In September 1939, when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany, the owners of Upton House – the Bearsteds – moved out and their family-owned merchant bank, M Samuel & Co Ltd, moved in from London.
Though best known for his peerless depictions of specimen horses George Stubbs ARA (1724-1806) also painted vernacular scenes of rural life, of which Upton has three examples.
The paintings doubtless appealed to Lord Bearsted because, like most of the items in his collection, they contain human interest. All three scenes, portrayed with realism rather than sentimentality and evidently the result of careful observation, can be found in the Dining Room.
Lord Bearsted, the collector
Lord Bearsted acquired Upton House in 1927 partly because of its location in good hunting country, but also because he was keen to see his expanding collection of art accommodated under one roof.
Almost two decades later the National Trust accepted the gift of Upton House and Gardens on the strength of the collections of paintings and porcelain. It was, and is, one of the finest private art collections in England.
Both Lord and Lady Bearsted gave freely of their time and fortune. In particular Lord Bearsted had a pivotal role in enabling Jews to escape from the perils of Nazi Germany.