Uppark House (Sussex): the house that was put back together again

And so began my fascination with this house, quite unexpectedly.

Being my first journal entry I should confess my passion for neo-classical architecture.  We visit houses from all periods, but my heart starts to flutter when I see a true Palladian gem.

Uppark looks like a pretty dolly house, built in its current guise c.1690 by the 3rd Lord Grey of Warke.  It was gutted by fire in 1989 but having been restored to the condition it was in on that fateful day (following much debate as whether to restore, replace or renew the interior or if to bother at all), it reopened its doors in 1995.

Reason to visit: to learn about restoring & repairing a historic house.

There is nothing intrinsically special about this house above and beyond many others of its type, and certainly don’t visit it for the gardens (there’s not much to see) but do go to deepen and enrich you understanding of the true skill and craftsmanship that underpins great historic houses.  This is this house’s USP and the NT do play on this to an extent (but could do a much stronger job).

The family owns four Canalettos (two further ones were destroyed in the fire – the fire started on the last day of roof repairs when roofers came down for drinks leaving a blow torch lit).  The family rooms on the upper floors of the house are not open (so you’ll only be visiting the ground floor and cellar) and the Canalettos are displayed in the house only at certain times of the year.  I visited in spring and they were there but I’d suggest checking if, like me, you’d like to see the pictures.

The process of repairing the house revitalised many traditional skills, such as recreating the plaster work on the elaborate ceilings.  C Rowell & J M Robinson’s book ‘Uppark Restored’ was a must-read for me after I’d visited (and this is the only time I’ve felt such an urge to find out more).

While visiting ask a steward for the story about all the wallpaper samples that were discovered in the Saloon during the restoration: panelling installed at some point had been placed over the existing wallpaper, offering an interesting glimpse into the history of the house when the craftsmen started work on the room.

I certainly left wiser and disagree with Mr Jenkins about whether the head of a carved snake should have been left undecorated.  It’s a lovely reminder of what could have been but for a lot of hard work!

When visited: 2010

Stars out of 5 (house): ***

Stars out of 5 (garden): *

Nearest town: Petersfield

Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-uppark

Theme tune:   Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall….all the king’s horses and all the king’s couldn’t put Humpty back together again

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