The Earl of Tankerville

Ford Grey, Earl of Tankerville

Although a house has been recorded here since 1595, it's Ford Grey, the 1st Earl of Tankerville, who we have to thank for building Uppark in 1690.

To say Ford Grey was a colourful character is perhaps to put it mildly.  As a prominent protestant Whig, he was deeply involved in anti-Catholic plotting culminating in the invasion of William of Orange in 1688.  He was arrested more than once but despite being convicted he escaped imprisonment - once on a technicality, once by plying the sergeant-at-arms with alcohol.  He later escaped action for his part in the campaign against James II by testifying against his cohorts and, it seems, the somewhat dubious transfer of large sums of money.

After William III took to the throne, he was rewarded for his support with a string of appointments, among them Privy Councillor, Commissioner for Trade, First Commissioner of the Treasury, and Lord Privy Seal.

View of Uppark by Pieter Tillemans, circa 1728-30
View of Uppark, West Sussex by Pieter Tillemans, circa 1728-30
View of Uppark by Pieter Tillemans, circa 1728-30

Built in 1690, 'Up Parke' is likely to have been designed by William Talman, with symmetry and simplicity its key attributes, together with the Dutch-style use of brick and stone dressings - an important stylistic choice, since it reinforced Grey's political leanings.

In 1695, the same year Grey was created the Earl of Tankerville, the house was described as "square, with nine windows in the front and seven in the sides, brickwork with free stone coynes and windows, in the midst of fine gardens, gravell and grass walks and bowling green," a description that largely still holds today.

Unlike today, the house was approached from the east via two courtyards, flanked by stable and service blocks, with formal gardens and long vistas.

Lord Tankerville's House and Formal Gardens 1707 by Johannes Kip
View of Uppark: Lord Tankerville's House and Formal Gardens 1707 by Johannes Kip
Lord Tankerville's House and Formal Gardens 1707 by Johannes Kip

Inside, the floor plan was much as it is now - the Little Parlour and Stone Hall even retain their original names - although a Great Hall would have risen the full height of the house before later being split into the Saloon and Print Room above.  Many rooms were panelled or hung with gilt leather, tapestry or woven textiles, some of which were revealed by the fire of 1989, having been hidden behind later additions.