Uppark focuses the extraordinary women in its history

Emma Hamilton, National Trust Images
Emma Hamilton, National Trust Images

The National Trust’s Uppark tells the stories of five women who shaped its extraordinary history in a new exhibition.

In her Shoes, which runs until September 2, comes in a highly-significant year.

Spokeswoman Joanna Crosse said: “One hundred years ago, the 1918 Representation of the People Act granted some women the right to vote for the very first time.

“A century on, the National Trust’s Uppark House and Garden is commemorating this historic milestone with In Her Shoes.

“This season of costume displays, talks and demonstrations tells the stories of five women who have shaped Uppark’s extraordinary history by defying convention.

“Six rooms – above and below stairs – delve into the intriguing personalities of these characters. Amongst them is vivacious Emma Hart, rumoured to have danced on Uppark’s dining room table to entertain the Prince Regent and his wealthy friends. She rose from obscurity to dominate society and influence Britain’s powerful male elite as Lord Nelson’s mistress, Emma Hamilton.

“In her Shoes explores how Uppark helped to define Emma’s natural abilities. She became an admired horse woman and society hostess who used her allure to become one of the highest profile celebrities of her day.

“The sumptuous Georgian interior of the saloon focuses on Sarah Lady Fetherstonhaugh who unusually for a woman of this period accompanied her husband on a Grand Tour of Italy.

“They returned with many of the treasures we see throughout the house today – scagliola tables, portrait paintings by Pompeo Batoni and seascapes by Vernet. Sarah’s creativity is reflected in her own delicate watercolours hanging in the red drawing room.

“On her marriage she also brought to Uppark the jewel in its crown – an incredibly-rare six-foot dolls’ house filled with beautiful furnishings.

“Dairy maid Mary Ann Bullock’s story is the stuff of romantic fiction. In the 1820s Uppark’s owner Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, then in his 70s, fell in love with Mary Ann when he heard her singing in the dairy. They married, and the 20-year-old bride went to Paris to learn the social skills required for her new station in life. In Her Shoes reveals how Mary Ann adapted to her new role in society and how others around her reacted, both upstairs and downstairs.”

Joanna added: “The personal 1930s diaries of Margaret Lady Meade-Fetherstonhaugh reveal a fascinating insight into the life of this textile conservator. Her pioneering techniques made her an authority on conserving historic textiles in great houses such as Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace.

“Uppark’s tapestry bedroom pulls back the curtain on the revolutionary methods Margaret used, as she embarked on a decade of restoring silk curtains, wallpapers, tapestries, chair covers and textiles including the Prince of Wales’ grand four-poster bed.

“The housekeeper’s room centres on the world of Sarah Wells, who first worked at Uppark as a lady’s maid, in 1850. She returned years later as housekeeper, in the role of family breadwinner. Her diary entries explore the minutiae of her world, including her close relationship with her employer, Frances Fetherstonhaugh.

“Sarah’s life at Uppark, with its fierce social hierarchy and subterranean servants’ tunnels, is thought to have influenced the writings of her son, the science fiction novelist HG Wells, who regularly stayed at the house.”

In Her Shoes is part of the National Trust’s nationwide Women and Power programme that explores the struggle for women’s suffrage with events, exhibitions, tours, creative commissions and debate.

For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2

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