My childhood holidays in the late 1950s and 1960s were spent in Upton, a suburb on the northern edge of Poole in Dorset. My mother was born in Poole and Upton was where her mother and sister still lived in those days.
But Upton House was unknown to me until a few years ago, as it was in private hands. In fact my cousin now tells me that when she was little the local lady of the Upton manor would go around distributing largesse to poor families like ours!
In this blog post I intended just to show the pictures I took of the lovely flowers in the walled garden and some of the wildfowl you can see from the shore at the bottom of the garden, but I’m afraid I have been a bit sidetracked by the history of the house. Slide on down to the pretty pictures if you aren’t interested in the history!
Upton is one of the oldest parts of Poole, with a Roman road going through it – from Hamworthy (Moriconium) to Corfe Mullen (Alavna) – and there was an old pottery here.
I don’t know how long this area has been called Upton, but even before 1592 there was an “Upton Farm” here on a knoll above Poole Harbour, and later the name applied to the estate and even to one of the rich owner’s favourite ships. The owner was William Spurrier and the ship was a three-masted barquentine built in Newfoundland.
Spurrier’s grandfather had founded a business in 1672, based on the profit to be had from the cod fisheries of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, where the English were in competition with the French. Much of the salt-fish produced went to Spain and Portugal, Catholic countries where it was a staple of meatless Fridays and Lent.
Many English West Country ports were involved in the trade, which had its ups and downs and later diversified into other commodities as well as fish. Poole was one of the last few West Country ports to persevere with the Newfoundland trade and several of its families grew rich on it. There’s a lot more about the history of the Newfoundland trade here.
William Spurrier had been Mayor of Poole four times between 1784 and 1802, but it was his son Christopher who built the mansion, between 1816 and 1818 – he added a west wing in 1825.
Christopher was a bit of a spendthrift. The Newfoundland trade declined, he wasted money on gambling and on “buying” a seat in Parliament – he became MP for Bridport in 1820. He was forced to sell the Upton estate in 1828 to Edward Doughty (born Edward Tichborne) and eventually died penniless in 1876.
I really want to get on with showing you the flowers and wildfowl, but the history of the Tichborne years has so many interesting bits and here are just a couple…
Edward Tichborne was part of a rich Hampshire family but became a Doughty when a fourth cousin of that name left him a fortune in her will on condition he change his surname, because she wanted it to live on.
Edward is most famous for providing the coach to take the exiled King Charles X of France from Poole to Lulworth Castle in July 1830, and again when he sailed from Hamworthy for Scotland.
Edward stepped up to become the 9th Baron Tichborne back in Hampshire in 1845 and his nephew Roger inherited Upton. He loved the place but his family wanted to sell it and he was ordered to put his signature to the deal when he came of age in 1850. He refused and was banned from returning to Upton by Edward.
In a bit of a strop, he resigned his commission in the 6th Dragoon Guards and took a ship for South America. He disappeared, presumed dead. But then in 1866 a man turned up in England from Australia, claiming to be Roger, who by now would have inherited the title of baron as so many other relatives had died or been declared bankrupt.
Several important people opposed “the Tichborne claimant” and it led to a big Victorian court case that bankrupted the estate. Then, during the second half of the 19th century Upton House was rented out to various people.
From 1901 to 1957 the house and land belonged to the Llewellin family, who became big local dignitaries – first William and then his children William Wigan, John Jestyn and Margaret Mary (who became the first female Sheriff of Poole). I believe Margaret may have been the local lady of the manor my cousin spoke of.
The Llewellins left the place to the local council, who leased it to Prince Carol of Romania for 12 years but then it gradually fell into empty disrepair.
The Friends of Upton Country Park got together in May 1976 to support the estate, in partnership with the Borough of Poole, who still own it. In my view they are doing a grand job and the estate is a great community resource, entry being free. The Peacock Tearoom was a lovely cool haven on the scorching day we visited in August.
There’s far more history here.
But now the pictures! Firstly here is the walled garden, which is long, narrow and L-shaped, with borders on both sides. Most of the flowers and shrubs are wonderful exotics brought back to Britain from Asia, Africa and the New World by plant hunters of the 18th and 19th centuries…
There are more exotics beyond the walled garden at Upton House…
But now let’s go down to the bottom of the garden at Upton House and look across Upton Lake towards Holes Bay.
In case you missed it at the top of this post, here’s the link to the Friends of Upton House website again…