Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh

Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, 1776

Uppark is at its most sociable during Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh's ownership, with a string of parties that attract royalty and high society alike.

Having inherited his father's estate, Sir Harry continued the family tradition and embarked on a Grand Tour of his own, taking in Paris, Geneva, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. As his father had before him, Sir Harry sat for Batoni, and that painting still hangs in the Red Drawing Room.

Unlike his father, Sir Harry had little interest in keeping accounts, and soon after his return his mother (who managed his household for him) discovered that he'd spent £3,324 in just a few months - over half a million pounds in today's money. Perhaps as a result, the family's seat in Northumberland was sold, followed a few years later by their house in Whitehall.

Emma Hamilton (née Hart) was a captivating presence for many, including Sir Harry.
Image of Emma Hamilton painted by George Romney, from the TATE collection
Emma Hamilton (née Hart) was a captivating presence for many, including Sir Harry.

In 1780, Sir Harry met Emma Hart (later the wife of the British ambassador at Naples, Sir William Hamilton, and lover of Lord Nelson) who is said to have danced naked on Uppark's dining room table during one of Sir Harry's infamous parties. She lived on the estate until 1781 when she was sent away, penniless and six months pregnant.

Admittedly, Sir Harry's parties were legendary. When the Prince of Wales visited in 1784 and 1785 the parties lasted for three days, with a draw that included gambling, fine cuisine from Sir Harry's chef Moget, and horse racing on West Harting Down, complete with silver gilt prize cups.

These racing cups are on display in the Dining Room at Uppark
Three of the racing cups from the Dining Room fireplace at Uppark, West Sussex
These racing cups are on display in the Dining Room at Uppark

Perhaps as a result of his acquaintance with the Prince, Sir Harry became friends with Humphry Repton, the architect and landscape designer. In 1810, Repton set out proposals for alterations to Uppark in one of his famous Red Books. Although his plans called for the linking of the house and service pavilions by colonnades, these were never built. Instead, the main entrance was moved to the north front in 1812-13, where a Portland stone portico was added, leading via a stained glass-lit corridor to the crimson baize door that opens onto Staircase Hall.

Meanwhile, the Dining Room was panelled in a 17th-century style, the Servery lit by a stained glass window designed by Repton's son, John Adey, and in 1815 new bookcases were added while the Saloon was being repainted in white and gold.

The Dining Room view towards the Servery and its stained-glass window
The Dining Room view towards the Servery at Uppark, West Sussex
The Dining Room view towards the Servery and its stained-glass window

After Waterloo, a palatial seat was sought for the Duke of Wellington. Sir Harry briefly toyed with selling Uppark in its entirety, but with a price of £90,000 (over £7.5m today) and the Duke put off by the steepness of the hill from Harting village ("I have crossed the Alps once," he declared) the idea came to nothing.

At the age of 71, it seems the bachelor life had finally lost its appeal for Sir Harry. Having been charmed by the sound of singing coming from the dairy, one day he presented himself at the door and told the maid he found within - a 20-year old Mary Ann Bullock - that he wanted to marry her. Speechless, he told her:

" Don't answer me now. But if you will have me, cut a slice out of the leg of mutton that is coming up for my dinner today."
- Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh's marriage proposal, 1825

When the mutton arrived, the slice was cut. Unconventional the proposal may have been, but the marriage lasted until Sir Harry's death in 1846, aged 90.