History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Upton House is a quiet 17th-century historic house acting as the showpiece setting for a spectacular collection of paintings and ceramics, with works by Breughel, El Greco, and Holbein. Of particular note are the beautiful terraced gardens, leading down to an 18th-century lake.
Upton House was begun in 1695, and the external appearance of the main house is much as it appeared then. It is approached by a long tree-lined drive leading to a small courtyard where the front entry presents a classical outline. It is when you enter the house that you see the major transition at Upton House, for the interiors were heavily remodelled in the 1930s in Art Deco style by the Bearsted family, who made their money with the Shell Oil company.
House Highlights include:
Old Masters Collection
The jewel in the crown of Upton House is the quite superlative collection of Old Master paintings, with both British and European artists represented. These include works by Hogarth, Stubbs, Romney, Canaletto, Brueghel and El Greco. Many are housed on the lower floors, in very simple surroundings, so that the visitor is not distracted from the art.
The effect is in some ways more reminiscent of a museum than a stately home, but this is no bad thing, for the superb paintings are well worth appreciation for their own merits.
The Bearsted family had interests beyond art; they also collected china, and Upton House displays superb Derby and Chelsea figurines in a range of fine display cabinets. In addition to these English figurines, there is also an excellent collection of French Sevres porcelain.
Shell Oil memorabilia collection
Located on the top floor is this fascinating collection of Shell Oil advertising posters and other memorabilia of decades of motoring. Lord Bearsted was chairman of the powerful oil company for many years and was responsible for commissioning many of the advertising posters on display.
Art Deco bathroom
Most striking of the interior decoration is reserved for the astonishing Art Deco bathroom, the work of Lady Bearsted, on the first floor. This red and silver bathroom is one of the more astonishing rooms I've ever seen in a historic house. Though not to everyone's taste, it gives a glimpse into the ideals of the Art Deco movement and remains one of the more memorable decorating schemes I have witnessed.
There are two garden areas at Upton House; the first is composed of level lawns to the rear (south) aspect, stretching away to an area of informal borders bounding a small, formal pool. Just beyond the pool is a ha-ha, a deep drop to walled, terraced gardens, with turf paths running across the hillside, and a winding stair leading down to a large lake at the bottom of the hill.
The terraces are further divided into smaller gardens, with a rose garden, a small secret garden, and vegetable garden among other highlights. The overall effect is superb, making the terraces and pool a delight to stroll about.
Upton House for Families
Probably not the most appealing place for children to visit; the major focus of the house interior is the large art and porcelain collections, which most children would find a bit tedious. The lawns and gardens offer plenty of space to roam around, but there are not really any facilities specifically for the younger generation.
What you will see
- Old Master paintings
- Chelsea figurines
- fine china
- 18th-century furniture
- Walled, terraced gardens with pools
- The National Collection of asters
About Upton House
Address: Banbury, Warwickshire, England, OX15 6HT
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 7 m NW Banbury, on A422
Website: Upton House
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SP371 461
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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