Upton House is a country house in the parish of Ratley and Upton, in the English county of Warwickshire, about 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Banbury, Oxfordshire. It is in the care of the National Trust.
Upton is a long low house built of local yellow sandstone. It was considerably expanded in the 1920s and 1930s in a loose Carolean style fashionable at the time, and decorated in a style described by Osbert Lancaster as Curzon Street Baroque.
A main attraction of Upton is the garden. A lawn, with huge cedar trees, sweeps gently down from the house and below is an extensive terraced garden. The garden features a kitchen garden, a series of herbaceous borders and a large lake with water lilies in a small valley. The terracing, unseen from the house and on a first visit unsuspected, contains the National Collection of Asters. In use since the 12th century, the gardens were largely transformed by Kitty Lloyd-Jones for Lady Bearsted in the 1920s and 1930s, including the creation of a rare Bog Garden on the site of medieval fish ponds.
It was built on the site of the hamlet of Upton, which was destroyed in about 1500 when the land was cleared for pasture. The estate passed through various hands until the early 16th cnetury when it was bought by Sir Willima Danvers. It remained with the Danvers family until 1688 when Sir Rushout Cullen purchased the estate for £7,000. Cullen built the house for himself in about 1695. The estate passed through several families. In 1757 the house was bought by banker Francis Child for use as a hunting lodge and it ramained in the Jersey family until the end of the 19th century when it was held by George Child Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey. In 1927 the estate was acquired by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, who owed his fortune to the fact that his father Marcus Samuel was the founder of the oil company Shell Transport & Trading. Lord Bearsted donated the house, gardens and art collection to the National Trust in 1948.
Lord Bearsted's son, the 3rd Viscount, lived at Upton from 1948 until his death in 1986 and added to the gift to the National Trust the collection of fine porcelain. On the death of the 3rd Viscount, the furniture and other items on view in the rooms were offered to the nation by his daughter, Hon. Mrs. R. Waley-Cohen, through the "in lieu" system, on condition that they remain at Upton and on view to the public.
Mrs. Waley-Cohen continued to live in the house untll 1988, when the family moved to another property on the estate. In October 1991 she offered for sale by public auction, a large number of items which were considered surplus to requiremnts. The sale at the housae by Christie's, in a total of 1083 separate lots, included pictures, furniture, porcelain, silver, objects and carpets.
Perhaps uniquely among country houses owned by the National Trust it's significance lies principally in its art collection. The house is presented more as an art gallery than as a private home, although care has been taken to restore the house to how it looked in the 1930s. It contains a unique art deco bathroom and a collection of early Shell advertising posters, together with some of their original artwork, by such artists as Rex Whistler.
The collection was assembled by Lord Bearsted, helped by his being a Trustee of the National Gallery. Lord Bearsted's sister Nellie Inonides also became an avid collector. The collection at Upton includes English and Continental old masters: Tiepolo, Anthony Devis, Francesco Guardi, Jan Steen, Melchior de Hondecoeter, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Tintoretto and Rogier van der Weyden.
Highlights of the collection include:
- The Duet or "Le corset blue" (mid 1660s) by Gabriel Metsu
- Self Portrait of the Artist Engraving (1783) by Richard Morton Paye
- William Beckford (1782) by George Romney (purchased by 1st Viscount Bearstead in the mistaken belief it was Beckford's father)
- The Interior of the Church of St. Catherine, Utrecht (1655–1660) by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam
- Martin Rize (1612) by Frans Pourbus
- Adoration of the Kings (c. 1495), a tryptych by Hieronymous Bosch
- Bacino di San Marco, Venice (c. 1725-26) by Canaletto
- The Death of the Virgin (1564) (grisaille) and The Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- Morning and Night, two of the Four Times of the Day (c. 1736), by William Hogarth
- The Labourers (1779), The Haymakers (1783) and The Reapers (1783) by George Stubbs
- The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio) by El Greco (c. 1579) (purchased by Viscount Bearstead in July 1938 for the sum of £5,000)
There is also a collection of English fine porcelain, including Chelsea, Derby, Bow and Worcester, as well as some French Sèvres.
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