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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Upton House 'Banking For Victory'

During both World Wars, many large country homes were used for different purposes. In 1939, Upton House became a bank. It was one of only two house banks in the Country. The Bearsteds had a family bank in London called 'M.Samuel & Co' and thought it safer to move it and it's staff to their country home in Upton for safety. The house remained a bank for the duration of the Second World War.

Upton House have gone back in time to celebrate 70 years since the Second World War ended and what a great job they have done. I have always loved history but found both Wars to be a little too modern to study in my younger years. As I have grown older, I have found a growing interest in this time and appreciate what was done for us all.

Over the last 6 months, staff and volunteers at Upton House have been stepping back in time and transforming Upton to how it would have looked at the time the Bank moved in. Even the smallest details have been thought about.

Yesterday being the first official opening day of the 'Stepping back in time' I just had to go and have a look.

I entered the house as the bank staff would have, through the side door near to the kitchen. The kitchen was full of information about those times. Everything had it's use and it was to be the first time Britain had recycling on such a big scale.

A week's rations.

As we walked into the dining room we were asked to sit down on the benches provided to watch a short film. I looked around a little confused as I could not see a screen. Just then, the air sirens started and up above our heads there were bombers and explosions covering the whole ceiling. To see it like that, so big above our heads was a brilliant idea. If you weren't in the Second World War era yet, you were then! I can't explain the feeling of seeing the bombers above our heads like that with the explosions going off. How it must have felt at the time, I dread to think.

Next we walked through to the long gallery, only it wasn't a gallery any more. It was a large office that looked like a typing pool with a dining area at one side.

                                                       The eating area.

Loved the pie :)

How the long gallery looks now.

What was really nice about this day was that visitors were allowed to touch items and open draws to have a look inside. This is so different from when you normally walk around this house. It was nice to feel the texture and weight of some of the things. It made the whole experience so much better.

Even 1940's pens and pencils had been found to help dress this house.

Lots of wonderful antique typewriters in amazing condition.

                         An adding machine. How different from what we have today.

There are a few old camera's about the house too which I found very interesting, being into photography myself.

As you walked around the house you could see the areas that the bank staff lived in and precious items packed away or covered. 

The Bank Staff's lounge. This room had some lovely old papers and magazines in it.

During the war (and before and after), evenings were often spent knitting. It was one of the ways of making sure you had clothes to keep you warm in the Winter months as coal was used sparingly.

Great patience was needed to undo old knitted clothes to make new ones. Nothing was wasted. I can remember doing this as a child. My grandmother taught me how to knit with used wool. As I got better ,she would allow me to use new wool.

A knitted camisole.

The gas mask that everyone had to carry around with them, even children going to school.

The driving licence and fuel allowance. Most things were rationed during the War.

There were many interesting things in the bedrooms and you can open the draws to have a look.
If you visit, pick up the hair dryer. It is much heavier than you think. You can click on the images to enlarge them if you wish.

The ladies room

                                               And the men's bedroom.

Rag Rugs became very popular again during the War and can now be bought as hobby kits.

A picture of the Queen in her younger years, sits in the boys bedroom.

Useful jobs that girls can do.

Can you imagine travelling with a trunk this size everywhere you go. They really were mobile wardrobes.

Don't miss the room on the lower floor which is normally the Billiard Room. The table is covered with a sheet and on top of it you can see how Upton House staff and volunteers put all this together. There is even a video playing at fast speed to show them in action. I thought this was a lovely touch because often the work behind the scenes can be forgotten and all concerned, had worked very hard through the Winter to put all this together.

It was lovely to see that new rooms were opened and for the first time I could see below stairs in the basement which is I guess was used during air raids.

The Wine Cellar.

A very important room in the time of the Banking at Upton would have been the vault room with it's very thick heavy door and solid walls.

Another room I had never seen before was the laundry room and there was a wonderful collection of irons in there.

The Drying Room

I remember using one of these as a child.

             The old irons. I think I will stick to the one I have!

And the exit out through the basement stairs.

The Orchard may not be full of vegetables as it might have been during the war but it is full of daffodils waiting to open. In one corner of the orchard they are just starting to open but I'm sure it won't take long for the rest to catch up. 

 There were little touches everywhere although it must have been hard work pedalling around Upton and the surrounding areas as it is very hilly.

The shop had also changed it's name.

Before leaving I did have a quick look around the grounds. The terrace garden was closed for re -grassing but I did manage to find a few signs of Spring.

I had a lovely afternoon at Upton, it felt more like an adventure. Well worth the visit.

For more on Upton House and 'Banking for Victory, here is a link....

                                          Copyright Jana Eastwood.

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