Harpenden Evening Web Page

Visit Reports

Visit to Upton House near Banbury

Tuesday 5th June 2018

Although the weather was uninspiring it was dry all day. Our journey there took an hour and three quarters and on arrival we were greeted by Angela, our hostess, who kept a careful eye on us throughout our visit.

Upton House was built in 1697 and given to the National Trust in 1947. It was built in an idyllic setting and it is little wonder that in 1927 Lord and Lady Bearsted viewed the house with “ the eye of imagination” and soon set about creating their made to measure home, an art lovers’ paradise and intimate weekend retreat.

After coffee and shortbreads we divided into two groups, one to tour the house the other to visit the gardens.

Lord Bearsted commissioned the architect, Percy Morley Harder to enlarge and remodel the house by adding two wings which gave it a sense of symmetry. He created interiors fit to showcase Lord Bearsted’s world class paintings including some by Canaletto, Gainsborough, Bruegel, Stubbs and Hogarth. Interestingly many of the 150 paintings are hung at eye level making viewing feel very intimate. The guides were extremely informative and even told us how to recognise a fake Bruegel because of the addition of a small person in blue in the bottom right hand corner.

The extensive collection of English and French porcelain features pieces of Bow, Chelsea, Derby, Worcester and Sevres. Items are often loaned to other museums, galleries and for exhibitions.

Whilst Lord Bearsted concentrated on the house, Lady Bearsted worked with garden designer Kitty Lloyd Jones to bring the neglected gardens back to life.

The views of the south facing garden are totally unexpected. As you walk down the terrace and across the sweeping lawn there is no indication of what is to come. Suddenly below are a series of tumbling terraces reflected in a large mirror pool. Traditional fruit and vegetables were growing in the kitchen garden and the double herbaceous boarder was coming into flower. The gardens host half of the National Collection of Asters and the National Michaelmas Daisy Collection.

A choice of two main lunch dishes was served in Iris’s tea room, Iris being the name of the family’s long serving housekeeper.

The afternoon allowed more time to visit the house and gardens.

For those who have not been Upton House is well worth a visit.

Susan Aldridge and Jane Bedwell