Appeal goes out for memories of Upton House staff

Upton House, near Banbury, National Trust. NNL-170702-144345009
Upton House, near Banbury, National Trust. NNL-170702-144345009

An appeal has gone out to Banburyshire residents for information about people who worked at Upton House, the National Trust property near Hornton.

Researchers at the property, once the family home of Lord and Lady Bearsted, are piecing together an oral history and hope to track down anyone whose ancestors may have worked at the imposing property.

They will base their new presentation of Upton House on what took place there in the 1920s and 1930s.

Michelle Leake, senior manager who is overseeing the oral history project, is keen to hear from anyone whose ancestors worked there between 1927 - 1948 when Dorothea and Walter Samuel - the Bearsteds - restored the house and garden and made a host of architectural and design upgrades.

“A few servants transferred with them from London but we’re pretty sure surrounding villages were the home of many of their other staff during this period,” said Ms Leake.

“We know the Bearsteds very much valued their servants and estate workers and some staff stayed with them for many years and were remembered in their wills.

“For instance we’ve discovered fragments of information about one of Lady Bearsted’s maids, Florrie England, born in 1918, who came from Hornton and whose family still live in the Banbury area.

“She went up to London with her employers and rode in a carriage with them, wearing a special dress for the occasion.

“And we know of another man and his family, with relatives in Hornton, who was a gardener and ran the vegetable shop at the estate.”

Villages including Radway, Ratley, Edgehill, Shutford, Shenington, Tysoe, Horley, Wroxton and Hornton are the most likely home locations of the Bearsteds’ former staff, most of whom would have walked or cycled to work - or ‘lived in’.

Ms Leake said: “We’d love to hear from anyone whose relatives worked with, or for, the Bearsteds during this time. One of our team will pop over and interview them and take copies of photographs or they can come to Upton, if they prefer.

“Then the information is compiled and briefed to volunteers. They use it to bring the place to life and to talk to visitors about real people and anecdotes.”

The new presentation, called A Made to Measure Home, will be launched on March 25, 90 years to the day that the house was bought by the Bearsted family. It will continue for three years with evolving new displays, features and events as the theme develops.

If you can help bring back a voice from Upton’s past, contact the research team at uptonhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 01295 670266.