Mary Berry was the guest of honour of Upton House near Banbury this past Thursday where she revealed the results of a world record attempt.
The Stately home was acquired by Walter Samuel, the 2nd Viscount Bearsted, in 1927 who had obtained his wealth from his father who founded the Shell Oil Company.
At the onset of WWII Lord and Lady Bearsted moved the entire staff of their merchant bank, M Samuel and Co, into the country house so important financial activities could be maintained during the war effort.
To celebrate the end of the war the house has been transformed to replicate those days complete with work stations and offices and the gardens have been adorned with wartime features.
Organisers, however, wanted something special to mark the occasion so the idea of creating the worlds longest knitted bunting was proposed.
Andrew Overton, a volunteer and events organiser at the National Trust house explains: “At the outbreak of war his bank was in danger of being bombed so he moved out of the house and invited his staff to work here.
“As you go around the house you will see typewriters in there and they ran is as a bank throughout the war dealing with imports and exports across the Atlantic.
“We have recreated that in the house. The first year was the start of the war and this year we decided we would celebrate the end of the war and we thought we would put some bunting up.
“Then we decided maybe we would go for a world record.”
The architect of the attempt was another volunteer Laurelie Packer, she said: “I did a lot of the sewing for the project knitting. We started off by knitting squares for blankets then we knitted Christmas decorations and then last November we were sitting thinking ‘what could we knit’ because people have loved it so much. Michelle said ‘I wonder if we can we knit bunting’ and I said ‘that’ll be good, can we go for a world record?”
The current Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest knitted bunting as 3.2 kilometres achieved in 2011.
In order to have any chance of beating it Upton House called upon its large number of visitors and volunteers to the site to have a go and download the official sanctioned knitting pattern from their website.
The response was quite simply overwhelming with eight by nine inch red white or blue knitted triangles being submitted by avid knitters from across the globe.
To read the official letter from Guinness World Records on the status of the attempt was TV celebrity baker Mary Berry.
Andrew Overton said: “We asked Mary to come here when we launched the exhibition because this was an era she was around in. She would have remembered the difficulties of trying to cook during the war so we invited her to open the exhibition 18 months ago so we thought it was highly appropriate that she should come back and announce what we hope will be a world record.”
In front of a packed hall, sheltered from the torrential rain that had scuppered the planned outdoor announcement Ms Berry opened the letter and said: “Dear Upton House, the current record for the longest line of knitted bunting, held since 2011, is 3.2 kilometres. The line of bunting knitted for Upton House is more than 7.5 kilometres. We are thrilled to inform you that your application has been successful and you are now the Guinness Book of Record’s title holder.”
The facts and figures about the record breaking attempt are quite incredible; officially measuring 7.55 kilometres the bunting consisted of 31,116 individually knitted triangles and took volunteers from afar away as Canada and Australia 9 nine months to complete.
The youngest knitter to contribute was just nine-years old whilst the oldest is 98.
Creating the bunting and being a part of something bigger than the sum of its parts also had beneficial ramifications for the volunteers as Laurelie explains: “Its been amazing. There is a letter from a lady who wasn’t in a very good place but she started knitting again and it gave her a new lease of life.”
The bunting now starts its next stage of its incredible journey as it will dismantled and turned into blankets for the homeless in conjunction with the charity Crisis. Katie Bannister, Christmas coordinator with the charity said: “Originally we thought we were going to get 20,000 triangles but now we’re getting over 30,000 so it’s 100 to a blanket so 300 blankets but we could get more as some of our blankets only use 54 triangles so it could be up to 600.”
Charlotte Aldridge also from the charity said: “They will be used for our members in Coventry. This Christmas we are having a health and wellbeing week and so we will be providing services like physiotherapy, sports crafts an things like that . What we are hoping is during that week we will probably have 135 guests minimum and if we have them ready in time we will give out a blanket to everyone who accesses our services during the week.”