In an echo of the famous wartime call to arms, the team at Upton House are asking local residents to join in the effort to re-create a secret side to the house’s history.
During The Second World war, owners of Upton House – the Bearsteds – moved out and their family-owned merchant bank, M Samuel & Co – later to become Hill Samuel & Co – moved in.
Driven by the need to protect bank staff and assets from the London air raids, the whole operation of the bank moved in lock, stock and barrel for the duration of the war.
From 2015 visitors will be able to step back in time to see how the bank staff lived and worked in their new surroundings. There will be office desks and typewriters in the Long Gallery, just as there were in the 1940s, alongside the world class paintings and porcelain collection. The property will be opening new rooms and exploring what happened when ordinary people took over this extraordinary place.
Project manager Rachael O’Connor-Boyd said: “We’re launching a massive re-presentation of the whole site to tell this unique story – the Country House Bank – but we need help. We’d love to talk to anyone who remembers the area during the Second World War.
“There might be people who remember the bank staff coming to Upton. We want to get every tiny detail right so we’re keen to hear from as many local people as possible.”
The property has also uncovered some fascinating stories, like this one from one of the bank’s typists Joyce Adler who told Upton’s staff: “The whole place was run like a holiday camp but a little more austere. The meals were taken in the Long Gallery which is full of magnificent paintings and the finest collection of Chelsea china in the world.”
Do you have photographs of Banbury and the surrounding areas at wartime? Do you remember the comings and goings at Upton? Do you remember the social life of the time – tea dances or going to the pictures, the Home Guard/ Local Defence Volunteers and other organisations at work?
If you feel can help Upton bring this story to life please contact Rachael O’Connor-Boyd, collections and engagement manager on 01295 670266.