Just down the road from us, about a five-minute drive away, is Uppark, a fine late-17th century National Trust house set high on the rolling South Downs in West Sussex.
Uppark was built in 1690 for the first Earl of Tankerville, Ford Grey, before being sold in the 1740s to Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah who redecorated it extensively. Many of the beautiful paintings, ceramics, textiles and furniture, which make up today’s existing collection, were collected by the couple on their two-year grand tour of Europe from 1749.
Downtown Abbey fans will be interested in seeing the contrast in life upstairs and downstairs. There is a maze of servants’ quarters below stairs, and the large, grand rooms for the nobility are on the ground floor. Upstairs, pay a special visit to the rare 18th century dolls’ house, which was brought to Uppark when Sarah married Sir Matthew and reflected the family’s high status.
The prolific English writer H.G. Wells spent some of his early years at Uppark. His mother, Sarah, was housekeeper there between 1880 and 1893 and had previously worked as housemaid to Lady Fetherstonhaugh’s sister between 1850 and 1855.
There are regular talks and tours of the house, as well as a range of events on throughout the year. Also spend some time in the lovely gardens, which are a mixture of work by the great 18th century garden artists Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. The best time to visit Uppark is arguably in early summer, when the flower-filled garden meadow is full of stunning wildflowers. Check out the many great picnic spots, or make a beeline for the East Pavilion, which is home to a lovely shop and cafe.