Uppark - a restored stately home in West Sussex
Uppark House and Gardens are run by the National Trust and are a very popular West Sussex visitor attraction.
History of Uppark HouseUppark was built in the 1680s by Lord Grey of Warke (later 1st Earl of Tankerville).
The house was sold by the third Earl of Tankerville in 1747 to the fabulously wealthy Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh.
The great fire at UpparkThe huge destructive fire at Uppark started on 30 August 1989. In an echo of the destruction of Cowdray, five miles across the Downs to the east, the fire was started by builders. In Uppark's case it was a blowtorch which ignited the roof.
By nightfall well over 100 firefighters from all over Sussex and Hampshire were at the scene trying to prevent the destruction of one of the most important historic houses in the county.
The National Trust decided to take on the huge task of restoring the mansion as closely as they could.
While many paintings, pieces of furniture and ornaments had been passed from the burning building along a human chain, many other treasures were charred or damaged. Their remains were kept to enable a full record of the contents of Uppark to be pieced together as part of the restoration work.
There's an interesting display at Uppark about the restoration process. This includes a video of the fire and efforts to contain it. It is still fairly shocking how a fairly innocuous looking fire could ultimately engulf such a large building, aided by the lack of mains water supplies high up on the Downs.
Their son Harry commissioned Humphry Repton, the great garden designer, to make some alterations to the interior of Uppark and lay out the gardens.
Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh was a playboy as a young man and one of the more memorable characters in the West Sussex gentry.
His entourage included at one time his teenage mistress Emma Hart (later Lady Hamilton, the lover of Lord Nelson) - Emma might have been called a society hostess today. She danced naked on the tables and caught the eye of more than one of Sir Harry's guests, while he was more interested in hunting, shooting and county pursuits.
After wild carousing in his youthful years, middle age saw him becoming something of a recluse for someone previously so prominent in West Sussex.
Then, at the age of 70 Sir Harry scandalised Sussex society by getting married to his 21 year old dairy maid Mary Ann Bullock.
You can sit by the Dairy where Sir Harry supposedly proposed to Mary Ann - and a fine place it is to sit too.
This unusual arrangement seems to have worked out well for all concerned. When Sir Harry died in 1848 he left Uppark to Mary Ann. A consequence of this was that Mary-Ann and her sister, who took on the Estate after Mary Ann's death, kept Uppark virtually unaltered for half a century.
In one way at least we are all the beneficiaries of this marriage today because, until the terrible fire in 1989, Uppark was one of the least altered country houses in England - a fine window on to how the upper classes lived in the Victorian era.
After a period of ownership by Lord Clanwilliam and his heirs (the Meade-Fetherstonhaugh family), Uppark came into the care of the National Trust in 1954. Thirty five years later, disaster struck.
The restoration of Uppark House
Some people said that restoring Uppark would only create a fake.
Others thought that the Grade 1 listed building should be left as a ruin, like the old Cowdray Ruins.
There was even a call from a Portsmouth MP to let the site be returned to nature on the grounds that planning permission for a new museum business premises in such a beautiful and remote location would have been denied. He was roundly derided as a philistine.
But the epic restoration work went ahead and Uppark re-opened in 1995.
One of the main benefits of putting Uppark back together again was the knowledge learned about the making and restoration of numerous treasures.
More about UpparkYou'll often see Uppark written Up Park. The estate's name distinguishes it from Down Park near Tullecombe down in the Rother Valley north of Harting, both of which were in the possession of Henry Hussey.
In the fourteenth century, the two estates were called Uppepark and Netherpark.
What to see at UpparkLook out for the Victorian Dolls House and the servants quarters. The servants' quarters at Uppark are presented as they are supposed to have been in 1874. This is the period when the young HG Wells' mum was housekeeper here.
There are plenty of National Trust folk around to answer questions and explain more about life in a fully functioning stately home.
Best of all, enjoy the fantastic views and mull over what a wonderful life of privilege it must have been to preside over such a fabulous country estate.
- East Marden
- Harting Down
- North Marden
- South Harting
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath