic blaze of Santas, reindeer, stars and bells.

And outside the front door stands a postbox which each year gets around 300 letters for Santa from local children, all of which receive a reply.

But few have seen the inside of the house in Walsall Street, which Hilda shares with her husband Harry.

For nearly six weeks every year it screams Christmas like no other.

The 70-year-old has more than 1,000 decorations up in the hallway and living room.

Santas, snowmen, penguins, angels and elves are arranged on the ceiling, walls and every flat surface, costing from 50p to £400.

Many figures are more than 3ft high and most are connected to the mains so that they light up, sing or dance when switched on.

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There are also several elaborate clockwork scenes, such as a Santa's toy factory, which Hilda's son Carl brought home from America on his travels. The whole lot takes about three weeks to put up.

The retired social work assistant says: "I'm an electricians' nightmare but we've never had a blow-out yet.

"I love Christmas and I love to see the children's faces when they see what we've done here.

"The local nursery school come up to see the house and I always show them the crib in the hall and tell them that is what Christmas is really about."

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The Yuletide preparations start in the middle of November when the boxes of baubles, tinsel and other decorations are brought out of storage at a nephew's factory.

As the outside lights go up on the front of the house, a major operation carried out by Hilda's grandson Jamie and friends.

The interior of the family's cosy home is transformed into a Christmas grotto with the big switch-on taking place on the last Saturday in November.

Then about 25 friends and family travel from Wales, Telford and Birmingham for a festive knees-up.

The tradition, which started nearly 40 years ago, was inspired by a Yuletide-themed picture which her three children coloured in.

Carl, now 49 and a Walsall councillor, Tracey, 47, and Dawn, 37, and their friends worked for days on the artwork.

Dad Harry was so impressed he mounted the picture in a glass-fronted box with a strip light and displayed it in the bay window.

Hilda says: "It all started from there.

"People ask whether I get depressed when it all has to come down and it's true that I do miss the colour and seeing the children post their letters.

"But on the other hand, it's a chance to give the house a proper clean and that makes me feel good, too."

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