Thursday, 27 August 2015

Country House at War - Part 2

Walter Horace Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, owned the merchant bank, M. Samuel & Company and was Chairman of Shell Oil. He was a generous philanthropist, and a prominent art collector. His home, Upton House, housed an art collection to rival many national collections.
As mentioned in Part 1 he and his wife moved out of their home, Upton House, at the outbreak of war, and the staff working for his merchant bank moved in. To mark the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWll, the National Trust have recreated the atmosphere in the house that existed when the bank staff lived and worked there.
The 'Typing Pool' was housed in the Long Gallery
where nostalgic music and songs from the war years added to the atmosphere
May be this was Joe's Air Raid Warden outfit!
These bronze medallions, which are the size of dinner plates, were created by Austrian born Jewish sculptor Professor Arthur Immanuel Loewental. He fled to England in 1934 from Berlin, and Lord Bearsted was one of those who helped him to establish himself and obtain British nationality in 1941
On the home front knitting socks for the 'boys' began in ernest
Bedroom used by the male bank staff
Female bank staff bedroom

Lord Bearsted served in the WWl with the West Kent Yeomanry. He was decorated with the Military Cross, Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal showing oak leaf spray on the ribbon meaning he was mentioned in despatches. In WWll he had a secret role using the code named K; he never divulged his mission.
As war progressed Lord Bearsted became increasingly concerned for the safety of his valuable painting collection; the building of an RAF station at nearby Shenington was a great worry to him. He wrote a letter to Kenneth Clark, the then Director of the National Gallery, asking if his paintings could be placed alongside the national collection in a secret disused slate quarry. In the light of his service to the gallery and the importance of his collection the request was accepted. The location in Wales was top secret, but his paintings remained safe for the duration of the war in a chamber alongside paintings belonging to the King.
Off into the secret location they go
to be kept safe until the end of the war
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Three paintings from Lord Bearsted's collection

El Greco - 'El espollo' - the Disrobing of Christ  - showing the drama of the poignant moment when Christ stands on Cavalry whilst his cross is being prepared for his Crucifixion; his scarlet robe is about to be ripped off. In the bottom lefthand corner stand the three Marys
This is a smaller version of the same painting seen in Toledo Cathedral, Spain, where it hangs in the Sacristy above a marble altar
Follower of Fra Filippo Lippi - Three Acts of Charity
On the Day of Judgement, people would be judged according to the acts of charity they had carried out in their lifetime. In the first scene on the left, Christ, as the unknown stranger, is handed drink; in the second he is handed food; and in the third he is offered shelter
Puccio di Simone also known as Master of the Fabriano Altarpiece - The Last Supper
Christ is sitting at the left hand end of the table and St. John rests his head on his lap. He has just spoken the words 'But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table'. Judas (shown without a halo) raises his hands in protest.
To finish this is Lady Bearsted's glamorous red and silver Art Deco bathroom 
The bathroom walls are covered in a fine layer of aluminium leaf

35 comments:

  1. This is fantastic. I work at the Imperial War Museum and love finding good exhibitions about either WW1 & WW2. I really like the hand written signs for visitors using stencilled letters. It seems to fit with this time of making do and mending, and using what you have. Love the fact that alongside seeing how the bank ran in the house, you see how the workers live. But now I also have a soft spot for the red bathroom. thanks for dharing this.

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    1. All credit to the NT for finding so many little items once familiar and now considered vintage. The plastic knitting needles, shaving brush, and the England's Glory match-box. It is interesting to see what is lying on the beds, today it would be a mobile phone, iPad etc.

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  2. What an interesting post this is, amazing how they kept alive all the past there.

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    1. I think that it was quite a major undertaking setting it all up during the winter months ready for the 2015 season.

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  3. I am, of course, completely dazzled by the red and silver Art Deco bathroom, Rosemary. How elegantly they lived. Thank goodness the precious paintings were saved and stored - the El Greco particularly is quite wonderful. The National Trust have done a meticulous job recreating the wartime atmosphere, when Upton House became a workplace. The typing pool looks much like the one I began work in, longer ago than I care to remember :) So many clever details, such as the bakelite ash tray - all the men used to smoke at work back in the day. A wonderful post all round, Rosemary.

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    1. I had to include the bathroom which is a perfect example of the Art Deco period.
      It really shows how different life was back then. Make do and mend probably being a good catch phrase.

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  4. I enjoyed these posts on the exhibit -- thanks!

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  5. One way to keep the house working, as a bank...looks good inside and the paintings, well that must have been a great collection....interesting post, Rosemary..

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    1. Fortunately all of the paintings still remain in the house - there is a very large section of the house that is used simply as galleries for paintings

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  6. I feel sure that the bank employees felt quite comfortable. Isn't it wonderful that his astounding art collection was saved.

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    1. They must have felt blessed living in the countryside when London was suffering bombing air raids.
      Yes, it is wonderful that his whole painting collection is still there in the house and is available now for all to enjoy.

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  7. Amazing about the exhibition, even with such did not meet. Everything was very interesting and the remaining images. Regards.

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    1. Thank you Giga - it is lovely to hear from you

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  8. An amazing post, Rosemary. Such wonderful photos. So intriguing to see how it was - I love this sort of thing. I'm glad that the Viscount's art collection was safely hidden away too. I am greatly interested in anything having to do with the war as it affected England, probably because of all the movies I've seen, but also because it's just so fascinating. England's finest hour, indeed. Also your post reminded me a bit of the second half of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED.

    Many years ago when I visited England, we went to the War Museum where they have Churchill's war rooms 'sealed' up with everything left as it was - eerie, but so wonderful in some odd inexplicable way. We also visited Warwick Castle where they have rooms done up in with life-like mannequins and sppropriate clothing and furnishings. I didn't think I'd like it, but it was so well done, I was won over.

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    1. I am pleased that this post has stirred so many memories for you Yvette - I too went to Warwick Castle when it still belonged to the 8th Earl of Warwick and also following its sale - he caused an uproar when he stripped the family's ancestral castle of its art treasurers and then sold it to the Madame Tussauds organisation. However, I think that the Tussauds have done a tasteful job in the castle.
      Thank you for your interesting comment Yvette

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  9. Hello Rosemary, Large houses so often get involved in wars. In America, many old mansions are known as "Washington's Headquarters," "Sherman's command post" or the like. E.F. Benson's novel Dodo Wonders features the lead character donating her country house for a WWI hospital, and gives some idea of how socialites and businesspeople supported the war efforts.

    I am very impressed with both Upton House and Gardens, and am adding them to my list for the "next trip."
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - Upton House will be redressed next season reverting back to the Bearsted's family home and filled with their possessions.
      It is a house that requires a whole day to take in the gardens, the house, and of course the wonderful art collection.
      It lies in a lovely part of the countryside surrounded by lots of pretty Cotswold villages.

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  10. I remember the Art Deco bathroom from our visit. The NT is very good at recreating scenes and sets in their houses today. At Croome Court, near us they have left the WW11 Nissan huts, converting one of them into a restaurant.
    I like the A.A Milne quote below, I wish I had thought of using it.

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    1. You can climb the scaffolding at Croome Court while they are working on the house, to a roof top cafe.

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    2. I think that the NT experience for visitors has improved 100% - it used to be so stodgy. We climbed up the scaffolding to see the roof work being done at 'Lutyens' Castle Drogo last year, and I believe that you can do something similar at Dyrham Park this year although I haven't been.
      I would be happy if you used the quote - please do

      Thanks for that information, it sounds an exciting prospect having a roof top cafe - if I have time will try and visit.

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  11. The rib-patterned knitted socks, the austerity of the typing pool and then in total contrast, the stylish red and silver bathroom.

    Ms Soup

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    1. Yes, I agree with you Ms Soup - the juxtaposition sums up the very real gap that exists within peoples lives.

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  12. Dear Rosemary, thanks heaven that his collection was kept safe! To see how people worked and lived in his house during WWII reminds me of scenes in Downton Abbey's use in WWI.
    I find the art deco bathroom very impressing.

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    1. The Art Deco bathroom is gorgeous, I agree, love the red and silver.
      I was surprised at just how much the NT had acquired in order to bring authenticity to project.

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  13. Wonderful to see around the house with you! I don't remember seeing the inside from when we went so it was good to see your photos! xx

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    1. I don't know how long the NT will keep the house looking like this - but probably until the house closes for the winter season.

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  14. They must dust a lot there.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  15. I love the staff notice boards and the socks just knitted I suppose.

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    1. It looks as if the NT have probably raided a few members drawers and cupboards, but have certainly gathered together some interesting bits of memorabilia.

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  16. These posts of the Upton House reminded me of the Public Broadcasting Company productions (probably close to 20 years ago) from English broadcasts called something like, "1939 House" , with the families interviewed and hired to live in the renovated houses with all sorts of items from the era - even hiring people to act as "merchants" to deliver chickensl and other products. Everyone wore period clothes, had the lifestyles and used the language (as I recall) appropriate for the time. I remember there were 3 different situations. My daughter and I really looked forward to seeing those shows! Do you recall them?

    The bulletin board in the women's 'dormitory' appealed to me! I, too, liked the stenciled notices. If I was there this year I would need to stop and read most of the items on the Staff Notices. And, of course, I might be dreaming tonight of a cute little art deco mirror like Mrs. Bearsedt's in my newly (not really) renovated bathroom of red/chrome walls! How artistic! How lavish! How decadent! I love it!!!

    Oh - and being a regular follower of Doc Martin, this post reminded me of the program that featured that hidden location of the stored art that was protected during the war!

    Mary in Oregon

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    1. Dear Mary - I actually haven't seen either of those programmes although I did see a trailer this evening advertising a new series of the Doc Martin programme beginning next week, so that will be something for you to watch out for in the future.
      Lots of lovely details in Lady Bearsted's beautiful Art Deco bathroom - I admired the mirror too, and the elegant shape of the perfume bottle.

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  17. It is so interesting seeing this lovely house recreated to the time when it was used by the merchant bank as offices. I do find the war years fascinating. Sarah x

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    1. I think that the NT have done a good job recreating how the house was and I especially enjoyed seeing all of the little knick knacks - it is interesting how few possessions ordinary people had then.

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