Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh

Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, 1751

The Uppark of today perhaps owes most to its second inhabitant, Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, who is responsible for its fine Georgian interiors and Grand Tour art collection.

With business interests ranging from coal to the wine trade, and following a lucrative marriage or two, the Fetherstonhaugh family was one of considerable means. In 1746, aged 32, Matthew inherited estates said to be worth £400,000 (perhaps as much as £85 million today), married Sarah Lethieullier, and petitioned for a baronetcy, entitling him Sir Matthew.

Sarah Lethieullier, Lady Fetherstonhaugh, painted by Pompeo Batoni in 1751 during her Grand Tour with Sir Matthew
Sarah Lethieullier by Pompeo Batoni at Uppark, West Sussex
Sarah Lethieullier, Lady Fetherstonhaugh, painted by Pompeo Batoni in 1751 during her Grand Tour with Sir Matthew

Perhaps to celebrate his new position in life, in 1747 Sir Matthew bought Uppark from the 2nd Earl of Tankerville for £19,000 - around £4 million today. He commissioned an extensive remodelling of the interior with architect James Paine, and to furnish his new home he and his wife embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1749.

Together, they acquired fine furniture, tapestries and paintings, some under commission such as the series of nine portraits by Batoni, his renditions of Meekness and Purity of Heart which have hung in the Saloon for over 200 years, and a series of atmospheric seascapes by Joseph Vernet.

The list of artisans he engaged reads like an encyclopaedia of masters, with acquisitions from Antonio Canaletto, Tommaso Ruiz, Luca Giordano, Francesco Zuccarelli, Frans van Bloemen, and Jacob Xavier Vermoelen.

Sir Matthew returned to Uppark in 1751 but continued to acquire new pieces such as the Rococo pier-glasses and the scagliola table-tops by Don Petro Belloni, only five of which are known to exist, all of which were produced for friends of Sir Matthew.

By this time, the service blocks to the east of the house had been demolished and replaced by the pavilions visible today, and by 1759 Sir Matthew's accounts showed that he had spent £16,615 on 'Uppark, beside furniture.'

" No-one experiences more than myself the difference between a busy London life and the tranquil rural scenes of the country. Each have their amusements, and I believe give a zest to each other."
- Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, 1768

Perhaps the finest alteration to Uppark's interior came in 1770 when a mezzanine floor was added to the Great Hall to create the Saloon and Print Room above. The Saloon's ceiling, likely to have been designed by Paine, features intricate Palladian-style plasterwork that resonates with the ornate door architraves and capitals.

The gilt on plaster ceiling in the Saloon
The gilt on plaster ceiling in the Saloon at Uppark, West Sussex
The gilt on plaster ceiling in the Saloon

By 1772, Sir Matthew's recurring health problems had become more serious, with the Duke of Richmond reporting that he "had been in a very dangerous illness for several months. He is now better, but fears with great reasons, that if he was to venture out... it might cost him his life."  He died two years later at his house in Whitehall. As a mark of his character, in his will he awarded a year's salary to 43 servants.