On Saturday 8th July 36 members of the Society visited Upton House and Gardens; now owned by the National Trust and situated at Edgehill near Banbury in Oxfordshire. Setting out from Melton Mowbray the sun was shining and everyone was looking forward to what promised to be a lovely day and to somewhere most of the members had never visited before.
We left the Indoor Bowls Club Car Park at 8.30am and boarded our “Executive Coach” for the journey which was both very comfortable and uneventful. On arrival we were greeted by “Jean” who was one of the many volunteers who give their time to pass on their knowledge and make sure that all visitors have a great day out and can take with them many happy memories of their visit. Jean was very welcoming and enthusiastic and throughout the day was continually available to answer questions and to make sure that our visit was special. Everyone agreed that she achieved that goal with ease, particularly her first task which was to ensure we all found our way safely to the Restaurant for Tea/Coffee and Cake!!!
Recent history records that in 1927 Upton House became the country home of Walter Samuel, 2nd Lord Bearsted, as a retreat from his busy life in London as Chairman of Shell and his other business and philanthropic interests. Upton, in the idyllic Warwickshire countryside, was a splendid setting for his growing art collection. Art was his abiding passion and during his lifetime his collection was considered to be one of the finest in private hands in Britain.
In 1939, on the outbreak of WW2, driven by the need to protect bank staff and assets from the London air raids, the Bearsteds took the decision to move M. Samuel & Co. lock, stock and barrel for the duration of the Second World War. Everything from the bank, together with its staff and their families moved out of London and moved into Upton. This story formed the basis of an exhibition during 2016.
However, this year, as visitors, we were able to turn the clock back to the day that the Bearsteads bought Upton. We were invited to walk in their shoes and enter the house for a viewing with the “Land Agent”. Splitting into two groups Tony (our guide), together with his wife (Alison), took us on a “Private” tour of the house whilst pointing out and explaining how the house would have looked slightly different before the Bearsteds made the changes that resulted in what we see today.
After lunch we all had the remainder of the day to explore the house and gardens for ourselves. We were able to discover the treasures collected by Lord Bearsted over his lifetime, from rare porcelain to paintings by a wide variety of famous artists. We were also able to admire the many plants and the now mature trees in the gardens, the lawns and the open air swimming pool, which was developed by Barney Alder, M. Samuel and Co’s Assistant Chief Accountant and 21 other bank staff who made Upton their home during WW2.
At 4.30pm, after a wonderful day, we boarded our coach back to Melton to be waved off by “Jean”. All in all everyone agreed it had been a thoroughly good day out and we all look forward to our next outing to “Boughton House – The English Versailles” on Saturday 12th August.
Secretary – 11th July 2017.