There is so much to see and do where we live in West Sussex; sometimes there is too much to choose from! However, the National Trust property of Uppark has been on my hit list for ages.
I have a fondness for National Trust properties; I was brought up visiting them after my parents splashed out on joint life membership in the eighties. Of course, when I was younger I didn’t appreciate what I was looking at, although I DID love the obligatory purchase of the National Trust chocolate bar from the gift shops at the end of the visit.
Now that I have children of my own we have started visiting some National Trust properties. My girls are only young and I don’t for one second expect them to understand the history, but the grounds are always so great for them to run around in and have some freedom in safe surroundings.
Uppark is our closest National Trust property and ridiculously it has taken us eight years of living close by to get there.
Uppark was built in the 1700s, sat in an imposing position up high on the South Downs, near South Harting in West Sussex. The views from the house are incredible. The property is most famous for a devastating fire which destroyed the Garrett and 1st floors in 1989. Fortunately, much of the rest of the property was saved and the decision was made to restore the house. As you were walking around the ground floor rooms, there was a lot of information about the fire and the effect it had and about the restoration which was all very interesting.
The family who gifted Uppark to the National Trust still reside in the top floors so they are closed off to the public.
Uppark hides an interesting example of how servants were to be neither seen nor heard, with a subterranean tunnel system under the house. These tunnels accessed the kitchens, wine cellars and servant accommodation, and enabled staff to go about their business without bothering ‘them upstairs’. It was a cold day when we visited in April, and these tunnels were freezing, which must have added to the intolerable conditions suffered by the staff.
The servants quarters in the basement were very interesting, and have been restored to how they would have looked in the 1870’s. This included the Butler’s and Housekeeper’s Rooms. What I found most interesting about these rooms was how the staff literally slept in the same place they worked, with fold-up beds in the rooms.
Another highlight of the house is the wonderful fully furnished 17th Century Doll’s House, considered to be one of the best examples in the country. It is believed to date from the 1730’s and came to Uppark with the future wife of Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh (pronounced Fan-Shaw); they wed in 1746. We were not allowed to take any pictures inside the house, but the dolls house really was impressive. I found an interesting blog post about the Doll’s House which contains some great pics.
The grounds are well kept and lovely to walk around. The landscaped gardens, partly designed by ‘Capability’ Brown‘, are gradually being restored. The meadow in front of the house, overlooking the fabulous view, is perfect for picnics. A box of ball games is kept on the meadow for the public to use; a group of children were playing rounders while we were there. There is also woodland perfect for little explorers.
Places to visit outside also included the Milking Parlour and Stables. The milking parlour in particular was very interesting, with some lovely stained glass and tiles.
We visited the tea rooms, which is a must when visiting a NT property! They were beautifully decorated, and ideally located next to the shop. The windows looked out over the South meadow and had far-reaching views. There was also an outdoor terrace with tables, to enjoy the view with your cuppa.
All in all we had a really lovely afternoon. The girls were really chuffed they got a stamp in their National Trust book 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾‘ . They earned their stamp by rolling endless times down a grassy hill. They LOVED it. It was a BIG shame the camera ran out of battery just as Yours Truly got in on the action. ….now that would have been a treat for you all!
We visited in April, and it was freezing cold, but it was still a lovely afternoon out. I can easily see a lazy day being spent there in summer with a picnic.